A field consisting of five ranked wrestling teams -- including the top-rated Class 1A squad -- makes the Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational as competitive as it is deep.|
And that's not even the best storyline.
Seven of the nine teams in next month's Class 1A Sherrard Regional will converge in Orion starting on Friday, making the 16-team tournament a postseason preview. Combine the local field with the state-ranked teams, and you have a tournament that should be a must-see event.
"It's going to be one of your premier tournaments," Erie-Prophetstown coach Tod McCullough said. "It is every year."
Better yet, the postseason ramifications add the most intrigue. Alleman, Erie-Prophetstown, Mercer County, Orion, Riverdale, Rockridge and Sherrard will compete for postseason seeds as the regional stands two weeks away. Each of those seven teams have faced each other in a dual or tournament setting this year, but the final results will help determine how the brackets are constructed.
Fulton and Morrison are the only regional teams not in the field.
"We'll see where we stand with everybody at our regional," Mercer County 152-pound senior Zach Nelson said.
Looking at the big picture, the tournament will shed some light on state medalists, too.
Nelson joins Dakota junior Josh Alber (120 pounds), Dakota sophomore Carver James (138) and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher junior Josh Wallick (285) as the top-rated Class 1A individuals. Twenty-one wrestlers ranked in the latest Illinois Best Weekly poll are in the field as well.
In fact, the 138-pound class features James, Mercer County sophomore Tristen Finch and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher senior Chet McClure. Those three are rated first, second and fifth, respectively, at that weight.
"It definitely will be worth its money," Orion coach Dan Diamond said. "It will be exciting."
All this happens over two days.
"It's two good days of solid wrestling," Mercer County coach Jeremy Finch said. "There are quality teams. It's the last tournament of the season and we want to compete."
Most of all, the local teams want to get a postseason preview.
"Our goal is the regional title," Jeremy Finch said. "We need to see where we stack up against these teams."
Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational
Where: Orion High School
Finals: 3:30 p.m.
Teams: Alleman, Erie-Prophetstown, Kewanee, Mercer County, Orion, Riverdale, Rockridge, Sherrard, Ashton-Franklin Center, Camp Point Central, Dakota, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher, Knoxville, Macomb, Normal U-High, Oregon
FYI: Top-ranked Mercer County 152-pound senior Zach Nelson is looking for his fourth title at this event. ... Dakota junior Josh Alber, ranked seventh nationally by InterMat at 120 pounds, carries a 107-0 record into the tournament. ... Alleman joined the tournament last week for the first time since 2008 after Polo dropped out. ... Six reigning champions are in the field, including Nelson, Mercer County sophomore Tristen Finch and Orion junior Jacob DeVolder.
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