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Comets shine brightest on first day of sectional

Individual glory on mind

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Newman, with its inability to fill a full lineup, was not built for team success this season.

Let the Comets fend for themselves, however, and they come up aces. They displayed that trait on Friday at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional as an area-high five wrestlers earned berths in today's semifinals.

They are one bout away from the finals, and with it, a guaranteed berth in the state tournament that begins Thursday in Champaign.

Rock Falls and Erie-Prophetstown each had three semifinalists; Morrison had two; and Oregon, AFC and West Carroll had one apiece.

Newman set the tone right away in the quarterfinals as freshman 106-pounder Hunter Webb scored a 4-2 decision over Riverdale's Ruben Garza. Garza had earned a first-period pin over Webb at the Princeton Tournament on January 5.

Webb (24-14) scored a takedown with 10 seconds left in the second period to go up 2-1 on Garza, then put the match on ice with a reversal with 50 seconds left in the third period.

"The most important part of the match was just being smart," Webb said. "That's all I had to do to win."

The Comets' three other regional champs, 126-pounder Jake Snow, 138-pounder Stephen Adamecz and 160-pounder Brian Bahrs, each scored comfortable wins to move on.

Snow (37-3) took an 8-3 decision over Rockford Lutheran's Caleb Micho. Adamecz (28-7) pinned Sherrard's Nathan Miller in 1:54. Bahrs (37-1) was in control the whole way in posting a 10-5 decision over Mercer County's Devin Morford.

Newman's fifth semifinalist was 152-pounder Bryce Ivey, who won two bouts. Ivey (36-7) opened with a pin of Christian Liberty Academy's Blake Adelsperger in 1:04, then gutted out a 5-2 decision over Stillman Valley's Kenny Abitua.

Erie-Prophetstown also had a wrestler, 195-pounder John Butts, win two bouts to gain his spot in the semifinals. Butts (29-10) opened by pinning Oregon's John Brink (34-6) in 3:35. Butts made it 2-for-2 in pins by taking care of Harvard's Zack Martin in 2:56.

"Both rounds I was the underdog, so I'm feeling pretty confident about the last two rounds and hopefully going for first," Butts said.

Brandon McCullough (33-2) was dominant in posting an 8-1 win over Stillman Valley's Erik Baker at 106 pounds. Seth Montgomery (29-8), the Panthers' 160-pounder, was equally impressive in pinning Dakota's Hunter Asche in 2:59.

Rock Falls, which dominated its own regional and had 11 sectional qualifiers, had three of them get through to the semifinals. They were 113-pounder Carlos Gutierrez, 195-pounder Shawn Skinner and 220-pounder Josiah Torres.

Gutierrez (32-5) needed just 49 seconds to dispose of Alec Henze. It was a quick pin, considering he was under some different orders from Rock Falls head coach Derick Cox.

"My coach wanted me to get three takedowns before [the pin], just to break him," said Gutierrez, who did indeed get three takedowns before the pin.

Skinner (34-2) found himself in an unexpectedly tough battle with Mercer County's Mason Weeks before prevailing 3-2.

"All he wanted to do was tie me up," Skinner said. "I did not wrestle a very good match. I'm just glad to get this one out of the way."

Torres (30-8) built up a big lead before finally pinning West Carroll's Brandon Anderson in 4:33. The key, according to Torres, was keeping Anderson on the mat.

"He was trying to get out," Torres said, "and I just caught him."

Half of Morrison's four sectional qualifiers, 145-pounder Austin Keller and 195-pounder Calvin Harridge, find themselves in the semifinals.

Keller (16-18) took advantage of a good draw in winning two bouts. He opened with a 7-4 decision against St. Bede's Adam Hunter (17-11), then took a 9-6 decision from Harvard's Isaiah Rudd (14-13).

"It feels great," Keller said. "I didn't even think I'd make it to sectionals, not being seeded at regionals. I just went out, tried hard, and I pulled it out."

Harridge (35-5) toyed with Wheaton Academy's Josh Dutton before pinning him in 47 seconds. He used his favorite move, a cradle, to seal the deal.

"It really works in my favor because I have longer arms," said Harridge, whose practice partner is last year's 195-pound state champion, Matt McDonnell, now a student at Sauk Valley Community College.

Oregon's lone semifinal representative is 170-pounder Brandon Sklavanitis, a 12-2 major decision winner against Erie-Prophetstown's Nick Williams. Sklavanitis (41-1) noted there is plenty of room for improvement.

"That first match, it's always hard to overcome," Sklavanitis said. "It's kind of like the hump of the tournament. Once you get the first one done, the rest is smooth sailing."

AFC's Jake Kaecker had his hands full with Morrison's Nolan Dykema before earning an 8-4 decision. Kaecker (26-3) scored a reversal with 4 seconds left in the second period to tie it at 4-4, then scored an escape and three back points in the third period to pull out the win.

The West Carroll semifinalist among five qualifiers was 132-pounder Zach Hartman (34-6). He opened with a technical fall win over Alden-Hebron's Colten Cashmore, then gained a 7-2 decision over Rock Falls' Tibs Cervantes.

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