With University High and Prairie Central moving to Class AA this wrestling season, the Pantagraph area's list of Class A area state tournament qualifiers doesn't take long to recite.
Only nine - four less than last year - will represent the area in Friday and Saturday's 69th state tournament at Champaign's Assembly Hall. Of the nine, only three are ranked by The Illinois Best Weekly to earn one of the four medals awarded in each of the 14 weight classes.
Class A action begins at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Saturday's third-place round is at 4:30 p.m., with the finals at 6:30.
Clinton senior Matt Cooper is the only area wrestler to own a state medal, having placed third at heavyweight in 2004. He is ranked fourth at that weight with a 26-3 record. New rankings come out tonight.
Other ranked area entrants are Olympia's No. 2 Mario Martinez (38-9 at 135), LeRoy's No. 4 Gavin Dunlop (36-1 at 160) and Eureka's No. 7 Chris Wakid (35-3 at 171).
Clinton's Cooper, who got a late start because of a wrist injury suffered during football, is expected to face No. 8 Matt McLaughlin (22-5) of Murphysboro in the quarterfinals.
"He has a real good chance of placing," Clinton coach Joe Gordillo said. "He's been wrestling pretty well. He's not at 100 percent. He's made a lot of strides. He has really improved his conditioning and strength."
Olympia's four-time state qualifier Martinez faces No. 7 T.J. Warner (33-5) of Hoopeston in the first round with the winner drawing No. 1 Caleb Walk (31-1) of Stillman Valley, who was second last year at 125.
"I think Mario has a good shot at a medal," said Olympia coach Pete Cleary. "I think he's wrestling really well, the best he's wrestled all year."
LeRoy's Dunlop, who attends co-op partner Tri-Valley, could open against No. 2 Joseph Smith (39-1) of West Frankfort in the quarterfinals and face No. 1 Jordan Blanton (32-0) of Richmond-Burton in the semifinals. Blanton won last year's title at 152.
If Eureka's Wakid can win his first-round match, he would meet No. 1 Matt Wenger (31-2) of Dakota, a two-time state champion, in the quarterfinals.
Clinton has the most area entrants in Class A with four. The Maroons' Cody Moody (34-7 at 135) could meet No. 3 Dillon Pontnack (35-4) of Lena-Winslow in the quarters.
"He's wrestling the best he has all year," Gordillo said of Moody, a two-time state qualifier.
Clinton's Heath Pool (32-7 at 140) may face No. 8 Justin Titsworth (30-8) of Litchfield in the quarters. The sectional was Pool's only tournament title this year.
"It was a big surprise Heath and Cody (won sectional titles)," Gordillo said. "Both were second in the regional and came back to wrestle great all day long in the sectional."
The Maroons' two-time state qualifier, Chris Miller (36-12 at 152), opens against No. 3 Caleb Kraft (34-3) of Dakota.
"Of the four, his is the toughest bracket," Gordillo said. "In the one match he wrestled at state last year he didn't wrestle bad. Hopefully that experience will pay off."
A first-round win by LeRoy's Brian Umstattd (30-6 at 130) would earn him a quarterfinal bout with No. 1 John Odeen (36-2) of Coal City.
"They seem to be peaking at the right time," LeRoy coach Greg Conn said, referring to Umstattd and Dunlop.
Dwight's Pat Riccolo (34-5 at 189) will face No. 6 Brendan Watson (35-2) of Oakwood in the first round.