OREGON – Garrett Passmore played an effective game of cat and mouse in the 160-pound finals of the Class 1A Oregon Sectional wrestling tournament on Saturday night.
Passmore, an Erie-Prophetstown Panther senior, was the dominant feline in a bout against an overmatched Jack Certa of Aurora Christian at the Blackhawk Center. Time and again, Passmore would let Certa escape, only to take him down at will. The bout finally ended via technical fall with 6.1 seconds left on the clock in the third period, with Passmore up 25-10.
For the 47-0 Passmore, it was his first sectional title, and more importantly, guaranteed him one of the top seeds for the state tournament that begins Thursday in Champaign.
“To be able to be on top next weekend like I want to be, getting that seed is really key,” Passmore said.
The only hint of trouble for Passmore came with a little more than a minute remaining in the third period, when Certa executed a throw and briefly had his opponent on his back. Passmore quickly restored order, however.
“That happened to me a couple times this year,” Passmore said of getting thrown. “I’m always trying to push the pace, and I kind of walked into that one. I knew better than that. That’s just something you’ve got to think about, to fine-tune some stuff to be ready for next weekend.”
Passmore was the lone area wrestler to win a title. He’ll be joined by teammate Mat Garrison, three wrestlers from Fulton, two each from Newman and Morrison, and one each from Oregon and West Carroll.
Garrison made the 170-pound finals before running into a buzzsaw in the form of Lena-Winslow’s Rahveon Valentine. A Northern Illinois University football recruit, Valentine won by technical fall, 16-0.
“He’s fast, strong, and he knows all of his moves,” Garrison said.
Fulton will be represented at state by the Fleetwood brothers, Taylor and Tyler, as well as Eli Pannell.
Taylor Fleetwood, last year’s state runner-up at 285 pounds, settled for that position at the Oregon Sectional after a 3-1 loss to Lena-Winslow’s Ian Kuehl, whose scoring came in the second period, when he executed an escape and a takedown.
Fleetwood got an escape 30 seconds into the third period, but was unable to muster any more offense.
“He’s much sweatier than most people I wrestle,” Fleetwood said. “He gets gassed quicker, and it’s really hard to get a grasp on him. I knew if he got up by two, it would be hard to come back from. Heavyweights are a little bit easier to stall without stalling, you could say.
“He was smart. I’m not going to say he was stalling. He was just being smart and making sure he didn’t put himself in a bad position.”
Tyler Fleetwood, a two-time state champion, will have a hard road toward No. 3 after placing fourth at 132 pounds. He lost a 4-2 overtime decision to eventual champ Jared Van Vleet of Stillman Valley in the semifinals, and also fell 3-1 to Alleman’s Jack Patting in the third-place bout.
“Taking a loss isn’t bad sometimes,” Tyler Fleetwood said. “It doesn’t matter until next weekend at state.”
Fleetwood did post a 7-0 win against Dakota’s Caleb Alber to get into the third-place bout, but was unable to answer the bell in close losses to Van Vleet and Patting.
“My conditioning is off a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I was a little tired at the end when I shouldn’t be.”
Pannell pinned three opponents on his way to a third-place finish at 195 pounds. The last of those pins, in 2:50 against Byron’s Colton Ingram, gave him 29 to set a new Fulton single-season record. Russ McCallister, a current Steamer assistant coach, had the old record of 28.
Newman had a pair of second-place finishers in 120-pounder Kyle Tunink and 145-pounder Brody Ivey.
Tunink dropped a 1-0 decision against Aurora Christian’s Cameron Johnson. The only point came when Tunink cut Johnson with 1:19 remaining in the third period.
“He’s hard to score on on his feet,” Tunink said, “and then I can never seem to get off the bottom against him.”
Ivey dropped an 8-6 decision against Aurora Christian’s Eli Ibarra. That was the score entering the final period, and Ivey was ridden out the rest of the way.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily it was my positioning,” Ivey said of being unable to escape in the final 2 minutes. “I think it’s getting my conditioning a little better. I’ll probably go out for a couple more jogs before next week, to try to do anything I can to get in the best position before state.”
Representing Morrison at state will be 145-pounder Reilly Dolan and 138-pounder Augustus Linke.
Dolan finished off the tournament with a 9-0 major decision against Orion’s Trent Scharpman in the third-place bout. Linke dropped a 12-2 major decision against Rockridge’s Nolan Throne to finish fourth.
Oregon’s lone state qualifier is Jacob Milliman, who put on quite a show before dropping an 11-10 decision against Aurora Christian’s Tyler Eby in the 113-pound finals. Milliman got a takedown in the waning seconds to keep his hopes alive, but ran out of time.
In an earlier bout between the two this season, Eby needed a mere 19 seconds to win by pin. This time, Eby broke a 7-7 tie with 40 seconds left in the third period with a takedown and two back points.
“It was just a good shot,” Milliman said. “I was trying to watch for it, but it was the one time he caught me.”
West Carroll’s Ethen Doty placed fourth at 120 pounds. He lost the third-place bout, 7-4 to Rockford Lutheran’s Josh Schrank.
Doty (120), Tyler Fleetwood (132), Linke (138), Dolan (145) and Pannell (195) won bouts in the so-called “blood round” to guarantee their state tournament berths.
Losing in that round to come up one spot short of state were Oregon’s Andrew Herbst (106) and Noah Paul (132); Erie-Prophetstown’s Cameron Abell (113) and Gabe Friedrichsen (182); West Carroll’s Trapper Hartman (113); Newman’s Cael Sanders (152); and AFC’s Colin Kaecker (195).