Highland junior Trent Rakers pinned two more opponents to hammer out the regional championship at 160 pounds to retain his undefeated status and spearhead five Bulldogs through the Illinois High School Association Triad Wrestling Regional Saturday at Triad High School.
The two victories bumped Rakers’ spotless season record up to 36-0 and hiked his career total number of wins to 106, which sits only 28 behind the Highland school-record total of 134 established two years ago by Tanner Farmer when he capped off repeating as the Class 2A 285-pound champion.
Highland grapplers who will join Rakers at this Saturday’s Mahomet-Seymour Sectional are senior Brody Kirsch (170 pounds), freshman Colton Brown (120), who both finished second; and junior Jacob Mitchell (126) and junior Brett Brown (195), who both earned third place.
The top three wrestlers from each weight class advance to this weekend’s sectionals, where the top four finishers will advance to the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
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“I thought we did really good, especially with as young as we are,” Highland coach Terry “Shorty” Ohren said. “Getting five through is excellent, that’s half the team because I only had 10 here today. I am happy to get five out of the 10 out and that’s what you want to do — get as many as far as you can. I found out the last two weeks that our guys aren’t giving up and they are wrestling to the end, and that’s what it takes because you never know. You can get caught in a move or you can win. I feel good but next week we’re going to have to wrestle a lot tougher and a lot harder. I mean it’s no cakewalk from here.”
Most of Rakers’ wins this season have not only come on pins, but the majority of his foes have not even survived the first period. That was the case again in the semifinals. After receiving a bye in the first round, Rakers planted the shoulders of Daniel Burnley of Cahokia to mat at the 1:47 mark to advance to the title bout.
Rakers had to work a bit harder in the finals but the ultimate result was the same with Rakers pinning Trenton Davidson with two seconds left in the second period.
“He was a good defensive wrestler and he was a very aggressive wrestler too. I had to work at it but I eventually got him,” Rakers said of Davidson. “He was a strong and aggressive kid, and he came out a little differently than I thought he would. I didn’t think he was going to come out and hit stuff right away, like in the first couple of seconds. This is the first big step (in the postseason) and I have got two more big ones to go. There are still no problems or complications or anything like that and I feel good going into sectionals.”
At 170 pounds, Kirsch, a senior, won two matches to advance to the championship. He first pinned Jerseyville’s Christopher Jackson at 3:27 before going on to earn a 6-2 victory over Cahokia’s Derrick Miller. In the title bout, Triad senior standout Cole Witzig pinned Kirsch in 1:44 to improve his near-flawless record to 39-1.
At 120, Colton Brown scored a 17-1 technical-fall win over Jocelyn Murphy of Jacksonville to clinch a spot in the sectional and solidify a sensational freshman campaign in which he has earned a sparkling 29-11 record up to this point. Brown suffered a 10-1 loss in the final to Cahokia’s Antwon Johnson, a much more experienced grappler as a senior.
Juniors Mitchell (126) and Brett Brown (195) both bounced back from opening defeats to score successive victories and claim third place to make the cut for the sectional.
After being upset by Cory Cissell of Waterloo in his first match, Mitchell, a state qualifier one year ago, rebounded to get a 16-0 technical fall over David Deist of Jerseyville and then scored a 9-4 decision over Rodney Evans of Cahokia in the third-place match.
After first-round bye, Brett Brown suffered a 9-0 defeat to Jordan Stagner of Civic Memorial. Brown came back to score a fall over Derek Cooper of East St. Louis in 1:07 and then pin Zakariah Al-Khamos of Cahokia in 3:25 in the third-place final.
Highland sophomore twins Dylan (220) and Colten Knebel (285) came within one win of qualifying for sectionals.
“I was hoping the Knebel twins would step through right there,” Ohren said. “They gave themselves the chance, but that’s just being inexperienced as first-year wrestlers.”
The host Triad Knights had the most regional champions with five. In addition to Witzig taking the 170-pound title for Triad, seniors Merik Fulton (132), John McKinney (195) and Matt Sarhage (220) and junior Christian North (285) also took home first-place hardware for the Knights.
In addition, Triad senior Sam Donavon advances to the sectional after taking third at 145.
“We did about as good as we could,” Triad coach Russ Witzig said. “We knew Cahokia was the favorite. They are better than us and they are deeper than us right now. Our kids got through that were supposed to. We were hoping to squeeze a few more through, but it didn’t work out. We’re taking six kids to sectionals and we’re hoping to get six through to state.”
But even with the handful of champions, Triad fell well short of matching the Cahokia Comanches’ point total.
The Comanches took the Class 2A Triad Regional team championship with 209.5 points. Second-place Triad came in with 131 points, Waterloo followed with 114 points and Highland was fourth with 91 points.
Rounding out the nine-team sectional were Jacksonville (75), East St. Louis (74), Jerseyville (64), Civic Memorial (55) and Mascoutah (43).
Cahokia had wrestlers in all 14 classes in the final round, including four in title matches, and finished with two champions, two second-place finishers and six in third place. It means the Comanches have 10 wrestlers moving on to next weekend’s individual sectional tournament at Mahomet-Seymour.
Martell Boone, at 145 pounds, joined Johnson (120) as the regional champions for Cahokia.