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After the Ottawa wrestling team had just eight state medalists before this season — including only four in the last 32 years — this year’s Pirate team had three state qualifiers and left Saturday’s IHSA State Tournament with two state medalists.
Ottawa sophomore Daniel Close finished an area-best fourth at 138 pounds and the junior Fuentes placed sixth at 195, while the Pirates’ third state qualifier — 220-pound junior Cyrano Rayfield — came a win shy of earning a state medal.
“This really means a lot,” Fuentes said. “We’ve always had a young program the past few years. There have been a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the varsity lineup. Even when Cyrano and I were freshmen we were on varsity. But this shows what hard work will do. Our program is getting better.”
It’s only the second time in Ottawa history that the school had two state medalists in one year. “It’s a great day for the program,” Ottawa coach Peter Marx said. “They wrestled outstanding this entire weekend. We’ve had a real good time down here, and the kids have gotten a taste of (state). Leaving with two medals is a really good feeling.”
Close led the way with his fourth-place finish at 138.
He started Saturday with a 4-2 decision over Dixon’s Kylian Lally in the quarterfinal wrestlebacks.
In their fourth matchup this season, Close scored a reversal with 3 seconds left in the match and was awarded the points with a second to go to earn the thrilling victory.
In the semifinal wrestlebacks against Tinley Park’s Eric Schultz, Close took a 2-0 lead in the first period only to have Schultz’s second-period reversal tie the match at 2 with 1:41 left in the period.
However, Schultz failed to turn Close to his back during the period’s final 100 seconds and - with the advantage to start the third period - was unable to turn Close for the first 80 seconds.
Frustrated and thinking he had a better chance to take Close down than turn him, Schultz let Close escape with 43 seconds remaining in the third period.
The escape gave Close a 3-2 lead.
Close was able to stay on his feet the remaining 43 seconds and was not taken down to earn the 3-2 decision. In the third-place match against Bloomington’s Kyonn Keith — who beat Close in Friday’s quarterfinals — Close fell by fall at 3:08.
“This means a lot,” Close said of medaling. “Getting here was a dream of mine, so placing just makes this even better. Next year, I just want that No. 1 spot.”
Fuentes had little trouble securing a medal Saturday.
In the quarterfinal wrestlebacks, Fuentes dominated Lincoln-Way East’s Alec Posewick and won by a 13-3 major decision. The win guaranteed Fuentes a state medal.
In the semifinal wrestlebacks against Sycamore’s Jake Davis, Fuentes fell by a 17-0 technical fall and, in the fifth-place match, Fuentes lost to Bloomington’s Austin Weltha by fall at 2:46.
“I know I can compete down here,” Fuentes said of the state experience. “I wrestled (six) matches, and (four) of them I wrestled really well. The last one I got caught and there was nothing I could do, but I am happy with the way I wrestled the past three days.”
Rayfield wasn’t as lucky.
In the quarterfinal wrestleback against Montini’s Edgar Ruano, Rayfield fell behind early and never caught up as he lost by a 12-6 decision to fall a victory shy of placing.
Ruano ended up finishing third.
“Cyrano had a tough draw,” Marx said. “He faced two very good kids in (Oak Forest’s) Alec Brown (in his first loss) and Ruano from Montini. He went out and wrestled very well, I thought. He just wrestled two kids who were a little better than him. I think he is now going to use this as a little motivation.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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