ROCK FALLS – The Rock Falls and Fulton wrestling teams each got their chance to tug on Superman’s cape Wednesday night, and did so with limited success.
Superman, in this case, is defending Class 1A state champion Lena-Winslow/Stockton, which came to Tabor Gymnasium to tangle with the Rockets and Steamers. The PantherHawks came away with two wins, 44-25 against Rock Falls and 52-21 against Fulton.
Rockets coach Derick Cox was pleased with the fight his club put up.
“Lena-Winslow won state last year, they’ll have a good chance to win again this year, and everybody knows that,” Cox said. “The thing we talked about was going out there and competing, and I thought we did that. We were aggressive, we didn’t back down, and I was very happy with how we competed.”
The same went for Steamers coach Chris Grant.
“They’re the top team in the state, and there’s no doubts they are the top team,” Grant said, “so going in, let’s see where we’re at with a young team. I thought we had a good showing. Not one of the kids was scared to go out and compete. I tell these guys all the time, I’ll take them and wrestle the best, and I think we did that tonight. We put up 21 points against the best, and that’s pretty impressive.”
Fulton (8-4) won four bouts, and three of those were by pin. Michael Apostolos needed just 38 seconds to pin Sarah Nicholas in a 120-pound bout; Tyler Fleetwood had his hands full against Hunter Luke at 138 pounds before pinning him at the 5:56 mark; and 220-pounder Eli Pannell finished off Gennings Dunker in 1:15.
Fleetwood is ranked second at 132 pounds, while Luke is No. 3 at 138, according to the latest Illinois Matmen
“I love wrestling tough kids like him,” Fleetwood said. “He’s stronger than me, but it gets me better. He’s a tough kid. I can’t wait to watch him down at state.”
Fulton’s other win came from 195-pounder Kaleb Schipper, who topped Brady Stich 15-12.
In the other high profile bout between the PantherHawks and Steamers, Le-Win’s Ian Kuehl was a 5-2 winner against Fulton’s Taylor Fleetwood. Kuehl is No. 2 in the 285-pound rankings, while Fleetwood is No. 1.
Rock Falls (12-4) got off to a fast start in its match against Lena-Winslow/Stockton. Starting at 195 pounds, Browdie Benti was a 7-0 winner against Gabe Ertmer, then 220-pounder Brody Mulvaney won by pin in 1:48 against Dunker to give the Rockets a 9-0 lead.
“I thought I could have done better, because I needed one more point to get a major decision,” Benti said. “The big thing was to go out and try to get our team off to a good start, and try to build some momentum against them.”
Rock Falls then won enough matches to keep things interesting for a while. At 120 pounds, Marcus Mendoza pinned Nicholas in 53 seconds to bring his team to within 18-15.
At 132 pounds, Adam Meenen took a 10-1 major decision against Winston McPeek to draw the Rockets to within 21-19.
The last points for Rock Falls came at 145 pounds, where Rio Salas won by disqualification against Case Harmston. Midway through the third period, Harmston led 6-2 when he slammed Salas to the mat, and Salas was unable to continue.
That brought Rock Falls to within 27-25, but Lena-Winslow/Stockton (13-0) won the last four bouts to pull away.
“We’ve still got to work on some situational wrestling – trying to get ones and twos instead of trying to take kids to their back all of the time,” PantherHawks coach Kevin Milder said. “We’re getting better at that, and our young kids, we’ve just got to keep working and getting them more mat time to get them better.”
Up next: Genoa-Kingston, Woodstock at Rock Falls, Jan. 3; Fulton at Polo Invitational, Jan. 6