CHAMPAIGN — Tired of getting little or no respect from most of the state during the 2013-14 season, Highland senior Tanner Farmer did something about it Saturday at the State Farm Center.
The defending Class 2A 285-pound state champion, Farmer stunned a near-capacity crowd when he pinned top-ranked Michael Johnson of (Lombard) Montini in 2 minutes 25 seconds of their championship bout.
"All season long all I've heard from people in the Chicago area was how good Johnson was and how he was going to kick my butt when we wrestled. I had the support from my hometown and friends down here, but nobody else thought I could do this,'' an excited Farmer said. "Was I little extra motivated? ... Yes, you better believe it.''
While Farmer repeated as state champion, a second metro-east Class 2A wrestler, East St. Louis senior SirRomeo Howard, fell short.
Bidding to become the Flyers first state wrestling champion since 1943, Howard dropped a 6-4 decision to Montini's Chris Garcia.
Ranked second behind Johnson for the entire season despite being the defending state champ, Farmer put his opponent on his back just 10 seconds into the second period.
Just 15 seconds later, Farmer became the first back-to-back state champion from the metro-east since Roxana's Tom Riggins earned titles in 1996 and 1997.
Headed to the University of Nebraska to play football, Farmer ends his senior season at 35-0. Farmer did not give up a single point in four matches and on Saturday put a fitting end to one of the great careers in metro-east history.
"What did I catch him (Johnson) with? I caught him with the chicken wing. It's my favorite move," Farmer said. "I don't care if I would have beaten him 15-14. I just wanted to win.''
Howard (34-3) held a 2-1 lead in the second period of his match with Garcia. But after allowing the Montini star to escape, which tied the bout, Garcia scored a takedown late in the second period and was never in trouble from that point on.
"We didn't feel like we could ride him out. We felt our best chance was on our feet,'' Flyers coach Paul Wright said. "We knew how good Garcia was. The kid is now a two-time state champion.
"I'm still very proud of SirRomeo. He came up short tonight, but we're treating this like a state championship. He's had a great season and a wonderful high school career.''
Farmer and Howard weren't the only local wrestlers to earn medals. Cahokia senior Dameon Adams placed fifth in the Class 2A 120-pound weight class with a 3-2 win over Lenny Peterson of Crystal Lake South. Adams had taken third at 113 a year ago.
Triad sophomore Cole Witzig placed third in Class 2A at 160. He defeated Sandwich's Rigo Fraire 4-2 in his final match.
With his coach and father, Russ Witzig, in his corner, Witzig scored a reversal early in the third period and held on for the win.
"How do I coach my son. I've done it for a long time and I've learned to try to stay away and so I don't get to emotionally involved," Russ Witzig said. "Cole came up and had a great tournament actually. He was aggressive and I'm very proud of him.''
Russ Witzig was a two-time Class A medalist while wrestling for Tremont High School. He won the 167-pound state championship in 1985.
In Class 3A, Edwardsville senior Matt Kent placed third at 220, beating Lucas Warren of (Aurora) Marmion Academy 3-2. With the victory, Kent finished the season 50-6.
Local wrestlers who saw their hopes of earning medals vanquished by losing quarterfinal round wrestlebacks Saturday included Jeremy O'Gara (113) and Dalton Brito (126) of Roxana, Chrishon Tucker (106) and Don Cavitt (126) Of East St. Louis, Marlon Manuel (113) and Derell Hinkle (160) of Cahokia, DJ Millett (126) of Granite City and Grant Boverie (120) of Civic Memorial.