STERLING – As 4-year varsity starters, Sterling senior wrestlers Josh Villarreal and Curtis Lilly love it when their team relies on them for clutch victories. Both proved their mettle in the spotlight Wednesday night at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
Villarreal and Lilly won decisions in two of the final three contested matches of the night to seal the Golden Warriors' 34-30 victory over LaSalle-Peru.
"I love being the anchor, having the other guys look to me and carrying the weight of the meet on my shoulders," Lilly said. "I want that pressure on me to go out and get whatever I need – a win, a pin, whatever – to help the team win."
With a forfeit coming its way in the final weight class of the night, 106 pounds, Sterling (8-9) needed to be trailing the Cavaliers (14-7) by five points or fewer after the heavyweight bout between Lilly and Nolan Keeney.
L-P led 30-25 as Lilly and Keeney took the mat. Lilly left little doubt, controlling things from the get-go. He got a takedown midway through the first period, added three near-fall points late in the second after riding Keeney out the entire period, then scored a pair of third-period reversals to claim a 9-2 decision and get the Warriors to within two points in the team score; the forfeit then pushed Sterling over the top.
"We knew they'd be a tough team," Lilly said of the Cavs, "but it's always a team thing for us – and we know we have guys who can step up along the lineup and get us valuable points when we need them."
Curtis' brother Bryant and Villarreal were two of those guys Wednesday. Bryant Lilly's pin in 1 minute, 34 seconds at 160 pounds erased an 18-16 deficit, and Villarreal's ability to ride out L-P's Ryan Marlett the entire second period of their 195-pound bout gave him a 5-3 decision and brought the Warriors to within 26-25 with two matches and the forfeit remaining.
"We knew Curtis and Josh would come up big for us," Sterling senior John Hardey said. "They're so good at getting us what we need, that we weren't too worried when we got to the end and we were behind."
Before the big wins late in the dual, Sterling scored points in the lower weights. Isaac Anderson started things off with an 18-5 major decision at 113 pounds, then Hardey (126) and Austin Olalde (138) recorded second-period pins to keep the Warriors in the lead.
Hardey led 5-0 after a takedown and near-fall in the first period, then rolled L-P's Fernando Lucero onto his back and finished off the pin in 2:27. That gave Sterling a 10-6 lead.
"This is my first win at home," said Hardey, who moved to Sterling from Texas. "I had a little opening and took it; I was pretty confident after almost getting him in the first period."
Olalde followed up a Cavalier pin with Sterling's second of the meet. He trailed 2-0 after the first period, but started the second on top and managed to turn L-P's Alex Freschi and stuck him in 3:39.
"I was disappointed in myself after the first period," Olalde said, "so at the start of the second, I tried to step it up a notch. I started a lot stronger, got a nice combo going, and got the pin.
"I felt like those early wins got the team motivated. We knew we had that forfeit at the end, and we knew every point we got was big."
LaSalle-Peru won four of the five matches between 145 and 182 pounds, but three of the four were decisions that kept Sterling in the match.
"We knew there were going to be a lot of toss-up matches, and we had a lot of guys do their jobs for us tonight," Cavaliers coach Matthew Fletcher said, "but Sterling did a great job of getting those key victories to seal it in the end."
"There was a little worry there, but we're extremely confident in Josh and Curtis on the back end," Sterling coach Charlie Bishop said. "They have so much experience, and they always seem to come through for us."
Sterling 34, LaSalle-Peru 30
Key bout: Curtis Lilly, Sterling, wins 9-2 decision at 285 to seal Warriors' 34-30 victory
Other Sterling winners: Jaden Urrutia, 106, forfeit; Isaac Anderson, 113, 18-5 major decision; John Hardey, 126, pin in 2:27; Austin Olalde, 138, pin in 3:39; Bryant Lilly, 160, pin in 1:34; Josh Villarreal, 195, 5-3 decision
Up next: Sterling at Batavia Invite, 9:30 a.m. Saturday