PONTIAC — Riley Sweetland can rest easy now.
Everyone else on the La Salle-Peru wrestling team is thankful for it.
After the 113-pound senior advanced on Friday to Saturday’s semifinals of the Class 2A Pontiac Sectional, Sweetland struggled to calm down and sleep for an extended period of time Friday night as he was consumed with thoughts of his semifinal match and how badly he didn’t want a repeat of last year’s sectional at which he was twice a win away from advancing to state but twice came up short.
Unfortunately for some of his teammates, Sweetland’s anticipation kept them awake, too.
“I made (best friend and 132-pound teammate Jacob) Wever mad,” Sweetland admitted. “He was yelling at me because I couldn’t sleep.”
Sweetland only slept for five choppy hours before he finally awoke for good at 4:09 a.m. when he went to the hotel lobby to watch TV before he eventually prepared for the final day of sectionals.
Turns out, Sweetland had nothing to be worried about.
Despite dropping his semifinal match, the senior bounced back with an 8-4 decision over Ottawa’s Micah Krueger in the semifinal wrestleback and then rolled to an 8-2 decision in the third-place match to advance to his first state tournament.
“It was all worth it,” Sweetland said of his restless night. “It’s such a relief to make it, and now I feel like I just have to go out and do my thing at state because it’s my last year. I really want to go out with a bang.”
The Cavs finished the sectional with a bang Saturday.
Sweetland was one of four L-P wrestlers and eight local grapplers who qualified for the IHSA State Tournament, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center in Champaign.
In addition to Sweetland, 120-pound junior Max Kurkowski, Wever and 285-pound senior Jon Hewitt advanced to state.
The four state qualifiers are the most L-P has had since 2006 when the top three finishers at every weight advanced out of the sectional instead of the top four that now advance.
“It was a great day for us,” L-P coach Ed Wrobleski said. “I am so happy for the kids who made it out. The kids are peaking at the right time. I’m really looking forward to next weekend to see how these guys perform.”
Wever placed the highest of the four L-P wrestlers as he finished second.
After the 2011-12 NewsTribune Wrestler of the Year won by a 3-0 decision in Friday’s quarterfinals against East Peoria’s Casey McWhirter — ranked No. 3 at 132 by IllinoisMatmen.com — Wever won his semifinal match Saturday by 5-0 decision.
In the finals against No. 1-ranked Alex Butler from Rockford Boylan, Wever fell behind 2-0 after a second-period takedown but pulled to 2-1 with a third-period escape.
However, Wever was unable to score the match-winning takedown and fell by a 2-1 decision.
“To wrestle Butler, who is No. 1 in the state, and keep it to just a one-point match felt really good because I know I’m right there with the top guys going into the state tournament,” Wever said.
It’s the fourth straight year Wever has advanced to state.
“It’ll help that I’ve been there before,” Wever said. “I’ll have some of the nerves out because I know what to expect. But I also expect a lot more this year.”
Kurkowski qualified for his first state tournament.
After the junior dropped his semifinal match, he cruised through wrestlebacks.
Kurkowski qualified for state with a first-period fall in the semifinal wrestleback and then earned a 16-6 major decision to win the third-place match.
“This is kind of like a ‘Finally!’ moment for me,” said Kurkowski, whose father, Doug, coached L-P from 2003-09 and is currently an assistant coach. “I worked so hard to get here and I trained so hard with Riley, so I feel like I really earned this.”
After Hewitt missed most of last season with a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the senior continued his comeback season Saturday as he qualified for his first state tournament.
Hewitt fell in the semifinals but bounced back with a third-period fall in the semifinal wrestleback to qualify for state before he dropped his third-place match by fall to finish fourth.
“It’s awesome,” said Hewitt — who never wrestled until high school — of making state. “This is only my first year of officially being on varsity, so it just feels great to be able to make it with all the guys.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.