WINNEBAGO – After Oregon’s Jacob Milliman beat Dakota’s Lucas Sutherland 9-5 in the 113-pound title bout at the Class 1A Winnebago Regional, one Dakota fan was heard saying, “Now, it’s over.”
In a closely scrutinized team battle between No. 1 state-ranked Dakota and No. 2 Lena-Winslow/Stockton, every single match in the the finals would have had to go Dakota’s way for the Indians to have a chance.
Dakota, which won the state title 4 years in a row until being dethroned by Le-Win last year, had recently won a dual between the two teams, but trailed by 40 points going into the third-place and championship matches.
It would have taken a near-miracle finish for the Indians to earn a team berth for the sectional duals – and Milliman quickly erased any hopes of that happening.
Milliman was one of five Oregon wrestlers who advanced to the sectional, along with three from West Carroll. But Milliman was the lone individual champ in a regional traditionally considered the most competitive in the state.
“Considering how tough it is, it was a pretty good day for us,” Oregon coach Kip Crandall said. “We took that first step, and I’m proud of the kids.”
Milliman had to come from behind to to win 9-5. It was a bit of redemption after breaking his wrist a week before last year’s regional and being unable to compete.
“I just didn’t want to go into overtime,” said Milliman, a 28-7 sophomore. “I was losing 5-3 in the third period and able to get a reversal, and kept going at him.”
At 103, Hawk freshman Andrew Herbst (34-8) made the finals, but fell 6-3 to Le-Win’s Jaden Rice (37-5). That was another match Dakota fans had their eyes on, hoping Herbst could pull it out.
In a controversial finish in the 145-pound finals, Chris Alaniz of Oregon lost 4-2 to Jeremiah Hermann of Le-Win, the key points coming for Hermann on a takedown and stallling on Alaniz.
Crandall questioned both calls, and was not content with explanation he received.
“I don’t want to call them questionable, but there was a series of calls made at the end that I didn’t get a favorable explanation,” said the longtime mat veteran.
An upset Alaniz stormed off the mat without shaking hands with the opposing coaches.
Noah Paul, a 35-4 junior, had a 26-second pin to claim third place at 132 for Oregon. In a tough bracket at 138, Chase Clark (35-9) lost by major decision to Stillman Valley freshman Austin Abitua in the third-place match.
“I don’t know what was going on, but he wasn’t sharp in that match,” Crandall said. “In the semis, he lost a super close one.”
The Hawks did get a surprise sectional qualifier in Zach Crandall, the coach’s son. At 182, Crandall lost his third-place bout to Dakota’s Grant Gallagher, 8-6. However, the 24-14 sophomore was immediately told by Dakota coach Pete Alber that Gallagher would not be able to wrestle at the sectional, and Crandall would take his place as an alternate.
“I don’t think Coach Alber would make that up,” Kip Crandall said.
For West Carroll, freshman Ethen Doty (32-4) advanced to the 120-pound finals, but lost by a pin to state-ranked Josh Schrank (30-2) of Rockford Lutheran. Sophomores Trapper Hartman (23-10) and Eli Dertz (25-12) took third for the Thunder. Hartman had a pin at 113, and Dertz a major decision at 195.
“We’re young,” said West Carroll coach Jeff McIntyre, who has two juniors and the rest underclassmen. “It’s tough on young guys at a regional like this. It was good experience, and hopefully we can build for next year. We just need to keep everyone out, besides getting more kids in the program.”
Lena-Winslow/Stockton scored 191 points to 154 for Dakota. Next was Stillman Valley with 118, Byron at 103, and Oregon at 92. Much of the excitement between Le-Win and Dakota came in the rounds leading up to the finals.
“We were able to flip matches at 106 and 182 against Dakota,” Le-Win coach Kevin Milder said. “We also got a big win by Hermann in the 145 semis and at a 160 by Colin Dvorak.”
The regional also marked the final meet officiated by previously retired Jim Busser of Polo. Busser announced his retirement last year, but the IHSA heard he had filled in at the Polo tournament this year and asked him to do the same at Winnebago.
“I’m burning my uniform after this,” Busser said.