CHAMPAIGN -- For one year, Mercer County 152-pound senior wrestler Zach Nelson talked the talked.|
With one dominating victory, he backed it up.
Saying for the past 12 months that he would end his career as a state champion, Nelson turned the talk into reality. A first-period pin over Ashton-Franklin Center senior Jake Kaecker gave Nelson the coveted Class 1A state title at the Assembly Hall on Saturday night.
"An awesome feeling to come out on top," Nelson said. "The best feeling ever."
The first state champion in Mercer County history topped Kaecker for the third time this season and second time in a week. Forty-seven seconds into the match, Nelson completed a takedown before securing a fall seconds before the first period ended.
After the official slammed his hand down, the normally stoic Nelson jumped up, turned to the Mercer County fans and raised both hands into the air.
Two state championship bout losses gave way to a title, capped by Nelson (41-0) finishing undefeated.
"The main goal was to win state," Nelson said. "I definitely did that."
With the win, Nelson joins Clayton Rush as the only three-time finalist in Aledo/Mercer County history. Rush, who won two state titles, saw Nelson's victory.
"This is crazy," Nelson said. "I'm sure it will sink in soon. An awesome, awesome feeling."
The Golden Eagles split their two state championship bouts, with sophomore Tristen Finch dropping a 3-0 decision to Dakota's Carver James.
All three points were scored in the second period.
"I wrestled his match and didn't open up and wrestle my style," Finch said. "I didn't wrestle well."
Scoreless after the first period, James worked an escape to take the lead. A scramble late in the second period ended with James finishing a takedown on Finch to go ahead 3-0.James then rode out Finch in the third period.
"I was flustered," Finch said of the takedown. "He was all over my head. I had trouble seeing where I was."
It was the third time this season Finch (39-4) was beaten by James. In each of those bouts, Finch never scored an offensive point.
"It's not where I wanted to end up," Finch said. "I'll be back in the room and hopefully get back here next year. If I get him, I'll beat him."
Ricke takes sixth: Mercer County 170-pound senior Jon Ricke took sixth in his bracket, earning a first-ever state medal.Ricke opened the day with an 11-8 loss to St. Joseph-Ogden's Austin Upton in the consolation semifinal. He then suffered an 18-2 technical fall loss to Illiana Christian's Zach Groen in the fifth-place match.
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