CHAMPAIGN – Crystal Lake Central’s Liam O’Donnell walked off the mat after a victory by technical fall Saturday in the IHSA Class 2A third-place match at 195 pounds at State Farm Center in Champaign.
The senior, wrestling with a torn ACL, didn’t walk far, however.
He stayed to watch his twin brother, Seamus O’Donnell, wrestle the 220 third-place match on the same mat. Seamus fell short, but the twins both took home medals six months after suffering major injuries.
The O’Donnells suffered injuries within a week of each other during football season. Liam decided to wrestle through the ACL tear. Seamus missed a month of the wrestling season after having surgery on a torn bicep tendon.
“When we both got hurt; we were like, ‘Well, we might not even wrestle,’ ” Liam O’Donnell said. “Now, six months later, we’re the only kids who placed on the team and we’re going to be on the podium together.”
They were two of 14 McHenry County wrestlers who took home medals in the consolation bracket Saturday. All nine Fox Valley Conference schools had at least one medalist.
Also winning third-place medals were Hampshire’s Casey Allen (Class 2A, 160) Richmond-Burton’s Jaden Glauser (2A, 182) and Cary-Grove’s Cadin Koeppel (3A, 220).
Crystal Lake South’s Christian Olsen (2A, 106) and Dundee-Crown’s Isiah Ziegler (3A, 285) finished fourth.
Taking home fifth-place medals were Huntley brothers Sam Spencer (3A, 113) and Zach Spencer (3A, 126), Marengo’s Landen Pfeiffer (2A, 106), Jacobs’ Jake Harrier (3A, 120), Marian Central’s Luke Silva (2A, 160) and McHenry’s Jake Leske (3A, 182).
Prairie Ridge’s Trey Piotrowski (2A, 138) earned a sixth-place medal.
Liam O’Donnell wore a brace on his knee all season and said he felt he wrestled at his best at state.
Both twins wrestled up a weight class in the state tournament. The Tigers did it as a tactic to give them a better chance to win a regional, which didn’t work out, and to give more of their teammates a shot at reaching state. Coach Justen Lehr wasn’t worried about the O’Donnell’s abilities, even wrestling up a class.
“When you’re up at 220, and I’m only weighing 195, it’s pretty hard against these kids,” Seamus O’Donnell said. “Coach [Austin] Parks and Lehr are always telling me how these guys can get tired quicker because they have a lot more muscle to deal with. To counter that, I have to use a lot more energy to keep up with them and not to give up any points.”
South’s Olsen, a freshman, lost a 6-3 match to top seed Anthony King of East St. Louis. Other notable matches included Koeppel’s win in a double-overtime tiebreaker in his third-place match and Silva’s 31-second pin in his fifth-place match.
Jacobs’ Harrier broke the longest local drought for a state medal. The Golden Eagles had not had a state medalist since Burim Hajroja won a Class AA sixth-place medal at 103 in 2004.
“I expected it of myself, that’s what I’ve been looking for all season,” Harrier said. “It feels great.”
Huntley’s Zach Spencer broke his own personal drought after his first three trips to state ended empty-handed. On his fourth and final trip to state, the Red Raiders’ senior brought home a fifth-place medal.
“It’s about time,” Spencer said. “When I won the blood-round match (which assured a medal), I almost cried. I was holding back tears. I was extremely happy. It’s one thing to come down here four years, but it’s another to actually earn something.”
Hampshire’s Allen matched his older brother with a third-place medal. The Whip-Purs’ last medalist was his brother, Wylie Allen, at 152 in 2A in 2016.
Casey Allen had a pin in the third-place match.
“I just had to get that ankle pick,” Casey Allen said. “He was really tall. I used it as an advantage. I used my favorite move. All my coaches said it wouldn’t work, but then it did.”
D-C’s Ziegler didn’t win his third-place match, but considering that two years ago he missed the beginning of the season because of injuries and trouble making weight at 285, he has come a long way.
“I look back and I know that I did all I could every single day going to extra practices and doing everything possible to make me the best wrestler I could,” Ziegler said. “I didn’t take what I wanted last week [at sectionals]. But everything has a way of working itself out. It couldn’t have worked out better for me.”