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AFC’s Kaecker gets pinned by Mercer County star


(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukva)
AFC's Jake Kaecker tries to escape from Mercer County's Zach Nelson during the 152-pound championship bout Saturday in Champaign. Nelson pinned Kaecker in the first period.

CHAMPAIGN – Jake Kaecker got to experience a full Nelson on Saturday night, and it wasn't something to be relished.

The AFC senior's run to the Class 1A 152-pound title bout at the IHSA state wrestling tournament concluded with his third encounter against Mercer County's Zach Nelson.

This one had the same result as the first two, as Nelson needed just 1 minute, 52 seconds to win by pin. It's his first title, after having lost in the finals to Newman's Brian Bahrs in 2012 and Reed-Custer's Billy Chauncey in 2011.

For Nelson, the key to the bout wasn't so much his knowledge of Kaecker's game as it was his desire to finally win a title.

"Some little things probably helped me out," Nelson said, "but definitely my main motivation was to get that gold and go out on top. That's the main thing that pushed me."

Nelson (41-0) struck first, on a takedown with 1:13 remaining in the first period. As Kaecker tried in vain to escape, Nelson would pick him and toss him to the mat.

The third time that happened, Kaecker landed awkwardly, and Nelson pounced. He got on top and finished him off with 8 seconds remaining in the period.

"I landed on my side and he caught me right there," said Kaecker. "He knows when there's a mistake, and he always catches me on my mistake. That time, he got me on my back."

It was the first pin for Nelson against Kaecker, as the other two wins were by decision at the Orion tournament and Oregon Sectional. His strategy coming into the bout was to try to go the distance again, but it didn't get to that point.

"I was hoping to just stay away and stay on the defense for the first and second periods to tire him out," Kaecker said, "then go all-out in the third period. It didn't work."

Kaecker (30-5) was bidding to become just the third AFC wrestler to win a state title. Dave Lloyd (1982, 145 pounds) and Jamin Soria (1993 and 1995, both at heavyweight) are the school's lone champs.

Kaecker seemed fine with his runner-up status.

"I'm still absolutely happy with what I've got," Kaecker said. "I didn't think I was going to make it this far, so I'm fine with what I've got."


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