Highland junior Trent Rakers got into the sport of wrestling at 6 years old to win trophies. Now 10 years later, Rakers will have a good chance to collect some state hardware this weekend after going 3-0 to capture the 160-pound championship last weekend at the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Mahomet-Seymour Wrestling Sectional.
For the second straight season, Rakers qualified for the IHSA Class 2A State Wrestling Tournament held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after locking up a sectional championship in back-to-back years.
Rakers will be joined at state by teammate Jacob Mitchell, a fellow junior who also punched his ticket for the state tourney for the second year in a row after finishing second at 126 pounds at the sectional.
The top four finishers in each weight class qualify for state.
Last season, Rakers made it to Champaign but missed the medal round by one match. That disappointment has fueled him from the outset this season.
“It’s helped that I matured,” said Rakers, who enters this weekend’s state tournament as the No. 2 seed in the 160-pound weight division with a spotless 39-0 mark. “I’ve worked hard in the weight room and I wrestle with (senior teammate) Brody Kirsch, who’s a little bit heavier than me, at practice and that has helped me.”
Highland coach Terry “Shorty” Ohren figured Rakers would have a good season this year after last season’s success and then disappointing finish.
“He set a high goal for himself and he has been working at it,” Ohren said. “You know, he had a pretty good sophomore year and was one match away from placing at state. I think he’ll place this year, but he knows there’s a lot of work still to get there.”
After receiving a bye in the first round at the sectional, Rakers pinned Amir James of Champaign Centennial at the 3:20 mark of the match in the quarterfinals. Next in the semifinals, Rakers scored a 9-6 decision over Kevin Reddish of Charleston to advance to the championship match. In the title bout, Rakers earned a hard-fought 8-6 decision over Porfirio Perez of Danville, a tough opponent that Rakers defeated 2-0 in the final of the Lincoln Tournament.
Mitchell (37-9) started off with a 6-0 victory over Olney Richland County’s Ean Pottorff in the quarterfinals. Next in the semifinals, Mitchell scored a 9-0 win over Lincoln’s Tyler Guede.
Finally in the championship bout, Mitchell fell 15-2 to champion Tyler Dunn from East St. Louis.
Triad boasted three individual champions and qualified four grapplers for this weekend’s state tournament in Champaign.
Winning sectional championships for the Knights were senior Merik Fulton (132 pounds), senior Cole Witzig (170) and senior Jack McKinney (195).
Fulton (33-2) won the title at 132 by eking out a tight 5-4 over decision over Jerseyville’s Brandon Critchfield in the title bout.
In the championship at 170, Witzig (42-1) pulled out a hard-fought 3-2 decision over Carbondale’s Cameron Caffey.
At 195, McKinney (16-1) scored a 9-5 victory over Urbana’s Luke Luffman in the final.
In addition, Triad senior Matt Sarhage (23-10) needed a scant 40 seconds to pin Corbin Folson of Champaign Centennial and take third place at 220 to also make the cut for state.