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La Salle-Peru junior Jacob Wever (right) wrestles East Peoria’s Casey McWhiter during the 126-pound third-place match Saturday at the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional. Wever fell 9-6. The fourth-place finish sends Wever to the state tournament for the third consecutive season. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Ottawa sophomore Daniel Close (left) wrestles Washington’s Colton Gladwell in the 138-pound title match Saturday at the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional. Close lost by a 14-3 major decision. The runner-up finish qualifies Close for this weekend’s state tournament at the University of Illinois in Champaign. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Wever, the 126-pounder on the La Salle-Peru wrestling, finished fourth at Saturday’s Class 2A Rochelle Sectional to advance to his third straight IHSA State Tournament.
The Cavaliers junior is the only L-P grappler who advanced to state but was one of four area wrestlers who qualified for the Class 2A state tournament, which starts Thursday and continues through Saturday for all three classes.
Joining Wever at 2A state is a trio of first-time state qualifiers from Ottawa in 138-pound sophomore Daniel Close, 195-pound junior Alex Fuentes and 220-pound junior Cyrano Rayfield.
Both Close and Rayfield took the easy route to state as both won their semifinals Saturday before falling in their respective finals to place second.
Wever and Fuentes both successfully navigated long wrestleback journeys Saturday after each fell in Friday’s quarterfinal.
Fuentes won four matches Saturday to finish third at 195, while Wever won three matches to qualify for state before falling in the 126-pound third-place match.
After he fell in the regional title match last week, Rayfield took the long route at the sectional.
After winning twice on Friday, the 220-pounder who was a state alternate last season scored a pin fall at 5:23 in his semifinal match before he lost by an 11-4 decision in the finals to East Peoria’s Lucas Joseph, a nationally-ranked wrestler.
“It’s amazing and I am so happy,” Rayfield said of advancing to state. “I am thrilled, excited and blessed. I did what I had to do to get there.”
Wrestling in his first sectional, Close also took the long route to finishing second. After he too won a pair of matches on Friday, the 138-pounder advanced to the finals after a 4-3 decision in the semifinals.
In the title match, he fell to Washington’s Colton Gladwell by a 14-3 major decision.
It still couldn’t damper his excitement of advancing to state.
“It feels awesome,” Close said. “It’s an amazing feeling and I can barely hold (the excitement) in. I just can’t wait to get to state and see everything.”
After Fuentes lost a regional title in the final seconds last week, he made up for it on Saturday.
Despite falling in Friday’s quarterfinals, Fuentes bounced back to win three matches Saturday to qualify for state and advance to the third-place match, in which the 195-pounder had little problems securing a 12-4 major decision over Rock Island’s Keith Lawrence.
“I am pumped and really excited,” Fuentes said. “I was a little nervous going into regionals and sectionals, and I didn’t actually think I was going to make it out, to be honest, because there were some tough kids. But I came through and I made it.”
After he sustained an early-season injury, Wever advanced to state despite wrestling in only his third tournament of the year at the sectional.
Despite falling in Friday’s quarterfinal, the 126-pounder qualified for state and rolled into the third-place match Saturday without giving up a point.
However, in the third-place match, Wever fell by a 9-6 decision to East Peoria’s Casey McWhiter, who also beat him in the quarterfinals.
“I am happy with the way he wrestled,” L-P coach Matt Fletcher said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well, but really this is only his third tournament of the year.”
While the four local wrestlers advanced to state, a handful of wrestlers fell a win shy.
L-P 106-pound junior Riley Sweetland and 220-pound senior Michael Denyes both were a victory away from advancing to state.
Sweetland is a state alternate and could wrestle if another 106-pounder from the Rochelle Sectional is unable to compete.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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