ROCK FALLS – A flair for the dramatic was in the air Saturday inside Tabor Gym during the Class 2A Rock Falls Regional.
Last-second wins and a move rarely seen on the mat highlighted a day in which 16 local wrestlers moved on to the Sycamore Sectional next week.
Dixon had four individuals move on, and finished fourth in the team standings with 98 points. Two of the four Dukes moving on picked up titles in very different ways.
Hunter Pate provided the most dramatic finish of the day with a pin at the 5:58 mark in his 170-pound championship bout. The freshman trailed 5-0 to LaSalle-Peru’s Brycen Kellett after two periods, but picked up a takedown early in the third and was able to gain control in the waning seconds of the match.
“My dad has always told me to never give up,” Pate said, “because at the end, it just might work out. I knew he [Kellett] hadn’t gone the full time in awhile, and all we do is condition.
“I’m hoping to get them done fast [next week] so I don’t give my dad a stroke.”
Clint Schielein followed his teammate by capturing the 182-pound crown with a 4-1 decision in the final against Sterling’s Moises Lopez. Schielein beat Lopez 2-0 at the DeJarnatt Invite about 2 months ago.
“It was nice wrestling the same guy, because I knew what was coming,” Schielein said. “He’s a very good wrestler, and I’m ready to see him next year, too.”
The stout junior grinded out a 1-0 decision over Galesburg’s Cayden Taflinger in the semifinals, and followed a similar strategy to defeat Lopez.
“That’s why I practice a lot in the wrestling room,” Schielein said. “You have to stay aggressive the whole time. I try to take my time, but I also try to tire my opponents out.”
Sebastian Quintana (160 pounds) and Dylan Messer (220) finished second to clinch sectional berths.
The best individual move of the day came from Sterling 132-pounder Noah Garcia.
He tweaked his knee early in his semifinal match against Geneseo’s Bruce Moore, but continued to grapple. As Moore, who was trailing in the bout, went on the offensive, Garcia completed the “flying squirrel,” a move in which a wrestler jumps over his opponent while at the same time gaining control on their back.
The move was ruled illegal after an officials conference, as high schoolers are not allowed to leave their feet due to safety reasons.
“Right before that match, there were two college wrestlers that my uncle and I were talking about,” Garcia explained. “One hit that move, and the other had an injury to his knee. Those things both happened to me in my match. Normally I would never try that move, but it was the one that came to my head.”
Sterling coach Jeff Gale has never had one of his wrestlers attempt the move in the match, but did admit to being as blown away as everybody else inside Tabor Gym.
“Since it has become illegal, we don’t teach our kids that,” Gale said. “But it did get the crowd excited and was a lot of fun.”
As a precaution, Garcia forfeited the championship bout with his spot at sectionals already clinched.
Sterling finished third with 127 points, 19 behind second-place Geneseo. LaSalle-Peru clinched the dual team sectional spot with 199 points.
The Warriors’ lone win came from 160-pounder Turner Garcia, who won the regional title at 152 pounds last season. The senior scored a takedown of Dixon’s Quintana with 14 seconds to go in the final to earn a 5-4 decision. The two friends are now 3-3 against each other over the last 2 years, and appear to be on a collision course to meet with a lot on the line at sectionals for the second straight season.
“He’s one of the best in the state,” Turner Garcia said of Quintana. “But I know personally I have to keep working hard. Just because you win regionals doesn’t mean you make it down to state. It gives me a good shot, but it’s not a guarantee. I have to go back to the drawing board.”
Sterling got second-place finishes from Julian Rodriguez (113), Mauricio Garcia (126), Noah Garcia (132), Ethan Edmondson (152) and Lopez (182), and a third-place finish out of 138-pounder Isaiah Figueroa.
In its first Class 2A regional, host Rock Falls advanced five wrestlers to sectionals, and finished in a tie for fifth with 77.5 points. Making the jump from 1A and seeing success at home was a source of pride for the Rockets.
“We didn’t feel like we got respect at the seed meeting,” Rock Falls coach Derick Cox said. “But we had kids who weren’t seeded moved on. The kids did really well.”
Adam Meenen won the 132-pound crown after Noah Garcia declined to continue due to injury, making him the first-ever 2A regional champ for Rock Falls.
“It feels good, but the ultimate goal is getting down to state and placing,” Meenen said. “This is just an addition.”
Freshman Brayden Tarbill finished second at 106 pounds for the Rockets after pinning Dixon’s Hakeem Banks at the 3:04 mark in their semifinal bout.
“I think I did a good job on standing up and reacting to my opponents’ moves,” Tarbill said. “And I learned that the competition in high school is way harder than middle school.”
Sophomores Izaih James (126) and Ethan Cravatta (145), and freshman Butch Elder (152) also advanced to sectionals with third-place finishes at their respective weight classes.