BLOOMINGTON – When you’ve been through some lean times, it makes the bountiful times that much sweeter.
That’s what seventh-year head coach Chris Bishop experienced on Saturday night at the IHSA Dual Team Wrestling Tournament held at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Dixon had just placed third in the tournament, in the Dukes’ first-ever appearance at team state. Afterward, amid the chaos, he reflected on his second season on the job, when Dixon won a single dual match – against North Boone.
“Now we’re standing here with a third-place trophy, and that means a lot,” Bishop said. “It means a lot to our program, and that’s the key. It’s the program, it’s not about me. It’s the kids that are standing out there, the kids that are coming after them, and even the kids that came before. It’s a great day for us.”
The Dukes (23-2) won two of three matches on Saturday, and came home with a jumbo trophy to show for their efforts. It’s something that means the world to a pair of 4-year wrestlers, 285-pounder Ryan Troutman and 182-pounder Andrew Wolber.
“We competed hard all 4 years, but I never saw anything like this coming,” Troutman said. “Placing third in a tournament like this is unbelievable. It’s crazy.”
“I’ve never even dreamed of it, actually,” Wolber said. “This is the first time Dixon’s ever been to state. I guess you could call us the ‘Dream Team.’ To pull off third is pretty cool.”
Dixon reached the trophy round by taking a back-and-forth match against Mahomet-Seymour in the quarterfinal round, 32-28.
The teams were tied at 22 after the Dukes’ Jacob Quantrell eked out a 9-7 decision at 106 pounds against Chance Decker.
Dixon’s Todd Schlosser then picked up a 13-4 major decision against Cameron Livingston at 113 pounds, and 120-pounder Elijah Ankney followed with a pin of Boden Freeman at 120 to make the score 32-22 and clinch the win with one bout to go.
“My coach really wanted this, and we worked so hard this whole year to get here,” Ankney said. “I just knew that I had to get one more win.”
Dixon led 16-10 through seven bouts, only to surrender the lead by allowing back-to-back pins. Bishop’s message: don’t panic.
“You’ve got to walk down the bench and say, ‘This is OK, we’re still good, stay in this fight,’ and they did,” Bishop said.
In the semifinal round, the Dukes didn’t have much of a chance against Class 2A’s unquestioned favorite, Washington. The Panthers racked up six pins, an injury default and a technical fall on their way to a 59-18 win.
Wolber (182) and Troutman (285) won by pin to highlight the Dixon effort.
In the third-place match, the Dukes pulled away late to earn a 46-27 decision against Cahokia. Sebastian Quintana (152), Clint Schielein (160), Wolber (182), Dylan Messer (195), Troutman (285) and Mason Rhodenbaugh (126) won their bouts.
Rhodenbaugh, who won by pin in the closing seconds, provided the clincher. His six points made the score 40-24 with only two bouts to go, as the Dukes were not to be denied.
“My mantra is do your job,” Bishop said. “Each guy, you walk them through a lineup and say, ‘Hey, you’re wrestling one of the really good guys, and maybe your job is to not get pinned. Maybe your job is not to get tech-falled.’ Then you’ve got another guy and you say, ‘OK, your job is to pin, get us the extra points.’ When you get people to believe in that, and everybody does what they’re supposed to do, this is the kind of thing that can happen.”
For the Dukes, whose only regular-season loss was a close one to Byron, the day went as well as could be. It defeated the teams it could in Mahomet-Seymour and Cahokia, and fared as well as anybody against Washington. The Panthers beat Crystal Lake Central 39-28, with three forfeits allowed at the end, then crushed Wauconda 58-12 in the finals, with half of those points given up by forfeit.
“I think we wrestled to our full potential today,” Wolber said. “We’ve been practicing hard, competing hard, and today it paid off.”