HEBRON – When Alden-Hebron athletic director John Lalor mentioned "The Champs" in his speech Monday night, everyone in the Giants' gym knew who he meant.
For 64 years, those words have been reserved for the legendary 1952 state championship basketball team. For so many years, they were the only state champions to come from Hebron.
That changed on Saturday night in Champaign, when Alden-Hebron senior Colten Cashmore won the 1A state wrestling title at 170 pounds. On Sunday, Cashmore returned home with a parade through the town and Monday night the school celebrated him with a ceremony in the gym, where they revealed his name up on the wall among other champions (even if, in the rush, it had been spelled wrong).
Cashmore was greeted by a standing ovation from the more than 100 people in the gym. The school's lone previous medalist – David Nor, who took third in 1991 – was there. Lalor announced that Phil Judson of the 1952 basketball team had called to apologize for missing it and offer his congratulations.
"Everybody says how great the grand march (at state) is and how it's one of the best in the country, but riding through town on the fire truck and just seeing all my friends and family there cheering me on, it was the greatest moment of my life, it was better than the grand march," Cashmore said. "And then coming here supporting the team and myself it was truly great.
"And to be honored with something that the town has always been looking up to forever since I've been alive – the '52 champs – to be compared to them is just something great. When people say it's going to live on forever, I don't know if it will, maybe it does, but it's a great honor just to be put in that category."
It was a celebration set up by an impressive senior season, one motivated by knowing it was his last shot. Multiple coaches mentioned Monday that something in Cashmore clicked heading into his senior season.
"I just knew I had to do it now and this was my time and I just went out mentally focused every match and I thought I was physically in the best shape," Cashmore said.
He finished with a 28-2 record, winning four tournaments in the regular season and taking outstanding wrestler awards at three tournaments.
He won his regional but stumbled in his sectional. Cashmore lost his opening match by one point to an unranked opponent. Looking back, he said he didn't wrestle well at all. His coaches said he tried to work some moves that he didn't need and ended up giving up points he couldn't get back.
"That might've been a blessing in disguise because that night I really had a hard time sleeping and I was like 'You know where you want to be at the end of the year, so you've got to go out this next day and do it,'" Cashmore said.
Cashmore won four consolation matches the next day to take third place and qualify for state.
Once he was there, where he had always wanted to be, he walked a few laps around the arena, took it all in and, once on the mat, didn't stumble.
In the final, Cashmore got a first-period takedown, then gave up two escapes to be tied 2-2 heading into the third. He got the escape in the final period and won 3-2. Afterward, he ran to the upper deck to celebrate with the family and friends who had made the trip to watch.
Cashmore began wrestling in first grade, inpired by his father David, a third-place state medalist for Wauconda in 1990.
"My goal was not neccesarily to beat him, but to win a championship and me and him would share that memory together, and it happened."
Now there is another Cashmore in the IHSA archives.
"I was a lot happier seeing him win," David Cashmore said Monday.
After talking about his experience and thanking everyone, Cashmore had a final statement Monday.
"One last thing," he said, "if anybody ever tells you you can't do something because you're from Hebron, just know that you can."
Like the 1952 basketball team before him, Cashmore did so on the state's biggest stage.