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State back draw finds 11 local wrestlers still alive

CHAMPAIGN – One of the bad things about losing in the first round of the wrestling state finals is the wait to see if you get to wrestle again.

First-round losers only advance to the back draw if the wrestler who beat them makes it to the semifinals.

Of the 21 local wrestlers who lost in the first round Thursday, only eight qualified for the consolation bracket. Of those, four won in the first round of the back draw Friday.

Johnsburg’s Brian McKay took advantage of getting to wrestle in the Class 2A back draw with a 6-2 decision against Springfield’s Christen Hunt. Getting to the back draw was the nerve racking part for McKay who had to wait and see if Boylan’s Alex Butler made it to the semis.

“I was more nervous for [Butler’s] match than I was for mine the first day,” McKay said.

McKay got a takedown and back points as time expired in the third period to win his first-round consolation match. He said he had a hard time getting a takedown because Hunt had a longer reach than him.

“Luckily he ducked his head and I caught it,” McKay said of his match-winning takedown.

Richmond-Burton’s Grant Sutton got perhaps the most unlucky draw of any area wrestler. Sutton, ranked No. 2 by Illinoismatmen.com, lost, 6-3 ,to No. 1-ranked Barlow McGhee of Rock Island in his 120-pound first-round 2A match after both were upset in sectionals tournaments.

In wrestling parlance, that type of bracket advancement is called “follow the leader.” Sutton said the advantage of losing to someone like McGhee in the first round was that “he’s going to be a good guy to follow.”

Harvard’s Adam Freimund won by pin in his first back draw match after losing in the first round. Freimund, who is the only local 1A wrestler left in the back draw, said he tried to focus on his potential next match after the loss.

“We were a little concerned, but you can’t let that stuff stop you,” Freimund said.

And the loss was certainly motivation for Freimund, who hopes to place.

“I wanted to win,” Freimund said. “Another stepping stone on where I want to go.”

Also still alive in the 2A back draw are Marian Central’s Nick Remke (138), Crystal Lake Central’s Mike Zelasco (160) and Johnsburg’s Christian Nugent (195). In 3A, Cary-Grove’s Michael Cullen (113) and Dundee-Crown’s Ray Griggel (220) both won their first-round consolation matches.

After losing in the championship semifinals, Prairie Ridge's Travis Piotrowski (106), Crystal Lake South's Nick Gil (126) and Crystal Lake Central's Andrew Marsden (170) moved to the consolation semifinals.

Familiar officials: Three local wrestling officials were selected to work the mats at the state finals. Officials are judged on a rating system, with the best selected to work the state tournament.

Working this year’s tournament are Crystal Lake’s Ron Vermillion, Ringwood’s Mike Hurckes and McHenry’s Rob Zielinski, who also is the principal at Harvard.

Hurckes said working the state finals is definitely different than working a regular-season meet. He said he doesn’t hear individual voices from the crowd but knows the crowd noise is signaling something is happening, whether it’s on his mat or another one.

“The intensity is about 100 percent higher,” Hurckes said. “You can hear it.”

Vermillion said getting to have two officials on each mat is helpful, especially because of the significance of the matches to the wrestlers.

“It’s nice have a partner,” Vermillion said. “Some of these kids, it’s the last match they ever wrestle.”

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