The State Farm Center in Champaign will be buzzing with non-stop grappling action this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the 2015 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Wrestling Individual State Tournament.
Among wrestlers shooting for their fourth state titles is Kris Williams of South Holland Thornwood, who is 38-2 at 126 pounds in Class 3A. Williams was the champion at 120 last year, at 113 as a sophomore and at 106 as a freshman, when he competed at Harvey Thornton.
Elijah Oliver of Washington will be seeking his fourth state title at 120 pounds in Class 2A. Interestingly, this would be the first Illinois title for Oliver (14-0), as he was a three-time Tennessee Division II state champion at Memphis Christian Brothers. Oliver – who was voted the best wrestler in that division in last year’s state tournament – could face Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge junior Travis Piotrowski (30-0) in a battle of unbeatens in the semifinals. Every three-time state champion who has competed in the State Farm Center has been successful in his bid for a fourth title.
Four wrestlers – Danny Swan (40-2) of Oak Forest at 126 and Xavier Montalvo (35-3) of Lombard Montini at 182 in 2A, and Brandon Briggs (35-3) of Poplar Grove North Boone at 126 and Carver James (25-0) of Dakota at 170 in 1A – are trying for their third titles.
Some other notes about the field in each class:
Three wrestlers in Class 3A return to try for repeat titles. They are sophomore Austin O’Connor (41-1) of Chicago St. Rita at 132, and two wrestlers from the state’s top team, Oak Park-River Forest – senior Larry Early (22-0) at 145, and junior Isaiah White (32-0), who won at 138 last year and jumped over Early to 152 this season.
Oak Park-River Forest, which won IHSA Class 3A titles in 2009 and 2014, is currently 24-0. Flowrestling, Intermat and The Open Mat have all ranked OPRF No. 1 in the nation this season.
Six seniors enter the competition undefeated, including twin brothers Phyllip (37-0) and Nicholas DeLoach (47-0) of Alton at 145 and 152, Bobby Alexander (39-0) of Hoffman Estates Conant at 138, Tyler DeMoss (34-0) of Rockton Hononegah at 182, Tyler Johnson (18-0) of Lockport at 195 and Kailor Hecox (16-0) of Machesney Park Harlem at 220.
Since the state wrestling tournament expanded from two to three classes in 2009, Lombard Montini has ruled the state’s middle class with an iron fist. But since the Broncos were pushed by Washington in a 34-27 victory in mid-January, the anticipation of a competitive state final next weekend forms an intriguing backdrop for this weekend’s action.
Montini is favored to win titles with freshman Real Woods (33-3) at 106, a pair of defending state champions in junior Dylan Duncan (36-5) at 132 and Vince Turk (36-2) at 145, senior place-winner Luke Fortuna (32-6) at 152, two-time champion Montalvo at 182 and state runner-up Michael Johnson (13-0) at 285. Meanwhile, Washington is favored at three weights: Oliver at 120, junior state champion Randy Meneweather (39-4) at 160 and sophomore state runnerup Jacob Warner (41-3) at 170.
Oak Forest and Geneseo, which also hold state title hopes, each has one top-ranked wrestler: Swan for Oak Forest at 126 and senior place-winner Lane Akre (33-4) for Geneseo at 220.
The Dakota Indians have rewritten the small-school record books in recent years, and five wrestlers enter the state tournament favored to win: juniors Alec Henze (36-3) at 113, Nathan Olsen (35-5) at 138 and Greg Krulas (36-4) at 152, and seniors J.J. Wolfe (39-2) at 145 and James. Wolfe, the champion at 138 last year, is an Eastern Michigan University recruit.
Senior Cody Minnick (44-1) of Coal City is favored to win again at 120, while the 220-pound finals could feature a pair of unbeaten seniors in Ross Sealby (39-0) of Byron and Tristun Reaves (38-0) of El Paso-Gridley.
Also unbeaten entering the state tournament are freshman Chase Bittle (43-0) of Belleville Althoff at 113, junior Tanner Coleman (30-0) of Peoria Heights at 132, sophomore Griffin Meeker (45-0) of St. Joseph-Ogden at 152, and seniors Adam Hudson (39-0) of Shelbyville at 160 and Austin Shoup (39-0) of Erie/Prophetstown at 195.