CHAMPAIGN – Eli Pannell did what he’s done better than any Fulton wrestler before him: win by pin.
The Steamers senior capped off a dominant season by taking the Class 1A title at 220 pounds on Saturday in the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament at State Farm Center. He accomplished it the same way he did in 33 other victories this season – by pin, this one in 5 minutes, 3 seconds against Beardstown’s Chad Grimm.
Pannell (39-0) pinned all four of his foes at state. He holds the single-season (34) and career (87) pin records at Fulton.
“I pinned my way through the tournament, and it makes me feel awesome that I have the ability to do that,” Pannell said.
Two flourishes did the trick for Pannell. A little more than a minute into the bout, Pannell executed a throw that put Grimm flat on his back. He quickly pounced for three back points, but was unable to get the pin – yet.
“The throw I got him on in the first period, he worked his ass off to get out of that,” Pannell said. “He’s a really good wrestler.”
Grimm, who had defeated Pannell 7-3 in last year’s state tournament, got to within 6-4 with a first-period reversal and second-period takedown.
With the score at 7-4, the wrestlers got engaged in a mad scramble near a sideline midway through the third period. It ended with Pannell on top, and this time, he was able to finish things off at the 5:04 mark.
“It’s all about positioning and beating him at my game, I guess,” Pannell said.
Pannell earned Fulton’s fifth state championship. Tyler Fleetwood (2016 & ‘17), Matt Kuebel (1998) and Butch Wingett (1975) have the others.
Also, Taylor Fleetwood was a runner-up 2017.
“Four in the finals in 5 years and three champs is just amazing,” Fulton coach Chris Grant said. “And what a way to end it. ‘The Pin Master,’ Eli Pannell, pulls it off. He pins his way through state. What the heck. He’s just amazing.”