Jacob DeVolder simply told the truth.|
"This sectional," the Orion 126-pound junior said, "could be tougher than state itself."
Recent history proves that.
Considered by many as a "mini-state meet", the Class 1A Oregon Sectional offers no cakewalks. Each weight class is traditionally loaded with state-ranked individuals, but the field this year appears stronger than ever.
"It's going to be pretty hard to get out," DeVolder said. "Most people think it's ridiculous, but I'm excited to go and wrestle at a good, competitive level. The cream always raises to the top."
Anyone wishing to reach Champaign must outlast a sectional with five returning state champions and three individuals with multiple titles. No other small-school sectional has any returning state champions.
Nine of the 14 top-ranked individuals in the Illinois Best Weekly poll will compete in Oregon this weekend. Two other sectionals have two No. 1-ranked individuals.
So the theory this weekend could be tougher than next appears true.
"You make it out of there, you have a great chance to do well at state," Erie-Prophetstown 106-pound senior Brandon McCullough said. "Wrestling those guys will be a feat, and to pull out a win would be an accomplishment."
Eleven state champions came from this same sectional a year ago. In fact, the 120-pound class features Byron junior Nelson Baker and Dakota junior Josh Alber. Both were state champions a year ago, with Alber entering the sectional with a perfect record in his career.
Two weights -- 138 and 145 pounds -- have the top four ranked individuals. Included in those weights are Mercer County sophomore Tristen Finch (138 pounds) and Joe DeVolder (145).
Anyone finishing in the top four advance to next weekend's state meet at the Assembly Hall.
"I know how to wrestle a lot of the guys I'll face at sectionals," said Alleman 170-pound senior Sean Wetherell, the highest-ranked individual at his weight. "It's a matter of preparing to my fullest."
Survival is needed, too.
Getting out of this sectional is an accomplishment, with a well-deserved state berth awaiting those who snag a top-four finish.
According to some, the trip to Champaign could be tougher than earning a state medal.
"We have one of the hardest sectionals in the state," Morrison 195-pound senior Calvin Harridge said. "But I want to go through the toughest matches, so that I'll be prepared if I get to state."
Moline ready for home sectional:For the first time since 2005, Moline is hosting a large-school sectional. The two-day Class 3A Moline Sectional starts Friday afternoon at Wharton Field House.
"It's going to be awesome," Moline coach Todd Thompson said. "The top kids in the state will be there in multiple weight classes."
Since the Illinois High School Association split into three classes five years ago, the Maroons have gone to either the St. Louis Metro-East area or Chicago's South Suburbs for a sectional. Those drives are replaced this year by a quick trip to Wharton and a night in their own beds.
Moline will have 113-pound freshman Caleb Schnell, 170-pound junior Austin Vanscoy and 285-pound junior Adarios Jones in the field. Jones enters as a regional champion.
"All three guys have a shot to qualify," Thompson said. "If they wrestle to their capabilities, there's no doubt in my mind we could have three qualifiers."
The sectional starts at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, with the finals slated to begin on Saturday at 3.
"The kids who made it are pumped to wrestle at Wharton in front of a packed house," Thompson said.
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