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Old 01-06-2008
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Princeton Tournament Recap

By Shannon Heaton
Special to Illinois Matmen

PRINCETON -- It took Harvard 103-pound junior Sergio Figueroa just 27 seconds to win a Princeton Invitational Tournament championship Saturday night.

Try as the Hornets might for the next two hours to add another individual title, it wasn't to be. Still, however, Harvard's team depth proved to be more than enough, as the Hornets outpointed Wilmington, 201-191, to win top team honors at the PIT.

A late flurry of wins propelled Dixon into the third spot, with 142 points, while Petersburg PORTA was fourth at 132.5 and Vandalia edged Byron by a half point, 114.5-114, for fifth.

Despite eight medalists in the Harvard lineup, coach Tim Haak was quick to point out that they weren't, by themselves, solely responsible for the Hornets taking top honors.

"We had everybody contribute and score points, not just the placewinners, but even the guys that won one match helped us. It's just a great tournament, and you really have to have that kind of team depth," Haak said.

With Harvard and Wilmington fans nearly adjacent to one another in the Princeton gym, the intensity whenever a Hornet and Wildcat stepped out to face one another -- already at a high level for starters, given Wilmington's 29-28 quarterfinal win over Harvard at last year's Class A team dual state tournament -- ratcheted up even more.

"I think that was great for the fans," Haak said. "Wilmington is just so well-coached, they've got a lot of great kids.

"It was a great weekend of wrestling."

Each of the top two teams had one individual champion. Figueroa (26-1, ranked No. 11 in AA) needed just one single-leg takedown and one cradle to pin Coal City's Lance Evans (15-2, No. 7 in A) in 27 seconds.

"Even though there's not a lot of AA teams, this is one of the best tournaments to wrestle at," said Figueroa, whose lone loss came to fellow PIT competitor Mike Smith of Prairie Ridge, at 112 pounds. "It's still big-time."

That loss helped Figueroa figure out some changes to make in his game. "I needed to take better shots; I was taking bad shots then," he said. "Practice this whole week really helped out. That's the most important thing. Without it, you're not going to do well."

Wilmington answered Harvard's title with one of its own at 160. There, Tom Fritz (14-1, No. 2 in A) got a reversal with 48 seconds left to overcome Dixon's Bryce Lumzy (19-4, HM in AA), 5-3.

Fritz didn't get a pin all weekend, but controlled the action as needed in virtually every match. That and his mat skills proved key in the finals.

"Bottom is one of the most important positions; you can stalemate someone and at least take it into overtime with them if you have to. I'm lucky to work with one of the best ever on top in Coach Peters," said Fritz. "I knew going into this tournament, it was definitely going to be a tough road."

After knocking off two Class A No. 1s en route to the 125-pound title, Shepard's Mike Grice was named the outstanding wrestler for the lower weights. At the same time, while brother John was winning a tournament in Dubuque, Iowa, while competing for UNI, Chase Odeen (152) won the upper-weight OW. Pittsfield's Devon Johnson (171) had the tournament's fastest pin, with an 18-second fall on Friday night.

A recap of the remaining 12 weight classes follows:

112: Litchfield's Chance Davidson (16-2, No. 2 in A) scored two takedowns -- one in each of the first two periods -- in building a 5-1 lead over Byron's Allen Fish. His riding ability looked solid enough to secure the victory, but Fish worked in a reversal at the last moment to force overtime, then got a takedown with 34.6 seconds left for a 7-5 win.

"I just couldn't find anything there (earlier in the match), but I pulled it out. At that point, it was, yeah," said Fish (18-0, No. 3 in A), asked if the reversal was a last-ditch move. "Winning here feels really good. I feel a little above expectations (being undefeated at this point in the season). I didn't know how I would do exactly, but I'm looking forward to the rest of it."

Davidson had knocked off No. 1 Josh Eller of Vandalia in the semifinals, 6-0, earlier in the day.

119: Dixon's Joe Roth was a takedown machine all day Saturday. After taking two wins by technical fall to reach the final, Roth (21-3, No. 10 in AA) bagged seven more in a 14-6 major decision over Bobby Tobin of Shepard (21-3, HM in AA).

"In these tournaments, especially in the place rounds, you've got to come with your A game. You can never be too prepared. All these matches, if you wrestle your best, give you a chance to win a state title," said Roth. "I definitely found out last year what it takes. There's a big difference from wrestling guys in the room who aren't as good as (state qualifiers are). You know what you have to do, and that's what I'm trying to shoot for.

"I wanted to show the fans and the other guys in this tournament what Double A is all about."

125: Grice (21-4, HM in AA) hit a five-point move and survived a late surge to beat Dakota's Seth Milks (No. 1 in A at 119), 9-8, in the semifinals, but was dominant in the final against Wilmington's John VanDuyne (14-1, No. 1 in A at 125).

Grice put VanDuyne to his back in the first period, and again in the second period. The second time was enough for a pin in three minutes and one second.

"I've had just a lot of tough matches," Grice said of his pre-Princeton experience, which included an OW at the Stagg Invitational in late November. "Competition in Chicago, it's pretty rough, but this is still a tough tournament. The competition is really good, there's a lot of tough kids, so it feels good to win. I've been working hard all year, and hopefully I can make it down to state."

130: Riverdale's Cameron Vance (22-0, No. 3 at 125) took most of the shots, and got the lone takedown, versus Steve Heino (14-2, No. 5 at 125) of Wilmington.

