STERLING – The view from the press table at Musgrove Fieldhouse was picturesque. The stage couldn't have been better set.
Just above two wrestlers operating on the battery acid coursing through their veins, one could see Sheila Mammosser standing up and sitting down over and over. Her husband, Jay, demonstrated an arm bar and a throw, trying anything to will his son and his beloved Rockets to victory.
Rock Falls sophomore Matt Mammosser and Sterling junior Bryant Lilly locked up for the unteenth time in the 170-pound bout. Mammosser leaned in and tried to throw Lilly. The Golden Warrior countered, throwing Mammosser onto his back.
One half of Musgrove Fieldhouse was engulfed in pandemonium, the other in sorrow.
With a pin 29 seconds into overtime, Lilly delivered a 38-31 victory for Sterling in a Twin City-slam dual for the ages.
"We'd been locking up the entire time, and I had felt him almost throw me one time," said Lilly, who wrestled up a class. "I was waiting for the exact same thing. He did it again, I dropped my hips and got two."
The grapplers were deadlocked at 3 after one period, thanks to a potential Mammosser takedown spilling out of bounds before he seized full control. His second-period escape gave him a 4-3 edge after two. A Lilly reversal 20 seconds into the third, followed by a Mammosser escape, locked the score at 5.
The grapplers re-started in an upright position three times. With 40 seconds left, Lilly tried to circle, but Mammosser fended him off and actually almost scored, if not for his counter sending the action out of bounds again.
About 20 seconds into overtime, it was Lilly's counter that sealed an epic chapter in both programs' histories.
"This is the way, from the stories I've heard, that this is supposed to be," Rock Falls coach Derick Cox said. "It should be a packed house. We're right next door. It was a great atmosphere."
"I don't know if it's ever been this spectacular," Sterling coach Charlie Bishop said.
By the time the main event arrived, former Sterling pole vaulter Mike Schneiderbauer would've thought the bar was set high. With every bout, it seemed to reach new heights.
In the penultimate bout, Tanner Massey rolled with a Carlos Rodriguez shot and found himself in pin position. When he squeezed him 46 seconds into the second period, Sterling took its first lead of the night at 32-31. Not bad for a second-year grappler.
"I was really nervous, and I didn't expect to win," said Massey, who also wrestled up a class to fill Lilly's vacated spot. "When the whistle blew, all those nerves finally went away.
"It was crazy. It was a great experience I've never gotten to see."
Rock Falls built a 15-0 lead on a Lucas Newburgh major decison at 182, a Shawn Skinner technical fall of Josh Villarreal and Josiah Torres' pin of Will Canales at 220. Skinner (26-2), the state's second-ranked 1A wrester at 195, according to illinoismatmen.com, entered his marquee matchup with Villarreal (24-5) like a man on fire.
"I love when guys push on me," Skinner said. "It makes it that much easier on me, because I'm good with leverage. I've been around Villarreal forever, and I know what he wants to do. This is probably the best I've wrestled all season. He's a great wrestler. Lots of respect for Villarreal."
He turned a major decision into a 19-4 tech fall at the final buzzer. Had the match gone on 5 more seconds, it would've been a pin, as evidenced by the referee signaling pin. He was unable to hear the buzzer over the roaring crowd.
"That tech was harsh," Bishop said. "I thought that was going to be a lot closer. But once we got down to Lilly, the momentum really started picking up."
Lilly (25-4) pinned Jonas Robbins at 3:39 in the heavyweight bout.
A Jaden Urrutia tech fall at 106 made it 15-11 Rock Falls, and when Konner Smith turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 decision with a reversal and back points in the third, the momentum needle tipped. Carlos Gutierrez's pin buried the needle and gave the Rockets a 24-11 lead.
But pins from John Hardy (126) and Austin Olalde (132) got Sterling within one at 24-23. Tibs Cervantes' 14-2 major decision and Roberto Arellano's decision gave Rock Falls a 31-23 advantage.
Then Cox shuffled his lineup, bumping Cayden Erickson down to 152 against Andrew Ingram. The Sterling grappler won a teeter-totter 13-8 decision after trailing 7-5 in the second.
"It was a dogfight, and you could tell that our guy is trying to make up time," Cox said of Erickson, who just started wrestling after Christmas. "He gassed out there toward the end, and Ingram came on strong."
That set the stage for Massey Massey's upstart heroics. Then the overworked spotlight shifted to Lilly and Mammosser. Both wrestlers soaked it up in different ways.
"I love it," Lilly said.
"It's nice, but it's kind of nerve-racking," Mammosser said. "It's kind of scary. And I still have homework."
Man of the meet: Tanner Massey, sophomore, gave Sterling its first lead with pin of Carlos Rodriguez at 160
Up next: Sterling at Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference meet at Sycamore High School, 9 a.m. Saturday; Rock Falls, Riverdale at Alleman, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday