ROCHELLE — An opening-round loss couldn’t hold Rochelle senior Hezekiah Jefferson back from delivering a critical victory for the Hubs during their Interstate 8 Conference double dual against the Morris Redskins and the Ottawa Pirates on Friday.
Jefferson faced a tough opponent in Rochelle’s first dual with the Redskins, falling against 195-pounder and fourth-ranked state wrestler Robby Bates. The Hubs needed Jefferson to step up in their dual with Ottawa, and the senior came through with an enormous cradle against Pirate grappler Brett Galletti in the final seconds of the first period to help Rochelle defeat Ottawa 56-24. The Hubs (12-2 overall) topped Morris 49-26 earlier in the day.
“I took my loss and I remained focused,” Jefferson said. “I had to figure out what I could do to win the next match… I tried shooting a high crotch, and when the wrestler came into my leg, that’s when I had the opportunity to put him in a cradle. It’s a good win for me, and as long as I do what I have to do, that’s all the matters.”
Ottawa gained the early advantage after 160-pounder Hunter Duffy pinned Rochelle’s Zeke Horn early in the second period. The Hubs bounced back when 170-pounder Bryan Garza notched a first-period fall over Colton Johnson and Ben Harvey edged Pirate wrestler Cedric Fairrow by 6-3 decision in the 182-pound bout.
Jefferson’s fall over Galletti gave Rochelle a 15-6 lead and preceded Gavin Ansteth’s second-period fall over Brandon O’Brien in the 220-pound bout. Back-to-back pins from 285-pounder Zack Capes and 106-pounder Ivan Pineda capped off the team’s 33-point scoring run.
“It’s a big relief and it’s refreshing for me to be back,” said Ansteth, who has returned to the Rochelle lineup after recovering from an ankle injury during the football season. “I’m happy to be back down to weight and have my ankle healthy. As long as we keep chugging along, we’ll be in good shape. We need to keep working hard in practice, and our practices have been more intense recently. I think that’s helped us beat a lot of these teams.”
113-pounder Riley Hanson’s fall over Weldon Nay snapped Rochelle’s scoring streak, but the Hubs were quick to strike back after forfeiting the 120-pound bout. Caleb Nadig made slight work in the 126-pound bout with a 58-second fall over Cole Flores, and Grant Thompson won the 132-pound bout with a fall.
State-ranked wrestler Luke Fleming claimed Ottawa’s fourth and final win with a fall over Wade Samp in the 138-pound bout. Keegan Davis-Carter dominated the 145-pound bout, totaling five takedowns and three near-falls for an 18-3 technical fall. Ethan Tooley capped off the dual victory with a forfeit win in the 152-pound bout.
The Redskins claimed two consecutive bouts to open the first dual, with Bryce Claypool defeating Zeke Horn in the 152-pound matchup by 16-4 major decision and Diego Escobar forfeiting the 160-pound matchup after suffering a knee injury near the end of the first period. Bryan Garza put Rochelle on the scoreboard with a third-period fall in the 170-pound bout.
Ben Harvey compiled three scoring moves (reversal, takedown and near-fall) for a 7-0 decision against Drayden McKerrow in the 182-pound bout before Robby Bates defeated Hezekiah Jefferson by fall in the 195-pound bout. Gavin Ansteth turned Juan Gutierrez over in the final seconds of the first period for a fall in the 220-pound bout. Both Zack Capes and Ivan Pineda took forfeits in the 285-pound and 106-pound matchups to give the Hubs a 27-16 lead.
Weldon Nay continued his recent winning ways with a third-period fall over Nolan Washburn in the 113-pound bout. After Rochelle forfeited the 120-pound bout, Caleb Nadig crushed Cameron Skoff in the 126-pound bout, winning by fall in only 36 seconds. The Hubs took two of the final three bouts, with Keegan Davis-Carter pinning Milton Mondragon at 138 pounds and Ethan Tooley notching a 14-4 major decision at 145 pounds.