The dream to become the first state wrestling champion at Triad High School since 1974 came up one match short for Knights seniors Cole Witzig, Merik Fulton and John McKinney on Saturday at State Farm Center.
Witzig, the Class 2A state tournament runner-up at 170-pounds a year ago, rallied from a 5-0 deficit but fell to 6-5 to Kordell Norfleet of Chicago Heights Marion 6-5 in the 170-pound final and was one of three Knights to earn second-place medals in a near record breaking day for metro-east wrestlers at the newly remodeled University of Illinois arena.
Beaten by Norfleet at the Granite City Holiday Tournament in December, Witzig gave up a takedown and 3-point near fall in the opening minute of the match, then tied the score at 5 with under a minute left in the third period. But Norfleet scored a one-point escape in the final 12 seconds to secure the win.
“One five-point move in the first period and it cost me,” an emotional Witzig said afterward. “After that it wasn’t even close.’’
Fulton lost the 132-pound final and McKinney, who missed a large part of the season with an injury, lost in the 195-pound final. All three Triad wrestlers were bidding to become the Knights first state champion since Fritz Nemsky won the heavyweight championship in 1974.
Fulton placed fourth in the 126-pound division last year while McKinney was fourth in the 195-pound class in 2015. Witzig, whose father Russ is the Knights coach, placed third in the 160-pound class as a sophomore in addition to his second-place finish this weekend.
“It’s been great and something I’ll have with me and remember forever,” Witzig said when asked about competing under his father.
Freeburg’s Secker places second
Freeburg senior Cooper Secker’s remarkable journey came to a happy ending on Saturday as he earned the second-place medal in the Class 1A 126-pound weight class.
Secker, whose high school career began four years ago at Belleville West before transferring to Freeburg because he has a strong interest in agriculture, was a one-person team for the Midgets the last two years and wrestled in tournaments to earn enough matches to compete in the state series.
But with his dad, Todd Secker, as his coach, Secker not only qualified for the state finals for a second straight year, but he came up only one match away from earning a state title. Secker lost to Brady Wilsie, of Byron, in the final.
“I am happy. Of course when you get into the championship match, the goal is to win. But to place second, I’m satisfied with that,” Secker said.
Secker, who was wearing a hat with the words “Secker’s Showpigs” written across the bill, is already a champion. Secker, who breeds pigs in addition to wrestling and going to high school, had a pig which was named as the Grand Champion at the Wisconsin State Fair last summer in Milwaukee, Wis.
Foster settles for third
Ranked first in the Class 3A 152-pound weight class entering the IHSA State Tournament this weekend, Belleville West senior Nick Foster had to settle for the third-place medal on Saturday. But showing the heart of a champion, Foster left State Farm Center on Saturday wondering what could have been.
Foster lost a controversial 3-1 decision to Trace Carillo, of Aurora Marmion Academy, in a semifinal match that still had people talking early Saturday afternoon.
Foster had a 1-0 lead with under 10 seconds remaining in double overtime when he was hit for a stalling call which tied the match. Carillo went on to win the match 3-1 while Foster was forced to wrestle twice on Saturday to earn his second straight third-place medal and third state medal in all. Foster placed third in the 145-pound class a year ago.
After beating Trevell Timmons of Lockport 3-1 in the third place match, Foster let out his feelings.
“It was tough to come back after what happened last night, more mentally then physically,” Foster said. “I didn’t get the (first place) medal that I dreamed about, but three straight medals is pretty good. That’s something nobody cam take away from me.”
While Foster was disappointed, West coach Joe Rujawitz was still livid over a decision made by the referee in the closing seconds which he felt cost his wrestler a state title bout appearance.
“We’re not supposed to say anything about the officiating, but,” Rujawitz said. “All I know is that when the call was made, the booing in the arena was the loudest it was all weekend. To have something you’ve worked for all year and in Nick’s case several years, taken away with a call like that in the last 10 seconds, well you should let the kids decide it on the mat.
“What I really didn’t like was when I asked for an explanation, the referee basically said he was the one in charge and that he made the right call.”