In proper position
Photos courtesy of Stefanie Vanik
Third-place at tough sectional paves way for potential state berths
KANELAND—Call them the lucky seven.
After a third-place finish at the Class 2A Belvidere Regional, however, the rest of the field at this weekend’s Pontiac Sectional might see their fortunes run out, once they face the Knights.
Paced by heavyweight regional king Justin Diddell, the Knights’ 124-point total was good for third in the nine-team setup.
Sandwich took the regional with 174 points, followed by rival Sycamore’s 130. Belvidere (122.5) and Marengo (92.5) rounded out the top five. Belvidere North and Boylan Catholic of Rockford tied for sixth with 80. Burlington Central and Joliet Catholic brought up the rear with 34 and 31, respectively.
A year ago at the Sycamore Regional, the Knights finished second and also advanced seven.
While the regional championship mantle was less full this go-around, the Knights still maintain enough to do damage the rest of this postseason.
Besides Diddell, the Knights plan to brandish 160-pound second-placer Austin Parks, 170-pound runner-up Tom Price, and third-place grapplers Adam Mish (113), Riley Vanik (145), George Strang (152) and Zac Parker (182).
Diddell’s day began with a :41 second fall over Deon Roby of Belvidere, with the finals going the Knights’ way after a 1-0 edging of Sycamore rival, Devin Knight.
Parks beat Sycamore’s Michael Beaudoin by 12-0 major decision in his semi challenge before falling to capable Sandwich Indian Rigo Fraire by 3:45 pinfall in the final.
Price, who has had a productive first year as a transfer, got past Boylan’s Austin Middleton by 1:01 stick and Marengo’s Brandon Dierkes by 1:34 pinfall. In the finals, Price was upended by Sycamore’s Austin Armstrong in 51 seconds.
In the 113 category, Mish found his way to the consolation bracket, where he pounded Belvidere wrestler Jonathan Sanchez in a 15-2 major decision.
Vanik, getting a taste of the postseason attrition as a freshman, beat Spartan counterpart Andrew Larsen 14-6 in a major decision win. After a semifinal loss to Boylan’s Joey Bartolino and a consolation slot, Vanik recovered by beating BC’s Ray Coklan in 3:05 and beat Hilltopper Cameron Haney in a 17-10 slugfest for the invite to next weekend.
Strang wrote his ticket for this weekend by placing third in the 152-pound category. Beginning with a 13-7 win over Sandwich foe Jesse Brunoehler, Strang was then defeated by Sycamore’s Michael Ernster, 3-0. In the consolation bracket, the Knight recovered with a 3:17 pin of a Marengo opponent before outlasting BC’s Christan Quiles in a 4-3 final.
Parker’s journey began with a 6-2 win over Belvidere’s Gage Brewer, but after a tech fall loss to Sycamore’s Christopher Malone, the KHS sophomore beat BC’s Kyle Blankenburg by 7-3 count before solving Brewer once again in 5-2 fashion.
The Knights’ journey for statehood continues on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15, on the Pontiac High School grounds with the eligible qualifiers from the LaSalle-Peru, Geneseo and East Peoria Individual Regionals.