WRESTLING: Coal City sends entire lineup to sectionals; Central, Manteno wrestlers advance
COAL CITY —The Coal City wrestling team just can’t stop making history this year.
Weeks after breaking the state record for dual wins in a season, the Coalers continued to exert their dominance in the IHSA Class 2A Coal City regional Saturday.
They sent a wrestler in every weight class to sectionals for the first time in school history. It also is the team’s first year in Class 2A.
Six Coalers won regional championships. Evan Rivera (106 pounds), Ryan Wasielewski (152) and Daniel Jezik (182) earned their crowns with pins in the finals. Alex Friddle (132) won his via tech fall, and Zach Finch (113) and Wills Payton (285) won on decision in the finals.
Brandon Strnad (138), Cole Garcia (195) and Gage Leake (220) advanced with second-place finishes. During third-place matches, the Coalers went 5-0 to secure their spots, as the top three from each weight class advanced to sectionals.
Coach Mark Masters said it was those five wins — Trent Akre (120), Connor Huston (126), Lane Kutemeier (145), Ashton Harvey (160) and David Papach (170) — that made Saturday complete for the Coalers.
“Going 5-0 in third-place matches was the most important thing,” Masters said. “In the final round, we were 11-3 — that makes a statement.”
After having such a dominant regular season, Masters said he thought all 14 grapplers had the ability to qualify but didn’t expect the stars to align the way they did.
“There’s always going to be some intangibles — you get caught, have a takedown; you’re not at your best; you’re sick — it happens,” Masters said. “It was a pleasant surprise, and I’m so happy for these kids.”
Every year, the Coalers practice until their last wrestler bows out of the postseason, no matter how far an individual advances. With an entire team making it to the next round, that’s a little easier this season.
“From Day 1, we always tell the kids that everyone practices until the last guy is done, and right now, we’re in it until state,” Masters said. “Everyone’s practicing full-tilt, and we’re going to get after it.”
The Coalers have their individual sectional meet at Geneseo and their team sectional at Sandwich. Individual sectionals are Saturday, at a time to be announced today, and team sectionals are Feb. 19.
Konetski leads trio of Central qualifiers
Similar to Coal City, Central also was bumped up a class this season. While the Comets didn’t experience wire-to-wire domination the way the Coalers did, coach Travis Williams still was enamored with his team’s performance, especially considering the youth on this season’s team.
“Coming from last year to this year, seeing the leadership with some of the seniors, a guy like Thomas [Konetski], some other guys embraced the challenge and tradition we have into a new and unique challenge,” Williams said. “They didn’t shy away from it and gave it their best.”
The highlight of the day for the Comets came in the 145-pound title match, which Konetski won with a 7-5 win against Joliet Catholic’s Jacob Mumm.
“We knew what he was capable of, but to see him reach that level and wrestle a kid that’s very polished from Joliet Catholic, to be the first guy to win a 2A regional, that’s really exciting for us,” Williams said. “He had a different focus, a different energy throughout the week and worked a lot harder getting ready to head into the postseason.”
In addition to Konetski, the Comets also saw Nick Panozzo (third place, 138) and Auston Miller (second place, 152) advance to next weekend’s Geneseo sectional.
Kodie Krumweide (126) and Giacomo Panazzo (182) just missed qualifying with fourth-place finishes and will travel to sectionals as alternates.
Manteno advances 2 in rebuilding year
After losing a significant chunk of last year’s team, similar to Central, Manteno wasn’t sure quite what to expect this season with such a new crop of talent in a roster filled with freshmen and wrestlers without much experience.
The Panthers still had a successful day in their own right, as Matt Hollingsworth (106) and Matt Ryan (170) each advanced with second-place finishes.
Coach Ed Spiewak said neither of his qualifiers had his best match in the championship round, a scary thought for potential opponents in Geneseo.
“I think they did really well in their semifinals matches; both left something on the mat in their finals matches,” Spiewak said. “If they wrestled again, I think it would be a different story. … We’ll just have to correct it this week.”
Freshman 145-pounder Wyatt Young and junior 160-pounder Daniel Durham, who began wrestling in high school, each finished fourth.
Spiewak said the two represent the youth on the Panthers’ roster, a roster full of potential, and their strong showings in a loaded regional full of prestigious programs bodes well for the program in the long run.
“This is a tough tournament — there’s so many teams that are so good,” Spiewak said. “With all the freshmen and newer kids, it’s exciting to see where they’re at now and where they’re [going to] be in the future.”
Kankakee shows improvement in 2nd year back
When Kankakee coach Brad Burns and his Kays took the mats at last year’s regionals, they didn’t see any wrestlers make a finals match. But that changed Saturday, as Brian Perkins (182) and Alex Rivera (285) found themselves in third-place matches, although they both came up just short of qualifying with fourth-place finishes.
“The proof is in the pudding — the guys that did better today are the ones that wrestled last year,” Burns said. “The younger guys are starting to see it and believe it, talking about next year and the summer.”
The Kays were able to see how to reach the next level as they witnessed the Coalers’ dominant day, something Burns said he hopes the team will remember and learn from.
“I don’t mind seeing another team and saying, ‘We’re going to do it this way,’ or, ‘I want you to watch and see how they do it,’ and apply it ourselves,” Burns said. “We’re trying to build it the right way because this is a tough sport.”