BLOOMINGTON — Preachers will tell you that battles are won from our knees.
El Paso-Gridley High School wrestler Monte Gregory has shown it works pretty well in winning wrestling matches, as well.
Fresh off capturing a state championship at 106 pounds in the IHSA individual meet a week ago, Gregory completed a spectacular junior season by utilizing his from-the-knees unorthodox style to capture his final match of the year in the Dual Team Wrestling State Finals on Saturday at Grossinger Motors Arena.
Unfortunately for Gregory and his EPG teammates, the Titans were unable to overcome powerful Coal City as the No. 4 state-ranked Coalers claimed a 40-22 win to end EPG's season at 22-10.
Gregory ended his year at 47-1 after battling through a sore shoulder and holding off Coal City's Evan Rivera, 12-9. Gregory had earlier taken a 10-3 lead before Rivera mounted a third period rally.
"I stuck to my game plan and did my thing," Gregory said. "It worked out in the first and second period. I just got a little tired in the third, but I stuck it out and came out with the win."
Gregory was one of six EPG wrestlers to win Saturday.
Most thrilling was the meet finale when Titan freshman Grant Sant Amour rallied from a 5-2 deficit to pin Coal City's Garrison Rolley with 1:26 remaining in the 126-pound bout.
"I was down and I knew I had to do something," Sant Amour said of his 11th win against 23 losses.
While Coal City piled up bonus points with five pins and a major decision among its eight match wins, EPG's Neal Downen was the only Titan other than Sant Amour to score bonus points. Downen posted a 12-4 major decision over David Papach at 170 pounds.
"At 170 pounds, they're usually really fast or really strong," said Downen, who improved to 32-10. "It they're strong, you have to stay low. Otherwise they'll just muscle you over. If they're fast, you have to watch your position, otherwise they'll be behind you within seconds."
Papach fell into the fast category, moving up from 152 pounds.
"I was thinking there was no way I could let him get behind me," Downen said. "I just had to fight to keep control."
Downen took control midway through the first period, breaking a 3-3 tie with a takedown. He scored the two points needed for the bonus with 25 seconds remaining in the match.
EPG senior Dylan Reeves reached a milestone with his victory at 182. When Reeves toppled Coal City's Joe Fariols, 10-6, he scored his 40th win of the year against five losses.
"I just went out there and fought," Reeves said. "I wanted to finish the season off with a good note, so I did what I had to do. He scored on me a couple of times, but I never thought I was in trouble. My defense is pretty good and I knew what to do to get out of certain situations."
EPG's Kaine Jackson also earned his 40th victory by defeating Coal City's Trevor McIntire at 138.
"Today was all about redemption for me," said Jackson (40-7), who says the win takes a bit of the sting out of not qualifying for this year's individual meet. "I'm just glad I can end my season with a win."
EPG's Ethan Faulk, who normally wrestles at 195, moved up to the 285-pound class to take a 10-4 win over Coal City's Logan Miller, who had a decided weight advantage.
"You have to really get behind those big guys and really get your hips into it and not tie up with them," said Faulk. "I knew I had to get around the guy and not get under him. It was a tough match, but I knew I had it in control."
"Even some of the kids that lost, I thought we fought pretty well," said EPG coach Brady Sant Amour. "We've never been here before and Coal City has a good program with a lot of talented kids. I thought we went out and represented ourselves pretty well."