Class 1A wrestling: Wallick repeats feat
CHAMPAIGN — Won. And done.
Retirement from wrestling won’t be immediate, however, for Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Josh Wallick. The Class 1A 285-pounder became his school’s first two-time state champion Saturday at State Farm Center in the one sport he won’t pursue in college at St. Xavier.
He’s done with the individual portion of the wrestling season, quickly making Aurora Central Catholic’s Eduardo Gonzalez his 94th victim in his last 95 bouts, but Wallick still has the team-dual series ahead. It resumes Tuesday in Gibson City.
Because his days in the sport are numbered, Wallick said, “It definitely means a little more. I’ll remember this last week the rest of my life.”
In a season in which more than half of his matches ended by pin, one of the hardest parts of the past few months was determining which sports to do in college.
“It was rough trying to decide,” Wallick said. “Eventually football won out.”
In wrestling, so did Wallick, who pinned Gonzalez in 50 seconds to become the Falcons’ first three-time state medalist. If there was any doubt about his status as the greatest wrestler in the storied program’s history, the championship-match win was No. 159 of his career.
The previous school record for wins was 158 by 2010 graduate Guy Kirby.
It’s not all coaching, GCMS/Fisher coach Josh Carter said.
“I tell him, ‘Keep doing what you’re doin’ man,’ ” Carter said. “He has a game plan, and he goes out and executes it. It’s hard for guys to match his strength and athleticism.”
Wallick came out as the aggressor in the finals, taking Gonzalez down in 15 seconds and putting him on his back 17 seconds later. He followed with his 27th pin of the season and third in four state bouts.
In the last two years, seven of Wallick’s eight state wins were by pin.
“I’m proud to represent my two schools, and I know they’re proud of me,” Wallick said. “So many people messaged me (Saturday). I’m so happy to have such a support base.”
Wallick’s celebration plans called for a trip to the theater.
“I’m going to go to a movie toward midnight, like I did last year,” he said.
Competing in a weight class in which four of the top five 2013 finishers were underclassmen, Wallick knew it would take an extreme effort to again be perched atop the victory stand.
“Last year was a big surprise,” he said. “Now that I’ve done it twice, it’s that much sweeter. It was definitely tougher to defend. I know I’ll miss it. Next year is going to be different.”
Wallick was among three area athletes to compete for a state championship in 1A.
The other two came up short but still captured their best high school finish.
Monticello senior Brendan Menacher (182) was pinned in the first period by Winnebago’s Sean Ward.
“I got caught in a bad position, and he did the rest,” Menacher said. “I took a shot but didn’t finish like I was taught.”
As family and friends attempted to console Menacher after his only loss as a senior, he tried to see the bigger picture.
“In a month, two months, a year, two years, I’ll look back and say I was 40-0 and wrestled in the state championship match,” Menacher said. “That’s something not everyone can say, but right now, it definitely stinks.”
Menacher plans to continue wrestling but hasn’t yet selected a college.
“Even though this is my last year in high school, I’ll work hard in the summer and hope to get to show what I have in college,” he said.
In all, 11 area athletes earned medals in Class 1A, marking the 40th consecutive year the area has produced state placers. In four of the past five seasons, the final count reached double figures.
Monticello’s Dylan Knisley (152) and Argenta-Oreana’s Tyler Ortmann (285) provided their schools with two top-three placers.
Knisley won twice Saturday — including a pin in 90 seconds — and passed his dad, Eric, as the family’s top state finisher. Eric Knisley finished fourth in 1993. Dylan Knisley won four of his five matches at state to end with a 39-4 record as a senior.
“I know I had one loss (at state), but this is a tough tournament, and one loss is not too shabby,” he said. “Third is about as good as second, and you come out on top in your last match.”
Friday’s 1-0 semifinal loss was tough to swallow, but Knisley had plenty of motivation on the season’s final day.
“This is possibly my last wrestling match ever,” he said, “and I want to be able to look back 40 years from now and say I won it.”
Ortmann earned his medal the hard way, losing in the opening round and then surviving four wrestleback bouts. His placing matches the third-place feat of his father, Mark, who is from Lisbon, Iowa.
“Most kids couldn’t come back from a loss on the first day,” Tyler Ortmann said, “but I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to be done yet.’ I always wanted to make it here and go as far as I could.”
In a 42-1 season, only one opponent (Gonzalez, from Aurora Central Catholic in the first round) scored a takedown on Ortmann.
A-O’s championship-match entrant, Nate Jozsa (138), lost a 1-0 decision to Dakota’s J.J. Wolfe, who scored on a second-period escape. The loss ended Jozsa’s seasonlong winning streak at 42 matches. Wolfe was also the only person to defeat Jozsa as a junior.
