Kendrick Woolsey had lost to his heavyweight opponent from Belleville Althoff twice this season, both times by the narrowest of margins. But, when his team needed it the most, Woolsey defeated Rodney Baker.
Woolsey’s 4-2 win in overtime in the 285-pound class secured a sectional title and the Vandals’ sixth-straight appearance in the dual team state finals.
Woolsey’s win followed late-match pins by Jake Stewart and Bobby Bradley as Vandalia fought back from a 24-12 deficit to take the 36-29 win.
With the win, the Vandals earned a chance to avenge an earlier loss to Coal City, which beat the Vandals 48-27 earlier this season.
Going into Tuesday’s sectional finals, Coal City was ranked No. 5 in Class 1A and the Vandals had a No. 9 ranking.
The two teams will square off in an 11 a.m. contest on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
“I’m super excited,” Vandals coach Jason Clay said after the win. “I hope everybody got a good show.
“This is what dual team wrestling is all about, that’s why it’s so much fun.
“Some teams go the individual route and try to produce state champions. We try to do that – we’d love to have state placers every year.
“But there are kids who can save you a point who may never win a state medal. They come out here and not get pinned, give up a major decision instead of a technical fall.
“Every kid can contribute, regardless of their ability,” Clay said.
The Vandals jumped out to a 12-4 lead as Chaston Womack and Ryne Lipsey pinned their opponents, but four straight wins put Althoff up 24-12.
Dalton Blankenship narrowed the gap to 24-15 with a 5-1 win, Stewart and Bradley followed with pins, and Althoff lost a point when Bradley’s opponent was hit with an unsportsmanlike call for slapping the mat after being pinned.
A forfeit win by Dalton Whitten at 220 put the Vandals up 33-29 heading into the final match of the evening.
Woolsey held a 2-1 lead near the end of the third period, but Baker sent the match into overtime with a late point. Fortified by what he apparently saw as an incorrect call on that point, Woolsey recorded the win about halfway through the overtime period.
“I knew he could do it,” Clay said about Woolsey’s first win over Baker in three tries.
“Kendrick’s a kid that when he digs down, he’s got something special. He’s just got to believe in himself, and he did that tonight.”
Clay also had high praise for Blankeship, who returned to action after suffering bruised ribs in last Saturday’s individual sectional tournament.
“Dalton gutting it out, he’s far from 100 percent, but he did what he had to do to win,” Clay said.
The Vandals coach “knew that it was going to come down to the end.
“We knew we were going to get 182, 195 and 220, because that’s the heart of our lineup.
“That unsportsmanlike (call) was huge,” Clay said. “Then, we could force them, put a little more pressure on them, because they had to get bonus points.”
It was a total team effort, he said.
“We saved two points at 113 (Jarrett Paslay), we saved a point at 132 (Luke Tessman), we saved a point at 152 (Adam Palmer). Our kids just pulled it out, point by point by point,” Clay said.
“I thought that we, as a team, wrestled well. We wrestled really solid and we didn’t give up.”
This season has been a tough one for the Vandals wrestlers, who fought through a number of big injuries, skin issues and open slots in their lineup.
“It just teaches kids that you’ve got to persevere,” Clay said.
Wrestling, he said, is not a sport where the participants can look to go on to professional wrestling. So, they need to get something else out of the sport.
“We’ve got good kids who can go out and be productive members of society.
“They learn lessons about perseverance, hard work … getting rewarded for that kind of stuff. That’s what you hope they take away from it,” Clay said.
“That was my experience; that’s why I’m coaching now,” he said.
“It’s all about our kids learning life lessons.
“It’s about fighting hard, and our kids have a lot of that,” Clay said.
• 106 pounds – Double forfeit.
• 113 pounds – Chase Bittle (BA) over Jarrett Paslay (V), 15-5.
• 120 pounds – Chaston Womack (V) by fall over Eli Wall-Lampkin (BA), 4:40.
• 126 pounds – Ryne Lipsey (V) by fall over Grace Kristoff (BA), 0:34.
• 132 pounds – Jevon Hey (BA) over Luke Tessman (V), 9-2.
• 138 pounds – Jarrid Braunagel (BA) by fall over Cody Phillips (V), 1:04.
• 145 pounds – Danny Braunagel (BA) by fall over Garret Stewart (V), 1:11.
• 152 pounds – Cody Harris (BA) by technical fall over Adam Palmer (V), 15-0.
• 160 pounds – Dalton Blankenship (V) over Austin Carey (BA), 5-1.
• 170 pounds – Zach Braunagel (BA) by fall over Kolten Kaiser (V), 3:41.
• 182 pounds – Jake Stewart (V) by fall over Zach Guerrero (BA), 0:37.
• 195 pounds – Bobby Bradley (V) by fall over Andy Tate (BA), 0:43.
• 220 pounds – Dalton Whitten (V) win by forfeit.
• 285 pounds – Kendrick Woolsey (V) over Rodney Baker (BA) in overtime, 4-2.