FAIRBURY — When you measure Brandon Hoselton and Logan Deacetis by age, they're young, but when you consider the time they've devoted to wrestling, they're grizzled veterans.
The two unbeaten and No. 1-ranked sophomores headline a half dozen Prairie Central High School wrestlers bound for the 82nd state tournament, which begins its three-day run at the State Farm Center in Champaign at noon on Thursday.
The 195-pound Hoselton, the reigning Class 1A champion at that weight, is 45-0 while the 160-pound Deacetis is 47-0. They won Pontiac Sectional titles along with teammates Corbin Moser (45-6 at 145), Jake Woodrey (46-3 at 182) and Josh Woodrey (45-2 at 220).
No other 1A team statewide had more sectional champions than Prairie Central’s five. Also among the Pantagraph area's 41 state qualifiers is the Hawks’ sectional third-placer, Richard Hill (22-6 at 170).
As impressive as the Hawks were, Hoselton and Deacetis were especially so. Hoselton won his three bouts by fall while Deacetis had two pins and one forfeit.
"Last year, I probably wasn't in as good of shape as this year," Hoselton admits. "I still worked hard, but I wasn't as confident as I am now."
His confidence can be seen in more frequent shots for takedowns.
"I knew how to do it, but I was always nervous to do it," he said. "I'm trying new stuff out."
Hoselton says improvement comes from having good training partners.
"They deserve as much credit as I do," he said. "Without them, I don't know if I'd be in the position I am today."
Hoselton’s offseason included a trip to the national tournament in Fargo, N.D., where he became an All-American in both the freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions while placing fourth and second, respectively.
"It told me what I needed to work on and stuff I should do better," he said.
Hoselton went 46-3 last year when he and his brother, Drew, joined their first cousin, Andy (2011), as the only state champions in Prairie Central history.
“Brandon's picked up the intensity these last few weeks,” said first-year Hawks coach Tyler Webster. “He’s definitely got his eye on the prize.”
Hoselton’s biggest wins came against No. 3 Matt Kerr of Monticello and the top two ranked 182-pounders in Tolono Unity’s Cade Scott and Clinton’s Micah Downs.
“He really gets himself amped up for those big matches,” said Webster, who has seen some opponents become cautious against Hoselton, but not all.
“A lot of those real good kids, they don’t back down from him. They come right at him and he’s ready for it. He’s wrestled long enough that he knows how to make adjustments quickly.”
As a freshman, Deacetis went 35-9 at 132 and qualified for state where he lost both of his bouts. He transformed himself by "working in the summer non-stop."
"I normally enjoy training hard," said Deacetis, whose coach isn't afraid to pit him against 170-pounders. "The heavier guys make me work harder. They make me focus on what I have to do with technique. It's a good challenge."
Webster gives Hoselton and Deacetis high marks as team captains.
“Especially for younger guys, being underclassmen still, they’ve learned well from our other two captains, Jake Woodrey and Corbin Moser,” said Webster, whose No. 12-ranked squad (30-4) will face No. 22 Lisle in the Feb. 19 Wilmington Dual Team Sectional.
The Woodrey brothers are a reflection of their team, which likes to have fun, but can focus when necessary. Jake Woodrey missed last season with a football knee injury.
“He’s really put in the time in the offseason and kind of made up for lost time,” Webster said. “The work ethic of those guys has been really impressive.”
Hill has had fewer bouts because he couldn't crack the lineup early in the season.
“He continued to work hard and wait for his opportunity and when it presented itself, he took full advantage of it," said Webster, who believes Moser should be ranked, but isn't complaining. “Sometimes it’s better to fly in under the radar.”
Webster also knows that sometimes experience matters more than age.