POLO — Princeton freshman Austin Wetsel was confident, yet nervous, heading into Saturday’s Class 1A Polo Regional.
He was confident because he was the No. 1 seed in the 120-pound bracket, but nervous for his first prep postseason.
Wetsel overcame his nerves to place second and earn a trip to this weekend’s Byron Sectional.
“I was a bit scared at first, but then I started getting a few wins and stuff started going my way and I thought I had a good chance,” Wetsel said.
The freshman beat Lena-Winslow’s Aaron Dvorak 8-2 in a semifinal match before losing 5-4 to Rock Falls’ Konner Smith in the final.
“I was more offensive than I usually am,” Wetsel said. “I came out and I was ready to go. I came in with confidence because I was the No. 1 seed. I shot. I wasn’t backing up and trying to defend shots.”
Wetsel was one of three area wrestlers to place second, one of four Princeton wrestlers to advance and one of seven area wrestlers to move on to the Byron Sectional.
“As young as we are, it’s good for us,” Princeton coach Steve Amy said. “We have two sophomores, a freshman and one senior, but it’s his second year, so really he’s a sophomore in the program. It’s a good confidence booster for those guys for the future.”
Also placing second for the Tigers was sophomore 113-pounder Luke Marselle.
Marselle edged Lena-Winslow’s Peyton Keefer 5-4 in a semifinal before getting pinned by West Carroll’s Paawan Dandona in the title match.
“I just fought through and just hung on and won (in the semifinals),” said Marselle, who also placed second at the regional last season. “I was trying to focus on double and low-single (takedowns) mostly. They worked pretty well today. I got some takedowns and got the win.
“(In the title match), I got stuck. He just caught me in a cradle. There was nothing I could have done.”
Teammates Tyler Wood (106) and Casey Pierre (182) will join Wetsel and Marselle at the sectional after placing third.
“Tyler did a great job coming back through doing what he does well — attacking on his feet,” Amy said. “He battled his way back to third. He did a great job. Casey’s still learning a little bit. He’s still sloppy at times, but he’s a fighter and he goes out and competes every time he’s on the mat. He did a great job in his wrestleback and third-place match. … (In the third-place match), he came out here and was just aggressive and on fire.”
St. Bede senior James Peacock was the third area wrestler to finish as the runner-up.
The 132-pounder pinned Newman’s Eli Monier and Amboy’s Caleb Morris to reach the final and earn his fourth career sectional berth.
“It’s just a big accomplishment coming from a smaller school where not that many wrestlers get out (of regional),” said Peacock, who was pinned by Lena-Winslow’s Kyle Kalkbrenner in the title match. “It takes hard work.”
Mendota also is sending a pair of wrestlers in 138-pound sophomore T.J. Christmann and 145-pound junior Jim Rodda, who each placed third.
“It’s great. It’s the first time we’ve gotten this many guys to sectional in a long time, so we’re pretty happy about that,” Mendota coach Dale Meyers said. “T.J. rode really well. He wasn’t shooting well, but defensively, he wrestled great. Rodda wrestled great offensively. He was able to ride all his guys.”
St. Bede sophomore John Barnes (285), Mendota senior Trevor Todd (220), MHS junior Jaron Robinson (152) and Princeton sophomores Tyler Webster (126) and Luke Hoffman (170) all placed fourth to fall shy of sectional berths.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.