Purple Reign: Plano’s Caidan Ronning wins Reaper Classic 150-pound title, Dixon takes team title

Amboy’s Landon Blanton pins Chicago DeLaSalle’s Anthony Trendle to win the 120 pound championship match during the Reaper Classic Wrestling meet at Plano High School on Saturday, Dec 9, 2023.

PLANO – Caidan Ronning wasn’t running on empty Saturday afternoon during the 40th annual Reaper Classic at Plano.

Making sure he had preserved enough physical and mental energy in his tank for a potential championship bout during a two-day tournament was key for the Plano junior, who won the 150-pound title, beating St. Rita’s Nolan Keenan in the final.

“I’ve been working all offseason, I put all my time into getting ready for this,” he said. “I think I just wanted it more than he did. Coming into that he looked tired and was hanging his head right off the bat. He knew what he was doing. He’s a good kid, but I think he was too tired from the long day. A two-day tournament is long for everyone.”

Ronning recorded three pins before earning a 12-5 win over Keenan.

“I was having a conversation with him, and he said he broke the curse because we hadn’t had a [Plano] champion in a while,” Reapers coach Dwayne Love said. “He’s put in the work. He did a lot of summer work. He wrestled with us, and he’s gone to a lot of tournaments, too, so it’s paying off. And he’s a kid that it’s just awesome to see him achieve like this. He’s a team captain. He leads the kids, and they all rally behind him.”

Dixon’s Will Howell (left) competes against East Aurora’s Arnold Walker in a 215 pound championship match during the Reaper Classic Wrestling meet at Plano High School on Saturday, Dec 9, 2023.

Dixon won the team title behind 215-pounder Will Howell’s 15-8 win over previously undefeated Arnold Walker of East Aurora.

“I was able to get some throws in,” Howell said. “That was big. And this was big for us. We’re all super excited because we haven’t won this in forever. I think last year we placed 10th or maybe eighth or somewhere around there.”

The award stand was a popular destination for the Dukes, with nine others joining Howell by placing. Ayden Rowley (113), Jayden Woodman (144) and Steven Kitzman (175) were runners-up.

“We only had one champ, so it shows you how much these other guys contributed to coming out with a win,” Dixon coach Micah Hey said. “And it came down to the very end, too.”

After Howell won at 215, St. Francis sophomore Jaylen Torres became a two-time champ by pinning Yorkville Christian’s Garrett Tunnell.

Dixon finished with 204 points to slip past Yorkville Christian’s 192. The Mustangs had three champions in Aiden Larsen (113), Ty Edwards (132) and Robby Nelson (157) but also were short-handed in three weight classes, which hurt their team’s chance of winning.

“So that’s disappointing especially for the seniors who are leaving, and we wanted them to leave with a team trophy since we had won it back-to-back,” Mustangs coach Mike Vester said. “This is going to sting a little bit to them, but I hope it helps in the long run.”

Edwards was named Most Outstanding Wrestler. After receiving a bye to begin Friday, Edwards pinned his three opponents, including St. Rita’s Nino Protti in 3:12.

“I think the first day was good,” he said. “I came out with heavy hands. That’s what I was kind of focusing on, and been focusing on the past few weeks, and just getting to my offense. Today, the same thing and getting heavily physical. A few times the ref called me on it in the finals, but other than that it was a good tournament overall.”

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (187) was third, Chicago De La Salle (167) was fourth, and St. Rita (151.5) was fifth.

Plano (132.5) was sixth, and Sandwich (51) was 12th.

Sandwich brought only five wrestlers to the invite, including Sy Smith (157) and Kaden Clevenger (175). Each took sixth place.

Sandwich senior standout Miles Corder defeated Dixon’s Jayden Weidman for the championship at 144. Weidman suffered a shoulder injury in the first minute of the title bout.

“Most of the team is out due to concussions and illnesses, so we only brought five guys, and three of us made it to the second day,” Corder said. “I think we’ve done pretty well so far this season.”