ROBINSON – Will the fourth time be the charm for the Vandals?
Vandalia has advanced to the dual team state tournament for the fourth straight year and will look to get out of the first round for the first time since 2007 when it meets Litchfield in the state quarterfinals on Saturday after blowing out Murphysboro, 59-6, on Tuesday at the Robinson Sectional.
The state dual will begin at 9 a.m. at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, with the winner meeting either Plano or Mercer County in the 2 p.m. semifinals.
“Our kids will be ready for it, because they feel like we can beat them, and I do, too,” said coach Jason Clay. “If we wrestle like (on Tuesday), we will be a load for anybody.”
Litchfield defeated Vandalia 39-21 on Jan. 10, and had seven individual state qualifers, including fourth- and sixth-place finishers.
But the Vandals are looking forward to the challenge of avenging a loss to their South Central Conference rival.
“It will be a good match between us and Litchfield,” said senior Sean Newcomb. “We didn’t wrestle our best – including me, personally – the first time, but we have come together as a team, and hopefully, on Saturday, we will prove it.”
Last season, Vandalia was routed by Lena-Winslow in the first round, and in the previous two years, the Vandals lost a one-point decision to Prairie Central, and a 17-point decision to Gibson City.
“We have to go up with the right mentality,” Clay said. “Last year, our kids knew Lena-Winslow was tough but there are 14 weight classes, and just because a team has some state placers doesn’t mean they will win the dual.
“Our kids aren’t scared of Litchfield.”
The Vandals earned their trip to state after a dominating performance against Murphysboro, which featured unexpected victories and five pins.
Sophomore Adam Palmer, who had just nine wins going into the sectional, opened the match at 126 pounds against Josh Cowley, who defeated Palmer, 12-0, during the Jan. 12 dual between the teams, a 44-28 Vandalia win.
Palmer took control of the bout by scoring an escape and takedown with 54 seconds left in the first period and added to his total with a near-fall in the second period on his way to a 6-4 victory.
“We watched the first match (Monday) on the computer, and we showed him some places where he gave up points,” Clay said. “Today, he got that quick takedown, and got some confidence.”
After junior Rodney Tedrick lost, 13-8, at 132 pounds, the Vandals (20-11) would win the next bouts by fall, with sophomore Dalton Blankenship and junior Tyler Dagen.
Battling a shoulder injury, sophomore Todd Ashdown rode tough at 152 pounds to save team points by losing just 6-0.
Three straight pins from sophomore Jake Stewart (160), freshman Bobby Bradley (170) and senior Zach Jackson (182) gave the Vandals a 27-point lead as Newcomb came to the mat.
He said he knew that the team needed just four points to clinch a state berth, but said that didn’t factor into the way he wrestled in the 9-0 decision.
“I went out there like it was practice,” Newcomb said. “I wasn’t really thinking about the team win, I was just thinking about getting good shots.”
With the 15th state appearnace in school history locked up, the Vandals continued to rack up the points, as freshman Kolten Etcheson (220) and Kendrick Woolsey (285) each picked up comeback wins, even though both were pinned in the first round the first time the teams battled.
Freshman Chaston Womack (106) and sophomore Ryne Lipsey (113) each picked up victories, and freshman Luke Tessman (120) won by forfeit to close out the dual.
“I appreciate it every time that we will qualify,” Clay said. “Most of our kids haven’t been on a state-qualfying team in any sport, and no one has been on a state placer.”
Tuesday, Feb. 19
•126 – Palmer won, 6-4
•132 – Tedrick lost, 13-8
•138 – Blankenship won by fall at 1:36
•145 – Dagen won by fall at 2:57
•152 – Ashdown lost, 6-0
•160 – Stewart won by fall at 3:27
•170 – Bradley won by fall at 3:36
•182 – Jackson won by fall at 2:50
•195 – Newcomb won, 9-0
•220 – Etcheson won, 8-6
•285 – Woolsey won by fall at 5:37
•106 – Womack won, 14-2
•113 – Lipsey won, 7-3
•120 – Tessman won by forfeit