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East Peoria Times-Courier - East Peoria, IL
  • Raiders claim 2A regional title

  • A second major wrestling tournament in a row came down to East Peoria and Washington.

    The Raiders prevailed this time, winning Saturday's Class 2A Morton Regional by 20 points over the second-place Panthers.
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  • A second major wrestling tournament in a row came down to East Peoria and Washington.
    The Raiders prevailed this time, winning Saturday's Class 2A Morton Regional by 20 points over the second-place Panthers.
    Not only did East Peoria snap Washington's three-year title streak in the first stage of the Illinois High School Association postseason, it also won a regional title for the first time since 2005.
    After head coach Phil Johns proclaimed confidence in Session I that the Raiders would pull off the feat, the wrestlers went out and delivered by collecting 188.5 points in a field comprised of nine teams.
    Nine East Peoria athletes will move on to the Rochelle Sectional, including regional champions Austin Harper, Casey McWhirter, Drew Foster and Lucas Joseph.
    Harper (29-7), a senior, derailed Limestone's Raul Araya, 6-4, in the 120-pound title bout.
    McWhirter (22-5), a junior, clinched first-place honors with a 7-4 finals victory in 126 over Ricky Stringfellow of Central.
    Foster (30-4) earned the top spot with an 8-4 decision over fellow junior Kyle Bieneman of Limestone in the 152 division.
    Joseph (34-0), a senior, stayed perfect on the season with a championship-round pin at 1:15 of Washington's Jake Godinez in 220.
    Freshman Zach Hogan and senior Kade McDonald both were regional runners-up for East Peoria.
    Hogan (24-15) lost only to Ben Fitch of Richwoods in the 113 class.
    McDonald (29-9) fell just short of the 30-victory mark after competing for the crown in 195 against Central's Darion Simmons.
    Freshman Phoenix Stuart (106, 27-7), junior Tony Hall (160, 26-13) and sophomore Jacob Lovell (18-12, 170) all placed third for the Raiders to extend their seasons.
    Bryce Sandoval (24-12), Evan Betz (14-18) and Calvin Bristol (6-8) just missed sectional berths with fourth-place showings.
    Washington upended East Peoria the previous week by a similar margin, 226.5-201, to win the Mid-Illini Conference tournament.
    Sectional: The action begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Rochelle.
    Session II occurs at 10 a.m. Saturday, with Session III to follow at 2 p.m.
    Prior to the sectional starting, there will be a grand march at 4:05 p.m. for all participants.
    The top-four individuals in each weight class advance to the 2A state final Feb. 14-16 at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
    Team sectional: East Peoria returns to Rochelle Feb. 19 for the team sectional.
    Others involved are the champions from the regionals at Pontiac (Yorkville), Rock Island (Geneseo) and Sycamore (Sycamore).
    The Raiders were 13th in the Jan. 29 Illinois Matmen 2A team rankings.
    Sycamore led the group with a No. 2 rating, followed by No. 4 Yorkville, the 2012 state runner-up, and No. 6 Geneseo.
    Brackets were not yet posted as of Tuesday morning.
    The two winners at Rochelle advance to the team state quarterfinals Feb. 23 at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

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