Local wrestlers' dreams of advancing to Champaign as individuals or Bloomington with their teams could start to come true, or burst, this Saturday during regional competition.
Class 1A Seneca Regional
Area teams Coal City, which is ranked 12th in 1A by Illinois Matmen, and Seneca are part of the 10-team field. So are Wilmington, Plano and Herscher, which are ranked third, fifth and seventh in their class, respectively, by Matmen.
"There's one other regional up north that's comparable to ours, but the reality is that this is one of the elite regionals," Seneca coach Todd Yegge said. "A lot of the kids feeding into (the Plano Individual Sectional) from our regional are hopefully going to be going to state. Not to take anything away from the other regionals, but as many quality teams as there are, it's going to be tough. There will be a lot of good wrestling."
Coal City claimed a record 24 dual wins this season. It enters the postseason off of a loss, but the Coalers took Wilmington down to the final bout before falling 33-27 on Jan. 22. Three Coalers — 106-pound sophomore Cody Minnick, 113-pound sophomore Corey Jurzak and 120-pound junior Casey Brown — are 2013 Interstate Eight Conference champions. Minnick and Brown were 2012 state qualifiers.
Illinois Matmen has Minnick as the top-ranked 106-pound wrestler in 1A. Other ranked Coalers are Brown (fourth at 120), Jurzak (fifth at 113), senior Jake Czaja (10th at 145) and senior Ryan Naples (seventh at 170).
Seneca has three wrestlers back who qualified for state last year — senior Brandon Webb, junior Tommy Lovett and sophomore Sage Friese. Wrestling at 195, 160 and 126 pounds, respectively, the three all finished second at the Interstate Eight Tournament, as did sophomore Dalton Coyle at 170.
Webb, who is fourth at 195, Friese, who is sixth at 126, and Lovett, who is 13th at 160, are ranked by Illinois Matmen.
"Not to be too pessimistic, but we're hoping for five (sectional qualifiers). Five would be a great number if we could get it," Yegge said. "I'm hoping for the best for our seniors. ... Gary Wantroba at 138, we're looking for him to have a great tournament and hopefully qualify. ... At 170 or 182 ... will be Jonah Lamboley. The hope is for him to have a great tournament."
Class 2A Pontiac Regional
Three Redskins — 120-pound junior Kenny Baldridge, 132-pound senior Justin Barkley and 182-pound senior Nik Countryman — are trying to return to the Individual State Tournament. Matmen ranks Countryman fourth, Baldridge sixth and Barkley and 220-pounder Dalton Ness as honorable mentions in their respective weights.
The Morris lineup will also include Ian Bernard at 106 pounds, Jake Crowther at 113, A.J. Vota at 126, Emmet Chouinard at 138, Cody Decker or Drake Dryfhout at 145, Andrew Olsen at 152, Trevor Allbert at 160, Brent Johnson or Ryan Kowalczyk at 170, Alex Hildy at 195 and Andrew Faught or John Guistat at heavyweight.
"All three (Baldridge, Barkley and Countryman) will have a good chance of making the finals this Saturday," Morris coach Jon Lanning said. "We will feature experience with some youth which is always good. Some of our young guys will get a taste of the postseason and prepare them for future regionals."
Morris is ranked 24th in 2A by Illinois Matmen. It will be joined at Pontiac by fourth-ranked Yorkville, 20th-ranked Sandwich and 25th-ranked La Salle-Peru. The Redskins went 12-9 in duals this season.
"It has been an up-and-down year for us with the late start due to state football run, sickness and injuries that has made us shuffle the line-up around this year from time to time," Lanning said. "We have been on our state run training schedule since the beginning of the new year and our conditioning is hopefully going to peak at the right time. The body can take the vigorous training schedule we keep for about six weeks. If you push the body much more than that, it will break down at regionals or sectionals when we want to be peaking."
Class 3A Joliet Central Regional
Illinois Matmen ranks Minooka 21st among 3A teams in the state. None of the other eight teams that will compete at Joliet Central Saturday are higher.
"At Minooka, the expectation is that the season isn't going to end Saturday. The season isn't going to end at sectionals. The expectation is that our season won't end until state,' Minooka coach Jeff Charlebois said.
"It's not going to be easy. We're going to have to grind our way through. Our sectional isn't the No. 1 sectional in the state like it's been, but it's still going to be tough. There are some very good teams there like Linclon-Way Central and Lockport. There's going to be a lot of quality teams there and a lot of talent at the (Moline) individual sectional. The guys will have to show up with their 'A' game."
The Minooka lineup will likely consist of K.J. Minor at 106 pounds, Andrew Potts at 113, Shane Mart at 120, Nate Vaught at 126, Danny Ruettiger at 132, Mike McNulty at 138, Carson Oughton at 145, Corbett Oughton at 152, Jeff Klank at 160, Chris Hiscock at 170, Nathan Gunn at 182, Josh Bouie at 195, Eric Velasquez at 220 and David Newman at 285.
"Our complete lineup will finally be in place," Charlebois said. "We will have 100 percent of our team healthy and in the lineup for the first time all season."
Corbett Oughton, who is sixth, is the highest-ranked wrestler from Minooka by Illinois Matmen. Other ranked Indians include Carson Oughton, who is 10th, Gunn, who is 12th, and Minor, Ruettiger, McNulty and Klank, who are honorable mention picks.