Aurora Christian sends 7 wrestlers to state
Down early against a wrestler he'd already lost to this season, Gylon Sims said he started to panic. But only for a moment.
The Joliet Catholic 113-pounder recovered against Geneseo's Zachary Montez, pulled out a 4-3 victory to avenge an earlier loss, and became the first of eight state qualifiers and three champions for the Hilltoppers at the Class 2A Sycamore sectional on Saturday.
"I was just like calm down, calm down Gylon," Sims said. "You've got this. So I got my escape and got right back on the offense. I knew I was down and didn't want to play catch up the entire match."
The Hilltoppers, ranked No. 1 in the latest IWCOA Class 2A poll, were one of five teams at the sectional ranked in the top seven. They had more qualifiers than any other team with Mason Alessio (145) and Dillan Johnson (285) winning titles.
No. 4 Lemont qualified five with Alex Tagler (170), Moe Khalil (182) and Tyler Wilms winning titles. Aurora Christian sent seven through to next week's state championship, including champs Deven Casey (106), Braden Stauffenberg (152) and Nate Westrom (195).
Nathan Kim was the lone qualifier from Burlington Central, taking second at 170, while Kaneland qualified 106-pounder Cameron Phillips, who was second at 106.
None of Morris' six wrestlers qualified, and Glenbard South couldn't qualify any of its three wrestlers out of what multiple coaches called the toughest sectional in the state.
"You're looking at the best 2A sectional in the state, and I think we're going to feel very confident coming out of here," Lemont coach Erik Murry said.
In addition to the champs, Lemont's Evan Schiffman (third at 138) and Mike Jabaay (third at 160) earned trips to Champaign with top-four finishes.
"For these guys, they've got to be sky-high," Murry said. "Winning the last match, feeling pretty confident. And again, these are some of the best guys in the state right here. ... We know having a good tournament here, you might have a good tournament at state."
All five Lemont wrestlers closed the day on a win, including Wilms. The 220-pounder had a pair of come-from-behind wins in the semifinals (4-3 against Galesburg's Jeremiah Morris) and in the title match (3-2 against Washington's Tyler Casey).
"He went back-to-back on last-second wins," Murry said. "For the team, we're a contagious team and we feed off each other. Those are the kind of matches that boost the fans and the team and the confidence."
Wilms said he hopes to come out stronger earlier when the state tournament begins Thursday.
"I realized I'm a lot quicker than a lot of kids I wrestle," Wilms said. "I've got to open up a lot more and start having those quick bursts the entire match and not wait until the last 20 seconds."
The Hilltoppers, in addition to their champs, qualified Shay Korhorn (third at 120), Logan Kuhel-Trimmer (second at 132), Owen O'Connor (second at 138), Caden Moore (third at 182) and Owen Gerdes (third at 195).
Coach Ryan Cumbee said Moore had the performance of the day, battling back after a quarterfinal loss with three pins -- all the third period -- to punch his ticket.
"We got eight through, but you always want more," said Cumbee after his team brought all 14 of its wrestlers to the sectional round. "If we had 10, we'd want 11. If we had 11 we'd want 12. ... Eight through is a school record. I think we could have done better, but I always think we could have done better."
Aurora Christian qualified seven of the eight wrestlers that competed in the sectional. Joe Fernau was second at 126, Josh Vasquez was fourth at 132, Taythan Silva was second at 145 and Braden Hunter was third at 285.
Coach Danny Alcocer said his three champions earned their titles.
"They're working hard on the mat every day in practice," Alcocer said. "They're doing the right things outside of practice as well, living the right lifestyle keep their grades right. That's the biggest thing for us."
For Stauffenberg, it was a bit of revenge. Last week he lost to Sycamore's Braden Peet in overtime for the regional title. This time around, he won in overtime on Peet's home mat.
"That guy beat us last week at regionals in overtime," Alcocer said. "It was nice to get that one back. We'll probably see him again next weekend in Champaign. We'll probably see another battle. He's just got to do it one more time."
Kim had a shot at a title for the Rockets but lost 6-4 after leading through two periods against Tagler. He had two pins in his first three matches of the day.
Burlington Central coach Vince Govea said Kim is peaking at the right time and has really come on over the past few weeks.
"When Nate gets on his attacks on his feet, I don't think anyone can stop him," Govea said. "I think second and third period we got out of our game plan a little bit. We gave a quick two there and it cost us a little bit. But Nate is a funky wrestler and a great kid. Anything can happen downstate and we're peaking at the right time."
Phillips cruised into the title round for the Knights with two pins but fell to Deven Casey, 16-4.
"He had a great day," Kaneland coach Kenneth Paoli said. "He wrestled really tough in all his matches. He ended up pinning multiple kids. Just a great tournament. Ended up taking second against a tough Aurora Christian kid. We're just really proud of the effort. We're happy he's going downstate, but I just talked to him. He said 'Not. Good. Enough.' We're going to go back to work and make a run at Champaign."