ORION -- Mercer County High School's Zach Nelson set for himself the goal of making it four individual wrestling titles in four appearances at Orion's Bob Mitton Invitational.|
However, the Golden Eagles' senior 152-pound standout would be equally happy -- perhaps even more so -- if his team could emerge later today with a championship of its own. Through Friday's opening round, Mercer County has 10 wrestlers in the semifinals and sits in second place with 83.5 points, trailing only state power Dakota (96).
"We know Dakota is good, and that we've got to pull out some matches,'' said Nelson, "but I hope we can still be in the running for (first place).''
Nelson took the first step toward a potential fourth straight Mitton gold when he put Sherrard's Isaac Goldner down for the count at the 1:11 mark of their quarterfinal bout. Nelson returns to action this morning against Dakota's Greg Krulas.
"I wanted to get the pin for our team, and I didn't want to waste any time,'' he said. "Getting four in a row is definitely my goal; if I win this, it gives me a nice run going into regionals. We see a lot of teams here that we'll see in regionals, so this definitely will show us where we're at, both as a team and individually.''
Joining Nelson in today's semifinal round are Ashton Klingaman (113 pounds), Tristen Finch (138), Logan Snyder (145), Devin Morford (160), Jon Ricke (170), Matt Weeks (182), Mason Weeks (195), Bobby Lincoln (220) and Alex Kisner (285). Each followed up first-round byes with quarterfinal wins. Finch and Lincoln won by pin and Ricke via technical fall.
Erie-Prophetstown sits in fourth place out of 18 teams with 54 points, 11 behind third-place Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. The E-P Panthers have five in the semifinals, with one of that quintet, 195-pounder John Butts, advancing with a pair of pins.
"There's a lot of hard competition here, so I'm pretty happy with how I'm doing,'' said Butts, who will be joined in the Final Four by Brandon McCullough (106), Josh Wheeler (132), Jared Cole (138) and Seth Montgomery (160). "I'm hoping for top 2, and knowing that it's harder here -- we call this `mini-regionals' -- I love the challenge. I feel pretty good about it.''
Right behind E-P is Sherrard, which sits in fifth place with 50 points. The Tigers have four in the semifinals, starting with 106-pounder Hunter Spengler and ending with 285-pounder Ben Corlett. In between are Chance Teel (113) and Jacob Hast (120), with the latter needing to win twice to reach the semis.
"I couldn't really work anything,'' Hast said of his 10-2 major decision over Mercer County's Preston Adams in the second round. "He's a good competitor, no doubt about it, but I think my experience helped me out in that match.''
Meet host Orion (sixth, 31 points) has three semifinalists -- brothers Jacob and Joe DeVolder at 126 and 145 pounds, respectively, and Mikey Dierikx at 132.
"This is my last time wrestling here,'' said Joe DeVolder, "and I've got to end it on a good note.''
Kewanee (10th, 19 points) has three semifinalists in Bo Walters (126), Mark Breedlove (132) and Omar Delgado (145); Breedlove earned his 120th career win by pinning Mercer County's Tomas Malon.
"I'm definitely hoping to get first place,'' said Breedlove. "I had to drop down my weight a bit, which hopefully doesn't put me at a disadvantage.''
Alleman and Riverdale (tied for 11th with 16 points) have a combined three semifinalists, the Pioneers advancing Sean Wetherell (170) and Ben West (220) and the Rams advancing Logan Sherman (220). Wethersfield also has one semifinalist in 120-pound standout Carter Pillen.
West had the quickest pin of the evening, sticking Kewanee's James Hunt in just seven seconds. "I've had quite a few of those, but that was the quickest I've had by far,'' he said. "It's definitely a good start to the tourney.''