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By Willie Saylor
In a busy week for high school state championships across the country, the big storylines came out of the “I” states: Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, as many of the Midwest states culminated their seasons.
In a continuing series of enews updates recapping this championship season, we keep you abreast of some of the biggest news from last weekend’s 19 state competitions.
First are briefings on the state team race. Then we’ll follow it up with breakdowns of some of the most compelling individual brackets.
Perry Meridian Dominates, Jason Tsirtsis wins fourth
In Hoosierland, the state doesn’t calculate team scores during the individual championships, but it’s a safe assumption that WIN’s No. 21 squad, Perry Meridian, would have won the title going away.
Exemplifying their team balance, the Falcons crowned just one champion in 132-pounder Jared McKinley, who won his second in a row. Perry Meridian also sent two others to the finals, and placed a total of eight out of the state-high nine qualifiers.
On the individual side, Northwestern-bound Jason Tsirtsis made state history by becoming just the eighth individual in Indiana to win four titles. The consensus No. 1 wrestler nationally, Tsirtsis won his final title at 145 pounds. His three previous championships came at 125, 130 and 140 pounds.
Bulldogs Win the War in Iowa
In a much disputed scheduling change, Iowa held their state dual competition the day before starting the individual championship tournaments.
In 3A, No. 24 Southeast Polk and No. 13 Bettendorf had battled all year. First, Bettendorf out-pointed SEP in the Cheesehead tournament. Then, Southeast Polk pulled the upset in the Ed Winger Classic and in their dual.
Thinking it more appropriate to have their kids at their best for the individual portion, the SEP coaches wrestled a line-up containing only their back-ups and non-state qualifiers. Bettendorf beat No. 19 Iowa City West in the quarterfinals, 55-22, before shellacking West Des Moines Valley, 75-6 in the finals.
But that wouldn’t be the last hurrah for the Bulldogs. On the strength of a tournament-high ten state placers, the Bulldogs edged Southeast Polk 170 to 156.5. Iowa City West was 3rd with 126.5.
Southeast Polk placed five in the finals and won three of them. Cory Clark (126) won his fourth title, and finished his career with just one loss.
At 138, John Meeks completed his high school career undefeated and 4-for-4 in state titles. The Des Moines Roosevelt product will head to Iowa State next fall to wrestle for the Cyclones.
In 2A, Denver-Tripoli won the individual team title, while Davenport Assumption laid claim to the dual-meet crown.
1A saw Don Bosco win the individual side. Nashau, who won the dual meet title on Wednesday, were runners-up on Saturday.
Montini Rolls in 2A, Parity in 3A
Like Indiana, Illinois doesn’t keep a team tally at their individual championships. But Montini Catholic made its mark with a whopping nine state placers. Three Broncs made the finals; Tommy Pawelski (106) won the title while Kevon Powell (120) and Chris Garcia (132) were runners-up.
Marmion Academy had four placers, all of which were top-three finishers. Johnny Jimenez (113) and Angelo Silvestro (138) won titles.
The story was different in 3A where no team dominated quite like Montini. Six teams had at least four placers. Leading the way was Marist with six medalists. Glenbard North had five. Carl Sandburg, Oak Park-River Forest, Lockport and Plainfield Central each had four.
Several tournaments offered weight classes with multiple nationally-ranked kids. The following state brackets offered plenty of intrigue for those who follow the nation’s top individuals.
Iowa 3A – 126
Top Contenders: Eric Devos (Waverly Shell-Rock) Cory Clark (Southeast Polk), Jack Hathaway (Iowa City West)
Result: Cory Clark entered the season without ever suffering a career loss. That changed a few weeks ago, when fellow-ranked Iowan, Hathaway, upset him in the finals of the Ed Winger Classic. Devos, who Clark beat in a close Cheesehead final, also presented a hurdle for Clark in his pursuit of his fourth crown.
Last weekend, Clark and Hathaway met in the quarterfinals, with Clark taking it 3-0. Devos cruised through the other side of the bracket with a fall and two techs.
In the final, Clark was commanding in a 6-2 win.
Iowa 3A – 132
Top Contenders: Dakota Bauer (Iowa City West), Kyle Larson (West Des Moines Valley)
Result: These two have been going at it for years. Most recently, Larson beat Bauer in a dual at the Battle of Waterloo. Next year, they’ll be teammates at Iowa State, but first they had one last score to settle.
Meeting in the semifinals, Bauer scored the decisive takedown with just 26 seconds remaining. He’d go on to win his first state title with a win in the finals.
Illinois 2A – 113
Top Contenders: Barlow McGhee (Rock Island), Jordan Laster (Montini), Johnny Jimenez (Marmion Academy)
Result: Jimenez had a couple studs to get through to defend his state title, but he did just that. McGhee, who placed fourth in Fargo, and Cheesehead runner-up Laster, met in quarters. McGhee scored a takedown in each period in a 6-3 win then made his way to the finals to face Jimenez, who repeated with a 4-2 decision.
Illinois 3A – 145
Top Contenders: Bryce Brill (Mt. Carmel), Kevin Moylan (Stagg), Collin Holler (Carl Sandburg)
Result: This trio has met several times over the course of the year. In fact, all three were representatives of the De La Salle sectional from which they qualified for the state meet. In that sectional, Brill, the defending state champ, beat both Moylan (in the semis) and Holler (in the finals).
At the state tournament, Moylan beat Holler in a wild 10-8 bout. In the finals, he outlasted Brill in a wholly uneventful ultimate ride-out victory.
Illinois 3A – 182
Top Contenders: Taylor McGiffin, Sammy Brooks, Jordan Ellingwood
Result: Last year Brooks was upset in the state finals. He wasn’t going to let that happen again.
McGiffin had beaten Ellingwood soundly in the sectional finals. And Brooks did the same in the state semi’s to meet McGiffin, last year’s NHSCA Junior national runner-up.
In the finals, Brooks used a seven-point second period en route to a 9-2 victory in his final high school bout before heading to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Indiana – 106
Top Contenders: Nathan Boston (Lawrence North), Stevan Micic (Hanover Central), Jacob Cottey (Perry Meridian), Hayden Lee (Garrett), Tommy Cash (New Palestine)
Result: The state of Indiana has been producing little guys at a fantastic pace the last few years. Their 106-pound bracket kept that trend going with four high-profile wrestlers (two of whom are ranked nationally).
Nathan Boston, the returning state champion and FloNationals runner-up, and Micic, who navigated an absolute minefield in winning a Fargo freestyle title this summer, were on opposite sides of the bracket, and made their way to the finals.
Cottey, a Fargo AA, was pinned by up-and-comer Lee in the quarters. Cottey wrestled back to seventh. Lee was taken out the next round by Micic and finished third.
While Micic went through the bottom bracket gauntlet, Boston breezed through the top half. In a rematch of last year’s state semi where Boston won, this year Micic built up a solid 6-2 lead. Boston scored a late takedown to make it 6-4, but it was too little too late in one of the best state finals we’re likely to see this season.
Virginia AAA – 160
Top Contenders: Jacob Crawford (Millbrook), Zach Epperly (Christiansburg)
Results: Epperly just keeps getting better and better. Epperly won the Beast of the East title in December. This weekend, he took out October’s Super 32 champ Crawford, 6-4. Crawford, who’s headed to UNC next fall, was in pursuit of his fourth state title. In the process, Epperly helped his Christiansburg team win their 11th straight state title.
Here is our previous eNews updates from the championship run:
Next week, look for recaps from other big state tournaments including Wisconsin, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and the National Preps … as well as state dual championships from Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.