Class 1A wrestling: Menacher, Wallick, Jozsa eye crowns
CHAMPAIGN — When state wrestlers are paired up Saturday for championship matches, the area will boast three of a kind.
Three area Class 1A seniors reserved the right to walk in the Grand March on Saturday night at State Farm Center by virtue of rousing victories in Friday night’s semifinal round.
Nate Jozsa, from Argenta-Oreana, ran his unbeaten streak to 42 at 138 pounds, beating Orion’s Jacob Devolder 8-1.
Monticello’s Brendan Menacher — who’d never previously won a state medal — has won every match thus far this season following a 5-2 triumph at 182 pounds against Seneca’s Tommy Lovett.
Defending 285-pound champion Josh Wallick, from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher, returned to the finals, rallying for both of his points in the last two minutes to edge Plano’s Junior Nunez, 2-1. Nunez had given Wallick (42-1) his lone regular season loss.
“I’m ecstatic, but I’m not done,” Menacher said. “It has taken so much practice time, time after practice, sprints, drills and working out by myself. It has all paid off.”
Menacher and Lovett were tied 1-1 after two periods, but the Monticello athlete secured a reversal four seconds after the final period started.
“He stayed in control and pushed the pace,” Monticello coach Andy Moore said. “It has taken hours and hours and hours of physical training and a lot of mental preparation to accomplish what he has.”
Being a first-time placer as a senior, Moore said, “doesn’t happen that often, but with enough work, anything is possible.”
Menacher is a state-meet veteran who is accustomed to the surroundings.
“I’m definitely less nervous since I’ve been here and know what to expect,” he said. “I’m here to do what I do. Only one kid will walk out with the state championship, and I hope it’s me.”
Jozsa continued his storybook season.
“It’s like a dream to make the finals, but I’m not satisfied yet,” Jozsa said. “Every year, I’ve been scared doing this tournament. This year, I wrestle like I don’t care and not let the nerves get to me.”
He scored a first-period takedown against Devolder and added another takedown each period, keeping his opponent scoreless until he owned an 8-0 lead. To reach the semifinals, Jozsa posted his second consecutive 15-point technical fall win at state. He registered all four takedowns and hasn’t allowed anyone to take him down this season.
He scored eight of his quarterfinal points on takedowns and eight others on near-falls in a 17-2 win against Lena-Winslow’s Gunner Wenger.
“He’s good at turning people and goes from one pinning combination to another,” A-O coach Gary Cook said.
Cook said it was irrelevant that the semifinal bout didn’t end with a 15-point margin.
“A technical fall doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s a win.”
A state-placer in 2013, Jozsa’s greatest improvement, according to Cook, is mental.
“Last year, he was worried about making a big mistake in front of the crowd,” Cook said. “This year, he’s more confident in himself.”
Jozsa, who has a state season record of 34 technical falls, will continue his wrestling career at the second-ranked NAIA school, Lindsey Wilson College, in Columbia, Ky.
Until this season, A-O’s career record for technical falls was 23, set in the 1980s by Brad Spent.
“He’s blown that out of the water in just one season,” Cook said. In two years at A-O, Jozsa has 50 career technical falls.
GCMS/Fisher’s Wallick continued his pattern of spending little time on the mat. His first-round fall on Thursday was in 55 seconds. Friday’s first pin came in 43 seconds against Althoff’s Rodney Baker. Wallick is greeted by cheers from an ardent group of fans each time he competes.
“It definitely helps having people here to support me,” Wallick said. “It’s a great base to get motivation from.”
He needed the full 6 minutes in the semifinals to secure his advancement. He was in an unusual position, trailing Nunez 1-0 after two periods.
“It’s a little different working from behind,” he said. “Most of my matches have ended with me scoring first. I’m glad I’ve gotten to this point. It’s awesome.”
Wallick won’t lose sleep thinking about wrestling for a state championship again.
“It takes me about a minute to fall asleep,” he said. “I just relax.”
Monticello’s trio of semifinalists marks the second consecutive year the school has produced at least three medalists. Between Nick Tankersley (106), Dylan Knisley (152) and Menacher, none allowed points other than escapes in the quarterfinal round.
Tankersley followed up on his first-round pin with an even quicker one (39 seconds). His advancement was a stress-reliever.
“It’s huge knowing I’ll keep going and will be able to place now,” Tankersley said.
In the semifinals, Tankersley ran into top-ranked Brady Wilsie, from Byron, and was pinned in 2:53.
“He’s upset with that loss and I like that disappointment and desire,” Moore said. “It’ll make him hungry. He has all-state locked up and can come out on a mission and get anywhere between third and sixth.”
Knisley liked the aspect of knowing he’d be around Saturday, but added, “it’s a nice reward, but my goals are higher than just being on the stand.”
The lone point in Knisley’s semifinal match was scored on a third-period escape by his opponent, Durand’s Gacob Lenox. Knisley will have two more matches Saturday and could finish as high as third place.
Unity’s Colton Reed (182 pounds) created a sense of deja vu. One day after he was tied with his opponent 1-1 in the third period, Reed was deadlocked with Herscher’s Matt Marcotte, 1-1, in the final period. He executed a throw (the same move he used successfully on Thursday) and not only got a takedown, but also near-fall points and won 8-3.
“It’s instinct,” Reed said.
He’s enjoying the success in what he considers his secondary sport.
“Football is my favorite,” Reed said, “but I’ve been working all my life to place at state. It’s pretty awesome.”
Reed suffered a 9-4 semifinal loss to second-ranked Sean Ward, from Winnebago.
“He had two really good matches, and that was not a bad match, just a good kid he went against and he was in it until the end,” Unity coach Bob Case said. “He’ll come back Saturday ready to go.”
LeRoy’s Caleb Wilson (170 pounds) was the seventh area athlete to reach the semifinals and secure a state medal. He needed a takedown with four seconds to go to top Shelbyville’s Lucas Duckett, 6-5, in the quarterfinals.
“I think he was thinking it was going to overtime, and I took advantage of it,” Wilson said. “I knew how much time was on the clock.”
Second-ranked Bruce Ivey, from Sterling Newman, improved his season record to 3-0 against Wilson, handing him a 7-2 semifinal setback.
Like Jozsa and Knisley, Wilson is a two-time state-placer. Wallick is a three-time medalist.
Overall, 13 area athletes reached the quarterfinal round.
Nine area athletes prevailed in their wrestleback matches and enter Saturday’s 9 a.m. session needing one additional win to earn a medal. Among the winners was Bismarck-Henning’s Jarod Noel (170 pounds), who pinned Monticello’s Mike Redwinski in 1:44.
Others from the area winning by pin in the wrestleback round were LeRoy’s Alex Matlock (113 pounds) and Prairie Central’s Brett Bennett (285). PC teammate Tyler Bergstrahl (138 pounds) needed overtime to secure a 14-12 triumph. Argenta-Oreana’s Tyler Ortmann (285), who yielded his first takedown of the season in a buzzer-beating loss Thursday, rebounded for a 3-0 victory.
Also in contention for medals from the area are Trevor Bulington (106), from LeRoy, Cameron Schwing (120), from GCMS/Fisher, Wesley Kibler (195) from St. Joseph-Ogden and Lane Lindstrom (195) from LeRoy.
Semifinal losers also return to action in the wrestlebacks, but Tankersley, Knisley, Wilson and Reed know they’ll be taking home hardware when Saturday’s sessions are over.