ERIE – Last weekend, the Rock Falls Rockets got a taste of what it means to win the team title at an area wrestling tournament. It felt so good, they matched the feat Saturday at the Erie-Prophetstown Tournament.
Behind five individual champions, including lower-weights MVP Carlos Gutierrez, Rock Falls won the team trophy for a second straight weekend. Leading by 24.5 points heading into the final-round matches, the Rockets pulled away with four straight victories from 170-220 pounds.
"This means a lot; it's so awesome, and we really like this feeling," said Gutierrez, who won by technical fall over AFC's Anthony Hahn in the 113-pound final. "We were wrestling so good, and the guys at the end took advantage of our chance to wrap up this title."
Rock Falls beat runner-up Argenta-Oreana by 34 points, 194.5-160.5. Sherrard was third (151.5), the host Panthers fourth (146) and the Newman Comets fifth (126.5). Other local teams were Polo (eighth, 84 points), Morrison (ninth, 82), AFC (10th, 59) and Fulton (14th, 12).
Argenta-Oreana made its move early in the finals, winning three of the first seven titles and adding a runner-up finish. But the Rockets were deep enough to withstand that flurry, and took a 22-point lead into the final five weight classes.
Matt Mammosser pinned Polo's Zach Hagemann at 3:29 in the 170-pound title match, adding the two extra team points that come with a fall. He celebrated by slamming his headgear to the floor and pumping his fists.
"I'm proud to have kicked off those four straight matches with a pin," Mammosser said. "I was nervous; I usually can't keep my mouth shut, but while the coaches were talking to me before that match, I didn't say a word. Afterward, I had kind of an intense moment; when you win a match, there's this fire that you can't do anything about, and it's explosive sometimes."
Lucas Newburgh kept the momentum in the 182-pound final, beating Polo's Jeff Kimpel 3-2 in sudden-death overtime. Newburgh escaped 7 seconds into the fourth extra period after the two wrestlers managed nothing but escape points through three regulation periods, a 1-minute overtime and two 30-second OTs.
"It was obviously close, and I wanted to keep it that way; all I was thinking was, 'Don't do anything stupid,' " Newburgh said. "I knew I was going to get the choice to start down in that last overtime, and I basically just did everything I could to hang on and get into that last 30 seconds."
"We were both gassed at the end," Kimpel said, "and I was just trying to find any gas that I had left to hang on and ride him out. He got away, but it was a lot closer than the 4-0 loss I had to him earlier in the year."
After Newburgh's nail-biting victory, Rock Falls got a pair of close decisions from Shawn Skinner (5-2 at 195 pounds) and Roman Luevano (3-2 at 220); all four of the Rockets' title matches were 0-0 ties through the first period. Dominic Lerma added a fourth-place finish at 220, and Josiah Torres took third by pin at heavyweight to wrap up another team title.
"As a senior, this is just really big," Newburgh said. "We were definitely motivated after last weekend's title at Riverdale and [Wednesday's] loss to Lutheran. We wanted to prove to everyone that we're a lot stronger than that loss."
Gutierrez won the first championship for the Rockets by dominating Hahn. He used his quickness aggressively, recording seven takedowns and getting near-fall back points early in the match en route to a 19-4 tech fall in 5:29.
"Our coaches always tell us to go for the pins, but I didn't think I could get that against [Hahn]," Gutierrez said. "So I just tried to score as many points as possible. I knew right at the end of the second period that I had a chance for the tech fall, so I went after it."
While Gutierrez was dominating the lower weights – he won two major decisions and the tech fall – Newman senior Brian Bahrs was wrapping up his first Erie MVP award at the upper-weights. He pinned his first three opponents in a combined time of 7:33. He took on Erie-Prophetstown's Seth Montgomery in the 160-pound final, and trailed 2-0 early when Montgomery caught him for a first-period takedown.
Bahrs battled back, tying the score with a reversal before the end of the opening 2 minutes before adding another reversal and a takedown in the second period. Up 6-3 heading into the final 2 minutes, he let Montgomery up from the down position and stuck three more takedowns in the final minute for a 12-7 victory.
"It's always an honor to win an MVP award," Bahrs said, "and I was happy with how I wrestled. Even the best of the best make mistakes sometimes, but it's how you overcome them and stay composed that makes the difference.
"That final was kind of 'spaz' wrestling at the start, and after I fell behind, I just tried to get things under control and tire him out a little – then take advantage in the third period."
Newman also got titles from Jake Snow at 126 (3-1 decision) and Stephen Adamecz at 138 (14-2 major decision). Adamecz, who had wrestled Argenta-Oreana's Seth Bowman before, fed off an early takedown and two first-period near-falls. He got two more takedowns and two more near-falls in the second period, and was so in command that, afterward, Bowman could be heard telling his coaches, "He made me look stupid."
"This whole day has been me feeding off the match before," said Adamecz, who certified at 138 this week for the first time all year. "I felt more confident every single minute I was out there, and I'm starting to feel like I'm back to how it was last year. I'm happy with how I wrestled, and I'm really glad the day ended the way it did."
Other local champs were E-P's Brandon McCullough at 106 and AFC's Jake Kaecker at 152. Kaecker pitched a 4-0 shutout of Morrison's Nolan Dykema in the final, scoring a first-period takedown and a second-period reversal.
McCullough kicked off the local success. The Panther senior scored an early takedown for a 2-1 lead after the first period, but Sherrard's Hunter Spengler took a 5-2 lead after a second-period reversal and near fall.
Undaunted, McCullough – who had never won an individual tournament title – turned the tables in the third. He got a takedown and near fall with 1 minute left in the match, then clung to a 7-6 lead for the final 40 seconds after Spengler got an escape point.
"I don't know how to explain what just happened," said an ecstatic McCullough after sharing a hug with his mom and dad, E-P coach Tod McCullough. "[Spengler] is a good, strong wrestler, and I just caught him in a bad spot at the end of it. To win my first-ever title, especially in front of my home crowd in my last Erie tournament, is such a remarkable feeling."
Meet MVPs: Lower-weights – Carlos Gutierrez, RF; upper-weights – Brian Bahrs, Newman
Local champs: Brandon McCullough, EP, 106; Gutierrez, RF, 113; Jake Snow, Newman, 126; Stephen Adamecz, Newman, 138; Jake Kaecker, AFC, 152; Bahrs, Newman, 160; Matt Mammosser, RF, 170; Lucas Newburgh, RF, 182; Shawn Skinner, RF, 195; Roman Luevano, RF, 220