After the awards presentation, Jozsa gave a profanity-laced comment — plus obscene gestures — when asked by two media outlets for an interview.
Jozsa and Wolfe spent 5:42 of their six-minute match on their feet, trying for takedowns. In two years at A-O, after transferring from Mount Zion, Jozsa set A-O’s career record for takedowns. No one took him down all season, and Wolfe was the only person to take him down during the past two years.
Two area athletes dropped close decisions in third-place matches. Finishing fourth were LeRoy’s Caleb Wilson (160) and St. Joseph-Ogden’s Wesley Kibler (195).
Both athletes ended higher than they were ranked, and Wilson, a senior, improved his state finish from 2013 by two positions. He lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to El Paso-Gridley’s Hunter Sant Amour on an escape in the third overtime.
Kibler was scoreless in a 2-0 loss to Quincy Notre Dame’s Jeffrey Haley. In the sectionals, Kibler lost to Haley 4-0.
“Only being a sophomore, in the preseason I could imagine being here, but not placing,” Kibler said. “This means the world to me. I know I can come back and do it again.”
The Spartans have had state medalists each of the past three seasons.
In area fifth-place matches, the most dominant showing was turned in by Unity junior Colton Reed (160). Against an opponent he’d lost to previously — Seneca’s Tommy Lovett — Reed won a 19-5 decision.
“I was expecting something in the 5-4 or 5-3 range,” Reed said. “I was still upset from the previous match (a 5-4 loss) and wanted to come back and do the best I could.”
Unity coach Bob Case appreciated his junior’s approach to the fifth-place bout.
“He wasn’t going to take the medal and run,” Case said. “He was out here to go. It meant something to him, and it meant something to me. If watching that match wasn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.”
Also capturing a fifth-place medal was Bismarck-Henning’s Jarod Noel (170), a junior who finished the season with a 40-7 record and a school mark for single-season wins.
“It’s nice to end the season on a good note,” Noel said. “I wasn’t that nervous because I’d already placed. I’ve had great coaches and great teammates who helped make me better.”
B-H has had a top-six finisher four consecutive years, but Noel is the first in that span to win his final match.
He built a 7-0 lead against Erie’s Nick Williams and hung on for a 9-6 triumph after tweaking his shoulder in the final period.
“I kept trying to be aggressive, but I backed off a little bit,” Noel said.
The other area competitors seeking a fifth-place medal — Monticello sophomore Nick Tankersley (106) and LeRoy junior Alex Matlock (113) — lost to higher-ranked wrestlers. Matlock dropped a 6-4 decision to Warsaw’s Will Lucie on a takedown six seconds into overtime. Herscher’s Anthony Rink dealt Tankersley a 10-5 loss.
Monticello coach Andy Moore liked the body language from Tankersley, a three-time junior high state finalist.
“Sometimes in the fifth-place finals, kids get their hearts broke and quit, but he battled till the end,” Moore said. “This is something to build off of. I hope he makes a lofty goal for next year.”
LeRoy coach Doug DeWald was frustrated that in matches decided by two points or less his squad was 3-6 at state.
“We lost a lot of close matches,” he said. “It comes down to focus, thinking and closing out matches. Our guys panic in those situations. We’ve always had guys who were tough in the last 30 seconds.
“Our program needs to make a turnaround, and I have to do a better job of coaching in the room. What we’ve done down here is not up to our standards.”
Before Wilson dropped his one-point decision in the third-place match, the 170-pounder earned three wins at state by no more than three points as LeRoy ran its streak to consecutive years with a medalist to seven. A-O has had medalists for six straight years.
In unofficial team scores provided by trackwrestling.com, Dakota was the 1A team champion and Monticello placed eighth.
The three-day attendance of 37,231 was down from last year’s total of 39,577. The championship-night attendance of 8,131 was also lower than in 2013 (8,644).
KRIS WILLIAMS, 120, Class 3A
The junior became a three-time state champion, prevailing by the closest of margins. In the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, his victories were by one-point margins. He needed three overtimes to win the title match. For the year, he’s 31-0.
LOMBARD MONTINI, Class 2A
The finals were almost a dual-meet format for the Broncos, which had nine entries and five champs. Montini has won six consecutive team-dual state crowns. In all, 11 of coach Israel Martinez’s 12 individual state-qualifiers placed among the top five.
TANNER FARMER, 285, Class 2A
The Nebraska football recruit made a statement in the wrestling finals. In four matches at the State Farm Center, no opponent scored a point against Farmer. He pinned a 2013 state champion, Montini’s Michael Johnson, in the finals in 2:25.