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CHAMPAIGN — Area wrestlers will not be bringing home a state title. A state medal, however, is still very possible.
Even though Ottawa 138-pounder Daniel Close and 195-pounder Alex Fuentes both fell in Friday morning’s Class 2A quarterfinals at the IHSA State Tournament in Champaign, both Pirate wrestlers as well as 220-pound teammate Cyrano Rayfield and La Salle-Peru 126-pounder Jacob Wever all won their first-round wrestleback matches Friday afternoon.
All four will wrestle in this morning’s quarterfinal wrestlebacks.
A win this morning would secure a state medal.
“Some people don’t realize what it’s like down here,” Wever said. “There’s the pressure and the three-day weigh-ins, which is really hard. Some people don’t put everything into perspective, but my goal is right there and I am ready this time.”
After he fell in Thursday’s championship first round, Wever was on top of his game in the first round wrestlebacks.
Against Carbondale’s Camron Halton, the Cavs junior scored a first-period takedown and a second-period reversal.
Leading 4-0 entering the third period, Wever was taken down with 1:40 left in the match but purposely stalled and didn’t allow any more points the rest of the way to secure the 4-2 decision.
“I never tried (to escape in the third) because if I got an escape it would’ve put us on our feet and I would’ve been up 5-2,” Wever said. “You’ve got to think that he’s going to be trying to throw me (to get a takedown into a two- or three-point near fall). You have to wrestle smart down here. You can’t be dumb.”
With the win, Wever (12-4) will face Johnsburg’s Brian McKay (30-11) in the quarterfinal wrestleback, which is the round in which Wever was eliminated last year as a 120-pound sophomore.
In his first state tournament, Close dropped his championship quarterfinal match by a 7-4 decision to Bloomington’s Kyonn Keith.
However, in the first round wrestleback against St. Ignatius’s Michael Shanahan, Close was in control from the start as he led throughout before he earned the pin at 5:10.
“I knew he was tired and that if I just kept the pace he’d eventually go down,” Close said. “When I got him down, I really wanted that pin.”
With the victory, Close (37-8) will wrestle Dixon’s Kylian Lally (40-8) in the second-round wrestleback.
It will be the third matchup this year between the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division foes. Lally has won twice, including in the finals at the NIB 12 Conference Meet.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be so close to a medal,” Close said. “I just have to work hard in my next match. I just need to treat it like it is — potentially my last match of the season.”
Also competing in his first state tournament, Fuentes wrestled from behind in his championship quarterfinal against Nazareth Academy’s Pat Vitek.
Fuentes trailed 3-1 after the second period and was down 5-2 in the third when he scored a takedown.
However, he was unable to get the final point and lost by a 5-4 decision.
In his first round wrestleback against Crystal Lake Central’s Ben Pfaff, Fuentes never trailed.
He took the lead with a takedown with 24 seconds left in the first period and led 2-1 heading into the second period.
After an escape by both wrestlers kept Fuentes in front 3-2, he was able to avoid being taken down in the match’s final 1:17 to earn the 3-2 decision.
“It was tough,” Fuentes said of the third period. “He was coming hard, and I didn’t want to get hit for stalling. I worked my underhooks and didn’t do anything stupid to get thrown.”
With the win, Fuentes (31-10) will wrestle Lincoln-Way West’s Alec Posewick (26-18) in the quarterfinal wrestleback.
“It means a lot to me and I am really excited that all three (Ottawa) wrestlers have a chance to medal,” Fuentes said. “This will also help a lot for next year. Even if I don’t place, I can come back next year and know how close I was (to a medal).”
After Rayfield lost on Thursday, he was able to make the wrestlebacks on Friday.
In his first-round wrestleback against Marengo’s John Lesiak, Rayfield pushed the issue as he took a 5-1 second-period lead before he earned the fall at 3:46.
“Ever since losing the match (Thursday), it had been eating at me for the past 24 hours,” Rayfield said. “There was this little voice in my head saying, ‘Cyrano, you can’t go out like this. For three months, you’ve gone as hard as you can, so you’re not going to state and going one and done or two and done.’ So I came out fired up. I was really aggressive and went out there not to lose.”
With the win, Rayfield (34-8) will wrestle Montini’s Edgar Ruano (42-9) in the second-round wrestlebacks.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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