Though Vance hung on for a 3-2 win, his work on offense almost went for naught, as a scramble at the end of the match put the outcome in doubt until the final buzzer.

"I actually expected more (takedowns), I got in on his leg like five or six times, but I guess I got in too deep and it got kind of tough in there," said Vance, giving credit to Heino's ability to counter. "(In the scramble), I had both the legs hooked, and I didn't feel out of position...too much. We were both just kind of rolling around there."

135: After pinning his friend and rival in the semifinals, Coal City's Noah Roseland (16-2, No. 3 in A) also controlled the action in the final, getting two takedowns and a reversal in shutting out Ottawa's Luke Reed (21-5, HM in AA at 130), 7-0.

In the semis, Roseland pinned No. 2 seed Jeff Goodwin of Wilmington (ranked 10th in A).

"Me and Jeff, we're good friends, we hang out with each other; a lot of the guys on Coal City and Wilmington do that on weekends," Roseland said. "My gameplan (in the final) was just to stay away from fireman's carries and Kellys. Just continue to do what I do. I feel a lot stronger and bigger than other guys, now that I'm at 135. 140 was a tough weight at this tournament."

140: Roseland wasn't kidding. Princeton's Ty Taylor (24-0, No. 2 in A) delighted the hometown crowd with a 14-10 decision over Byron's Eric Celletti (21-1, No. 1 in A), earning his first PIT title in the process.

Headlocks carried Taylor to an 8-2 lead, and, when Celletti started closing the gap, Taylor showed off a double leg and duck under to seal the deal in the battle of Class A titans.

"Here, everyone wants to see me either have an upset or win, which kind of sucks, but it's also good because there's always something to wrestle for," said Taylor. "Coaches from other towns all tell me that I have a shot and I should use it more. I know no one is expecting a shot from me. It's definitely good to mix things up a bit."

145: It's tough to find a wrestler in Illinois who's gone through more adversity in the last 11 months than IVC senior Jeffery Bybee, but Bybee (7-1, No. 2 in A) had enough adversity on the mat against Ottawa's Kyle Lowman (17-3, No. 6 in AA), taking an 11-8 decision that included a scramble late in the second period that nearly saw Bybee on his back.

Despite admitting he was about halfway there, physically, Bybee was able to score from his feet and on the mat, with two reversals late in the first period and early in the second providing some of his margin of victory.

"I just started back up with matches; this weekend, I wanted to work on takedowns. In the finals, I was really working my shots," said Bybee. "(During the scramble) I fell right to my forehead and that scared me a bit. I was squeezing as hard as I could (to avoid back points) and I made it by a second."

152: Odeen (14-2, No. 3 in A at 160) edged out the top-ranked Class A wrestler at 152, Monticello's Kyle Dooley, by a 4-3 count in the semifinals. In the final against Brendan Barrett (20-5, HM in AA) of Prairie Ridge, two takedowns in the last 64 seconds helped seal the win and eventual OW.

"Finally, my first win here. It's awesome. I'm going to go home and eat a large pizza. I've got a couple of weekends off before I train my butt off for Champaign," said Odeen. "It was a really close match (against Barrett). It wasn't exactly pulling it off; I expected to win, because that's what you have to do. But he's a very good competitor."

Going back to his short offense was key. "I really was trying to have heavy hands out there," said Odeen. "This tournament, I really focused on that."

171: Litchfield's Cory Hauter (18-0, No. 3 in A) didn't have much trouble with the PIT field this weekend. His 14-2 major decision over Harvard's Matt Streit (18-4, HM in AA) was the closest match he had.

"I wanted to at least tech or pin my way through, but, unfortunately, that wasn't what I got," said Hauter, who didn't place a year ago in his first PIT. "I'm definitely happy with first place here. Last year, I just didn't really wrestle well here, but I got better and better as the season went on."

Hauter's ability to tilt from almost any position proved key to his title. "I did it a lot more last year. I've been working on my feet more this year, to try to get ready for state," he said.

189: Vandalia's Matt Shroyer (20-1, No. 7 in A at 215) made it two titles in a row for the south, as he punctuated his third-period fall against Zach Zittlow (15-6, unranked in AA) with a fist pump.

"The northern teams usually dominate everything, so to compete with them, even in the team standings, is great," said Shroyer, whose fall over Zittlow came in 5:39. "We're all kind of rooting for each other out there.

"Practice this week was really hard. We lost to Wilmington last weekend, and we knew we would see them two weeks back-to-back, so that meant we had to step up even more in practice. Just getting the competition here really helps us."

215: Dixon's Dalton Greenwalt (20-2, HM in AA at 189) overcame a 4-1 second-period deficit against Ernie Ramos (21-4, HM in AA) with a five-point reversal and back points, good for a 6-4 win and his second tournament title in 2007-08.

"Having two (tournament) wins under my belt is a big boost," said Greenwalt, who did not medal at Dixon's third tournament this year, the Dvorak. "I needed to get in better shape (after the Dvorak) and stay more balanced on my feet. I was shooting under guys when I didn't need to be."

285: With the score tied at 1, Vandalia's Nathan Stone (19-3, No. 3 in A) shot in deep on a low single against PORTA's David Devine.

However, while the shot was deep enough, it wasn't tight enough, allowing Devine (23-0, No. 2 in A) to spin behind Stone and get a takedown with one second left, good for a 3-1 win. The effort left Devine sprawled on the edge of the mat upon the match's conclusion.

"At least one more time, most likely," Devine said, asked if he figured on seeing Stone in a rematch. "Nothing compares to this (a PIT title)."
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excellent article!
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