SYCAMORE — Rochelle senior Alex Harvey doesn't overlook any of his opponents, but there weren't many wrestlers who could challenge him at the IHSA Class 2A Individual Sectional at Sycamore High School on Friday and Saturday.
Harvey (40-1 and No. 2 in Class 2A at 195 pounds) cruised through the sectional tournament this past weekend, going 3-0 after earning a first-round bye to qualify for the IHSA State Championships two years in a row. After defeating LaSalle-Peru's Hunter Holdcraft by 14-1 major decision on Friday, Harvey won by fall over Bloomington's Josiah Heinz in the 195-pound championship semifinals before pinning Galesburg's Robert Castellano in the finals to take first place and a spot in the state tournament.
"Winning sectionals is something I've always wanted to do and it felt really good to finally get it done," Harvey said. "I'm really excited to go with all of my teammates. We're taking four wrestlers down this year which is really good for our program. I stuck with my core stuff and I was able to execute really well."
Harvey is one of four Rochelle wrestlers who earned spots in the state championships this year. Junior Eddie Villalobos (40-4 and No. 5 in Class 2A at 138 pounds) finished third in his bracket after bouncing back from a loss by 7-1 decision to Peoria Notre Dame's Leo Mushinsky (No. 3 in Class 2A at 138) in the semifinals. Villalobos took down Canton's Curtis Norton by 8-2 decision on Saturday to qualify for state, and he then beat Sterling's Isaiah Figueroa by 12-6 decision in the consolation finals to place third.
"It's a great feeling," said Villalobos, who is also returning to state for a second time. "Bringing four guys down there... Going alongside my teammates is awesome... We're trying win at state this year so we're just going to take things one match at a time. I give all glory to God because I wouldn't be here without Him."
Two Rochelle wrestlers took fourth place in their respective sectional brackets including senior Ehren Metzger (28-8 and No. 10 in Class 2A at 152 pounds) and junior Brandon Johnson (18-7). Metzger fell by 2-1 decision to Manteno's Jimmy Silva (No. 8 in Class 2A at 152) in the semifinals on Friday, but the senior won by 15-0 technical fall against Sandwich's Jackson Murphy on Saturday to reach the consolations finals and clinch a state bid. LaSalle-Peru's Lucas Burris won by 6-3 decision over Metzger for third place.
"The loss motivated me a lot," said Metzger, who is a first-time state qualifier. "I know that every match from here on out is going to be tough so I just need to keep pushing and hopefully I'll be on the podium in Champaign. It feels amazing and I was hyped up after the state-clinching match."
Johnson won three consecutive wrestlebacks on Saturday to claim his spot in the state championships. The junior defeated Dixon's Dylan Messer by 18-9 major decision in the consolation bracket before winning by 7-1 decision against East Peoria's Nick Wiley. Johnson's state-qualifying bout with Geneseo's Joe Stohl went into tiebreakers, with Johnson emerging victorious 2-1. Sycamore's Matthew Hunter defeated Johnson by fall in the consolation finals for third place.
"I told myself to never give up during that tiebreaker," said Johnson, another first-time state wrestler. "I'm going to see some really good opponents at state, and facing good opponents at the sectional will help prepare me for that."
Senior Justin Hernandez (37-8 and No. 8 in Class 2A at 132 pounds) and freshman Ben Harvey (30-6 at 170 pounds) each advanced to the sectional consolation semifinals before bowing out of the tournament. Hernandez won two wrestlebacks against LaSalle-Peru's Marty Villalovos (17-2 technical fall) and Morton's Drew Greenwood (fall) on Saturday before falling to Manteno's Caleb Boudreau. Harvey defeated both Geneseo's Heath Henderson (3-1 decision) and Dixon's Hunter Pate (3-2 decision) before losing by 10-5 decision to Washington's Garett Rich.
Senior Austin Tracey (29-17 at 182 pounds) earned an injury forfeit over Ottawa's Matt Snyder on Saturday before falling in a very close 4-3 tiebreaker to Sandwich's Wyatt Murphy in the consolation quarterfinals. Freshman Ivan Pineda (6-10 at 106 pounds) lost by fall to Rock Falls wrestler Brayden Tarbill in the consolation openers.
The IHSA State Championships at the State Farm Center in Champaign will begin on Thursday, Feb. 15 and run through Saturday, Feb. 17.