Highland High School senior Trent Rakers became the Bulldogs’ third state wrestling champion in the past five years Saturday at State Farm Center. And Rakers did it his way.
Facing the same wrestler he defeated to win the Mascoutah Sectional a week ago — DeMarius Smith, of Rantoul — Rakers slowed the tempo and controlled the match as he came away with a 1-0 win in the Class 2A state title match.
Following in the footsteps of former teammate and two-time Class 2A 285-pound champion Tanner Farmer, Rakers scored an escape to start the third period and held off the athletic Smith for the championship.
“He (Smith) is so explosive that he can score a lot of points in a hurry when he gets on a run. I couldn’t let him get going,” Rakers said. “I went for it and almost got a little greedy in the first period, but I felt like I had to slow down the match and keep the tempo the way I wanted it.
“To be a state champion means the world. The broken leg I suffered during football season was difficult for me to handle. But it made me more focused and want this (state title) even more. This is what I’ve worked for.”
Rakers defeated Smith 4-2 in the final at Mascoutah last week. Like Rakers, Bulldogs coach Terry Ohren said the tempo of the match was crucial to the victory.
“Trent went out, and he knew what he had to do. He wrestled a smart match. He wrestled his match. I couldn’t be any more proud of him,” Ohren said. “Some coaches go the entire careers without a state champion. I’ve had three in the last five years. I couldn’t be any happier.”
Rakers was the fourth Highland wrestler in the last five years to wrestle for a state title. Current University of Nebraska offensive lineman Tanner Farmer won the Class 2A 285-pound crown in both 2013 and 2014, while Nick Czar was the 285-pound state runner-up in 2015.
Rakers was fourth in the 160-pound class a year ago.
Edwardsville, O’Fallon wrestlers win two medals
Edwardsville freshman Luke Odom and sophomore Noah Surtin helped Tigers coach Jon Wagner celebrate his 50th birthday — one day late — with medal-winning efforts Saturday.
Odom, who entered the tournament on Friday as the top-ranked Class 3A wrestler in the state, rebounded from a tough semifinal loss to place third. Odom defeated Dane Durlacher, of Mundelein, 9-1 for his second win of the day. Surtin placed fifth in the 113-pound match with a 33-second pin over Tommy Russell, of St. Rita.
O’Fallon coach Glenn Exton watched as both of his wrestlers won their final matches of the season Saturday. Mason Hewitt placed fifth in the 182-pound weight class with a 14-6 win over Chase Raap, of Dundee-Crown, in the fifth-place match. Kobey Bosworth was fifth in the 195-pound division, beating Matt Hennessey, of Plainfield North, 3-1.
Collinsville, East St. Louis and Alton rounded out a good state tournament for Southwestern Conference schools with medal-winning efforts.
Collinsville senior Jevon Pargo concluded his high school career with a sixth-place finish in the 126-pound weight class, while East St. Louis senior Tyler Dunn placed fourth in the Class 2A 132-pound division.
Alton senior Keontay Holmes defeated Payton Fernandes, of Lockport, 13-3 in the third-place match at 182 pounds.
The best of the rest
Cahokia senior Martell Boone earned the sixth-place medal in the Class 2A 145-pound division, while Civic Memorial senior Brandon Carpenter was fifth in the Class 2A 195-pound class.
Wood River’s Drew Sobol was fourth in the Class 1A 106-pound class.