WRESTLING: Coal City finishes in second at state; Peotone bows out in opening round
BLOOMINGTON — All season, Coal City dominated its opponents on the mat as it pushed itself night in and night out.
But there was one team that had the Coalers’ number during the regular season: defending 2A state champion Washington.
The Coalers fell 34-24 in their meeting Jan. 25, but that close loss let them know they could hang with the best of the best.
They got their chance at redemption Saturday in the Class 2A state championship, but Washington showed why it’s now a four-time champion with a 45-21 victory against the Coalers.
“Our game plan was to win the flip, but we didn’t win, which was the first time all day that it didn’t happen,” Coal City coach Mark Masters said. “[Washington] is on another level than we are right now. We knew we’d have to have some luck to win a few of those matches; it just didn’t work out. Our guys fought, and nobody backed down; that’s what I’m most proud about.”
Coal City almost didn’t make it to Washington. In its duel against Marian Catholic, it trailed 29-26 with only one match left.
As luck would have it, that match featured Daniel Jezik, who was crowned as the 182-pound state champion the week before.
Naturally, Jezik did what he does best and won the match by a 16-5 major decision to push the Coalers to the championship.
“Going into the match, I thought we were only down two points since I didn’t know we got hit with an unsportsmenlike penalty,” Jezik said. “I played it safe in the first round thinking a decision victory was enough. Then, Coach yelled in the second that I had to get the bonus point because we were down three points.
“All of a sudden, I realized I had to start working harder and harder to get those points, and that motivated me.”
Jezik tasted more success in the duel against Washington, winning his matchup by a 9-2 decision, but his teammates weren’t quite as successful.
The Coalers suffered pinfall losses at 120, 145, 160 and 220, along with decision losses at 138, 170, 195 and 285.
They also were victims of two tech falls at 113 and 126.
Ryan Wasielewski at 152 had the match of the night, as he battled back from 7-4 in the final round and notched a takedown and a reserval to hold on for the 8-7 win.
“I just kept working myself, pushing the intensity and tried to take him down,” Wasielewski said.
In addition to Jezik and Wasielewski, Evan Rivera picked up a pinfall victory at 106, and Alex Friddle capped his outstanding career and perfect senior year with a pinfall as well.
“I’m so proud of these guys; they worked their tails off all year,” Friddle said. “It’s a different feeling being down here with my team than as an individual. It’s not about pride individually. ... It’s a little more loose having your teammates here and seeing them perform. No better way to end it.”
While second place wasn’t the goal for the Coalers, considering what they accomplished this year moving up to Class 2A and setting a new record for duel wins in a season, it only motivates them to win next year.
“Getting this experience for our younger guys on the biggest stage will only make us better next year,” Jezik said. “I’m sure those guys might have been a little psyched out, but it’ll benefit us next year when we try to get back down here.”
The Coalers say goodbye to six seniors: Friddle, Wasielewski, Trent Akre, Brandon Strnad, Cole Gracia and Will Payton.
“We always worked hard and had a lot of success,” Friddle said. “The bond we’ve made from freshman year to senior has been awesome, and I’m beyond thankful for them, the support we’ve had from parents, fans and everyone else.”
Masters gushed about this group, commending them for their leadership and character. They’ll leave behind a legacy as record-setters and state qualifiers.
“When I look back on this season, I’ll think about how great this senior class was,” Masters said. “They accomplished so much inside and outside of the classroom. They became stars because of the work they did in the community and heroes within our kids’ club. That’s what I’ll remember most about them.”
Peotone bows out early
The Blue Devils matched up against Aurora Christian and suffered a 47-30 loss to eliminate them and end their season in their second-ever team trip to state.
“Aurora had a very tough team,” Peotone coach Greg Goberville said. “We knew that we’d have our hands full. Everyone wrestled really tough; they just had a better team. I’m proud of the guys.”
Peotone started quickly behind the eight ball with decision losses at 182 and 195 pounds followed by a pinfall loss at 220 to put the Blue Devils behind 12-0.
A forfeit win put them on the board at 12-6 followed by a pinfall loss at 106, then two more pinfall wins at 113 and 120.
The Blue Devils lost by tech fall at 126 then by decision at 132 to make the deficit 26-18.
They won by forfeit at 138 and took the lead 30-26 after T.J. Chenoweth picked up a pinfall victory at 145.
However, that was the final victory and the only lead Peotone maintained as it fell in the remaining matches.
“It was great for us to make the Elite 8 and have an outstanding duel,” Goberville said. “It was a great season all around, from winning regional and sectional as a team to three individuals making state as qualifiers.”
Much of Peotone’s team, including state placers Paul Keane and Logan Hartnett, returns for one more season. Three seniors will graduate: Nolan Bryant, Julian Flores and Gary Hedberg.
“Julian and Gary were first-year wrestlers, but they had so much to do with us getting to where we were,” Goberville said. “Those guys stayed with it, persevered and worked incredibly hard. Nolan was a state qualifier and a great leader for us. He showed guys how things are done.”