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DWIGHT - Questions arise when a wrestling team ranked 16th in the state upsets the No. 4 squad to win its first Class A regional in school history.

Dwight coach Phil Sexton had the answers this week while basking in the glow of a 215.5 to 169 upset of Coal City Saturday in the Coal City Regional.

First, he knew it was possible after a narrow loss to Coal City Jan. 19. The regional seeding meeting later confirmed the Trojans had a shot.

The regional opened with Coal City missing its 103-pounder, who had been ejected from the previous meet.

Dwight did its part by having its stars meet expectations and its unheralded youngsters surprise everyone.

"We wrestled probably the best we've wrestled all year as a team," said Sexton, whose squad advanced four champions, three runners-up and five third-placers to Friday and Saturday's Plano Sectional. "Everything fell right in place."

Sexton was hoping for two points apiece out of freshman Mitch Papiese (3-5) at 135 pounds and sophomore Joey Wiemken (10-8) at 171. Instead, he got eight apiece as both placed fourth.

Other surprises came from the Beegle brothers as freshman Brandon (16-16) took second at 103 while junior Bryan (16-19) was third at 215.

The triumph lifted Dwight to No. 9 in this week's state rankings of The Illinois Best Weekly.

"Hopefully they are ready to take the next step," said Sexton, whose team qualified for the 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 Wilmington Dual Team Sectional where it will face No. 14 Lisle. "I like our chances."

Dwight owns a win over Plano, which defeated Lisle. A win over Lisle would qualify the Trojans for the Feb. 25 Dual Team State Tournament at DeKalb where it might face No. 7 Petersburg Porta in the 11 a.m. quarterfinals. Dwight lost to Porta by just nine points Jan. 13.

The Trojans (23-6) broke the school record for wins in a season of 22 set by the 2003 squad. It was the fourth consecutive 20-win season for Sexton, in his ninth year as Dwight's coach.

The Trojans' banner season included winning the Jan. 7 Prairie Central Invitational and capturing Sexton's 200th career victory Dec. 1 against Reed-Custer. He's now at 215 and counting.

"In terms of work ethic, this is probably my best team," said Sexton, who rates his 1998 squad as Dwight's most talented. "They come ready to work every day. They are ready to go hard. It's a joy to coach this team."

But some of the fun of the Plano Sectional is already gone for the Trojans as No. 5-state ranked James Nakashima (33-3 at 160) and No. 8 Cody Watters (29-8 at 152) will sit out for disciplinary reasons. They will return for the dual team sectional.

"It's unfortunate," Sexton said. "I thought they could have placed at state. They are that good."

Nakashima, a junior with a 90-16 career record, was a state qualifier as a freshman. His 121 takedowns this season are two shy of Adam Struppa's school record.

"He's an in-your-face kind of wrestler," Sexton said. "He's the closest thing we have to a college type wrestler in the room. He has all the tools."

Nakashima's training partner, Watters, shares the school record of 107 career victories with Jacob Tjelle, who placed fourth in the state in 1998.

"Cody's very tough on his feet," said Sexton, who rates senior Pat Riccolo (31-4 at 189) among the team's best all-around wrestlers. "His chances are the best of anybody of being a sure-fire (state) qualifier. I like his chances down at state."

Riccolo was thrilled with his team's regional title.

"It showed we're not just a chump team," he said. "Everyone works hard. We step it up every day."

He appreciates that Sexton's instruction doesn't focus on the negative.

"He's always got a positive attitude," Riccolo said. "He keeps us upbeat."

Other Trojans to keep track of at Plano will be Korey Rodrick (23-9 at 125), Jeff Brown (21-14 at 119), Colin Olsen (20-8 at 275), Manny Salinas (10-4 at 112), Zack Delong (28-12 at 130), Chris Schreiner (23-14 at 140) and Erik Groff (24-6 at 145).

"The kids believe in themselves," said Sexton, who knows the question now becomes whether or not they can stay focused through Feb. 25 if need be.

Time has the answer.


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