OREGON – Brandon Sklavanitis got the bout he wanted, and then he delivered.
The Oregon senior avenged his lone defeat of the season, to Alleman’s Sean Wetherell, with a 2-1 decision for top honors at 170 pounds Saturday at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional at the Blackhawk Center.
Sklavanitis and Newman 160-pounder Brian Bahrs were champions, and 11 other area wrestlers finished in the top four to earn berths in the state tournament that begins Thursday in Champaign.
Sklavanitis had one previous defeat – a 3-2, sudden-death overtime decision to Wetherell in the finals of the Orion Invitational on Jan. 19. Payback has since been on his mind.
“It’s been eating away at me like crazy,” Sklavanitis said. “Even this whole tournament, it’s all I could think about. I couldn’t think about my semis match. All I could think about was the finals and this kid again.”
Sklavanitis (43-1) and Wetherell (28-4) each had escapes as regulation time ended in a 1-1 tie. After a scoreless 1-minute overtime, Wetherell had first crack at the down position for the first of two 30-second double OT periods, but was unable to escape.
It appeared Sklavanitis would follow suit, until he broke away from Wetherell’s clutches with 2 seconds remaining, much to the delight of a throaty Oregon crowd.
“I just thought my conditioning was there,” Sklavanitis said. “I knew he was tired, I was tired, but I thought I had enough energy in me to get it. I knew it was going to take all I had to do it.”
It was only the second loss to a Class 1A opponent for Wetherell, the other being to top-ranked Zach Abney of Pittsfield.
“I had his wrist in tight and locked, and I thought I had it pretty tight,” Wetherell said. “We were both pretty sweaty, just because it was a long, tough match. He ended up getting away.”
Bahrs (39-1), a two-time state champ for the Comets, did something he hadn’t done before in his career – win a sectional. He lost to Amboy’s Danny Bontz as a freshman, Harvard’s Dan Stott and Riverdale’s Branson Cain as a sophomore, and Mercer County’s Zach Nelson as a junior.
He had no such troubles in the finals, in which he dominated North Boone’s Tyler Westlund and posted a 7-2 victory. In fact, Bahrs had a much tougher semifinal bout, when he had to fight off an early pin attempt by Winnebago’s Layne Palm before prevailing 9-7.
The sectional crown was nice, Bahrs noted, but hardly what he’s ultimately after.
“If anything, it gives me a lot of confidence when I wrestle at state next week,” Bahrs said. “That’s always a positive. Coming out of [this sectional] undefeated, going into state ready to go, I think I’m doing pretty good.”
Local state qualifiers
Jake Kaecker, AFC, 152 pounds
Brandon McCullough, Erie-Prophetstown, 106
Calvin Harridge, Morrison, 195
Stephen Adamecz, Newman, 138
Brian Bahrs, Newman, 160*
Bryce Ivey, Newman, 152
Jake Snow, Newman, 126
John Brink, Oregon, 195
Brandon Sklavanitis, 170*
Carlos Gutierrez, Rock Falls, 113
Shawn Skinner, Rock Falls, 195
Zach Hartman, West Carroll, 132
Jacob Klein, West Carroll, 182
* – sectional champion