Diddell powers through for lone Knight Champaign berth
KANELAND—Pontiac’s Class 2A Sectional can dampen the dreams of most any wrestler wishing to advance to the individual State tournament this weekend.
Fortunately for Kaneland High School, the wrestling dream remains alive for one.
Heavyweight contender Justin Diddell was the lone Knight to make it through the Pontiac gathering to become the 285-pound runner-up.
“I just knew I had to wrestle my hardest every step of the way,” Diddell said. “I had great friends there backing me up that weren’t even wrestling, which helped a lot with the nervousness and calming me down. Then I had to go through two honorable mention kids to make it into the finals.”
Six other Knights’ seasons were stopped in their tracks after tournament action.
In 2012-13, three Knights made it, including 145-pound State champ Dan Goress.
At 32-9, Diddell, bound for I-AA Indiana State for football, is set to face Taylorville entry Blake Hooper at 36-5, according to brackets released on Sunday.
Hot off capturing a Belvidere Regional title the previous week for the third-place Knights, Diddell got down to business with a quarterfinal win over Pontiac’s Andrew Mays in 2:59. In the semifinals, the Kaneland rep took a pinfall over Peoria Notre Dame’s Dom Tudor with 34 seconds remaining in regulation.
The final brought sectional glory for Diddell, despite the loss in 2-1 fashion to Geneseo’s Nick Verbeck.
At 113 pounds, Adam Mish lost in the consolation second round by 9-3 decision to Lincoln-Way West Larry Cozzo. In the 145-pound consolation bracket, Knight Riley Vanik was defeated by Dixon’s Kylian Lally by 12-4 major decision to see his season end. At 152 pounds, George Strang was ousted by Belvidere’s KC Pavlak by 5-0 count in the consolation second round. In 160-pound action, Knight Austin Parks defeated Morton’s Kartal Bakirdan by 10-0 major decision, but lost in the semi to eventual State-goer Rigo Fraire of Sandwich by 3:45 pinfall. 170-pound transfer Tom Price got a 6-0 win over Scott Schulte, but lost in the consolation semifinal to Crete-Monee’s Brandon Hannigan, 6-3. At 182 pounds, Zach Parker saw his season end by 10-3 decision to Sterling’s William Canales.
While the entire 2A field is, by definition, great, Diddell views everyone on somewhat equal footing.
“This is the first time I’ve qualified, and I’ve been wrestling since my sophomore year. If you just get in, you have an equal shot because everybody can be beat. Nobody is a God,” Diddell said.
The State tournament goes from Thursday to Saturday, Feb. 20-22, at the State Farm Center mats in Champaign, Ill., with tickets either $8 or $10 per session. The action can also be viewed on www.IHSA.tv.