Cody Pyle waited a long time for another shot at state tournament glory.
And the VCHS senior certainly did not squander his second opportunity once it finally came along.
After a 10-5 quarterfinal upset of Wilmington’s Jeff Goodwin in his first state-tournament match since his freshman year, Pyle pulled off a near-miraculous overtime victory over Orion’s R.J. Emerick in the 135-pound semifinals Saturday at the Class A Individual State Tournament.
Such an outcome seemed implausible with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, as Pyle found himself writhing in pain with a shoulder injury and staring at 5-4 deficit.
But he rallied to force overtime with an escape with less than 10 seconds remaining.
He was in seemingly similar dire straits in overtime, as Emerick had Pyle on his back and on the verge of defeat once again.
But Pyle countered again, doing so with a defensive maneuver that would ultimately produce the biggest victory of his high school career.
‘He grabbed my leg, and I just neck-wrenched him,’ Pyle said. ‘It was just pretty much defense. I just knew what he was gonna do. I knew he’d take a low shot, which he did, and I just defended it.’
In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, Pyle came up with a match-clinching takedown after trading places with Emerick. He then pinned the stunned Wilmington senior for good measure.
‘The kid shot in, and we were actually in big trouble,’ VCHS coach Jason Clay said. ‘It (the neck wrench) was kind of a bail-out move.
‘(Then) Cody kept turning and he eventually came over the top. Once he got the takedown, the match was pretty much over. To go ahead and get the pin was pretty much icing on the cake.’
The victory made Pyle a somewhat surprising participant in Saturday’s night’s Grand March, in addition to securing VCHS two spots in the finals for the first time in program history. Vandalia would go on to advance four wrestlers to the championship round, with Pyle (34-11) being the most unlikely participant.
‘I didn’t see him making the finals,’ Clay said. ‘I think his goal was to place coming in. It just goes to show that if you battle, you give yourself a chance, and that’s all you have to do.’
Making Pyle’s accomplishments even sweeter was the fact that he beat a pair of opponents that had easily handled him prior to Saturday.
‘Cody beat a kid from Wilmington (Goodwin) that had previously pinned him,’ Clay said. ‘The Emerick kid also beat him pretty bad, at least 10-12 points.’
Noah Roseland proved to be too much for Pyle in the championship match, however, as the Coal City senior rolled to an 8-2 victory.
Still, Pyle not only made it back to Champaign – he left with a second-place medal around his neck.
‘I was happy I finally placed,’ Pyle said. ‘It took me a few years to finally get back here, and then I got second, so I was happy.’
Pyle’s semifinal match was back and forth throughout, as he jumped out to a 2-0 lead late in the first quarter with a takedown, only to see Goodwin counter with a takedown of his own seconds later.
Goodwin was in control for much of the second quarter, but Pyle came up with a reversal for a 4-3 lead.
He maintained that lead until late in the third when Goodwin scored two backpoints to go up 5-4. Pyle re-aggravated a shoulder injury during the sequence, but somehow rallied for the win.