SYCAMORE – It would have been silly to think that Lilly and Lally couldn’t come through on the big stage that is the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference wrestling tournament.
Curtis Lilly, a Sterling senior, and Kylian Lally, a Dixon junior, both claimed titles at the event Saturday in Sycamore. Two more local wrestlers, Jaden Urrutia and Isaac Anderson of Sterling, also qualified for the finals, but took second.
Lally, whose only previous high school tournament championship was at the Sterling Invite last month, was the class of the field at 138 pounds after claiming a 7-4 decision against Daniel Close of Ottawa. The wrestlers had split a pair of regular-season bouts.
“It feels good to be done with that one,” Lally said. “I can focus on regionals now. I’m glad to be done with it.”
“He’s always been serious about wrestling, but I think he’s starting to set bigger goals for himself,” Dixon coach Chris Bishop said.
“The conference we’re in is one of the best there is. I know Kylian wanted this bad, and he went out and took it.”
Entering the second period tied 2-2, Lally (32-5) took control with a reversal and two back points in the first 30 seconds of the period to seize a 6-2 lead.
Close responded with a reversal of his own 30 seconds into the third period, but was unable to do any more damage in the next minute and decided to cut Lally loose.
With 10 seconds remaining in the bout, Lally grabbed Close’s right leg and held on for the victory.
“All I knew is I couldn’t let him turn me,” Lally said. “I was basically just fighting off his turns and trying to get out if I could.”
The most hairy part of the bout for Lally came in its opening moments, when he found himself caught in a spladle, Close’s specialty. Being on the receiving end of a spladle often results in a pin, but Lally was able to extricate himself from danger.
“My coaches were talking about that move 3 days ago,” Lally said. “I knew once he hooked my leg, that’s what he was going for. I was lucky he only got two points out of that.”
Lilly’s championship at 285 pounds was a thrill ride, both in the semifinals and finals.
In the semis, Lilly (31-4) won a controversial 3-2 decision against Geneseo’s Nick Verbeck. Down 2-1 in the third period, Lilly scored a takedown with 8 seconds remaining, but there was doubt whether he gained control while still in the circle. The referees conversed, then awarded the takedown.
Lilly then needed to ride out Verbeck for 1 second, but even that didn’t go smoothly. Verbeck squirmed away, but no escape point was awarded.
“I think I wrestled the worst match of my senior year,” Lilly said, “and I wanted to come back in the finals and wrestle better.”
In the finals, Lilly drew Kaneland’s Zach Theis. They battled through a scoreless first period, then Theis rode out Lilly for 1:59 of the second period before things got wild. Lilly, after coming close to escaping on multiple occasions, executed a reversal and put Theis to his back just as the clock hit :00.
The referees had a powwow, then determined the reversal would stand, giving Lilly a 2-0 lead. A Kaneland fan seated next to the Knights’ coaches and filming the bout, started jawing with a ref and was ordered to leave the mat area. He then flung the folding chair he was sitting on toward the stands, hitting a spectator in the leg.
An argument ensued between that fan and another seated nearby. It was getting heated until a wrestler from DeKalb stepped in and defused the situation.
Lilly wasn’t sure if points would be coming his way or not.
“The clock was not in my view at the time,” he said. “I was just going to wrestle until the ref stopped me and not when the buzzer went off. That’s what we’re taught, and I’m just glad it worked out for me.”
The third period went a lot like the second, with Lilly in the down position, only this time he was trying to avoid getting turned. He was assessed one stalling call with 5 seconds to go but was still able to eke out a 2-1 decision.
“The most important thing was to move enough to not get called for stalling, and I think I did my part,” Lilly said. “I kept out of situations that would have gotten me into trouble.”
The conference championship was Lilly’s second in a row, and he now has his sights set on a milestone. He’s sitting on 99 career wins, and is hoping for No. 100 on Tuesday at Dixon.
The other two area finalists, Urrutia and Anderson, had their hands full and settled for second place.
Urrutia (29-7) allowed a first-period takedown, then three back points in the second period in a 5-0 loss to DeKalb’s Parker Stratton in the 106-pound finals. Urrutia noted he and Stratton are friends, dating back to their days as junior high competitors.
“I knew what was coming, but unfortunately I was unable to stop it,” Urrutia said.
Anderson (20-6) couldn’t get much going against Sycamore’s Kyle Akins, who scored a pin in 3:04 of the 113-pound finals. Akins (33-1) is ranked third in the state by Illinois Matmen, while Anderson is sixth.
“I thought I was riding him out pretty good, and then went for my favorite move,” Anderson said of a move he calls a ‘stack.’ “He countered, I got my arm caught back, and that’s where it really went downhill for me.”
Sterling finished ninth among 12 teams with 80 points, while Dixon was 12th with 20. Sycamore (198.5), Yorkville (196) and Geneseo (140.5) claimed the top three spots in the standings.
The Golden Warriors and Dukes will return to the mat on Tuesday, with a dual at Dixon. Head coaches (and brothers) Charlie Bishop of Sterling and Chris Bishop of Dixon, for the second consecutive year, will square off in a bout for family supremacy. Charlie won an OT decision last season.
Top 3 teams
1. Sycamore 198.5, 2. Yorkville 196, 3. Geneseo 140.5
138 – Kylian Lally, Dixon
285 – Curtis Lilly, Sterling