ROCHELLE — Nearly 15 months had passed since the last time Rochelle’s varsity wrestling team took the mat for dual-meet competition. The Hubs returned to action Saturday morning, taking down both Plano and Freeport to kick off the unprecedented summer season.
Rochelle opened the three-team meet with an Interstate 8 Conference dual against Plano, defeating the Reapers 54-24 despite not having wrestlers at several weight classes. The Hubs also overcame a short-handed lineup in their nonconference dual with Freeport, topping the Pretzels 51-30 to start the season with a 2-0 record. Rochelle will face Rock Falls and Erie-Prophetstown on the road Wednesday before hosting Sandwich and Byron on Thursday.
Rochelle received four straight forfeits to open the dual, with freshman Tommy Tourdot (106 pounds), freshman Riley Damask (113 pounds), senior Ivan Pineda (120 pounds) and sophomore Weldon Nay (126 pounds) all earning victories. Plano scored its first points in the 132-pound bout, where Cain Hernandez won by fall over Hub sophomore Wesley Brown.
Senior Grant Thompson took a forfeit at 138 pounds and junior Caleb Nadig took the mat at 145 pounds, scoring two take downs and a near-fall before pinning Plano’s Gio Diaz to put the Hubs ahead 36-6. The Reapers received a forfeit at 152 pounds and scored six more points at 160 pounds, where Jose Ballesteros won by fall over Rochelle junior Matthew Eyster.
“It feels great to be back,” Nadig said. “We’re missing a lot of wrestlers because of the COVID-19 season, but we have a solid group overall. We have guys who are working hard and want to get better and I think we’ll be able to upset a lot of teams. I think a conference title is definitely in the mix. We have to continue working hard, getting better and winning the matches we’re supposed to win. We need to win as many toss-up matches as we can.”
Freshman Leo Stoffel stepped up for Rochelle at 170 pounds, pinning Plano’s William Collins in the second period after a back-and-forth first period. Senior Ben Harvey took a forfeit at 182 pounds, which preceded a double forfeit at 195 pounds and senior Noah Messer’s first-period pin against Plano’s Jack Olivier at 220 pounds. While the Reapers lost the dual, Plano scored the final points, with Alex Diaz winning by fall over Hub sophomore Jaden Cook at 285 pounds.
The Pretzels emerged with a 12-6 lead after three matches, with two Freeport wrestlers earning pins after Pineda received a forfeit at 120 pounds. Looking to even the match for his team, Thompson took care of business in the 138-pound bout, earning a pin near the end of the first period. Nadig faced Jaylon Hail in a highly-contested 145-pound bout, with Nadig building an early lead before hanging on at the end to earn a 15-12 decision and three Hub points.
“It’s great being back after not wrestling for over a year,” Thompson said. “We had a good start to the season and we’re hoping for more good things to come. We’re missing a lot of weight classes, but I think we have a chance to wrestle really well. If we compete as hard as we can, I think we can win a lot more duals. A lot of teams are looking pretty thin this season because of COVID-19, so I think we have an opportunity to win the conference this year.”
Freeport took a forfeit at 152 pounds and won by fall at 160 pounds, giving the Pretzels a 24-15 advantage before Stoffel shined once again in the 170-pound bout, defeating Chayton Williams by fall halfway through the second period. Harvey and Messer received forfeits at 182 pounds and 220 pounds, respectively, while Freeport’s Bailey Fox earned a forfeit at 195 pounds.
With Rochelle leading 33-30, Cook bounced back from his loss against Plano, pinning Pretzel heavyweight Landon Stewart near the end of the first period. Tourdot (106 pounds) and Damask (113 pounds) earned forfeits to close out the Hub victory over Freeport.