James Ealy prepared for the inevitable.|
"Every time I saw them," the first-year Alleman wrestling coach said, "I told them I'd see them on the 26th" of November.
Alleman's run to the Class 4A football state championship game significantly impacted the wrestling program, but Ealy knew from the start it would happen. So when it actually did, there was no surprise the wrestling season would go on hold.
Along the way, Ealy supported the journey.
"That's a life memory those guys had that can't be taken away," Ealy said. "Them going that far will only help them in wrestling."
What appeared to be a negative morphed into a positive.
Mercer County embraced that mentality, too.
"I was excited for them," said Mercer County coach Jeremy Finch, who was without three-quarters of his roster because of the football team's run to the Class 2A state title. "I've been a part of that coaching staff and worked with these kids for years. I was glad to see them doing what they were doing."
Even if it means sacrificing some early season success, both coaches understand why it is important to enjoy the football run. Still, there are some setbacks because of the late start.
Alleman was without two potential starters -- Sean Wetherell and Nate Herron -- during its season opener against Monmouth-Roseville on Thursday night. Without those two, the Pioneers had to shift some weights before a 48-33 loss.
Starting its season on Thursday night as well, Mercer County, ranked No. 2 in the Illinois Best Weekly Class 1A poll, had five starters out in a 49-30 win at Sherrard.
What kept most starters out was the weight certification, a process each wrestler must complete before starting the season. Weight played its part in the absences, but getting into wrestling shape is another obstacle.
"Football shape is so much different," Finch said. "We just have to make sure to get them in wrestling shape. That's our focus -- get in the room, get technique and make sure they can wrestle six minutes."
Practice time is key. Entering today, each team has had six days as a complete unit. Luckily, both started their seasons 10 days after matches could begin to offset the potential absence of several wrestlers.
"Since the football team has a chance to play late, we push our start back," Ealy said. "We're not counting on our early season duals anyways."
The focus is February when postseason starts. How individuals and teams perform in early December will not decide the ultimate outcome.
All that matters now is preparing for the future.
"I told them you have to be patient," Finch said. "We know the type of kids we have. It will take time. It doesn't mean we can't reach all our goals. All those goals will be in play no matter what happens. We still have to realize we have those goals. This team will be much different looking in late December and January."
In that respect, late starts play no role in what happens down the road.
Now you know why both coaches embraced watching the football state championship game.
"Once we get rolling," Finch said, "we'll be fine."
Jones starts fast: Moline 285-pound junior Adarios Jones still is unranked in the Illinois Best Weekly Class 3A individual poll, but he's slowly getting some impressive wins. Jones opened the season with a decision win over Sterling's Curtis Lilly, ranked fourth in Class 2A, during the United Township Triple Duals on Nov. 19.
On Thursday, he earned two more wins over state-rated opponents. Jones topped North Scott's Cegan Long with an overtime pin and earned a 7-2 decision victory over Clinton's Jacob Oldaker. According to the latest Iowa state rankings by The Predicament, Long was rated fourth and Oldaker was ninth.
So far this year, Jones is unbeaten in nine matches.
This 'n' that: After missing the previous two seasons because of knee injuries, Alleman junior Connor Doak made his prep debut. Doak, competing at 195 pounds, won his first career match on Thursday night, pinning Monmouth-Roseville'sCasey Stodolkiewicz in 53 seconds. ... Kewanee's Mark Breedlove was named Most Outstanding Wrestler in the 106- through 145-pound classes at the Seneca Invitational on Saturday. Breedlove went 4-0 to win the 138-pound title. ... Sherrard 285-pound junior Ben Corlett won four bouts at the West Central Conference Super Duals, needing 4:22 to do so. Corlett won each match by fall, with three lasting less than a minute.
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