As the Rock Island wrestling team tallied the dual on paper, the coaching staff expressed concerns over potential challenges in the upper weights.|
Turns out, the Rocks could hold their own.
Getting two victories out of the five contested upper-weight bouts on Thursday night, Rocky quenched their nerves with a workmanlike performance. The Rocks used those matches as a starting point to their 50-23 Western Big 6 Conference win over United Township at the Panther Den.
"Those bigger weights are starting to develop and have a little confidence," Rocky coach Joel Stockwell said. "We know the heart of our lineup is always going to do well and be competitive. The fact those upper weights are chipping in, that's only going to make us stronger."
Knowing UT's strength lied between 152 and 220 pounds, the Rocks needed to snag a couple of wins and avoid bonus points in that stretch to stay close.
Rocky did allow a pin from Tate Buller (195 pounds) and major decisions by Tanner Schuldt (152) and Deryck Wessels (160), but the Panthers could not do any further damage. Michael Cole (170) secured a 5-0 win over Markus Murphy, and Nick Niles (220) completed a second-period pin to maintain the Rocks' lead.
"We didn't match up with UT very well," said Cole, who outlasted Murphy with two takedowns and an escape. "But where we needed to win, we won. We got the big wins we needed to get the job done."
Factor in Jean-Louis Sawadago's 145-pound technical fall and forfeit victories by Devin Syler (138), Josh Davis (182) and Justin McGehee (285), and the Rocks led 32-14 as the dual flipped to the lower weights.
From there, Tyler Dehaven (126) won by fall, and B.J. McGhee (120) and Chase Wiggins (132) earned forfeit victories to provide the final margin.
"I was proud of everybody," Stockwell said.
UT had no qualms, either.
"We wrestled well, and we wrestled aggressive," said UT coach Lambros Fotos, who received a decision from Marques Harrison (106) and a fall by Jeronnie Steward (113). "For the most part, our whole team effort was good. Our guys went out there fighting. Other than a match or two, it was a pretty strong performance."
Rocky once again constructed a solid performance, leading to its 17th consecutive Big 6 victory. Two victories tonight against Galesburg and Quincy will give the Rocks their third consecutive outright league title.
"We're ready," Cole said. "We're ready to be three-time champions."
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