BLOOMINGTON -- The Washington wrestling team is headed back to the Class 2A state championship.
The Panthers carried the momentum of a convincing win against No. 2 ranked Woodstock Marian in the quarterfinals into Saturday’s semifinals at the IHSA dual-team state tournament, where they overwhelmed No 8 Chicago St. Rita 59-9.
Top ranked and two-time state champ Washington (26-4) will face No. 9 Cahokia (18-4), a 60-22 winner against Rochelle, for the 2A title at 6 pm.
Against St. Rita, which Washington beat 49-21 in December, the Panthers won all but two matches, with six pins -- including the match clincher by sophomore Dylan Cooper at 285 pounds (in 5:29).
Just like he did in the quarters, Tyler Delaware opened the dual with a first period pin --this time in 36 seconds at 138 pounds.
Washington won four of the first five matches by pin, as Blaize Punke (1:08 at 145), Dalton Jensen (2:57 at 152) and Jared Head (2:21 at 170) followed Delaware.
Another highlight of the dual was a 3-0 decision from Zeke Hulet at 126, against third-place state finisher Tommy Russell. Hulet had lost twice earlier to Hulet, the last coming by pin in the individual state quarterfinals.
“We won some big matches,” Washington coach Nick Miller said. “We got good momentum from the first dual. That dual was a huge win for us, against the No. 2 team.”
The Panthers received a first-period pin from Joey Cape at 113 and a 16-0 technical fall victory from Brody Norman to push the point total into the 50s.
“I don’t know what it is about this state tournament,” Miller said. “These guys just get up for this tournament a little differently than they do the individual tournament. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact these guys love each other. They’re like brothers and it’s just amazing what they can do when that’s what its about -- about the guy to your right and to your left.”
Cooper, a first-year wrestler, came in with only nine varsity matches under his belt but got the clincher at 285.
“It’s a great team,” Cooper said. “I didn’t think I was going to get (the pin), but then I got it. It’s a big stage.”
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs