For all the success they had individually, the Sterling Elite wrestlers were happier with the team title they claimed at the Midwest Nationals earlier this month in Bloomington.
Nine of the 10 Elite team members scored points with top-6 finishes in the 11th-12th grade competition, finishing with 81 points to win the team title over Major Decision, a team from St. Louis, by seven points. The tournament, held July 12-13 at the Shirk Center, featured wrestlers from 298 different clubs around the Midwest.
But even with everybody pulling their weight equally, the team trophy still came as a bit of a shock to the group from Sterling.
"When our coach called me and told me we got first place, it was a big surprise," said Cariel Beasley, who took third in the 226-248 weight class. "I went out and told everybody, and had to convince them that it was true. We had all really wrestled our hearts out, and we were all so excited."
Isaac Anderson was the lone individual winner, taking the 129-132 title with a 6-5 decision over St. Louis' Jason Carson in the championship bout. He reached that title tilt thanks to major decision victories in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, and outscored his opponents 29-7 in his final three matches.
Jaden Urrutia matched Beasley's third-place finish at 108-116, bouncing back from a quarterfinal loss to win a 16-3 major decision and a 12-5 decision in the wrestlebacks, before a 13-0 major decision victory in the third-place match. Beasley won a 10-4 decision and a 3-minute, 59-second pin after his quarterfinal loss, then won by injury default in the first period of the third-place match.
Brady Hall (177-189) and Blayne Crump (252-277) both finished fifth, and Konner Smith (142-144), Andrew Garcia (146-148), Keegan Kaye (158-165), and Tanner Massey (168-172) added sixth-place medals.
"It's an amazing accomplishment, and it puts Sterling on the map," Urrutia said. "It's just great to see all these guys – my family, really – working hard, working together, and putting so much blood, sweat and tears into getting this done."
Being able to do it so close to home, Urrutia said, was an extra bonus. While his mother couldn't make it – "It's the first of my tournaments that she's ever missed," he said – he was happy to see not only parents of other wrestlers there to support the squad, but other people from the local wrestling community turn out to cheer them.
He specifically mentioned Jean and Neal Richmond, two of the area's biggest wrestling fans, as being somewhat inspiring from taking time out of their weekend to come and root for the Elite.
With nine of the 10 Elite wrestlers being Golden Warriors – Smith is from Rock Falls – the team victory at a summer national tournament has them thinking big when the high school season rolls around.
"The respect we have for each other, the support we give each other, winning the tournament showed we have the right people to do it, and those people doing the right things," Anderson said. "We're all so happy to be together, to work hard and put in the time and energy, and I think we can get to the state series team-wise."
"I think this tournament showed we can hang with the best in the state – and beyond," Beasley added. "This is definitely a big confidence-booster going into next winter."
July 12-13, Bloomington
Top 5 teams (11th & 12th grade division): 1. Sterling 81; 2. Major Decision (St, Louis) 74; 3. Normal Community West HS 63.0; 4. Quest (Edwardsville) 54; 5. Gateway Grappling (Eureka, Mo.) 53
Sterling placers: Isaac Anderson 1st at 129-132 pounds; Jaden Urrutia 3rd at 108-116; Cariel Beasley 3rd at 226-248; Brady Hall 5th at 177-189; Blayne Crump 5th at 252-277; Konner Smith 6th at 142-144; Andrew Garcia 6th at 146-148; Keegan Kaye 6th at 158-165; Tanner Massey 6th at 168-172