BELVIDERE — Behind 13 points with only three bouts remaining, the Rochelle wrestling team needed to win out in order to have any chance of defeating Belvidere on Tuesday.
285-pounder Zack Capes was first to step up for the Hubs, recovering from an early takedown to pin Bryan West and bring Rochelle within seven points. Belvidere forfeit the 106-pound match to Rochelle’s Ivan Pineda, setting 113-pound freshman Weldon Nay up against Alejandro Banuelos for the final bout of the dual with the Hubs trailing by one point.
In an absolute thriller that featured a combined six takedowns, five escapes and three near-falls, Nay and Banuelos remained tied 13-13 with less than 15 seconds remaining in the bout. A missed shot nearly cost Nay the match, but with one final effort, the freshman turned Banuelos over, taking the lead before pinning him with five seconds left in the third period. The victory pushed Rochelle over Belvidere 38-33 and extended the team’s dual win streak to 11 matches.
“It was a real team effort tonight,” head coach Alphonso Vruno said. “It’s really Weldon’s first full year wrestling and he’s really improved every week… We coached him through the match and we did whatever we could to help him be successful, and he followed the plan. It was all heart at the end of the match, and even though he took a bad shot, he found a way to finish on top.”
The Hubs never led before Nay’s victory in the 113-pound bout. Rochelle fell behind 12-0 after conceding a forfeit in the 120-pound bout and losing the 126-pound bout when Antonio Alvarado won by fall over Caleb Nadig. Grant Thompson got the Hubs started in the 132-pound bout, reversing Izaac Palmer and pinning him in the second period. 138-pounder Keegan Davis-Carter followed Thompson’s win with a 17-7 major decision against Caden Lendman, totaling a team-high eight takedowns in the match.
“We’re in Keegan’s ear all the time about wrestling all six minutes,” Vruno said. “I think that’s the biggest jump he’s made from last season. I think he can take down any kid in the state, and I watched him make four takedowns in the third period of one of his tournament matches on Saturday. He’s done an excellent job for us this season.”
Belvidere scored a fall victory in the 145-pound bout, leading to an extremely close 152-pound match between Rochelle’s Zeke Horn and Alexander Piloni. Horn trailed 9-6 in the third period, but a takedown and a stalling penalty against Piloni evened the match before Piloni ultimately escaped Horn’s grasp with seconds to spare. Bryan Garza put Rochelle back on track, defeating Jake Bell by 11-2 major decision in the 170-pound bout after Bell beat Garza on Saturday.
Belvidere went ahead 27-14 when Jonathan Urbieta earned a 9-5 decision against Noah Messer in the 182-pound bout. Ben Harvey controlled his 195-pound match with Ahmad Sheikhalia, turning him over with an arm bar for a pin in the second period.
The dual turned south for the Hubs when Belvidere’s Trever Dawson won by fall over Gavin Ansteth in the 220-pound bout, giving his team a 33-20 advantage. But Rochelle rallied with three straight victories at 285, 106 and 113 to score 18 unanswered points and win the dual.
“The kids are realizing that they’re a great team,” Vruno said. “We had one of our top wrestlers get pinned tonight, but the kids didn’t get down on themselves, and they stepped up with huge pins… We have that next-man-up mentality and we believe we’re in every dual we wrestle.”
Rochelle opened Tuesday’s three-team meet with a 54-17 victory over Winnebago. The Indians forfeited five matches for the Hubs including the 113-pound bout (Josey Weber), the 160-pound bout (Zeke Horn), the 195-pound bout (Noah Messer), the 220-pound bout (Gavin Ansteth) and the 106-pound bout (Ivan Pineda). Caleb Nadig crushed his match against Matthew Bloomquist, pinning him in 15 seconds to win the 126-pound bout.
Keegan Davis-Carter notched a 6-4 decision over Hayden Faworski in the 138-pound bout and sophomore Ethan Tooley held his own in the 152-pound bout with a 6-2 decision against Micah Bloomquist. Wade Samp turned over Charley Murray for a pin in the 145-pound bout and Ben Harvey recorded five first-period takedowns before pinning John-Victor Murray in the 182-pound bout.