La Salle-Peru sophomore Connor Lorden started wrestling when he was 6, and throughout his youth career he had his sights set on someday wrestling at the state tournament in high school.
He’s finally getting his chance.
Lorden will wrestle in the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Class 2A Tournament on Friday at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield.
“It means a lot to me,” said Lorden, who wrestles at 195 pounds. “Growing up, I saw my friends going. It was always a dream to go to state.”
Princeton’s Matthew Harris will wrestle in the Class 1A state tournament on Thursday.
“I’m excited that I made it this year, but it definitely feels different than a normal year of wrestling considering it is in the summer. It is also different since it is through IWCOA instead of IHSA,” said Harris, who wrestles at 126.
Lorden enters the state tournament after placing second at the Geneseo Sectional. He lost by pin to Washington’s Donnie Hidden, who is ranked No. 1, in the championship.
“It went pretty well,” Lorden said about the sectional. “I liked my second match (a 6-5 decision over Morris’ Drayden McKerrow). It was pretty hard. I’m glad I got through that one to make it to the championship. The championship didn’t really go my way, but I’m excited for the state tournament.”
Lorden said he saw room for improvement in his match with Hidden.
“I need to work on my stamina and I need to set up my shots a little bit better,” Lorden said.
Lorden (31-2) has a familiar opponent in his first match at state as he’ll wrestle Crystal Lake Central’s Julian Ryerson (17-6), who Lorden beat on the way to a state championship in eighth grade.
“I expect him to wrestle hard. I expect him to compete,” L-P coach Matt Rebholz said. “I want him to go out there and do the best he can. As a sophomore, it’s going to feel like there’s a little more pressure wrestling against older guys, but he’ll compete. He’s going to have a few good matches right off the bat.”
Rebholz said he thinks Lorden “absolutely” has the ability to contend for a medal.
“I don’t want to give predictions of if he’s going to finish first, second, third or fourth, but if he shows up to compete, he’s going to do well,” Rebholz said. “Connor is a tough wrestler. He’s 31-2 this year. I think that’s pretty darn good as a sophomore.”
Lorden said he’s hoping to bring home a medal and possibly win the title.
“I just need to get my shots going, have my feet moving and do what I do best,” Lorden said.
Harris also enters the state tournament after a second-place sectional finish. He was pinned by Sandwich’s Evan Reilly in the championship at the Sandwich Sectional.
“I won my first match pretty handily, but my second match I had a kid (Seneca’s Owen Feiner) that I had lost to 11-2 earlier in the season, so I knew it was going to be a tough match. But I wrestled him smart and it was a battle, but I ended up beating him by one,” Harris said. “That match took all of my energy so when finals had come around, I was already exhausted.”
Harris (21-7) opens the state tournament against Omar Ramirez (25-4).