CHAMPAIGN — Heading into the Class 2A state wrestling tournament, the Highland Bulldogs were without a state champion or even a state-medal winner.
With a one-point second-period escape Saturday, Highland junior Tanner Farmer put both streaks to an end as he became the Bulldogs' first state title winner.
Holding the lead after two periods, Farmer rode out Copache Tyler of Springfield Southeast for the final two minutes for a 1-0 victory in the 285-pound title bout.
"I felt confident about being able to hold him. Especially after the second time I picked him up,'' Farmer said. "When we wrestled last week at the sectional I wasn't able to hold him for more than 10 seconds. I really wanted this.
"It makes me very proud to be the first wrestling state champion from my hometown of Highland.''
Farmer, who finishes his season with a 39-0 record, wasn't the only local Class 2A wrestler going for a state title Saturday at Assembly Hall.
Another metro-east grappler, Cahokia's David Frazier, fell 7-2 to Xavier Montalvo of Lombard Montini in the Class 2A 160-pound final.
Frazier led early 2-1, but with under two minutes left in the second period and the bout tied 2-2, Montalvo connected on an inside cradle and put Frazier on his back for a five-point move.
"David wasn't the David Frazier I have watched this year. He was tentative and when you get to the state final, you've got to leave it on the mat. He just wasn't his aggressive self,'' Cahokia coach Khris Whelan said.
"He had a great year. It's just too bad it had to end without him wrestling his best match.''
Frazier finished his season with a 39-2 record.
Farmer, regarded as a NCAA Division I football prospect, escaped from Tyler in the first 15 seconds of the second period, scoring what would be the match's only point.
At the Mattoon Sectional final last week, Farmer won when he pinned Tyler 48 seconds into overtime.
Highland coach Terry Ohren said the two matches were similar, with Farmer having just a slight edge.
"Tanner's a great kid and he's worked very hard for this. I know it means a lot to him to being the first medal winner and state champion in school history,'' Ohren said. "I've coached Tanner for several years and I taught him how to wrestle like a 106-pound wrestler, because that's what I was.
"That's why he's not afraid to go for single- and double legs.''
While Frazier was wrestling for the Class 2A 160-pound crown, Comanches teammates Dameon Adams (113) and Leslie Williams (120) rounded out a trio of medal-winning efforts for Cahokia by placing third in their weight classes.
Adams defeated Isaac Adams of Sterling 8-6 in his third-place final, while Williams avenged a second-round loss by beating Kenny Baldridge of Morris in his bout.
"I'm thrilled. It just goes to show you that so much of this sport is between the ears (mental),'' Cahokia coach Khris Whelan said. "Baldridge pinned Leslie in the second round the first time, so half the battle was making him (Williams) believe that he could beat him.
"Dameon Adams had a great tournament. He was aggressive. He went after people. That was great to see.''
Farmer wasn't the only local grappler to become the first medal winner for his respective wrestling program. Carlyle senior Kevin Roper also made history when he placed third in Class 1A, becoming the Indians' first medal winner.
Finishing his season at 28-3, Roper defeated Zach Armstrong of Monticello 8-2 in the 220-pound third-place match.
"My goal coming up was to win the state title and I really thought I could," Roper said. "The problem was that the top-ranked kid (Daniel Zimmermann of Dakota) was on my side of the bracket. I wrestled well against him, just to come up short 3-1.
"Overall, I'm pleased with how I did. To end my career with a medal is great."
Indians coach Jack Zvonar, who started the Carlyle program three years ago, made no effort to hide his pleasure with how far his wrestlers have come in such a short period of time.
"I can't tell you how pleased I am. The four kids who have been with the program since we started it three years ago all made it here (state) this weekend," Zvonar said, "and for Kevin to end his career with a state medal, it was just a great tournament.
"And with over 20 kids in the program, the future looks brighter than ever.''
It was also a history making weekend for Edwardsville senior Blake Blair, who became the Tigers' first two-time medal winner when he placed fifth at 195 in Class 3A.
Blair defeated Lockport's Luis Montoya 4-2 in the fifth place match.
Blair placed second at 195 as a junior, but the Tigers' career wins leader didn't feel much like talking after the match.
"It feels good to be the first two-time medal winner. But my goals were higher,'' Blair said.
Edwardsville coach Jon Wagner said he was proud of how his standout competed at state.
"Blake is a competitive kid and he had the bad luck of being in a weight class with a pair of nationally-ranked kids," Wagner said. "He's the kind of kid who if you beat him playing checkers, he'll probably bite your ear off.
"But to come away with a medal in last his high school tournament is a great accomplishment.''