With the first round of the state wrestling series concluded, 86 local wrestlers will look to qualify for the state finals at sectional meets today and Saturday.
Wrestlers need to place in the top four in their weight class to qualify for state Feb. 14 to 16 at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Harvard and Alden-Hebron will be at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional, which is thought to be the toughest 1A sectional in the state. Last year’s Byron Sectional, which included most of the same schools, produced 11 state champions. In addition, five state championship matches had both opponents from the Byron Sectional.
This year could produce similar results with 32 wrestlers ranked in the top five of their weight class by illinoismatmen.com competing at Oregon. Nine of the 14 weight classes will feature the No. 1-ranked wrestler.
Harvard qualified all 14 of its wrestlers, including eight regional champions. The Hornets are led by Anthony Luis (106 pounds), who placed fourth at state this past season. Luis, at No. 2, will be the top ranked wrestler at 106 at Oregon.
Also at the top ranked spot in his weight class for the Hornets are Chance Shelton at 132 and Adam Freimund at 285, both ranked fourth.
Class 2A produced the most sectional qualifiers with 42 competing at the Antioch Sectional.
Richmond-Burton’s Cameron Kennedy at 126 is the only No. 1-ranked wrestler in the area. He has placed at state each of his previous three seasons, two for the Rockets and for Class 3A Grant as a freshman. Kennedy (39-0) is confident, but he knows the tough road he has ahead.
“I just feel like this is my year,” Kennedy said. “I know it’s going to get tougher and tougher.”
Kennedy could meet Montini’s Jordan Laster, the No. 2-ranked wrestler, in the finals at Antioch.
“We have a real tough sectional,” Kennedy said. “Before state, you want to get as many tough matches as you can.”
Grant Sutton, Kennedy’s cousin, could also see tough competition at sectionals from Montini. Sutton, ranked No. 2, could see the Broncos’ Vince Turk (No. 3) in the finals. Sutton won a tough regional final against Johnsburg’s Branden Peshek who is ranked ninth.
“It starts off my state series pretty good,” Sutton said. “I get a taste of what’s going to happen. It shows I need to start picking up my game.”
Garrett Sutton is the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 152 for the Rockets and could also see a Montini competitor in the finals in Luke Fortuna (No. 5).
“I’ve been peaking lately in the wrestling room,” Garrett Sutton said. “I’m looking forward to pushing the pace.”
The possibility of seeing a Montini wrestler in the finals at Antioch is a recurring theme for local wrestlers. At 145, Crystal Lake Central’s Kyle Fugiel, ranked No. 2 could see top ranked Michael Sepke. The Tigers’ Andrew Marsden (No. 2) could face Michael Maduko (No. 3) in the 170 finals.
And Johnsburg’s 195-pounder Christian Nugent (No. 4) could see Montini’s Anthony Ferraro (No. 2) in the championship.
Cary-Grove’s Michael Cullen is the only local returning state place winner in Class 3A. Cullen placed fourth at 106 last year as a freshman. This season, at 113, Cullen is 39-0.
Cullen said with that success has come more expectations.
“This year I feel like I’m a little bit more favored by people,” Cullen said. “I no longer have a choice. I have to perform well.”
Also in 3A, Crystal Lake South’s Nick Gil could have a rematch with Harlem’s Jordan Northrup if they advance to the 126 finals. Gil lost a 2-1 decision to Northrup in the Huntley Regional finals.
McHenry’s Wade Lardy is ranked No. 7 but has three higher ranked wrestlers in his 145 pound bracket at Barrington. The good news is Lardy beat Libertyville’s Austin Pettinato (No. 5), 6-2, in the Grant Regional finals.
And in what could be an all-area final, Prairie Ridge’s Travis Piotrowski (No. 5) and Jacobs’ Austin Ryan are the highest ranked wrestlers at 106. Piotrowski defeated Ryan in the Fox Valley Conference Meet finals, 4-2.