CHAMPAIGN — Dreams of unlimited possibilities probably bounced inside the head of Josh Wallick if he was able to sleep following Friday’s excitement in the 77th annual state wrestling tournament.
The pride of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Fisher co-op, Wallick was the only winner among eight Pantagraph area semifinalists at State Farm Center. The other seven guaranteed themselves medals with quarterfinal wins.
The defending heavyweight champion Wallick (42-1), who is ranked No. 1, won his semifinal against No. 3 Junior Nunez of Plano, 2-1, and will face No. 5 Eduardo Gonzalez of Aurora Central Catholic (31-6) in Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. finals.
“This is what it’s culminated to, my entire season,” Wallick said. “I’m going for it.
“This year, it’s a little bit harder. People know me. It’s a little bit better to wrestle as an unknown.”
After a scoreless first period, Nunez escaped the bottom position to lead 1-0 going into the final period. Wallick, who has trailed less than a handful of times this year, also escaped from the bottom to tie it. The go-ahead point came with 1:30 left when Nunez was called for stalling.
“When I was locking up for the double-under bear hug, he was backing up,” said Wallick, who beat Nunez in overtime earlier this year. “He knew I would take him down if I got that so he didn’t want anything to do with that. I’m glad I got the penalty point.”
Wallick began his day with a 43-second pinning of Belleville Althoff’s Rodney Baker. That fall helped validate Wallick’s shooting style.
“It gives me a little bit more courage to take more shots and know that they will be effective,” he said.
Other 1A area semifinalists who lost were El Paso-Gridley’s Hunter Sant Amour (170), LeRoy’s Caleb Wilson (170) and Dwight’s Anthony Bauer (195). Reaching the 2A semis but losing were Bloomington’s Devante Gray (106), Jack Henderson (113) and Austin Weltha (195) and Pontiac’s Stephen Richardson (138).
No. 1-ranked Andrew Marsden of Crystal Lake Central notched his second win of the year over the No. 3-ranked Weltha, pinning him in the semis in 1:31. The score was 15-1 in their first meeting. Weltha (36-5) won his quarterfinal, 7-3, over No. 8 George Bessette of Antioch.
“He was trying to keep it close and I didn’t want that,” Weltha said of Bessette. “I tried to use my strength against him to get the job done.”
The No. 5-ranked Henderson (44-4) lost to No. 1 Dan Swan of Oak Forest, 5-2, in the semis after a notching 6-5 overtime upset of No. 2 Gavin Sutton of Richmond-Burton.
“When it comes to the state tournament,” Henderson said, “rankings don’t mean anything.”
The No. 4-ranked Gray (41-5) lost to No. 2 Francis Edelen of Oak Forest, 5-3, after pinning quarterfinal foe Brandon Ramos of Burbank St. Laurence in 5:15. Gray trailed Ramos, 5-0, after one period.
“Getting a second pin in the state tournament is awesome,” Gray said.
Pontiac’s No. 6-ranked Richardson (41-4) dropped his semi, 3-2, against No. 3 Randle Tabor of Springfield (39-0). In the quarters, Richardson tipped Mundelein’s Anthony Swindell, 6-5. Swindell led, 4-1, in the third period before Richardson turned a reversal into a five-point move.
“I start out slow normally and I pick up the pace,” Richardson said.
In Class 1A, the No. 4-ranked Sant Amour (38-5) lost to No. 1 Kyle Betourne of Kankakee McNamara, 6-2, after beating Erie’s Nick Williams in the quarters, 5-2.
“It feels good to know that I’m placing now,” Sant Amour said.
LeRoy’s No. 8-ranked Wilson (31-7) upset No. 3 Lucas Duckett of Shelbyville in the quarters, 6-5, before losing for the third time this year to No. 2 Bruce Ivey of Sterling Newman, 7-2. Sixth a year ago, Wilson scored the deciding takedown against Duckett with four seconds left.
“I think he was thinking it was going to go to overtime so I just took advantage of that,” Wilson said.
In the semifinal at 195, Dwight’s No. 4-ranked Bauer (33-6) lost by injury default to No. 5 Terry White of Riverdale. White (29-0) had a 9-4 lead with 15 seconds left when Bauer went down hard and left on a stretcher.
Bauer, who lost in last year’s quarters, reached the semis by pinning No. 8 Joe Behan of Carterville in 3:13.
“He was giving me that chicken wing the whole match so I knew I had to get it,” Bauer said.
The area has nine others alive in the 1A wrestlebacks including LeRoy’s Trevor Bulington (106), Alex Matlock (113) and Lane Lindstrom (195), Prairie Central’s Tyler Bergstralh (138) and Brett Bennett (285), El Paso-Gridley’s Gabe McKinley (145), Olympia’s Chase Thurman (160), University High’s Cedric Wilder (220) and Cameron Schwing of GCMSF (120).
Also alive in the 2A wrestlebacks are Mahomet-Seymour’s Kolton Taylor (126), Pontiac’s Jake Lanning (152) and Bloomington’s Shawn Safford (160). Normal West’s Luke Nohns (182) will be in Saturday’s 3A wrestlebacks.