Richmond-Burton is going through a youth movement while battling through some injuries.
Coach Tony Nelson has watched his young wrestlers take over for much of the season and saw them shine again at the Polo Invitational on Saturday, where the Rockets ended the day with four top-three finishers, and the team finished fourth overall.
“It went pretty well,” Nelson said. “We were out two key guys and the fact that we still did that well is really impressive.”
Richmond-Burton’s top-four finishers were all freshmen. Clay Madula earned his first varsity tournament championship when he won at 106 pounds while Emmett Nelson won the 113 title. Dalton Youngs finished second at 120 and Dane Sorensen earned a third-place finish at 126.
Stephen Tower rounded things out for the Rockers finishing fourth at 152 while Joe Reyna earned a sixth-place finish at 182.
Tony Nelson has worked with the younger wrestlers through club wrestling, which has helped prepare them for varsity wrestling at a young age.
“Having these guys, even though they’re young, we’ve got a lot of experience, so even some of the upperclassmen, just the energy that these young guys are bringing into the room with their experience, it helps out everyone,” Nelson said.
The Rockets still are competing without Brock Wood and will miss Brody Rudkin for a couple duals while battling some injuries.
Wood, who the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association currently ranks No. 1 at 220 pounds, hasn’t competed all season because of a broken thumb he suffered in the football team’s last game of the season. Nelson isn’t too concerned about Wood’s absence and expects him to be ready for regionals.
Wood has practiced with the team and faced a similar situation last season with few matches because of COVID-19.
“He’ll be back,” Nelson said. “With something like that, you can’t push it, and we’re going to get him back when there’s no risk of re-injury.”
Nelson is excited for the final stretch of the season. The final month is usually the time when the Rockets seem to peak, and with a strong youth movement and top wrestlers slated to return, they’re ready to make a postseason run.
“The momentum we had last week, having some good duals and then this weekend, our guys are in shape,” Nelson said. “I really like where we are right now.”
Building the trust
Marian Central is hitting its stride at the right time.
The Hurricanes finished fourth at Geneva’s NewBill Invitational on Saturday and had five wrestlers place as they returned some of their top wrestlers.
“I thought it was a good tournament for us to test out where we are in the middle of the year,” Marian Central coach Fernie Silva said.
Kaden Harmen won the title at 113, while Chuck Fitzgerald won at 120, Vance Williams won at 132 and Nik Jimenez took the 145 title. Ray Hughes finished fifth at 285.
Both Jimenez, ranked No. 1, and Fitzgerald, ranked No. 2, came back from injuries, which is one of the reasons why Silva is encouraged about his team as it heads into the final weeks of the season. The first-year coach is seeing more buy-in to his coaching style and his wrestlers are starting to trust Silva more, he said.
Marian Central used its week-long break from competition to continue to grow in practice. Now it’s time for the Hurricanes to put it all together.
“Now they really bought into the system and trust me and my coaching staff,” Silva said. “I feel like they’re all in it now.”
Huntley rebounded from a tough first day at The Clash National High School Wrestling Duals to win the Division 7 title over the weekend.
The tournament, which was originally set to take place in Rochester, Minn. and moved to La Crosse, Wisc., featured some of the better teams in the Midwest. The Red Raiders went 3-0 on their second day to capture the division title.
“It was good to see them actually find urgency and the need to win to get us set up for the second half of our conference schedule,” Huntley coach B.J. Bertelsman said.
Sam Henkle went 5-0 at 120 pounds at the tournament while battling a cold. The senior is now 14-2 on the season.
Bertelsman is excited by the strong tournament because he knows that will be the key to postseason success.
“We’re a good dual team, and in order to win a regional, we have to be a good tournament team,” Bertelsman said. “The kids need to find a way to get bonus points and not get bonus pointed in order to win the regional.”
The IHSA released its wrestling assignments for the postseason.
In Class 3A, Dundee-Crown will host Hampshire and Huntley in its regional, McHenry will compete in the Libertyville Regional and Jacobs will compete in the Palatine Regional. All will compete in the Barrington Individual Sectional and Stevenson Dual Team Sectional.
In Class 2A, Crystal Lake Central will host Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake South, Woodstock and Woodstock North in its regional. Those teams will compete in the Deerfield Individual Sectional and Woodstock North Dual Team Sectional.
Burlington Central will compete in the 2A Rockford East Regional and Sycamore Individual Sectional and Washington Dual Team Sectional.
In Class 1A, Harvard will host Johnsburg, Marengo, Richmond-Burton and Marian Central in its regional. All will compete in the Byron Individual Sectional and Rock Falls Dual Team Sectional.
The individual state tournament will take place Feb. 17-19 at State Farm Center in Champaign, while the dual team state tournament will take place Feb. 25-26 at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington.