By JARED BELL
PRINCETON – The Coal City wrestling team ended an era on Saturday.
In doing so, the Coalers made everyone else take notice.
At the two-day 54th annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational, Coal City ended Dakota’s four-year PIT title streak as the No. 2-ranked team in the current Illinois Matmen GO EARN IT Class 1A team rankings led wire-to-wire to win the team title.
“I definitely think we made a statement today,” said 113-pound sophomore Alex Friddle, who won one of the Coalers’ two individual titles. “We came into this tournament wanting to be No. 1, but we saw some people saying, ‘Until somebody can beat Dakota, they’ll be No. 1,’ so this was big.”
Coal City, which led after Day 1 and only expanded its lead Saturday, finished with 170.5 team points to edged second-place Dakota (143.5), the four-time defending dual team state champion and the current No. 1-ranked team in 1A.
“To win this tournament means a lot, especially since there are a couple of really good teams here,” 120-pound senior Jake Hiles said. “If we can make it to the state tournament, this gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Coalers had four finalists, two champions and nine total medalists at the PIT.
Hiles claimed Coal City’s first championship as he defeated Vandalia sophomore Tanner Swain by a 6-2 decision.
Friddle followed a match later as he bested Rockridge freshman Dallas Krueger by a 9-2 decision in the final.
The Coalers also received second-place finishes from 132-pound sophomore Ryan Wasielewski and 160-pound junior Danny Norton, while Coal City had three sixth-place finishers, a seventh-place finisher and an eighth-place finish.
“Over the past few years, we’ve slowly crept up the (PIT) standings,” Coal City coach Mark Masters said. “We’ve gone from the 20s to the upper teens, into the top 10 and then the top 5 and now we won. This is great for our kids.”
A pair of familiar faces were named the Most Outstanding Wrestlers.
In the lower weights, Byron 145-pound senior Nolan Baker – the lone returning state champion in the PIT – cruised through his bracket to win MOW.
Baker beat Orion junior James Schnerre by fall at 1:47 in the final.
“The PIT is one of the funnest tournaments of the year, especially when you win it,” Baker said. “Over the years, I feel like I’ve been in this gym enough for five lifetimes, so to win my last tournament here is really nice.”
In the upper weights, Dakota 170-pound senior Andrew Wenger rolled as he won his title match by injury default.
“It’s amazing,” Wenger said. “I just work hard in the practice room every day. We all push each other, and this is a great feeling to get the title.”
No. 1 Vs. No. 2
A loaded 220-pound weight class ended with No. 1 vs. No. 2.
In a weight that featured nine kids ranked in Illinois Matmen’s GO EARN IT Class 1A or 2A rankings, 1A No. 1 Maverick McPeek from Dakota defeated No. 2 Keaton Fogler from Olympia by a hard-fought 5-3 decision to repeat as a PIT champion.
It was the only PIT final that featured a No. 1-ranked kid vs. a No. 2-ranked kid.
“I felt like I had a lot to prove,” said the junior McPeek. “He beat me in a (consolation) match last year at state, but then I beat him a week later at dual team state. I’ll probably see him again sometime and it’ll probably just keep going.”
Sauk Valley Success
The Sauk Valley area in northern Illinois had a lot of success as it ended with four PIT champions.
Sterling Newman 106-pound freshman Kyle Tunink won his weight class with a 7-4 decision in the final, while Morrison 160-pound senior Dylan Keller won his weight with a fall at 3:40 in the title bout.
Rock Falls 195-pound senior Niles Ager prevailed with a 6-1 decision in the final to win a title, while Dixon senior Ryan Troutman claimed a title with a 1-0 decision over Vandalia freshman Anthony Enlow in the championship match.
Mercer County 126-pound junior Stone Engle won the tournament’s toughest weight class as he defeated Ottawa junior Ethan Harsted by fall at 3:25 in the title match.
The Golden Eagles also received another title from 182-pound senior Justin Carey, who edged Dixon senior Andy Wolber by a 4-3 decision in the final, while Ottawa 138-pound senior Micah Krueger upheld his No. 1 seed as he defeated Morrison senior Joe Eads by a tight 2-1 decision in the title bout.
PORTA 132-pound junior Trey Hild won a title by a 10-3 decision, while LeRoy 152-pound senior Trevor Bulington remained unbeaten as he topped Monticello senior Kaehl Van Dalsen by a 6-4 decision in the championship match.
Beyond Coal City and Dakota atop the team standings, Class 1A No. 8 Mercer County placed third (138), 1A No. 4 Olympia was fourth (137.5) and 2A No. 16 Ottawa was fifth (136).
Jared Bell can be reached at (815) 220-6938. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.