When wrestling became serious, Jacob DeVolder had his doubts.|
Eighteen losses as a sixth-grader made it obvious.
"I wasn't sure of myself," the Orion 126-pound junior said. "I didn't know if I was going to wrestle. I wasn't too confident in myself. It was a little rough."
DeVolder eventually found a groove.
A sub.-500 record in his first competitive year was alarming, but success has consistently found DeVolder since then. Improvements and maturity take him to state-caliber levels as he starts believing in himself more and more.
"I feel better about myself every time I go out on the mat," said DeVolder, this week's Area Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. "I get more confidence."
That last word rarely entered DeVolder's mind a few years ago.
Once he reached sixth grade, he had three years experience at the club level. When it came time for the lessons to turn into matches, DeVolder questioned his future in the sport after completing an 8-18 season.
As he recalled his record that year last Saturday, he was minutes removed from winning the Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational 126-pound title with a major decision.
What happened after that forgettable first season?
"Something just clicked," DeVolder said.
The junior-high career ended with a state runner-up finish, capping a two-year stretch in which he twice qualified for the Illinois Elementary School Association state meet.
All this happened because DeVolder "started figuring out I'm going to do something with this sport. I started to pick up moves better. I started coming around."
Finding a reason for that was simple.
"Physically and mentally," Orion coach Dan Diamond said, "he matured."
A metamorphosis led to better results.
"Confidence started growing," said DeVolder, rated sixth in the latest Illinois Best Weekly Class 1A poll. "I started believing in myself more."
Through two and a half years of his high-school career, DeVolder is displaying the belief that was missing when he started the sport. With his Bob Mitton title on Saturday, he has a 96-19 career record.
In his first two seasons, he won 70 matches.
Even more impressive than the wins, though, is how he stacks up against the state's best. As a freshman, he was one win short of reaching the state meet after finishing fourth in the sectional.The sectional champion eventually won the 103-pound state title.
As a sophomore, he was the sectional-runner up before falling in the 120-pound state quarterfinals. Byron's Nelson Baker -- who DeVolder majored in the sectional -- eventually won the state title.
"He realizes he is that good," Diamond said. "He's starting to beat really good kids. He's in a good situation."
That didn't seem possible a few years back. Now, DeVolder has big plans.
"I'm hoping (the season) ends in the Grand March," said DeVolder, referring to the state finals. "That's my goal."
Not long ago, DeVolder just wanted to survive a frustrating sixth-grade season and possibly hang up the singlet forever.
In a few weeks, the plan is being a state champion.
"When I think back, this stuns me," DeVolder said. "I've come such a long way from where I started. It amazes me how I've improved."
Area Pacesetter -- Orion's Jacob DeVolder
Favorite food: Strawberry-banana milkshake from Steak 'n Shake
Favorite movie: "Braveheart"
Favorite class: Geometry with Mrs. Swanson
Favorite band: Casting Crowns
Favorite team: Chicago Bears
Parents: Mike and Tracey DeVolder, Coal Valley
In the running
Donovan Oliver, Kewanee: Netted 40 points in a pair of wins that kept the Boilermakers undefeated in the Three Rivers Conference.
Bryan Heath, Rockridge: Tallied 41 points in a pair of wins for the West Central North-leading Rockets.
Devin Morford, Mercer County: His title at 160 pounds helped the Golden Eagle wrestlers to a second-place finish at the Bob Mitton Invitational.
Brandon McCullough, Erie-Prophetstown: Earned the 106-pound crown at the Bob Mitton Invitational.
Cassie and Corrie Reiley, Prophetstown: The sisters combined for 48 points in a pair of wins that kept the Lady Prophets atop the Three Rivers Conference standings.
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