CHAMPAIGN — Jacob Wever realized something important at Saturday’s IHSA State Tournament.
Despite losing his final two matches and finishing sixth in the 126-pound weight class, the junior on the La Salle-Peru wrestling team came to an important realization.
“This weekend showed that I am actually right there with all the best in the state,” he said.
Despite placing sixth, Wever wasn’t far off from finishing third.
After he won his first match on Saturday, Wever lost his semifinal wrestleback by a point, and then fell in the fifth-place match after he was taken down with just 13 seconds remaining.
“It’s bittersweet,” Wever said of getting sixth. “It’s awesome that I was right there with the best, but then you think, ‘Man, I was right there and I could’ve won.’
“It’s good and it’s bad, but I finally got here and wrestled with the best in state. I wrestled a one-point match to the kid who got third in the state, and I barely lost in my fifth-place match. Really, it was the best way to lose if I had to lose.”
Wever started his day with a 14-8 decision in the quarterfinal wrestlebacks against Johnsburg’s Brian McKay.
Tied at 2 after the first period, Wever took a 6-2 lead after the second period and a 12-6 cushion midway through the third period.
“In that match, the score was actually a lot closer than the match really was,” Wever said. “I dominated the whole match, but I wrestled smart. I knew the kid was going to try a big move because I was up by a lot so I just played it safe.”
In the semifinal wrestlebacks against Chicago Bowen’s Rudolph Johnson, Wever wrestled from behind the first two periods before he scored an escape four seconds into the third period to tie the match at 4.
Johnson regained the lead with a takedown with 51 seconds to go before Wever countered with an escape to pull to 6-5 with 25 seconds remaining.
However, Wever was unable to score the rest of the way and fell by a 6-5 decision.
Tied at 1 in the fifth-place match against Champaign Centennial’s Austen Schott, Wever was taken down with just 13 seconds left in the match as he lost by a 3-1 decision.
It still couldn’t damper his excitement.
“(Getting a medal) is great and something we’ve been talking about since last year when he lost 2-1 in the match to get to the medal,” L-P coach Matt Fletcher said. “We had some hiccups along the way with his knee and him being out, but ultimately it’s great for Jake.”
The sixth-place medal is L-P’s first state medal since 2011 and the Cavaliers’ 12th state medal since 2000, which includes Fletcher’s fifth-place medal at 275 in 2000.
“Winning a medal has been my goal forever,” said Wever, who missed nearly two months this winter with the knee injury. “It feels great to come home after doing what I had planned to do. It was definitely a good year, or at least what I got to experience of it.”
Wever is the first non-heavyweight from L-P to medal since Kaz Hashimoto finished third at 103 pounds in 2006.
“Jake is as good as anybody in his bracket,” Fletcher said. “He can wrestle with anybody, so we were confident he was going to come home with a medal.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.