CHAMPAIGN – Senior Justin Hill was the only Vandal wrestler to make it to the second day of the Illinois High School Association’s Individual State Wrestling Tournament on Saturday, and after being roughed up in the championship semifinals, he was unable to place.
Stillman Valley’s J.J. Whaley (39-7) defeated Hill by technical fall in just 2:38, but he went to the mat hard 49 seconds into the match and required assistance from a trainer.
The injury did not have any lasting impact on Hill, according to coach Jason Clay, and he likely would have lost to Whaley, the eventual 125-pound champion, regardless.
Hill was held at near-fall five times by Whaley, who set the record for the fastest pin in the state finals by a 125-pounder in the quarterfinals. Whaley worked up a 16-0 margin to beat Hill.
Hill (38-11) did continue on in the wrestle-back bracket, but he was defeated in his first match by Argenta-Orena’s Kyle Powars (38-7), by fall at 5:04 after holding a 5-4 advantage after two periods.
“It was more emotional,” Clay said of Hill’s dejected state following the bout. “The kids work so hard for so long, and that’s what makes it tough.”
In the quarterfinals, Hill handled Walther Lutheran’s Maurice Wilson, 7-1, in a match that left the Vandalia senior visibly exhausted.
Junior Levi Ulmer had a chance to battle in the wrestle-back bracket on day two if Rockford Lutheran’s Michael Andrukaitis, who beat Ulmer in the quarterfinals, had made the championship bout, but Andrukaitis (37-8) was defeated by eventual 171-pound champion Jake Apple (41-3), 10-0, in the semifinals.
Three other Vandals – freshman C.J. Runkel, junior Daniel Edwards and senior John Vosholler – were eliminated during Friday’s preliminary round.
“It was disappointing,” Clay said. “Up here, you never know, because there’s nothing that’s for sure. Hopefully, we can channel some of our disappointment into this week.”
The Vandals did just that, qualifying for this weekend’s team state tournament on Tuesday.
Against Andrukaitis on Friday, Ulmer (40-7) was defeated in a hard-fought 5-3 decision. Some fans clamored that Ulmer should have been awarded points, because it appeared Andrukaitis was stalling late in the match.
Clay said he thought there might have been a stall, but he did not want to argue the fact, because he believed that stopping the match may have led Ulmer to lose focus.
The two battled in neutral position for the first 1:43 of the match until Ulmer was taken down, but he escaped four seconds later to end the period behind, 2-1.
Ulmer, who won this year’s sectional championship, started at the bottom of referee’s position to start the second period, and scored a reversal eight seconds in to take a one-point lead.
Andrukaitis escaped his hold with 1:15 left in the period, and then added a takedown 14 seconds into the final period to secure the win.
“Levi was a little conservative and cautious, but it’s tough up here, because there are no bad kids,” Clay said. “Hopefully, he will take this as a learning experience and a motivator to come back and work harder next year.”
Runkel had a fairly intense battle with Wilmington’s Zach Skoryi (36-14) in the preliminary round, twice preventing the junior from taking him to the mat in crucial situations, but Runkel (32-15) was still defeated, 5-1.
Skoryi earned the first takedown just 20 seconds into the match, but Runkel escaped with 46 seconds left in the first period.
Runkel, who had previously won a regional championship and placed third at the sectional during the IHSA playoffs, started the second period with control of Skoryi.
More than once, Skoryi got to his feet, but Runkel took him back to the mat each time, except for a hiccup with seven seconds left in the period, which allowed Skoryi to take a 3-1 advantage.
Skoryi, who continued on to finish fourth in the tournament, did not allow Vandalia’s young 135-pounder to gain control in the final period, scoring two more points on a near-fall with 46 seconds left to seal his 5-1 win.
“If C.J. is right there with those kids (state placers), that shows you what kind of things he can do,” Clay said.
Vosholler got off to a slow start in the preliminary round against Wilmington’s Blake Olson (41-6) and never recovered in a 10-3 loss.
Vosholler, who said he wanted to place, was taken to the mat just 30 seconds into the match, and from there, he only scored points on three escapes.
He started with control in both the second and third periods, but Olson, who finished third in the 140-pound bracket, earned reversals both times, building a seven-point lead through the first 4:22 of the match.
Olson’s final takedown came with 47 seconds left in the match, and Vosholler (37-11) escaped him in the last few seconds.
Edwards was also easily handled by his opponent, Plano’s Weslye Brown (30-13), losing by technical fall 5:10 into the match.
Vandalia’s 152-pounder escaped Brown’s first takedown with ease, but Brown led 6-1 after the first period.
Brown continued the barrage in the second period, allowing Edwards (37-8) just one escape, while he added two takedowns and a two-point near-fall to take a 12-2 advantage into the final period.
Edwards, who won a regional championship and finished third in the sectional tournament, fell behind 15-2 with 1:38 left in the bout, and after he escaped 27 seconds later, Brown again took him down and held Edwards in a near-fall to secure the technical fall.
Because he is expected to be a senior leader for next season, Clay said that even though Edwards did not have a successful time in Champaign, the experience of how to get to state will be a key asset next season.
“You want guys who can share that experience,” Clay said. “It helps the team, because we have some other guys who are right on the cusp for next season.”