For 35 area wrestlers, the goal of having a place on the awards podium at the state individual finals is still alive.
The three-day tournament begins Thursday with the championships on Saturday evening.
Overall, 672 wrestlers will compete in three classes and 14 weight divisions.
Six area wrestlers received seeds based on winning their sectional tournament. Richmond-Burton’s Garrett Sutton is the No. 1 seed at 160 in Class 2A and Crystal Lake South’s Nick Gil is the top seed at 138 in 3A.
Sutton won state last year at 152 and feels that experience of wrestling in the spotlight will benefit him.
“Knowing that I have a state title, I have a lot more confidence,” Sutton said.
Also in Class 2A, Crystal Lake Central’s Mike Zelasco is seeded No. 2 at 182 and Mike Petersen is No. 3 at 132. In 3A, Prairie Ridge’s Travis Piotrowski is the No. 2 seed at 113 and the Gators’ Eric Barone is the No. 3 seed at 145.
The seeding process has some inequities as only sectional champions are considered for seeds. In cases where top wrestlers are in the same sectional, only one will be seeded.
For instance, the Tigers’ Andrew Marsden and Montini’s Anthony Ferraro have been the top two ranked wrestlers all season by illinoismatmen.com. Ferraro beat Marsden in a close decision in the Lakes Sectional final and is seeded No. 1. Marsden is not seeded but is on the opposite side of the bracket from Ferraro.
Sutton will be joined at state by brothers Gavin (113), who placed second at sectionals, and Grant (126), who was third. Grant Sutton lost his first match of the season in the Lakes Sectional semifinal.
He called the loss a learning experience and was happy it came at sectionals and not state.
“I still have the same goal in mind,” Grant Sutton said. “I’ve just got to work that much harder.”
Rockets coach Bret Wojcik said the goal for the three brothers is not to win a sectional bracket board but a state one. The losses are just good practice fodder.
“The things we have to work on are little things,” Wojcik said. “But they make a big difference.”
Zelasco is looking to avenge a 3-2 regular season loss to Washington’s Colin Carr, the No. 1 seed.
“I hope I get to the finals and wrestle the kid I lost to,” Zelasco said. “I’m definitely ready for state.”
Tigers’ coach Justen Lehr said the loss to Carr has been good motivation for Zelasco.
“[Zelasco’s] on a mission,” Lehr said. “He wants that opportunity to beat [Carr] in the state finals.”
Dundee-Crown sophomore Christian Brunner had a great finish to his season. He beat Zelasco in the finals of the Fox Valley Conference Tournament, won the DeKalb Regional and placed second at the Barrington Sectional to qualify for state for the first time.
After losing to Deerfield’s Colton Emmerich, 5-4, in the sectional finals, Brunner has some lofty goals. Emmerich handed Brunner two major decision losses earlier this season but Brunner would like one more chance for redemption.
“I hope to see [Emmerich] in the state finals. That’d be good,” Brunner said. “I just have to fight back, take everything, you got nothing to lose now.”
Chargers coach Bob Skillman said Brunner doesn’t get down on himself, learns from his mistakes and shows up to work hard every day in the practice room.
“The kid never quits, he keeps going and going,” Skillman said of Brunner. “He doesn’t have great speed, great anything, but his attitude and his beliefs, it’s so fun to watch him wrestle.”