EDGINGTON – The Rock Falls wrestling team rode a perfect storm to a place it has been on the doorstep of 3 of the last 4 years.
The Rockets combined a solid veteran core with some hungry newcomers, were dealt a postseason path of least resistance, and earned a berth in Saturday’s IHSA Class 1A Dual Team State Tournament. The clincher came on Tuesday night at the Rockridge Sectional, where Rock Falls rolled to a 73-6 victory against Aurora Central Catholic.
Next up will be the state quarterfinals against Stanford Olympia, which handled Clifton Central 44-23 at the PORTA team sectional. Rock Falls and Olympia will square off Saturday at 9 a.m. in U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
The Rockets had qualified for the team sectional in 2013, 2014 and a year ago, when they fell 36-31 against Sherrard. This time, however, there was no stopping Rock Falls (21-7), which cruised to a win in its own individual regional to earn the team sectional berth, then manhandled an overmatched crew from Aurora Central Catholic (16-12).
“I knew this group this year, we had a really good chance to go down there, with the influx of the young kids we had coming in with the senior group we already had,” head coach Derick Cox said. “We lost a close one to Sherrard last year, and if we had got that one, it would be our second time going down. We’d have that state experience, but I’m just happy to get to this point.”
“Making state is big accomplishment for us,” junior Alex Martinez added. “It was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. That’s always been the motivation for us – to practice harder, to do extra work and keep us going when the times are rough.”
In 11 contested bouts, Rock Falls won 10, and eight of those came via pin. Dawson Smith (106 pounds), Reiley Dowd (120), Ethan Cravatta (132), Martinez (138), Rollie Elder (152), Browdie Benti (182) and Reise Arduini (285) all stuck their opponents
Adam Meenen (126) and Niles Ager (220) each won by technical fall. For Ager, fresh off a state championship at 195 pounds over the weekend, it was his 29th technical fall of the season.
Tyler Meyers got the Rockets off to a good start in the first bout of the night, at 170 pounds. He won a 7-1 decision against ACC’s Garrett St. Clair, who had won 32 bouts this season and was the Chargers’ top wrestler. St. Clair was one match away from qualifying for state this season.
“I wanted to get off on the right foot, starting us off with points on the board instead of going down,” Meyers said. “We would have been like, ‘Wait, we’ve got to recover now.’”
Rock Falls also received three forfeits, to Izaih James (113), Lonnie Gribbons (160) and Roger Carlson (195).
For ACC head coach Randy Glaudel, merely making the team sectional was a major building block. He is in his second stint guiding the program, and returned 4 years ago to find the program in shambles. He had four athletes to work with, had to scrounge up mats from a local health club in North Aurora, and had no matching singlets.
He still has no feeder program, as the majority of his wrestlers don’t try wrestling until they are freshmen.
“We literally have to coach them from handshake to hand raise,” said Glaudel, whose brother, Terry, is an assistant coach at Newman. “I do get a couple of kids that come from programs that have some club experience, but not very many. We’re really trying. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”
What: Class 1A state quarterfinals, Rock Falls vs. Stanford (Olympia)
When: 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington