CHAMPAIGN -- The journey was definitely worth it's wait -- in gold.|
Morrison senior wrestlers Mark and Matt McDonnell each captured Class 1A state championships on Saturday night at the Assembly Hall, reaching a dream each had since they could remember. Mark captured the 145-pound state title and Matt won his first-ever medal with the win at 195 pounds.
"Awesome," Mark said. "Just awesome."
It's unknown if twin brothers have ever won twin state titles in the same season, but it's safe to say the McDonnells made history.
"It's unbelievable," Matt said.
Up first is Mark, who won his second consecutive state title and fourth medal. He becomes the first wrestler in school history to accomplish both feats.
In winning his second consecutive title, Mark pinned Stillman Valley junior Talon Paul in the first period with a cradle. The victory culminated a 26-1 season in which he missed time with a broken thumb.
"He's a great wrestler," said Mark, who appeared in his third state championship bout. "He obviously made it to the finals for a reason. He's really good. I just knew I had to go out there and wrestle like I could."
Matt used an early takedown to build a first-period lead. That, coupled with a second-period reversal and a two-point nearfall in the third, carried him to a 6-2 win over Lena-Winslow junior Logan Staver. In their previous match, McDonnell (43-2) earned a 6-3 win.
"I got a quick takedown and I started shutting down," Matt said. "I picked it up and finished it off tough. That's all I can say."
With the win, the twin titles were complete. It was a moment both knew could happen, but took a long journey to become reality.
Both are champions. Twin champions.
"It's unbelievable," Matt said. "We've gone through the ups and downs together, the heartbreaks and the glory. Being able to do it with him is unbelievable."
- Nelson loses for second consecutive year: Top-ranked Mercer County 152-pound junior Zach Nelson suffered his second consecutive Class 1A state championship loss. Nelson dropped a 3-2 decision to second-ranked Sterling Newman junior Brian Bahrs.
Nelson (42-1) had beaten Bahrs in their previous two meetings this season.
"He had me beat when it mattered," Nelson said. "All I can say is I'm telling my coaches and everybody to push me as hard as I can so I can make it back here next year."
The bout was tied 1-all midway through the third period when Bahrs got called for his second stall, giving Nelson a 2-1 lead. Twenty seconds remained in the bout when Bahrs took Nelson down for the first time this season, giving him a 3-2 lead.
Nelson nearly had Bahrs reversed with seven seconds left, but could not complete the move. Right before the buzzer sounded, Nelson nearly escaped.
The officials did not award any points.
"Honestly, I don't remember. I don't know how he got behind me and took me down," Nelson said. "It's just one little mistake. No excuses. I'll just be back next year. I know I'll have a state title."
This is the second consecutive year Nelson lost in the state finals. He becomes the first wrestler in program history with two state runner-up finishes. It's also the fourth consecutive year an Aledo/Mercer County wrestler has lost in the finals.
"It hurts. It hurts a lot," Nelson said. "It's going to be in my stomach for a while."
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