EUREKA – A pair of Eureka grapplers made it to the big stage at the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana.
“I do not know if we can get more than two,” pointed out Hornets’ head coach Doug Ferguson. “I’m hopeful to get Joel Baer and Brayden Peiffer there,”
One graduated in four-time qualifier Asher Wiegand (34-5, fourth place @ 126 pounds), but the other is back in the fold in junior Peiffer (27-9, 16 pins @ 106).
“Last year was his coming out party you can say. Nobody really expected that out of him,” said Ferguson, who begins his seventh campaign at his alma mater (61-65 record). “He’s more confident overall. He’s bigger and stronger. He has three or four go-to moves he feels real confident in.”
No one will be more motivated than Baer. He won his first 29 matches as a junior at 220, but dropped two matches on the second day of sectional competition and failed to reach the state finals.
“He’s hungry for it,” commented Ferguson, who expects to fill 11 or 12 out the 14 weight classes. “Sectionals left a bad taste in his mouth.”
According to Ferguson, Baer is slowed by turf toe and ankle injuries. He’s not sure when the senior will see his first action on the mat.
Junior Jesiah Helberg (11-6 @ 285) also reached the sectional.
Eureka (10-12 dual record a season ago) is bolstered by a 10-member freshmen group who shows potential.
“I’m really excited about the freshmen class,” added Ferguson, who anticipates between 23 or 24 in the program,
The reigning Heart of Illinois Conference dual champion is Heyworth, who posted a 27-9 record and ended up fourth in one A.
“It could come down to who can fill out the weight classes with solid kids,” said Ferguson of the HOIC.
He pointed to Tremont as the favorite in the West Division with Heyworth and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher battling it out in the East.
The Hornets' schedule is listed below:
Dec. 3: vs. Midwest Central/Illini Central & Putnam County. 5:30 p.m.
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Dec. 5: vs. Ottawa Marquette, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 7: Seneca Invitational, 9 a.m.
Dec. 10: @ Peoria Richwoods with Canton, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 14: @ Morton with Illini Bluffs & Metamora, 9:30 a.m.
Dec. 17: vs. Farmington & Olympia, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21: Metamora Invitational, 9 a.m.
Jan. 9: @ Kewanee with Knoxville, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 15: vs. El Paso-Gridley, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 18: Kewanee Invite, 9 a.m.
Jan. 23: @ Peoria Heights with Illinois Valley Central, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 25: Randy Bowman Invite @ Le Roy, 9 a.m.
Jan. 28: HOIC Quad (West Division) @ Tremont, 5 p.m.
Feb. 1: HOIC Super Duals @ Le Roy. 9 a.m.
Feb. 8: Regional
Feb. 14-15: Sectional (individual)
Notes: OM and Putnam Co. are new to the schedule, while the Kewanee Invite replaces the Amboy one. A. Wiegand posted a career record of 135-28. Juniors Conner McDonald and Gabe Wiegand decided not to go out.