Photo by Becky LaMont / Illinois Matmen
By JARED BELL
Anthony Molton was nervous.
After the 120-pound Lockport junior used a four-point move to take a lead after the first period against Montini star senior and two-time defending state champion Joey Melendez, Molton still had four more minutes to try to maintain his lead.
“I was a little nervous about that because there were still two periods left,” Molton said. “He’s such a great wrestler and is so good coming back on people.”
Turns out, Molton had nothing to worry about.
The Lockport star maintained his lead over the final two periods and scored the match-winning takedown in the final 20 seconds to win by an 11-2 major decision and pull off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament against Melendez, a North Carolina recruit who InterMat has ranked No. 3 in the nation at the weight.
“I feel like I showed everything I have been working toward the last few years,” Molton said. “And to show it here at the state finals is exactly what you want to do.”
With the win, Molton advances to Saturday’s Class 3A 120-pound state title match where he will face Marian junior Travis Ford-Melton, who beat Molton by a 16-5 major decision in the title match of last weekend’s 3A Alton Sectional.
“It should be a lot of fun to wrestle for a state title, especially wrestling Travis again,” Molton said. “It should be a lot closer than it was last week. It should be pretty exciting.”
Just like Molton’s semifinal match against Melendez.
With all eyes on the contest, Molton wrestled without fear and took the lead with the four-point first-period move.
“That move really boosted my self-esteem,” Molton said. “Getting four points at the end of the first period just really helped me get through the match.”
It also brought the crowd to its feet and the sequence brought a roar to the stadium.
With two periods still to go, Melendez cut the deficit, but Molton finished strong as he scored the match-sealing takedown late in the third period.
“It was a big relief to get that late takedown,” Molton said. “I was pretty excited, and I knew I had it in the bag at that point.”
Now Molton will have another chance at Ford-Melton.
“This time I’ll have a similar game plan, but I just have to execute better,” Molton said. “That’s the big thing, but I’m just so excited to be there.”
If Molton prevails, it’ll be his first state title after he placed fourth in 3A 113 pounds last year.
“(The state title match) is going to be really exciting,” Molton said. “I know I’m going to come out better than I did last week.”
If Molton does prevail and win a title, it’ll be his second straight state title as he was part of last year’s Lockport 3A dual team state championship team.
“I’m a big team guy and I support our team fully, but I think I’d be even more hyped if I won state individually,” Molton said. “It’d be amazing.”