CHAMPAIGN – At one time, a broken right wrist looked like it might keep Mark McDonnell from even finishing the season.
In the end, however, McDonnell had both hands held high in triumph, his second state championship safely in the bag.
McDonnell wrapped up a stellar high school career in style when he pinned Stillman Valley’s Talon Paul in 1 minute, 56 seconds to win the Class 1A 145-pound championship at the IHSA state wrestling tournament Saturday at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
McDonnell (26-1) repeated as a state champion, having won the 140-pound title in 2011. He was also second at 140 in 2010 and third at 125 in 2009.
“It’s awesome,” McDonnell said. “You come into the year never thinking you’d be a two-time state champion and a four-time medalist.”
McDonnell seized control with two takedowns in the first 45 seconds, then did something a bit unusual. Whereas he usually wears opponents down, this time he used a perfectlyexecuted cradle to finish off Paul.
“It’s not a move I usually use, but if it’s there, I’ll take it,” McDonnell said.
Morrison coach Gregg Dolan was pleasantly surprised to have his time in the coaching chair adjacent to the mat end early.
“It’s in his arsenal, but he usually wears kids out,” Dolan said. “By the time he does that, he’s got the tech fall and the thing’s done. Tonight was a little bit different. You don’t want to spend as much time on the mat. Anything can happen. Talon Paul’s a good wrestler. He’s got a lot of funky stuff and we needed to get that one done, and he did.”
Paul, who lost a 10-6 decision to McDonnell in the Byron Sectional, had hoped to put up a better fight the second time around.
“He’s phenomenally strong, and I got out of position a lot,” said Paul, who is also a distant cousin of McDonnell’s. “He’s very tough on his feet. He’s just such a good wrestler.”
McDonnell, whose lone loss this season came to 160-pound champ Billy Chancey of Braidwood-Reed Custer at the St. Thomas More tourney back in December, was thrilled to defend his title.
“I just trained harder than last year,” McDonnell said. “At the top, everyone’s coming for you to knock you down, so you’ve got to keep going as hard as you can and just keep practicing as hard as you can.”