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Coal City cruises to state finals berth

Coalers make state in first year in Class 2A

SANDWICH — Coal City wrestling coach Mark Masters has a motto in his program: No one is done until everyone is done.

That means that, even if only one wrestler remains alive in the state individual tournament, every member of the team comes to practice. It is a practice that has helped foster the team-first atmosphere in the Coaler program.

After years of being a fixture in the Class 1A state dual meet finals, the Coalers moved up to Class 2A this season and, once again, will be at the state dual meet finals after defeating Dixon, 46-21, in the Sandwich Sectional.

"We have 30 kids in the whole program," Masters said. "All of them have still been coming to practice since regionals started. Getting all 14 starters out of the regional really helped us stay competitive, but no one takes it easy in our program. If you are working to get better, you are making your partner better, and vice versa. It has worked out pretty well."

Indeed it has. After two third-place finishes and a runner-up in the last four years in Class 1A, the Coalers now have a chance to bring home their fourth trophy in the last five years.

It was the team-first attitude that helped Tuesday.

With regular 195-pounder Cole Garcia on the sideline after an injury at last week's state individual tournament, Masters had to juggle the lineup a bit. Wills Payton, normally the team's 285-pounder, wrestled at 220, Logan Miller stepped into the 285-pound slot and normal 220-pounder Gage Leake moved down to 195.

Payton started off the match, and dropped a 4-0 decision. Miller, though, came through with a fall at the 4:41 mark of his match and gave the Coalers a 6-3 lead.

"That was a big win for Logan," Masters said. "He was our starting heavyweight last year, but a senior [Payton] beat him out. But, he didn't pout and say 'Oh, poor me.' He kept working hard and was ready to step in tonight when we needed him."

Evan Rivera lost a 6-3 decision at 106, which tied the score at 6, before Zach Finch earned a 16-4 major decision to put the Coalers ahead for good at 10-6. In the 120-pound bout, Trent Akre won by pin in 1:12 to make it 16-6, and Connor Huston followed with a win by pin at the 4:54 mark to make it 22-6.

Undefeated state 132-pound champion Alex Friddle won by forfeit to put Coal CIty ahead, 28-6, before Brandon Strnad was pinned at 138 to make it 28-12. Lane Kutemeier was pinned at the 1:37 mark in the 138-pound bout, and suddenly Dixon was within 28-18.

Senior Ryan Wasielewski, who finished third at the state individual tourney, rallied from a 5-4 deficit at the end of the first period to secure a pin at the 3:30 mark to move Coal City ahead, 34-18. Freshman Ashton Harvey won the 160-pound bout, 7-2, to give the Coalers an insurmountable 37-18 lead.

David Papach lost a 7-1 decision at 170 before undefeated state champion Daniel Jezik earned an 8-6 win at 182, putting the Coalers ahead, 40-21. Leake finished off the night for the Coalers by pinning his opponent in 4:43 at 195.

"We had a pretty solid night up and down the lineup," Masters said. "The biggest difference in 2A that I have noticed is the depth of the teams. The top-end guys in 2A are very good, but the rest of the teams are solid up and down.

"Ryan Wasielewski had just reached the pinnacle of his career, taking third in the individual. He may have let down, and he told me after his match that he didn't wrestle well. But, he was still able to get a win and some bonus points for us."

Coal City (36-3) will take on Niles Notre Dame, which defeated Chicago St. Patrick, 40-24, in the quarterfinals Saturday at 9 a.m.

"The goal when we get to state is to win the first one," Masters said. "The goal for us is always to win the next match we have."

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