CHAMPAIGN -- For a brief moment Friday night, Bobby Alexander sent shock waves through the State Farm Center, the kind the usual big wrestling state semifinals crowd hopes for each year.
The Conant junior, who fought and defended with all his might during the opening moments against No. 1 Jared Cortez turned the tables on the nationally ranked Glenbard North star by putting him on his back.
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Much to the surprise and delight of many fans, who thought they might be seeing the end of a fourth straight state title pursuit for the Illinois-bound Cortez.
But after that first-period jolt, Cortez got his footing back and eventually defeated Alexander (37-4), sending sent the Cougars' standout into the consolation bracket. He still has a chance for a top-three medal, which would be his second in three seasons.
"It was kind of fun while it lasted," said Alexander with a wry smile, who earlier in the day caught No. 2 Dan Radcliffe (39-9) of Lockport in his quarterfinal, then listened as fans cheered the surprise takedown and head-lock, which eventually led to a fall at 46 seconds.
"It was quite a day today," said Alexander, who later watched Cougars captain Griff Rose get eliminated from the tournament, along with as Hazen Rice (Schaumburg, 32-13), Matt Conrad (Barrington, 132, 32-12), Tulga Zuunbayan (Wheeling, 138, 40-10), James Ford (Prospect, 220, 35-14), Tylor Alanis (Schaumburg, 220, 24-22) and Matt Zolper (Schaumburg, 285, 30-12), who each fell in the first round of wrestle-backs.
Mitch Stathakis (Barrington, 106, 34-4), Matt Stopka (Schaumburg, 195, 33-7) and Julius Smith (Barrington, 160, 29-15) still hold out hope today when wrestleback quarterfinals begin at 9 a.m., followed by the wrestleback semis.
Both Stathakis and Stopka were stopped dead in their tracks when each met and failed to defeat the No. 1 man in their bracket in the quarterfinals.
Stopka, here for a second straight year, scored the first takedown of the match against No. 1 Tyler Johnson (50-0) only to later to be pinned at 5:33.
"To have a chance against a guy like Johnson, you have to get a lot of shots and attempts on him," Stopka said. "But I was way short in that department, and that's all a person with his talent needs to get going."
Stathakis, a sophomore, saw his ten-match winning streak abruptly snapped when No. 1 Jason Renteria (OPRF, 41-1) dominated in an 11-2 major decision.
"That was the state champ out there against Mitch, in my opinion, but I can tell you that Mitch would be the first to admit he didn't follow the game plan we devised like he should have," said Barrington coach Ken Hoving. "But that's OK, because he came down here as a sophomore for the first time and will go home with a medal. And that says a lot about that young man."
Rose (30-8) drew high praise from Conant coach Chad Hay, who will begin to prepare his wrestlers for Tuesday's dual-team sectional at home against No. 1 Oak Park-River Forest.
"Griff had a real rough draw at 152 as far as I am concerned, but he never complained, and just went out there and competed as hard as he could, just as he has all season long as the great leader he's been," said Hay of his three-time sectional qualifier.
Before the round of semifinal took place, former long-time Prospect coach Gary McMorrow was named to the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The always highly anticipated Grant March will begin at 5:30 tonight, followed immediately by the finals, which begin at 195 pounds.