POLO – Newman wrestlers have a history of doing some serious damage at the state tournament each season.
The Comets took the first step on that journey Saturday at the Polo Regional, where they placed second in a nine-team field. More importantly, six wrestlers, including three champions, moved on to the Byron Sectional that begins on Friday.
"We wrestled well throughout the day," Newman coach Steve Davis said. "Guys who were supposed to win did a great job, forced the issue, and won. A couple of guys who I thought were on the bubble came through, so I was very happy."
Leading the way for Newman were champs Jake Snow, Brandon Ahlgrim and Bryce Ivey.
Snow (33-1) won the 145-pound title by technical fall in 2 minutes, 35 seconds against Amboy's Chris Jones (26-11).
Ahlgrim (28-9) and Amboy's Jason Bontz (27-10) were locked in a close battle at 152 pounds when Ahlgrim scored a takedown with 50 seconds left in the second period to seize a 4-2 lead. He opened the third period with a reversal, and cruised to an 8-3 victory.
Ivey (32-1) took on Amboy's Ryan Leffelman (28-7) in the finals at 170 pounds. After a scoreless first period, Ivey scored a reversal to open the second, then got a 3-point nearfall to go up 5-0. He made that score hold up.
Taking second for the Comets were Elias Edmondson (138) and Brady Rude (160). Rude suffered a head injury in his semifinal bout, and was held out of the finals for precautionary reasons.
Eli Monier (132) took third place for Newman.
Rock Falls finished third as a team with 121 points. Leading the way for the Rockets were a pair of champions, Konner Smith and Lucas Newburgh.
Smith (26-14) fended off a single-leg takedown attempt in the final 13 seconds to pull out a 6-5 decision against Princeton's Austin Wetsel (27-12) in the 120-pound finals.
"Looking at my coaches, they told me to wrestle defensive," Smith said. "I prefer wrestling defensively, so it wasn't too bad."
Newburgh (29-8) used a first-period takedown and a second-period reversal to grab a 4-1 decision from Lena-Winslow's Anthony Martinez (24-6) in the 195-pound finals.
The Rockets' Francisco Arellano was the runner-up at 285 pounds, while Niles Ager (152) and Matt Mammosser (220) finished third to also punch their tickets to sectional.
Polo was fourth as a team with 94 points. The top Marco was senior 182-pounder Jeff Kimpel (21-7), who pinned Lena-Winslow's Hunter Binns in 4:53.
Binns (24-8) had won a 1-0 decision against Kimpel early in the season. This time around, Kimpel scored a takedown with 3 seconds left in the first period to take a 2-0 lead.
Kimpel rode out Binns the entire second period, then opened the third period with a reversal to go up 4-0. Kimpel then got Binns to his back and won by pin in 4:53.
"I had a shoulder injury, so it was hard for me to get up," Kimpel said of the first meeting between the two. "This time, getting those few extra points early was beneficial, because I knew he couldn't take me down."
Taking second for Polo were Jesse Ditzler (126) and Juan Dominguez (220). Placing third were Ethan Cain (160) and Jacob Cain (195).
West Carroll was fifth as a team with 92 points. Leading the Thunder were a pair of champs, Paawan Dandona at 113 and Jeff Casey at 126.
Dandona (20-9) had the fastest pin in the finals, as he needed just 55 seconds to handle Princeton's Luke Marselle (18-13). Dandona, who has been wrestling for just 2 years, executed a cradle to finish off the bout.
"I just cross-faced his head, and then it's pretty easy to get it," Dandona said.
Casey (29-5) was locked in a seesaw affair with Polo's Ditzler (27-7) in the 126-pound final. Casey led 4-3 with 20 seconds left in the third period when Ditzler shot in for a single-leg takedown attempt. He tried in vain for 14 seconds to execute the move, then a stalemate was called.
Casey then scored a clinching takedown to pull out a 6-3 victory.
Also for the Thunder, Andrew VanKampen finished second at 106 pounds, while Brandon Anderson was third at 285.
Amboy was seventh as a team with 74 points. The Clippers had three second-place finishers in Jones (145), Bontz (152) and Leffelman (170).
Lena-Winslow won the team championship with 241.5 points. The Panthers will be sending 12 wrestlers to the sectional, including champions Austin Vincent (106), Kyle Kalkbrenner (132), Gunner Wenger (138), Quincy Kalkbrenner (160), Ty Harmston (220) and Tristan Miller (285).
It is the second regional title in head coach Kevin Milder's 20 seasons. The Panthers finished second at state 2 years ago.
"We've had a history of being second a lot," Milder said. "I've got a pile of seconds to Byron, to Stillman Valley, to Dakota – it seems like we were always the second-best team in our regional."
Lena-Winslow will have its work cut out for itself at the Rock Falls Dual Team Sectional on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The Panthers will tangle with Dakota, which won the Stillman Valley Regional. The Indians won a dual between the teams, 57-9 earlier this season.
"They're just an incredible team right now," Milder said of Dakota. "I think we're just fortunate right now to enjoy the regional championship. We'll concentrate on sectional and hopefully getting some kids through to state, and we'll worry about that team sectional date with Dakota at a later time."
Top 3 teams
1. Lena-Winslow 241.5
2. Newman 126.5
3. Rock Falls 121