Finishing a dual meet season with a 9-11 record may not seem impressive. But it was a significant accomplishment for the Pekin wrestling team.
"With six first-year wrestlers in our lineup (and no heavyweight) and a tough dual meet schedule, my expectation was we'd win about five duals," said Dragons coach John Jacobs.
"I always talk about how wrestling is a team sport and it takes a team effort to win. You need pins, and you need guys to not get pinned. Our kids have scratched and clawed all year. That's a good sign not only for this season, but next season, too."
Pekin completed its dual meet season Thursday by splitting a pair of Mid-Illini Conference matches against visiting Canton and Limestone in Custer-Stoudt Gym.
After losing 40-33 to Canton, the Dragons beat Limestone 48-29. Pekin finished 2-4 in conference duals.
The Dragons had six wins against Canton. Ryan Haynes (126), Isaac Lollar (152) and Jared Dowell (195) pinned their opponents. Chase Roepenack (138) won by decision, Tyler Haynes (160) won by an injury default and Logan Bailliez (170) won by forfeit.
All eight Pekin wins against Limestone were pins. Six of the pins were achieved in less than a minute.
Demarcus Watson (106), Will Carson (113), Cael Jacobs (120), Ryan Haynes, Drake Hawkins (132), Roepenack, Lollar and Dowell had the pins against Limestone. It was the first varsity win for Carson and Cael Jacobs.
The victory over Limestone was sealed by Watson's pin. Watson, a freshman, put the finishing touches on three of Pekin's final four dual meet victories.
John Jacobs had special praise for Dowell, Roepenack and Lollar following Thursday's duals.
"Jared (Dowell) has been on a mission all season to get us as many team points as possible," he said. "Chase (Roepenack) is an athletic kid who is starting to put it all together. Plus, he's a good listener.
"Isaac (Lollar) is a first-year wrestler. He's lanky, which gives his opponents problems. He pinned the kid from Limestone with a technique we'd worked on at just the last practice."
Pekin's final home competition of the season was dedicated to former Dragons wrestling coach Jack Stoudt, who died June 14 at age 87. Custer-Stoudt Gym is named for ex-Pekin wrestling coach Jim Custer and Stoudt.
The Dragons went 466-120-14 in duals, won 30 conference titles, 22 IHSA district/regional and eight sectional crowns, and had 84 state tournament qualifiers during Stoudt's two stints as coach (1968-1989 and 1993-2000).
Twenty-one of Stoudt's state tournament qualifiers placed (finished in the top eight in their weight class) and he coached three state champions.
John Jacobs, who replaced Stoudt as coach in 2000 after wrestling for him for three years and being his assistant coach for three years before being promoted, spoke about Stoudt before Pekin's match against Canton.
"Lots of people came out of the woodwork to see us wrestle (Thursday) out of respect for Jack, and I thanked everyone for coming," Jacobs said. "People across the state still associate Jack Stoudt with Pekin wrestling."
Stoudt's widow Elaine was in Custer-Stoudt Gym for the recognition of her late husband. John Jacobs said Stoudt's daughter Mary Michalski drove 2 1/2 hours from her home in Mundelein to surprise her mother.
Pekin was supposed to compete in the Quincy Invitational over the weekend, but the tournament was postponed because of the snowstorm.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.