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BLOOMINGTON – It was a shame either team had to lose.
Vandalia and Prairie Central engaged in a chess match during the first round of Saturday’s Illinois High School Association Dual Team Wrestling Tournament at U.S. Cellular Arena, altering their lineups to match each other’s strengths.
The end result?
A hard-fought 32-31 win for the Hawks, and a gut-wrenching early exit for the Vandals that left some of their toughest wrestlers consoling each other in the hallway leading out of the arena.
“It’s not where we want to be, but I’m not disappointed in our kids at all,” said coach Jason Clay. “We just have to get back here next year.”
Clay said the Vandals needed to be ahead by seven points going into the final bout, which featured sophomore Zach Jackson and Prairie Central’s undefeated state champion Andy Hoselton.
Had Vandalia held that margin, Clay would have forfeited the match to give Jackson, who has battled a shoulder injury this season and has worn a protective brace since returning, some extra rest.
“You can’t put that (loss) on Zach,” Clay said. “He fought as hard as he could in a tough spot. If he could have held on (for a technical fall), we (would have) had the tiebreaker.”
Junior Daniel Edwards’ pin the match before, however, only pushed the Vandals’ lead to five, so Jackson was forced to battle.
He survived the first period, trailing just 2-0, but Hoselton pinned him at the 3:15 mark to give the Hawks, who finished the tournament in fourth, the win.
Clay said the dual had been decided long before Jackson’s bout, though.
“We didn’t score bonus points (pins) with some of our better guys,” Clay said. “Some of our other guys did what they could do to hold the score down.”
Two of them were junior Levi Ulmer and freshman Seth Purcell.
Ulmer, typically a 171-pounder, wrestled at the 189-pound class to tangle with Tyler Farney, a state qualifier, in the second bout of the match.
The two state qualifiers battled to a stalemate after the first two periods, but Ulmer opened up a 4-0 lead in the final period, before ceding control to win, 4-2.
Purcell, battling 130-pound state qualifier Evan Bahler, had an opportunity to win after Bahler allowed him to escape with 29 seconds left in the bout, to leave Purcell behind, 4-3.
Bahler, however, secured a takedown 11 seconds later to win, 6-3. Purcell had struggled during the team’s sectional match at Roxana, but his performance at state was beneficial to the team.
“He wrestled tough,” Clay said. “I expect that out of Seth.”
After that match, Vandalia trailed 21-15 with five more matches remaining, which included three of the Vandals’ five state qualifiers.
Freshman C.J. Runkel (135) won 13-3, and senior John Vosholler (145) secured a pin in 32 seconds. Sandwiched between was a technical fall loss by sophomore Brad Jenner, wrestling because senior Brenden Cripe is injured, at 140 pounds.
Edwards then scored his pin in 5:20 to set up the dramatic finish.
Clay said losing by a point is really tough, because there are plenty of places where a single point could have been earned.
One easy spot could have been at the 103-pound class, where the Vandals forfeited to Dancho Scott, who has a losing record this season. Clay wants to have more wrestlers on the team next season, hopefully including a lightweight.
Saturday, Feb. 26
at Dual Team State Tourney
Prairie Central 32
171 – Dayin Godberson (V) def. John Kupferschmid (PC), 14-11
189 – Ulmer def. Farney, 4-2
215 – Brett Bennett (PC) def. Sean Newcomb (V), 6-2
285 – Denzil Wilson (PC) def. Anthony Fladeland (V) by fall at 3:46
103 – Scott won via forfeit
112 – Tyler Dagen (V) def. Brandon Allsup (PC) by fall at 3:46
119 – Ben Traub (PC) def. Trevor Alstat (V), 8-2
125 – Justin Hill (V) def. Josh McWilliams (PC), 12-8
130 – Bahler def. Purcell, 6-3
135 – Runkel def. Joey Kauffman (PC), 13-3
140 – Joey Reis (PC) def. Jenner by technical fall at 2:51
145 – Vosholler def. Ricky Garza (PC) by fall at 0:32
152 – Edwards def. Tyler Keneipp (PC) by fall at 5:20
160 – Hoselton def. Zach Jackson by fall at 3:15