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Sterling’s Khuntangta gets pin, leads Warriors in rout

Learning, earning his way

Sterling’s Isaac Figueroa (top) works against Rock Falls’ Breu Knox during their 120-pound bout Wednesday at Tabor Gym. Figueroa pinned Knox in 4:43, and the Golden Warriors beat the Rockets 65-13.
Sterling’s Isaac Figueroa (top) works against Rock Falls’ Breu Knox during their 120-pound bout Wednesday at Tabor Gym. Figueroa pinned Knox in 4:43, and the Golden Warriors beat the Rockets 65-13.

ROCK FALLS – This is only Jonah Khuntangta’s second season as a wrestler ... but you wouldn’t know it.

The Sterling sophomore shook off some nerves in just his second varsity match, and earned one of the Golden Warriors’ five pins in their 65-13 dual win over Rock Falls on Wednesday night at Tabor Gym.

Khuntangta trailed the
Rockets’ Gage Butler 2-0 and 4-2 early. Khuntangta tied it at 4 with a buzzer-beating reversal to end the first period.

Khuntangta wasted no time taking control in the second
period, putting Butler to the mat and getting the pin 23 seconds in.

“I was scared,” Khuntangta admitted. “He was pretty big, and that’s a weight class above me that Coach [Charlie Bishop] bumped me up to. I’ve wrestled guys like him in the room sometimes, so I’m kind of used to it. But, it was still scary.”

Sterling (14-6) also got pins from Isaac Figueroa at 120, Andrew Garcia at 138, Nick
Terronez at 152, and Keagen Kaye at 160.

Terronez earned his fall in just 22 seconds.

The Warriors won six of the nine contested bouts. Sterling’s other win was a technical fall by freshman Tyson Hall at 145.

“Last night was a rough one for us,” said Bishop, referring to a 33-26 loss to Mercer County on Tuesday. “We talked about aggression. We wanted to go out and be physical, and that’s what you saw tonight.”

Rock Falls, which forfeited five weights, got a pin from Konner Smith at 126, a major decision from Lucas Newburgh at 182, and a 2-1 decision from Francisco Arellano at 285.

Smith, who grew up in Sterling, fell behind Zach Depuy 5-0 early. Smith scored a reversal just before the horn to end the first period to make it 5-2.

Smith opened the second period with a reversal to pull within a point, 5-4, then finished the bout in impressive fashion, getting a pin 45 seconds into the period.

“I wasn’t worried when I was down. I just wanted to stay in the match,” Smith said. “You can’t sit there and feel sorry for yourself. He was in on a whizzer, and I squared up with him and threw almost like a cow-catcher. It was me working into position.”

Arellano pulled out his win over Cariel Beasley with a third caution penalty point to tie it at 1 with 46 seconds remaining, and an escape with 1 tick left.

“Normally when you lose like that, you’re really disappointed,” Rock Falls coach Derick Cox said. “But, I know Sterling’s a good team, and we don’t match up well with them. I only had two guys in the lineup that have a year of varsity experience. The thing that excites me is that the young mistakes we make are fixable. We will get better.”

Nearing century mark

• Sterling coach Charlie Bishop earned his 99th dual win. The Warriors have one dual remaining, at home Jan. 30 with Sycamore. Before that, Sterling will host the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.

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