ROCHELLE — Rochelle senior Eddie Villalobos nearly saw his final high school wrestling season ended by an injury to his lower back. After nearly two months of rest, however, Villalobos is back and aiming to finish his career the best way he can: reaching the state championships.
The postseason push took off at the IHSA Class 2A Rochelle Regional this past Saturday, where the varsity Hubs took the floor and finished fourth out of eight teams with 108 points. Villalobos (10-5) was one of two Rochelle wrestlers to win regional titles, earning a first-round bye before pinning Burlington Central’s Grayson Gardner and defeating Sycamore’s Syler Larson by 19-7 major decision to earn the 138-pound championship.
“My back’s feeling a lot better but conditioning has been the main thing for me,” Villalobos said. “Getting the last regional championship of my high school career at home was awesome. Having the home crowd behind me was sweet. I feel that my skills are there, but conditioning will be my main focus moving forward.”
Sophomore Ben Harvey (39-2 and No. 4 Class 2A) won Rochelle’s second title of the afternoon, earning a first-round bye before pinning Marengo’s Michael Macias to reach the final bout in the 182-pound bracket. Harvey faced Freeport’s Matthew Chavers (No. 7 Class 2A) for the championship, scoring one takedown and one escape to edge Chavers out by 3-2 decision.
“It wasn’t exactly how I wanted the final match to play out, but all that mattered was advancing and moving on to next week,” Harvey said. “I’m really going to start working on my level changes and my shots in the wrestling room, and we have five days of practice so there will be a lot of improvements happening.”
Three Hubs placed third at the regional championships to qualify for the IHSA Class 2A Geneseo Sectional this coming Friday and Saturday. Junior Keegan Davis-Carter (18-20) claimed the first at-large bid at 132 pounds, earning a first-round bye before falling by 8-3 decision to Marengo’s Jake Doyle. Davis-Carter rallied with a 17-5 major decision over Freeport’s KK Collier and a 10-4 decision to beat Plano’s Jorge Aguilar in the consolation finals for third place.
“It was definitely a big jump for me from not placing at regionals last year,” said Davis-Carter, who reached sectionals as a freshman during the 2016-17 season. “I’m looking forward to working hard this week. I think I’ve been better in the neutral position, and coach [Alphonso Vruno] has been motivating me to go after takedowns.”
Junior Zeke Horn (18-22) finished third at 160 pounds, defeating Marengo’s Stan Dawiec by 4-2 sudden victory before losing by fall to Rockford Boylan’s Tyler Mathias in the semifinals. Horn rebounded by pinning Freeport’s Eric Price and then pinning Dawiec in a consolation finals rematch to finish third and make sectionals for the first time.
“It feels pretty good,” Horn said. “When I first started wrestling, I was more worried about not getting pinned, but I’ve improved a lot on my feet and getting the first takedown. I feel like I did well today. The first match was shaky but I came back after that and improved throughout the day.”
Junior Gavin Ansteth (25-13) locked down Rochelle’s final at-large spot, taking third place at 195 pounds. Ansteth received a first-round bye, lost by fall to Burlington Central’s Zach Collins and then won back-to-back matches against Marengo’s Dan Chicoine (fall) and Freeport’s Duane Meighan (8-3 decision) to earn his first sectional bid.
“It feels good to get my 25th win and my medal in the same match,” Ansteth said. “I’m excited for next week and I’m ready to start the grind at practice. My first match didn’t go as planned, but I got the job done over my second and third matches.”
Four Rochelle wrestlers took fourth place and were named sectional alternates including senior Jacob Fore (12-14 at 152 pounds), junior Bryan Garza (26-14 at 170) and senior Pedro Lopez (12-13 at 220 pounds). Wrestlers who competed, but did not place, include sophomore Ivan Pineda (4-28 at 106 pounds), sophomore James Kopec (2-4 at 126 pounds), freshman Osiris Lenker (3-27 at 145 pounds) and junior Zack Capes (8-13 at 285 pounds).