Taken down early against a wrestler he had already lost to this season, Gylon Sims said he started to panic. But only for a moment.
The 113-pound Catholic Joliet recovered against Geneseo’s Zachary Montez, picked up a 4-3 victory to avenge an earlier loss and became the first of eight state qualifiers and three champions for the Hilltoppers in the class Sycamore section. 2A Saturday.
“I was just like calm down, calm down Gylon,” Sims said. “You get the idea. So I managed to escape and went on the offensive again. I knew I was down and I didn’t want to catch up on the whole game.”
The Hilltoppers, ranked No. 1 in the latest IWCOA Class 2A poll, were one of five teams in the section ranked in the top seven. They had more qualifying than any other team with Mason Alessio (145) and Dillan Johnson (285) winning the titles.
No. 4 Lemont qualified five with Alex Tagler (170), Moe Khalil (182) and Tyler Wilms winning titles. Aurora Christian sent seven to next week’s state championship, including champions Deven Casey (106), Braden Stauffenberg (152) and Nate Westrom (195).
Nathan Kim was the lone qualifier from Burlington Central, taking second at 170, while Kaneland qualified 106-pound Cameron Phillips, who finished second at 106.
None of Morris’ six wrestlers qualified, and Glenbard South was unable to qualify any of its three wrestlers into what several coaches called the toughest section in the state.
“You’re looking at the best Section 2A in the state, and I think we’re going to feel very confident coming out of here,” Lemont coach Erik Murry said.
In addition to the champions, Evan Schiffman de Lemont (third at 138) and Mike Jabaay (third at 160) earned trips to Champaign with top-four finishes.
“For these guys, they must be very high,” Murry said. “Winning the last game, feeling pretty confident. And again, these are some of the best guys in the state here. … We know that having a good tournament here, you could have a good tournament at the state.”
All five Lemont wrestlers ended the day with a win, including Wilms. The 220-pounder picked up two wins from behind in the semifinals (4-3 over Jeremiah Morris of Galesburg) and in the title match (3-2 over Tyler Casey of Washington).
“He’s had back-to-back wins at the last second,” Murry said. “For the team, we are an infectious team and we feed off each other. These are the kind of matches that boost the fans, the team and the confidence.”
Wilms said he hopes to come out stronger sooner when the state tournament begins on Thursday.
“I realized I’m a lot faster than a lot of kids I struggle with,” Wilms said. “I have to open up a lot more and start having these quick bursts the whole game and not wait for the last 20 seconds.”
The Hilltoppers, in addition to their champions, qualified Shay Korhorn (third at 120), Logan Kuhel-Trimmer (second at 132), Owen O’Connor (second at 138), Caden Moore (third at 182) and Owen Gerdes ( third at 195).
Coach Ryan Cumbee said Moore put in the performance of the day, struggling after a three-pin quarter-final loss – the entire third period – to clinch his ticket.
“We got eight, but you always want more,” Cumbee said after his team brought all 14 wrestlers to the sectional round. “If we had 10, we would want 11. If we had 11, we would want 12. … Eighth is a school record. I think we could have done better, but I still think we could have done better . “
Aurora Christian qualified seven of the eight wrestlers who competed in the section. Joe Fernau was second at 126, Josh Vasquez was fourth at 132, Taythan Silva was second at 145 and Braden Hunter was third at 285.
Coach Danny Alcocer said his three champions earned their titles.
“They work hard on the mat every day in training,” Alcocer said. “They’re also doing the right things outside of training, living the right lifestyle, keeping their good grades. That’s the most important thing for us.”
For Stauffenberg, it was a bit of revenge. Last week, he lost to Sycamore’s Braden Peet in overtime for the regional title. This time around, he won in overtime on Peet’s mat.
“This guy beat us last week at regionals in overtime,” Alcocer said. “It was good to get that one back. We’ll probably see him again next weekend in Champaign. We’ll probably see another battle. He just has to do it one more time.”
Kim had a title shot for the Rockets, but lost 6-4 after leading for two periods against Tagler. He bowled twice in his first three games of the day.
Burlington Central coach Vince Govea said Kim is peaking at the right time and has really improved over the past few weeks.
“When Nate launches his attacks on his feet, I don’t think anyone can stop him,” Govea said. “I think the second and third period took us out of our game plan a bit. We gave a quick two there and it cost us a bit. But Nate is an awesome wrestler and a great kid. Everything can happen in the state and we’re peaking at the right time.”
Phillips went into the title round for the Knights with two pins, but lost to Deven Casey, 16-4.
“He had a great day,” Kaneland coach Kenneth Paoli said. “He struggled really hard in all of his games. He ended up pinning multiple kids. Just a great tournament. He ended up taking second place against a tough kid in Aurora Christian. We’re really proud of the effort. We’re glad he’s coming down. , but I just talked to him. He said “No. Good. Enough. “We’re going to go back to work and run a race in Champaign.”