At roughly the same time last year, Jacobs wrestler Austin Ryan was told by the IHSA he could no longer wrestle in the sectional semifinals after suffering a concussion, which prevented the then-sophomore a run to state.
With his health no longer an issue, the IHSA can't stop Ryan this time. The Golden Eagles' junior walked away with the 106-pound regional title over Harlem's Adam Zacharuk 5-1 in the Class 3A Huntley regional Saturday afternoon.
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Individuals from local area teams, which included Crystal Lake South, Dundee-Crown, Huntley and Jacobs, really had to take it upon themselves to shine because the meet was completely dominated by a pair of NIC-10 Rockford area rivals, Harlem and Hononegah, which combined for 11 first-place finishers and 6 second placers.
But within the state-line heap, Ryan was the only area first-placer while teammate Cody Ferencz (126) advanced with a third-place finish.
Crystal Lake South, which placed third with 120 points, advanced six wrestlers to sectionals via second and third place wins while host Huntley advanced three. Senior Ray Griggel was the lone D-C wrestler to advance after finishing second at 220.
As for Ryan (32-2), who claims his head got the best of him in his second-place finish at the Fox Valley Conference tournament last weekend, a new theory worked.
"Just go back to what I usually do; just wrestle. Let it flow. That's the motto now, let it flow," said Ryan. "(I) had to get the first takedown, probably my main focus was to get that first takedown and just wrestle my match the rest of the way. Just keep a good head and keep wrestling."
Ferencz (26-10) needed sudden-death overtime to get a 4-2 third-place decision over Brandon Meyer (26-11) of Huntley.
"It was nerve-racking," said Ferencz. "And then it wasn't. I was ready to go into double overtime and then he hit his shot, and I knew that was my chance. I spun around, I got my two and it was the best feeling in the world."
Huntley and Jacobs had compelling battles for third place. At 120, it came down to a controversial last 20 seconds between Ricky Vigil and Jacobs' Kenny Thompson.
Vigil's takedown with nearly 15 seconds remaining unknotted a 6-6 tie. Two seconds later the scoreboard shutdown and it took referees 5 seconds to notice, to the ire of the crowd. When the match resumed, Vigil allowed Thompson to escape but held on for an 8-7 win. Ironically, Thompson defeated Vigil in the prelims 8-3 earlier Saturday morning.
"Once I got the takedown I knew that if I held him down, I win the match," Vigil said. "I figured I don't have any stalling warnings, I don't want to risk it, so I tried to hold him as long as I could and that clock went down. It was kind of discouraging because I had him in good position where I could ride him out the rest of the period."
Huntley's 106 in Nick Meyer also had a rematch win over South's Garrett Dziedzic, earning a fall at 4:47 after trailing 7-1 to start.
"I hit a single and came up to the waist where I hit a seat belt over my hip to put into his back and I just fought as hard as I could to keep him there," said Meyer, who lost to Dziedzic earlier. "I saw I was in trouble and I just didn't give up. I wanted to make sectionals so bad, I never gave up throughout the entire match."
Teammate Brandon Mabry (195) took second to advance, as did CLS wrestlers Nick Gil (126), Eric Barone (132), Brian Pence (182) and Nick Peters (138), who lost to Manny Silva of Hononegah in the final for the second-straight year.
"I was hoping for something better, but hopefully I'll see him next week," said Peters (33-8), whose teammate Hunter Stroh's 7-2 decision at 170 helped him advance.
In Griggel's 5-3 loss to Kailor Hecox, it doesn't tell how close the match was. It was 2-2 entering the third and Hecox earned 3 points in the final 50 seconds on a move the D-C standout hadn't seen.
"He came out with a move I wasn't familiar with but I worked it the best I could," said Griggel. "It was some sort of Greco throw he was trying to get on me."
Harlem (6 first placers, 4 second placers, 3 third place winners) advanced 13, winning 253-204 over Hononegah, which advanced 10 (5 first place, 2 second place winners and 3 third place). Huntley placed fifth with D-C (6th) and Jacobs (7th) right behind.