BYRON – After scaling a mountain Thursday evening, only to be knocked off, the Rock Falls Rockets looked gassed at the Byron wrestling triangular.
After rallying back from multiple 20-point deficits against the hosting Tigers, the Rockets lost 38-34 when Carlos Gutierrez was pinned by defending Class 1A champion Nelson Baker in the 120-pound match.
Whereas Baker has added some bulk since their first meeting last season and is ranked No. 2 at 120 by Illinois Matmen, Gutierrez was wrestling up a class.
“He’s gotten bigger,” Gutierrez said, managing to crack a smile.
That provided him little consolation. Nor did winning his bout at 113 near the end of a 50-18 loss to Dakota.
“It didn’t make me feel any better. Not really,” said Gutierrez, ranked No. 2 at 113 by Matmen. “I didn’t do my job.”
“I’m not worried about Carlos,” Rock Falls coach Derrick Cox said. “He’ll be better for matches like those.”
Baker went for the spladle just 20 seconds into the opening period.
“I tried to go for the home run right out of the gate, but he switched out of it pretty quickly, which opened him up for a cradle,” Baker said. “But I saw it, so I took it. I’m not a cradle guy, but I had to go for it.”
Gutierrez fought off a near-fall for almost a minute before Baker finally squeezed his blades to the mat 69 seconds into the bout.
“We did what we had to do against Byron without three guys,” said Cox, whose team was missing Roman Luevano (concussion) and Tibs Cervantes (ankle). “We almost pulled it off. In the next one, there was a letdown a little bit, and you can’t do that against Dakota. It seemed like all the little things went their way.”
With 5 seconds left in Matt Mammosser’s 160-pound bout with Hunter Asche, he couldn’t hold a 7-6 lead. Asche broke free for an escape. Mammosser shot for the win, but Asche circled for two decision-clinching points at the buzzer.
Then Lucas Newburgh gave up two points to Dylan Lydon at the end of the second period en route to an 8-0 major decision that gave Dakota a 23-6 advantage.
Even Shawn Skinner (21-2) couldn’t turn the tide, losing his second match of the season, 5-1 to Daniel Zimmerman, Matmen’s top wrestler at 182 pounds.
Despite Jonas Robbins’ pin at heavyweight, the Indians took the last three bouts via pin.
“By the time I pinned my guy, it was a little too late for another comeback,” Robbins said.
In the dual against Big Northern rival Byron, Mammosser took a 2-0 lead, the Rockets’ first of the night in a contested match, with a takedown of McCoy Ziel midway through the first period of the 170 bout. But after Mammosser pinned Ziel midway through the second, Nick Elsbury restored the 20-point edge with a quick pin of Christian Torres.
Skinnner re-ignited the comeback by finishing off Sal Sanchez with a reversal and a pin 15 seconds into the middle period of the 195 bout.
Then Skinner’s classmate, Josiah Torres, turned a 5-3 deficit into a pin 29 seconds into the third period. When he reversed Ross Sealby and put him on his back, his fellow Rockets and their faithful went bonkers.
After Robbins won a heavyweight decision, Triston Dudley gutted out a 13-5 major decision of Brady Wilsie to get Rock Falls within one at 32-31. Dudley scored a takedown for the extra point with 10 seconds left and held on, despite the wrestlers rolling and vying for control as the buzzer sounded.
With 15-6 Konner Smith on deck and 19-3 Carlos Gutierrez in the hole, a comeback was no longer just feasible, it was palpably probable. Smith gave the Rockets a 34-32 lead. It turns out he also lit a fire under Baker’s butt.
“The score made the feeling of the match better – knowing the whole score rode on it,” Baker said. “It definitely affects the mindset you go into a match with.”