Boys wrestling: Dixon, Newman, Sterling, Rock Falls gear up for postseason

Newman's Carter Rude wrestles Jackson Carroll during the 60th annual Lyle King invitational wrestling tournament on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2023 in Princeton.

It’s hard to believe, but boys wrestling regionals are almost here. On Saturday, Newman and Rock Falls will head west to compete at the Class 1A Fulton Regional, while Sterling and Dixon head southwest to the Class 2A Rock Island Regional.

All four teams have high hopes for the postseason. Wrestlers from each weighed in on their chances of advancing ahead of Saturday’s regionals.

Newman Comets

The Newman wrestling team has shown a lot of improvement this season after sending two wrestlers – Brady Grennan and Carter Rude – to the IHSA State Tournament last year. The seniors Grennan (132 pounds) and Rude (144) both won titles at the 60th Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament earlier this month. Rude and junior Daniel Kelly (165) each won a title at the 45th Carson DeJarnatt Tournament in Sterling in December. Freshman Blair Grennan (100) was a regional champion at the Erie girls tournament last week.

As a team, Newman placed 12th out of 60 Dec. 27 at Abe’s Rumble in Springfield. Rude was the state runner-up at 138 last year after finishing sixth at 126 the year before. Brady Grennan placed third at 120 two seasons ago and fifth at 126 last season.

Brady Grennan: “Individually, I feel I have a very good chance of getting all the way there, getting first place there [at the regional]. And, as a team, I think we can probably win the regional if we go at our best and wrestle how I know we can wrestle.”

Carter Rude: “I think if we all wrestle as hard as we can, we should easily be [at the top of] our regional, as long as things work out for us, everybody gives their best, we should come out with the title at our regional as a team. And individually, I’m just taking it one match at a time, and shooting for the stars.”

Dixon's Cade Hey (top) battles Clinton's Brady Jennings (bottom) in the 150-pound championship match. The action took place on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Sterling High School's 45th Annual Carson DeJarnatt Tournament.

Dixon Dukes

The Dixon wrestling team enjoyed another strong regular season, winning its fifth straight Big Northern Conference championship Monday and its third straight team title at the nine-team DeJarnatt Tournament in December. Jack Ragan (106), Ayden Rowley (113), Cade Hey (150), Steven Kitzman (175) and Will Howell (215) each won their weight classes to lead the team championship effort at the DeJarnatt. The senior Rowley qualified for state at 113 last season.

Cade Hey: “Individually, I’ve been working as hard as I can. My brother’s been pushing me. It’s kind of nice having all three of them as my coach. And then, as a team, we all work together, we push ourselves. A lot of us are friends, and we’ve been pushing each other since we were younger kids, so whatever happens, happens. But I’m going to go in there, reach those sectionals and do the best I can. As a team, I think we all work pretty hard. We have great coaches. Our coaches know exactly what they’re doing, and I think they’ve prepared us pretty good for regionals and sectionals and beyond.”

Steven Kitzman: “I think the chances for me individually are looking pretty good going into regionals. I have a few tough guys in my bracket, but I think I can overcome them and find success. I think we’re definitely going to have to wrestle tough and everybody has to be on their A game, but I think we do have a good shot at getting somewhere [as a team] if we really put our hearts into it.”

Rock Falls' Adan Oquendo (left) and Dixon's Gavin Kramer (right) battle in the 132-pound championship match. The action took place on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Sterling High School's 45th Annual Carson DeJarnatt Tournament.

Rock Falls Rockets

The Rockets have a young, ascending team full of freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore Adan Oquendo (132) won an individual title at the DeJarnatt and took third at the Bob Mitton Invitational this season. Sophomore Logan Thome (126), who’s back to wrestling after playing basketball last season, had three third-place finishes at the DeJarnatt, the Erie-Prophetstown Tournament and the Bob Mitton Invitational. Twenty-two of his 24 wins this year are by pin.

Junior Jacob Hosler (285), one of the few upperclassmen on the team, placed second at the 1A Riverdale Regional last year and third at this year’s DeJarnatt. Senior Ellisa Russell (155) and sophomore Ryleigh Eriks (120) advanced out of the Erie girls regional last week with second-place finishes.

Jacob Hosler: “I feel pretty good [about my chances at regionals]. Last year, I got second at the regional, and a lot of those seniors are gone, so it’s kind of my turn to step up. I’m one of the older kids, so I feel pretty good.”

Logan Thome: “Individually, I think I have a pretty good chance at making it to sectionals, and as a team, we have a lot of kids that have been pushing it hard. We have a solid chance to go as a team, I think.”

Sterling's Isaiah Mendoza (right) holds onto Galesburg's Josiah Carter (left) in the 157-pound championship. The action took place on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Sterling High School's 45th Annual Carson DeJarnatt Tournament.

Sterling Golden Warriors

Senior Isaiah Mendoza (157) and junior Zyan Westbrook (120) each won individual titles to lead Sterling’s second-place finish at the DeJarnatt Tournament. At the Western Big 6 Conference Tournament last week, Westbrook (second), Landon Kenney (third, 144), Gage Tate (third, 175), Oswaldo Navarro (third, 215), Charlie Reyes (fourth, 285) and Tatum Allen (fourth, 165) were medalists for the Golden Warriors. Senior Dylan Ottens (150) was one win away from reaching state at 138 last season. Alize Gomez (125) advanced out the Erie girls regional last week with a fourth-place finish.

Isaiah Mendoza: “As a team, I think we’ve put in the work. We’ve had great coaches throughout the season. I think as a team we do can well – a lot of guys will make it out [of the regional] – they’ve just got to do what they can. And me as an individual, I believe in the work I put in, so I should have good chance at getting out.”

Zyan Westbrook: “As a team, we’ve got a tough regional, but I think we can make it out. I have faith in our coaching and training. Individually, I feel like I’ve got a really good shot of making it to sectionals and state this year.”

Dylan Ottens: “As a team, we have pretty tough competition. Geneseo is always a pretty tough team, Dixon is always pretty tough, but other than that, I think we’ve got a pretty good chance of getting pretty far.”

Dan Wussow

Dan Wussow

Dan is the sports editor for Sauk Valley Media. Previously, he wrote for The Post-Crescent in his hometown of Appleton, WI.