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La Salle-Peru junior Riley Sweetland (top) wrestles Yorkville’s Tyler Burlington in their 106-pound title match at the Class 2A Pontiac Regional. Sweetland won 5-3 to advance to the Rochelle Sectional. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Ottawa sophomore Daniel Close (left) wrestles Yorkville’s Brennan Sharp during their 138-pound title match Saturday at the Pontiac Regional. Close won by 3-2 decision. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
PONTIAC — Mathematics told Matt Fletcher his La Salle-Peru wrestling team had a chance.
The Cavaliers coach made sure his team knew it.
When Fletcher scored Saturday’s Class 2A Pontiac Regional based on seeds, the L-P coach came to the realization that if any squad at the nine-team regional could upset Yorkville — the No. 4-ranked team in Class 2A by IllinoisMatmen.com — and win the team title that it would be his team.
“Coming in, we talked to the kids about how there was an outside chance that mathematically we could win the regional,” Fletcher said. “I think a lot of kids really bought into that, and it showed.”
Down by 17 points entering the final round, L-P pulled to within three points of Yorkville with four weights to go but could not close the rest of the gap as the Cavs placed second with 165.5 points and finished just seven points behind Yorkville (172.5).
“We were within single digits of beating the No. 4-ranked team in the state, and I am so seriously proud of these guys,” Fletcher said. “It’s an emotional letdown when you’re that close, but our guys wrestled really, really tough.”
Even though the Cavs didn’t win the regional team title, L-P settled for a pretty good consolation prize.
The Cavs advanced eight wrestlers to this weekend’s Class 2A Rochelle Sectional, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday and continues Saturday.
While L-P advanced eight, Ottawa qualified four wrestlers for the sectional.
“We had a couple of disappointments, but for the most part the kids wrestled the way we thought they would,” Ottawa coach Peter Marx said. “We had some finals matches we lost that we hoped to win, but that’s why you wrestle them.”
Wrestling his first matches since Dec. 27 due to a back injury, L-P junior Riley Sweetland was the Cavs’ lone regional champion as he won the 106-pound weight class.
After he recorded first-period pin falls in his first two matches, Sweetland took a 3-2 lead late in his title match.
However, Sweetland was called for stalling with eight seconds left to tie the match at 3-3 and send it into overtime.
In the extra session, Sweetland wasted little time scoring his match-winning takedown to claim his first career regional title and advance to his first sectional.
“It feels really good,” Sweetland said. “I wish I would’ve been back earlier to help the team more, but (the title) was worth the wait.”
L-P’s 126-pounder Jacob Wever, 145-pounder Collin Groleau and 170-pounder Chris Morehouse finished second to advance to sectionals, while 113-pounder Blake Billig, 120-pounder Max Kurkowski, 132-pounder Jacob Nolan and 220-pounder Michael Denyes placed third.
Ottawa had a pair of champions in 138-pound sophomore Daniel Close and 285-pound junior Sean Taulbee.
Close trailed 2-0 in the first period of his title bout but scored an escape to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Still down in the third period, Close managed a two-point reversal and held on to claim a 3-2 decision.
“He wrestled an outstanding tournament,” Marx said. “Daniel was at a really tough weight and he came through. He wrestled a very smart tournament.”
Taulbee pinned his way through his bracket, including scoring a fall at 3:11 in the final.
“Sean came in and did what he was supposed to do,” Marx said. “He was the No. 1 seed and was pretty dominant all the way through. He’s really picking it up and turning it on at the right time.”
Placing second and also advancing for the Pirates were 195-pounder Alex Fuentes and 220-pounder Cyrano Rayfield.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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