ROCK FALLS – A pair of Harvard wrestlers went to Champaign to compete in last weekend's IHSA Individual State Tournament.
This weekend, they'll all be going ... but the shorthanded Sandwich Indians made the Hornets earn the trip.
Harvard secured a bid to Saturday's IHSA Dual Team State Tournament at Bloomington's Grossinger Motors Arena, overcoming an early deficit and outlasting Sandwich down the stretch, 43-27, Tuesday evening in the Class 1A Rock Falls Sectional. It will be the Hornets' first trip to dual team state since 2014.
"We knew Sandwich was tough in the middle weights ... but our guys went out there and were able to keep those to decisions," Harvard coach David Schultz said. "Then we had some big wins from our 145- and 152-pounders. Those were the ones that really helped us out, but all the guys fought hard.
"All our guys showed up to wrestle tonight. It was one of the better duals we've wrestled this season."
The trip will be especially meaningful for 145-pound Harvard wrestler Damyan Michel, who was not one of his team's two individual state qualifiers, but Tuesday – as did his team – he overcame an early deficit and got stronger as his bout went on en route to a 14-6 major decision over freshman Seven Tornga for the Hornets' first points of the night.
"This is incredible," Michel said of his team's impending state trip. "I've always loved wrestling as a team, but I know I've never been the greatest. I've always been a hard worker, and I've always been a hard fighter, but I knew team state would probably be my only way of experiencing it.
"It's incredible. This is a moment I know I'm never going to forget."
Teammate Devin Van Deveer kept the momentum going at 152, albeit briefly, with a pin in 3:52 of Sandwich's Nolan Bobee. Sandwich won the next three weight classes, however, to take a 21-10 lead.
Harvard fifth-place state finisher Nathan Rosas pinned Jaime Serrano at 195, and Ivan Hernandez came through with a sudden takedown and pin of Connor Holly at 220 to give Harvard back the lead briefly, 22-21.
Sandwich heavyweight Braden Mansur delivered one last bright spot for the Indians before Harvard retook the lead with a forfeit over the lineup-depleted Indians at 106 credited to Marques Merida and then three more wins – Brian Hernandez (pin, 2:41) over Doug Taxis at 113, Bryce Fiegel (pin, 1:45) over Evan Fraser at 120 and state runner-up Nik Jiminez (7-0 decision) over Evan Reilly at 126 – to close the victory.