ROCHELLE — Grant Thompson nearly saw his sophomore wrestling season end after suffering a concussion during the Mahomet-Seymour Marty Williams Invitational earlier this month.
The injury sidelined Thompson for the remainder of the IHSA season, but the 126-pounder returned to action in time for the IWCOA Fresh-Soph Regional at Rochelle Township High School this past Saturday. Thompson won two matches by decision to place second in his bracket and qualify for the IWCOA Sectional at Sterling this coming weekend.
“It was a struggle at first after the injury since I wasn’t able to practice,” Thompson said. “It was fun once I got back into wrestling… It was exciting to wrestle in the regional. The first match wasn’t very tough, but the second match was a real struggle. After winning that match, I knew I would be going to sectionals and that I would have a chance to go to state.”
Thompson opened his second-place run with a victory, topping Woodstock’s Alexander Iversen by 14-8 decision. The sophomore then faced Rockford East grappler Felipe Gelacio in the semifinal round, edging him by 10-8 decision to reach the championship bout. Thompson lost the final match by fall against Sycamore’s Brayden Peet.
Sophomore Ethan Albers also clinched a spot in the sectional championships. Albers took second place at 182 pounds in the regional, defeating Burlington Central’s Alejandro Uribe and Oregon’s Adam Glendenning by fall over the first two rounds to reach the finals. Albers lost by fall against Rockford East’s Zander Guttridge.
“I felt good and I had high hopes going into the regional,” Albers said. “I kept my confidence up and that’s what helped me make the sectional. I’ve definitely gotten better in the neutral area and I’m hitting more shots than I did last year. I’ve gained more confidence, and taking shots isn’t as hard for me now.”
Rochelle fielded six wrestlers in the regional championships including sophomores Noah Messer (170), Ivan Pineda (106) and freshmen Denny Johnson (120) and Baxton Beaird (160). Albers and Thompson were the only qualifiers and match winners in the tournament.