CHAMPAIGN – Turner Garcia was an eyelash away from going home from the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament empty-handed.
Instead, the Sterling senior fulfilled a lifelong dream by placing fourth at 160 pounds in Class 2A at the State Farm Center.
“It’s just crazy to think about it,” Garcia said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about for so long. To be here and actually do it is another thing. It’s so much tougher, with the atmosphere. You have to do so many things right. Everyone here is good, and you’re not going to get an easy match.”
Garcia (33-13) needed the wrestler who beat him in Thursday’s preliminary round, Grayslake Central’s Alex Cramer, to win again just to be eligible for wrestlebacks. When Cramer obliged, Garcia was in. He opened with a 4-2 win against Champaign Centennial’s Cam Nesbitt on Friday.
On Saturday, Garcia drew Crystal Lake Central’s Frank Carone in the wrestleback quarterfinals and eked out a 6-4 decision. Garcia was penalized twice for stalling, once in the second period and again in the third, but gained a match-deciding reversal with a mere 19 seconds remaining. It got him into the medal round.
“I had to go deep within and grab whatever energy I had left and try to use it,” Garcia said. “I didn’t want to come here, make it to the last day, and not place. I just tried to ride tough, and luckily it worked out.”
The magic continued in the wrestleback semifinal round, where he trailed 10-3 after two periods against Dalton Hall of Champaign Central. Garcia, however, got Hall to his back and won by pin at the 4:48 mark.
“I think the biggest thing was not to panic,” Garcia said. “Just being here at state has taught me so much about how to deal with adversity. The more successful guys here deal with adversity well, and the guys that don’t, they struggle.
“I was down 10-3, but I didn’t let that get in my head. I was just looking for something, and it opened up. I happened to turn him, and it felt pretty tight. I was going to try to not let him up with all my power.”
In the third-place bout, however, Garcia ran into a force he couldn’t overcome in Hampshire’s Casey Allen, who won by first-period pin in 56 seconds.
So close, yet so far: Mat Garrison got about as close as one could get to getting on the podium at the state tournament.
The Erie-Prophetstown junior came up just short in the so-called “blood round,” as he lost a 6-5 ultimate tiebreaker decision against Mercer County’s Steven Speaker II.
Garrison (36-13) and Speaker II battled to a 4-4 tie in regulation, and neither scored in the 1-minute overtime session. In double OT, each wrestler escaped from the down position.
In the ultimate tiebreaker, Speaker II needed just 8 seconds to escape and secure a hard-fought victory.
Not done yet: Erie-
Prophetstown will take on Princeton at the Class 1A Morrison Dual Team
Sectional on Tuesday. The winner advances to the state tournament in Bloomington on Saturday.
If the Panthers win, they will take on either Belleville Althoff or Monticello in the quarterfinals.
An interesting scenario: A highly anticipated 160-pound championship bout between E-P’s Garrett Passmore (51-1) and Althoff’s Danny Braunagel (54-0) didn’t materialize when an injured Passmore didn’t make the individual state finals.
Should both of their teams win sectional titles, however, Passmore and Braunagel could meet after all.