WASHINGTON — Battle tested from a rigorous regular season, Class 2A top-ranked Washington showed Saturday it is more than ready for the wrestling postseason.
Two weeks removed from their 10th consecutive Mid-Illini Conference title, the host Panthers won their ninth 2A regional crown in 10 years and sixth in a row — about as decisively as any in their decade-long run.
Washington went a perfect 10-for-10 in regional title matches, advanced 12 to individual sectionals and scored 255.5 points — 112 more than second place No. 9 Bloomington. The co-op of Canton and North Fulton was third (109.5), with five sectional qualifiers.
The 10 titles equaled Washington’s most in a regional, tying the 2015 team’s total.
“We set the schedule we set up for this,” said Washington coach Nick Miller, whose team finished 18-10 in duals against a schedule peppered with 3A squads in Illinois and others around the nation. “When you go and wrestle the kind of competition we wrestle, these guys have had to learn a lot of hard lessons against top level-guys."
Panther freshman Donnie Hidden was a prime example Saturday. He came in as the No. 2 seed at 145 pounds with a 19-24 record. He left with the regional title after an 11-3 major decision against Peoria High’s Maldonaldo Guyton. The Peoria High junior upset top-seeded Drew Greenwood of Morton in the semifinals with a pin in sudden-victory.
“My record may not look as good as it should, but our schedule is a lot more packed than a lot of these teams that come in here,” Hidden said. “There were a lot of upsets throughout the bracket. Going into the finals match, everyone was telling me all these game plans and plots to go into this match. It all worked out perfectly, stuck to the game plan, listened and it was awesome.”
Washington received expected titles from its highly ranked quintet — No 2 Abe Hinrichsen (4:54 pin at 113), No. 1 Joey Cape (16-0 technical fall at 120), No. 2 Brody Norman (12-1 major decision at 126), No. 1 Jared Head (1:30 pin at 160) and No. 1 Jace Punke (1:30 pin at 195).
The Panthers added championships from No. 2 seed Zeke Hulet at 132 (8-2 decision), No. 2 seed Jake Sollberger (4-2 decision at 152), No. 3 seed Gabe Robison (by injury default at 220) and Dylan Cooper (3:01 pin at 285). Cooper entered with a 20-18 record.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Head. “We’ve had kind of a rough year. We’ve got a lot of young guys, but they’re working their butts off. It’s paying off. It’s unbelievable how much better they’re getting. They’re getting good right at the right time for the postseason.”
Peoria High senior top seeds Tyson Heerman and Damar Bradford won back-to-back titles at 170 and 182, respectively. Heerman (23-1) used three first-period takedowns to kick start a 9-2 win against Metamora’s Vinny Querciagrossa in the title bout. Bradford (22-5) pinned Canton’s Kam Oatman in the second period.
“Practicing throughout the week, going as hard as I can ... I just thought about it as getting another match done, so I could clear my head before I went out,” Bradford said. “(Heerman’s) doing good. (He’s my) practice partner. He’s helped me get a lot better, too. I’m thankful for him.”
Fourth-place Morton advanced six to sectionals, including runners-up Zane Ely (106) and Alex Ford (195).
“We only have 17 guys on the team, only brought 10 today and to qualify six of the 10 is really good,” Morton coach Josh Prichard said. “Up and down the lineup everybody wrestled hard to get where they need to be to qualify.”
The top three in each weight class qualified for the individual sectional Feb. 8-9 at Geneseo. Washington moved on to the Sandwich Dual Team Sectional on Feb. 19.
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs