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Ottawa senior Cyrano Rayfield (top) wrestles in the 220-pound sectional final at Saturday’s Class 2A Rochelle Sectional. Rayfield will be making his first appearence at the IHSA state tournament, which starts this afternoon and continues through Saturday. NewsTribune file photo/Genna Ord
Ottawa 195-pounder Alex Fuentes (right) wrestles at last Saturday’s Class 2A Rochelle Sectional. The junior will compete in his first state tournament, which starts this afternoon. NewsTribune file photo/Genna Ord
Despite being a now three-time state qualifier, the 126-pound junior on the La Salle-Peru wrestling team knows that despite his experience the state wrestling tournament is something for which you are never fully at peace.
“I don’t think you can go into the state tournament without being nervous,” Wever said. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
Wever is one of four area grapplers who will wrestle at this weekend’s IHSA State Tournament, which starts this afternoon and continues through Saturday at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
Wever is the only Cavaliers grappler who qualified for state but is one of four area wrestlers who will compete at Assembly Hall as Wever will be joined by Ottawa’s 138-pound sophomore Daniel Close, 195-pound junior Alex Fuentes and 220-pound junior Cyrano Rayfield.
The four state qualifiers are the most area wrestlers to qualify for state since eight local wrestlers competed at state in 2006.
The three-day event begins at 2:30 p.m. today with first round Class 2A matches scheduled for approximately 4:30 p.m.
Regardless of how area wrestlers fare Thursday, all four will be guaranteed at least one match Friday.
In order to place, wrestlers must win their first two matches or wrestle long enough so that they can win their first match on Saturday.
“One of my big goals is just to keep winning as many matches as I can,” Close said. “I want to try to get as close to the top (of the medal stand) as possible.” Of the four state qualifiers, Wever is the only one who’s competed at state.
After losing his only match two years ago as a 103-pound freshman, Wever went 2-2 last year as a 120-pound sophomore and missed medaling by one win.
This year at 126, Wever is the No. 6-ranked wrestler at the weight by IllinoisMatmen.com.
“This year I am definitely not leaving without a medal,” he said. “I don’t care if I have to go through 10 wrestlebacks or whomever.”
After he placed fourth at the sectional, Wever (11-3) drew a first-round match against Lombard Montini’s Jordan Laster (44-8), who is ranked No. 2 by IllinoisMatmen.com and is a two-time place winner.
“I don’t know if I got a good draw or a bad one,” Wever said. “I got the best kid right off the bat, but whatever happens against him shouldn’t matter because I should still be able to make some noise.”
The Ottawa trio also wants to do some damage in their first state meet.
After Close (35-7) placed second at the sectional, the 138-pounder — ranked No. 11 by IllinoisMatmen.com — drew Bremen’s Ryan Foster (12-4) in the first round.
“My first goal is to beat my brother by at least winning one match,” Close said. “I just want to win and say, ‘Hey, I beat you.’”
Like Close, Rayfield finished second at the sectional.
After being a state alternate last year, Rayfield (33-7) — ranked No. 10 by IllinoisMatmen.com — has a first-round match against Oak Forest’s Alex Brown (37-3), who is ranked No. 3 in the state.
“I want to place,” Rayfield said. “I was an alternate last year and, even though I didn’t wrestle, the feeling of being there was amazing. Going down there knowing I am going to wrestle this time is even more amazing.”
Fuentes finished third at the regional despite falling in the quarterfinals.
In the first round at state, Fuentes (29-9) — ranked No. 8 by IllinoisMatmen.com — will wrestle Champaign Central’s Toby Rivera (26-6), who is ranked No. 10.
“My expectations for myself are to at least win my first match,” Fuentes said. “I don’t want to go down and lose my first match. I didn’t work all year for that to happen. But as long as I win a match then I’ll be happy because I am just a junior and I can hopefully come back next year and place even higher.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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