For Triad wrestling coach Russ Witzig, the game plan was simple heading into the Knights quarterfinal Class 2A showdown against Oak Forest on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
To have any chance at all of pulling off a major upset, the Knights needed a fast start.
Instead it was the Bengals who jumped out quick.
David O’Donnell and Collin Sleeman opened the match with pins at 152 and 160 pounds, respectively, and Oak Forest never looked back as it rolled to an easy 49-12 win at the Class 2A dual team state wrestling tournament.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Third at the state finals a year ago and featuring a lineup of nine wrestlers with 30 or more wins, the Bengals (30-1) won 10 of 14 matches — including five by pin — as they rolled past a Knights team which was coming off a strong performance at the Class 2A individual state tournament last week in Champaign.
The Knights (16-9) had a school record five wrestlers earn state medals last week. Four of those wrestlers won Saturday, but could manage only 12 points from those victories.
Oak Forest, meanwhile, was aggressive from the opening whistle at 152.
“We wanted to make sure our motor was running from the start. We saw Triad last week at the state finals and were very impressed. We needed to come out very aggressive from the start and getting a pair of pins was exactly what we needed to do. We set the tone early,’’ Bengals coach Shawn Forst said. “We came our ready to wrestle and that was great to see.’’
Leading 12-0 after two matches, the Bengals dealt Triad even a tougher blow when Patrick Kristin defeated Cole Witzig with a late takedown at 170. The son of coach Russ Witzig, Cole Witzig was the state runner-up at that weight a week ago.
“We had such a great weekend last weekend that I kind of think some of our kids might have had a bit of a letdown. But give them (Oak Forest) credit,” Russ Witzig said. “Their kids were ready to wrestle and they were without question the better team today.
“We were the underdogs coming into this anyway, but to have any chance at all we needed to get off to a good start in the upper weight classes. It didn’t happen.’’
Trailing 15-0 after Kristin beat Witzig, the Knights (16-9) closed to within 15-6 when Alex Crehan defeated James Melvan 3-0 at 182 and John McKinney beat Geri Mallett 9-4 at 195.
The Knights would not win again until junior Merik Fulton won by decision at 126. By that time, Oak Forest held a 40-9 lead.
“It’s a little disappointing, because we didn’t wrestle our best,’’ Witzig said. “But I’m proud of the kids. We’ve had a good season and to think we’ve been able to get in the state dual team four times since ’09, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.’’
Also winning his final match as a Knight was Cole Wysocki. One of the best in school history and a two-time state medal winner, Wysocki beat Mousa Jodah 12-11 at 138.
“What he’s meant to our program the last four years, I’m so glad that he (Cole) Wysocki was able to finish his career with a win,’’ Witzig said. “This has been a great group to coach. They’re all good students and good kids. I didn’t have many worries with this group.’’
Oak Forest saw its dream of a state title end in the semifinals, when Washington handed it a 33-28 loss.