This blog will be a little different from most where we just report on the tournaments. This week Illinois (and a bunch of Lockport kids) competed in the Cadet Greco and Freestyle National Dual Championships in York, PA. Each of these teams consisted of 27 of the top kids in the state born in 2000 and 2001 to represent Illinois in 17 weight classes of 7 dual meets in each event (14 total) Many of these 27 wrestled both tournaments so they had a 4 day grind. From Lockport on the Greco Roman team we had Anthony Molton (106), James Pierandozzi (113), Yousif Salah (182) and Ronald Tucker (285). On the Freestyle team Molton flew home to start preparing to wrestling on the Junior Greco team this weekend and Baylor Fernandes (145) came on board. He was joined by me (Josh) and Jameson Oster who served as two of the three coaches of the Freestyle team and Coach Sealy flew in also to take pictures and tweet out results for the 2nd day of Greco and all of Freestyle.
I wanted to write this as a little behind the scenes peek at how it is on the actual team. Starting at Freestyle and Greco State the Cadet coaches start coordinating on who prospects for the team are. This typically starts with the champs at those events and then moves on from there to look at who is going both styles so we need coverage for those guys and finding people who will compete at the highest levels. We have been very successful in this regard with both Cadet styles bringing home titles for the last 3 years. Going into this year we knew our teams would have a lot of new faces since most of last year's team were 2nd year cadets. We line our teams up early and then there are constant adjustments as life happens and people can't compete for any number of reasons. Every year there are additions right up until we are ready to fly out.
One of the best parts of coaching the Cadet teams is working with kids who want to achieve at a high level from all over the state. They all bring a different perspective and can really open up some eyes on the National level. We first meet a lot of these guys at the beginning of our 5 day training camp that we are honored to host and get that many of the best kids in the state in the room at the same time. Greco camp is a little more technique focused since the style is not the first style for many of the athletes and it is a tribute to the coaches Pete Kowalczuk, JD Oliva and Travis Rice to use 8 practices to get these guys to level they are at. The Freestyle coaches Josh Oster, Jameson Oster and Kerry Boumans do some basic par terre defense and just fine tune some areas during the Freestyle portions of camp.
There is a huge organizational structure behind IL/USAW that organizes the logistics behind travel which allows the coaches to coach and put the team together.
Onto the wrestling. In Greco, Illinois came out strong day one beating Kansas Red, Pennsylvania Red and Missouri Red losing only 4 of 51 matches on the day. In the gold/silver pool Illinois would face Oklahoma, New Jersey Red and Pennsylvania Blue to see what place they would go for on day two. Illinois started strong beating Oklahoma and New Jersey by about 20 a piece setting up the marquee match of the round Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The dual was back and forth throughout with the score tied after 8 matches Pennsylvania would win the next match and never trail again although Illinois made them work for every point. The loss ended Illinois's 4 year Greco title streak. The team responded with a dominating 60-17 win over Michigan Red for 3rd place.
The Greco captains were Jace Punke, Will Lewan and Dalton Jensen and the following went undefeated for the tournament Ezra Elliot 100 (3-0), Eddie Bolivar 120/126 (4-0), Will Lewan 138 (4-0), Fidel Mayora 138 (3-0), Dalton Jensen 145 (5-0), Zac Braunagel 170 (5-0), Yousif Salah 182 (2-0), Jace Punke 220 (7-0) and Ronald Tucker 285 (7-0)
A few hours after Greco concluded we weighed in and got our draw for Freestyle. Friday morning we would wrestle Michigan Blue, California and Kansas Blue in our pool then after a long break we would wrestle our first gold/silver pool match. The early matches on Friday we use to make sure everyone is feeling good, especially the guys that doubled since they had already wrestled the two days before. The best part about being on Team Illinois is the depth and the pride our kids have in performing for the state on a national level. Few teams bring the full 27 allowed wrestlers on their roster let alone having as much talent as we have up and down the lineup.
Day one went smoothly as expected with 3 victories in the pool to move onto the gold/silver pool, where our opponents would be Iowa Gold, Washington and New Jersey Red. To end day one we beat Iowa Gold starting out strong winning 8 of the first 9 weights. Saturday we would wrestle Washington and New Jersey followed by the place match. The team came out on fire against Washington. After dropping the first match we won 13 straight matches for the largest margin of victory the Freestyle team had on the week. New Jersey looked to be the team to beat after they defeated Pennsylvania Blue in the pool. We rode a strong start winning all but 2 weights from 145-285 to start the dual. New Jersey was able to stay in the dual with a chance at victory with a pin in the last match. Will Lewan would have none of that and went out secured a return to the finals with a quick tech fall.
The stage was set for a dramatic finals. Illinois vs. Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania just 2 days after Pennsylvania denied Greco a chance at a title. This would be the 4th time Illinois and Pennsylvania met in the FS Cadet finals in the past 6 years. Pennsylvania took the early lead and led by as much as 11 Illinois tied the score after the 11th match when Justin Cardani picked up the decision PA would take back the lead for two weights until Tyler Delaware brought Illinois back ahead for one match. Going into the final two matches Illinois trailed 34-32 needing two victories of any kind to win the dual, a loss at either weight would have lost the dual. As we neared the end we saw what was coming and it couldn't have come down to a better set of wrestlers for us. Will Lewan and Baylor Fernandes both on last years team were the last two weights and both had dominated the weekend winning every match by first period tech fall until this point. They did not miss a beat with Will getting a takedown into a lace for a 30 second tech. Baylor took a little more time but delivered a highlight worthy double leg for 4 that could have been called a fall followed by two more takedowns and a turn for a first period 10-0 tech. The bench went wild and he was mobbed by his teammates. You can see the excitement on the video from FLOWrestling along with the rest of the finals HERE
The Freestyle captains were Will Lewan, Baylor Fernandes, Danny Braunagel and Zach Braunagel and the following went undefeated for the tournament Christian Goin 94 (7-0), Justin Cardani 106 (4-0), Will Lewan 138 (5-0), Baylor Fernandes 145 (7-0), Zac Braunagel 170 (6-0), Sergio Villalobos 195 (5-0) and Keaton Fogler 220/285 (6-0)