ROCHELLE — Senior heavyweight Zack Capes literally swung the momentum in his favor when he battled Sycamore’s Zechariah Hollingsworth in the semifinal round of the Interstate 8 Conference Championships on Saturday.
Hollingworth got the better of Capes in Rochelle’s dual against Sycamore earlier this season, but the 285-pound Hub grappler was looking for revenge at the conference tournament. Despite trailing in the second period, Capes worked a big throw on Hollingsworth, putting him to the mat and ultimately pinning him to clinch a spot in the championship bout.
“I wrestled hard and I stayed in there,” Capes said. “I was a lot more cautious of the ties this time around. My coaches and I went over some ties in practice and I learned what I should and shouldn’t do. It felt great to get that win, and it really boosts my confidence.”
Capes placed second in the 285-pound bracket and was one of eight varsity wrestlers to medal for the Hubs on Saturday. Rochelle crowned two conference champions including sophomore Caleb Nadig, who fought hard for a 4-2 decision over Sandwich’s Evan Reilly in the title bout. Nadig (29-6) opened the day with an 11-3 major decision against Sycamore’s Nicholas Lockhart.
“It feels great,” Nadig said. “I took third in our conference tournament last season and I wanted to be a conference champion this season. I made sure to be prepared for this. I knew I was a better wrestler than [Reilly] and I knew I needed to stay in control. I needed to keep myself protected and score the points when I could.”
Junior Ben Harvey (34-2) brought home Rochelle’s second conference title, recording back-to-back pins against Morris grappler Drayden McKerrow and Ottawa’s Cedric Fairrow for the 182-pound title. Harvey, who topped Fairrow 6-3 in Rochelle’s dual with the Pirates earlier this season, said he was looking forward to the rematch for a couple of reasons.
“It’s nice to come out on top,” Harvey said. “We performed really well as a team today. I really wanted to dominate him. When I beat him the last time, he talked a little bit and that stuck with me… It was nice to go out there and get the job done.”
Senior Keegan Davis-Carter (25-8) took second in the 138-pound bracket, defeating Kaneland’s Christian Duffing with an 18-2 tech fall before dropping a 6-2 decision against Sandwich’s Aidan Linden in the finals. Four Hubs finished third in the varsity brackets including 106-pounder Ivan Pineda (16-16), 152-pounder Zeke Horn (20-18), 170-pounder Bryan Garza (24-12) and 195-pounder Gavin Ansteth (21-9). 132-pounder Grant Thompson (18-17) placed fourth in his bracket for the Hubs, who took third as a team with 137.5 points.
Rochelle fielded four junior varsity wrestlers who earned top-3 ribbons on Saturday. 182-pounder Noah Messer and 285-pounder Jaden Cook both finished first in their respective brackets, going a combined 4-0 with four pins. 145-pounder Reese Kirk took second with two pins on the day, while 182-pounder Marc Gallinar finished third with two pins.
Four junior varsity wrestlers finished just outside ribbon positioning. 126-pounder Wesley Brown and 182-pounder Matthew Dewey each finished fourth, while 160-pounder Troy Papke and 138-pounder Bryton DiSimoni both placed fifth.