If only Nate Stone would have had a burger and fries.
Instead, the Vandalia senior opted for Chinese the night before his 285-pound state quarterfinal match against Macomb’s Ethan Kline at the Class A Individual State tournament.
It would turn out to be a decision Stone deeply regretted.
‘I was sicker than a dog Friday night,’ Stone said. ‘ I had some bad Chinese Thursday, and I was sick all night Thursday and Friday.’
Weakened significantly by what might have been food poisoning, an early takedown by Kline proved to be the difference, as Stone was eliminated from title contention with a 2-0 setback.
‘That’s my luck,’ said Stone, who wanted to cap his senior year by making the Grand March and competing in a state-title match. ‘But I was hoping I’d get over it, and I did.’
Did he ever.
Stone overcame his stomach ailment – and his opening-round loss – with a vengence Saturday with a pair of dominating wrestle back victories that put him into the third-place match.
Stone took out his opening-round frustration on Walther Lutheran’s Steven Campbell in his first wrestle back bout, injuring Campbell on a thunderous early takedown before cruising to a decisive victory.
He dominated in similar pain-educing fashion in his next match, taking down Champaign Central’s Dustin Gegenbacher to ensure himself of a medal.
The secret to Stone’s turnaround was no mystery.
‘It was just being aggressive and finally getting back to wrestling the way I do when I’m healthy,’ Stone said. ‘I felt tons better. I had a hard time keeping anything down yesterday. Today I felt real good.’
Stone appeared a bit fatigued in his third match of the afternoon, however, as he fell to McNamara’s Mike Letton in the third-place match.
‘I didn’t wrestle very good,’ Stone said. ‘I had wrestled three matches, so I was a little tired for the final match.’
Letton scored the first two points of the match in the third quarter with a pair of escapes. In an attempt to force an overtime, Stone went for a takedown in the final seconds, but it backfired.
‘I took a shot I probably shouldn’t have, because it wasn’t there,’ said Stone, who suffered a 4-0 defeat. ‘He spun me around and got a takedown.’
Still, Stone was proud that he rebounded from rough meal – and a rough start to his final state tournament – in time to help Vandalia make a little history.
The Vandals shattered last year’s record of three state medalists by bringing five medals back this year.
‘We got three last year, and that was a really tough team,’ Stone said. ‘It’s unreal that we had five.’
Unfazed by his first trip to state, VCHS senior Curtis Hemminghaus nearly brought another medal back to Vandalia.
Hemminghaus rolled to a 14-7 decision over Macomb’s Jesse Kugler in his state debut before getting pinned 34 seconds into his quarterfinal match with eventual state champ Tony Bahrs.
That set up a showdown with Walther Lutheran’s William Jenkins for the right to wrestle for third-place.
Both wrestles showed the wanted the opportunity badly, as Jenkins enjoyed a 12-9 edge entering the third quarter of an action-packed bout. Jenkins kept Hemminghaus at arm’s length much of the final period before Hemminghaus cradled Jenkins in the final seconds and came up just short of a pin, falling 16-12.
‘I thought he battled against a pretty tough kid in the wrestle back; I was proud of him,’ Vandals coach Jason Clay said. ‘A lot of times, first time up here, kids don’t wrestle well because their nerves get to them. But I don’t think it affected him. He fought hard and did what he could do, he just came up a little short of placing.’
Hemminghaus, who is in his first year at the varsity level after sitting out his junior season, is now 36-12 on the year.
‘For a kid who didn’t wrestle last year to be one match away from placing at state, it’s a pretty good accomplishment for your senior year,’ Clay said. ‘And he’s a really good kid on top of that.’
Sophomore Alex Foster earned valuable experience in his state opener, but ultimately fell short in a 10-3 loss to Stillman Valley’s Tony Whaley.
‘The match was a little closer than 10-3, I thought,’ Clay said. ‘There were a couple times he could have scored some more points. But that’s the way it works some times.’
Had Foster been able to win his opener, an intriguing showdown with PORTA’s Jake Buldtmann would have awaited. Foster upset Buldtmann earlier in the season at the Clinton Quad.
Despite Foster’s quick exit, Clay figures he’ll get at least one more shot at state in the coming years.
‘He’s got a bright future, being a sophomore,’ Clay said. ‘I think he’ll be back.’