CHAMPAIGN -- It was not to be the story written.
Jake Cochrane, the most celebrated heavyweight in Carmel Catholic history, saw his dreams go up in smoke late Friday night. Instead of a headline that celebrated the No.-1 rated Corsairs senior winning a state title, the final story of the wrestling season says Cochrane, Justin Weber of Stevenson and Devin Tortorice of Wauconda all bring home a third-place trophy from the 76th state tournament.
"Woulda, coulda, shoulda," said a still somewhat disappointed Cochrane, who ended his season 44-2 and his career with a 111-22 mark. "For sure, I came here thinking I could be a state champion.
"To tell you the truth, it was a real challenge to pick myself up and get ready to come over here today after that pin in my semifinal last night," added Cochrane, who sought to give Corsairs coach Bob Kuykendall the first state title in program history.
Carmel heavyweight Dan Clinton brought home a fourth-place medal in 2008.
"Regardless of where he finished," Kuykendall said of Cochrane, "he's been an amazing wrestler for us and one who totally committed himself to getting better in all facets of his game during the offseason. You saw the fruits of the extra work he put in this weekend at the tournament."
Cochrane, a three-year starter, is looking at Indiana, Southern Illinois and Wisconsin-Whitewater for his new address in the fall. He rose quickly up the charts in the final few weeks of the 2012 campaign, finishing fourth at state last February.
Another three-year star, Weber (42-4) culminated a brilliant career for the Patriots and coach Shane Cook with a third-place finish following a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Austin Schoen of Lake Park late Friday afternoon.
"First it was Danny Sabatello (two-time state champ), then Justin," Cook said. "I've been really blessed with two of the hardest-working and greatest leaders a coach (and) program could ever have. What you saw this weekend from Justin is a credit to his work ethic and all of the time he spends in and out of the room working to get better with each training session and match that he's in. You don't get kids like that very often."
Weber looked in top form Saturday on his way to his top-three finish. He lost in the semifinals to the nation's No. 1 145-pounder, Bryce Brill of Mt. Carmel.
"Brill is going to score 20 on everybody," Weber said. "He's just that good. But if I could have been healthy for sectionals and won, I likely would have been opposite of (Brill) and in the final (Saturday) against him. But I've got no regrets. It's been a great year and career at Stevenson."
Weber, who was No. 2 behind Brill in the polls from the start, will wrestle next season at the University of Wisconsin.
Tortorice (42-5) joined Wauconda teammate Nate Magiera (220 pounds, 37-3) on the podium to become the second pair of Bulldogs to bring home state medals in the same year.
Two years ago, Brian Kent and Pete Koostra did the honors. Tortorice's third and Magiera's fourth completed a strong effort from each.
"I knew coming down here we would medal," Wauconda coach Tom Nance said. "I just didn't know where it would be when it was finished, but I am really proud of both of those guys."
Tortorice faced longtime North Suburban Prairie Division rival Mike Gussarson of Antioch for the fourth straight week Saturday. Wauconda's 132-pounder defeated his counterpart to reach the third-place bout, where he upended Kyle Rodriguez of Lincoln-Way West 4-1.
Gussarson (39-12) defeated Creed Jones of Mattoon 9-4 to grab fifth place.
"It's always tough going against a guy you've wrestled for so long and, in my case, four straight weeks," Tortorice said. "But it feels real good to finally win a medal here and to end my season and career this way."
Tortorice had over 400 takedowns and 130 victories in his career. He was one victory away from a medal last season.
Gussarson also just missed a spot on the medal stand in 2012, but finished with 42 victories, giving him 111 for a career.
"Finally, a medal," said the Antioch senior, a three-time state qualifier. "That's what it's all about."
After a one-and-done trip here last year in his first visit to Champaign, Grant senior Tony Cashmore ended on a high note. He garnered a fourth-place medal at 182 pounds after a 3-1 loss in overtime to Sharod Wilson of Joliet West.
Grant 106-pound junior Nick Koch (39-11) took sixth in his first trip downstate.
"It went to fast here," said Cashmore, who missed over two weeks near the end of the season, but came back with a vengeance to reclaim his No. 3 spot in the polls. "Three days came and went, and now my career is nearly over, except for our dual-team sectional with Barrington next Tuesday."
Cashmore finished 33-2 this season and was 99-25 in his career.
"When Tony came in as a freshmen, he was just a beast," Grant coach Ryan Geist said. "While here, he has provided us and the program with a lot of quality and big wins along the way. I am happy for him to get out of here with a top-four finish."
Vernon Hills' Jordan Reich (45-6) will be back one more year. He has the potential to climb atop the podium next season. The junior went home with a third-place medal at 106 pounds, after flirting with a spot in the finals, only to see that chance end Friday night in a semifinal loss to Danny Swan of Oak Forest.
"Jordan had an unbelievable second half of the season, and although he's disappointed he didn't get into the final, he sure made a big impression on the field with his great work down here," Cougars coach Jerry Miceli said of the two-year starter who wasn't even mentioned when the preseason polls came out.
While Reich will lead the Cougars next season, he'll be without senior David Pierce, who completed a marvelous tenure with the club, which included two stops in Champaign and more than 100 career victories.
"David is the reason that you coach," Miceli said. "He's an absolutely great kid, so coachable and a terrific leader who you just cannot replace."
Pierce (41-8) dropped a 5-2 decision in his medal-qualifying match, falling one win short of realizing his dream.
"Here's a young man who has a 4.10 GPA, will attend the University of Texas and never, ever stops working or leading by example," Miceli said. "I, for one, will miss him a lot."
Libertyville 145-pound senior Austin Pettinato (28-9) fell one short of advancing to the medal round, thus ending a brilliant three-year stint. Wildcats junior heavyweight Chris McDermand (39-9) will return to head a gifted group next season.