State Wrestling: Underdog L-W Central can’t get past Marist in quarterfinals
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media March 1, 2014 10:10PM
Updated: April 3, 2014 7:03AM
BLOOMINGTON — Lincoln-Way Central competed like it usually does — it got after it — but it still wasn’t enough to keep up with Marist on Saturday morning in a state quarterfinal at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The Knights found themselves in a 21-0 hole after six bouts and eventually fell 36-21.
“They were on the momentum track a little bit when we started at 138 (pounds),” Central coach Jason DePolo said. “Bad weight, but they’re better. They were that much better than we are.”
The Knights weren’t hanging their heads. After a fourth-place finish a season ago, Central’s appearance in the quarterfinals marked the first back-to-back trips to state in program history.
“This seemed to be more fun than it was last year because we were supposed to make it down (last year); we were the better team,” DePolo said. “This is a nice underdog story. You beat a top 10 Lockport team (in regionals), you pound on a top 10 Edwardsville team (to make state). And our team is so close and their personalities are so tight.”
Freshman Jake Dudek stopped the bleeding for Central, landing a pin 27 seconds into his bout at 195. Sean Kelly followed with a pin a little more than a minute later at 220. Bryan Ditchman, a heavyweight state medalist, made it three straight with a 3-2 overtime win over Jake Ford to cut Marist’s lead to 21-15.
That would be as close as the Knights would get.
“Honestly, I don’t think anyone on our whole team thought we’d make it down here,” Ditchman said. “I’m not sure what it was. All of our JV kids — I was on JV last year — we all stepped up and had winning records.”
Central’s younger wrestlers added depth, but Ditchman and Kelly said it was the seniors who drove the team: Joey Nelson, Bryce Gorman and Dominic Botta.
“Everybody looked up to those guys,” Kelly said. “When Joey made the finals last week, we were all going crazy for him. It’s been a great season.”
Nelson earned a forfeit win to close out his career after his runner-up finish at 132. Botta dropped a 9-3 decision to state finalist Mario Leveille at 138.
In the marque matchup of the dual, Gorman, a two-time state medalist, bumped up to 182 to face Marist’s Ethan Benoit, a third-place finisher at the individual state tournament. Benoit held a 6-4 advantage after scoring two takedowns to Gorman’s one, and Benoit was able to pour it on late to nab a 10-4 decision.
“The seniors led the team for us perfectly,” Ditchman said. “They stepped it up, pushed the pace in the room and yelled at us every time they could.”