High School Sports

3 area grapplers to compete for state titles

Metro-east wrestlers found the going rough in the semifinals of the IHSA state wrestling tournament on Friday at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

A total of 13 area wrestlers qualified for the semifinals with quarterfinal wins during the early session, but only three survived Friday night’s semifinals to earn the right to compete for championships Saturday night.

That group features Althoff unbeaten freshman Chase Bittle at 113 pounds. He’ll be joined by Triad’s Cole Witzig (170) and Highland’s Nick Czar (285), both in Class 2A.

Czar will take a 48-0 record into his title bout, where he will look to follow in the footsteps of Highland grad Tanner Farmer, who won the weight class in 2013 and 2014.

Bittle improved to 46-0 with a 7-3 semifinal win over Zack Schrank of Rockford Lutheran in his semifinal. Earlier in the day, he had squeaked out a 1-0 tiebreaker win over Byron’s Brady White in the quartefinals.

In his title bout, Bittle will face Dakota’s Alec Henze. Henze, who placed third at 113 a year ago, will bring in a record of 39-3.

Witzig advanced to the finals with a pair of impressive wins.

He opened up by pinning (Maple Park) Kaneland’s Collin Gassman in the first period of their quarterfinal. Witzig followed that with an 11-2 major decision of Bensenville-Fenton’s Juan Alfaro in the semifinals.

A junior, Witzig will take a 43-4 record into his match against Washington sophomore Jake Warner. A year ago, Warner took second at 160. He owns a record of 44-3.

Highland’s Czar didn’t allow a point on his way to reaching the championship.The senior opened with a 7-0 win over (Arlington Heights) St. Viator’s James Valentino. He followed it with a 3-0 semifinal win over East St. Louis’ Antonio James.

In his final, Czar will meet (Lombard) Montini’s Michael Johnson.

Johnson, a senior, is 16-0 and a year ago was pinned by Farmer in the 285-title bout.

All five of the metro-east semifinalists in Class 3A lost.

Belleville West’s Nick Foster lost 10-4 to (Oak Park) River Forest’s Larry Early III at 145. Teammate Ricky Nelson (285) later saw his impressive postseason run of eight consecutive pins when he was stuck in the first period by (Chicago) Marist’s Jake Ford.

Belleville East’s Matt Streigel (170) was knocked out of title contention when he lost to 7-4 to (Villa Par) Willowbrook’s Jack Jessen in the semfinals.

Alton brothers Phyllip Deloach and Nick DeLoach both suffered their first losses of the season in the semis. Crystal Lake South’s Eric Barone defeated Phyllip Deloach 10-2 at 145. At 152, Nick DeLoach lost 5-0 to Matt Rowland of (Villa Park) Willowbrook.

In Class 1A, Althoff’s Jarid Branunagel dropped his semifinal at 132 to Coal City’s Corey Jurzak 8-6.

East St. Louis had three wrestlers see their title hopes end in the Class 2A semifinals.

Christon Tucker loss 1-0 to Washington’s Trey Keeley at 103, while at the next weight brother Christopher fell 4-0 to Dack Punke, also of Washington, at 113. James later dropped his semifinal against Czar.

Triad’s Merik Fulton was defeated 11-4 by Oak Forest’s Dan Swan in a Class 2A semifinal at 126.

Wrestlers who lost in the semifinals will compete in wrestlebacks Saturday morning. With wins, they will compete in the third-place match. Wrestleback losers will be in the fifth place matches.

Wrestlebacks begin at 9 a.m. at the State Farm Center on Saturday with the final wrestleback matches set for 11 a.m. Third through sixth place matches in all three classes are set for 1 p.m.

The annual Grand March begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by the finals.

Dropping quarterfinal matches were Cooper Secker (120) of Freeburg, Rodney Baker (285) of Althoff, Cole Wysocki (138) and Alex Crehan (182) of Triad, Marquez Roberson (132) of East St. Louis, Trent Rakers (160) of Highland and Qiante Wagner (160) of Alton.

Secker, Crehan, Wysocki, Roberson, Rakers and Wagner all won their wrestlebacks later Friday and had to win one more match to win a medal.

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