ROCHELLE – Robby Bates claimed an Interstate Eight championship on Saturday, notching a couple pins to win his first conference crown.
But for the Morris 195-pounder, he's hoping it's just another stop on a much larger journey.
"It's my first one ever so it's great getting it under my belt," Bates said. "I still want more. This is part of the goal. Like last week, I won the Illini Classic and that's a tough tournament. That was the first step. Now I got the second step down. Now we're going to keep going all the way to state."
Morris took seventh in the tournament with 65 points. Sycamore won the championship with 188 points, 42 ahead of runner-up LaSalle-Peru.
Coach Lenny Tryner said he wasn't surprised to see Bates win, but was glad he was able to finally claim a conference title.
"It's just one tournament but it's one step toward his goal of being a state champion," Tryner said. "That's the goal he's chasing. Good for him. He wanted that last year and took second or third. It was one of his goals."
Tryner said he was pleased with how Drayden McKerrow performed as well. The 182-pounder took third, earning Morris its other medal.
McKerrow lost to Rochelle's Ben Harvey in a semifinal, but won his consolation semi, then edged Drew Verway of LaSalle-Peru, 7-5.
"He took third and I think we had him seeded fourth," Tryner said. "He lost to the L-P kid earlier in the year by a point, came back and beat him by two points tonight. That worked real well for him tonight. He wrestled real hard."
Tryner said the team is in good shape for the Class 2A Rock Island Regional on February 8.
"I like the regionals we have," Tryner said. "I think we should do pretty good. We need a few little things to work on. The kids are conditioned well so that's good. We've got a couple kids out with little injuries, so they'll heal and get better, especially at our lower weights."
Bates said he's ready too for the next step of his journey.
"I see most of these kids at regionals or sectional," Bates said. "It feels great knowing I can wrestles with these kids and beat them up a little bit."