ROCHELLE — A historic milestone was within reach for the Rochelle Hub varsity wrestling team on Thursday. With a chance to tie the school record for dual wins in a season, Rochelle needed to take down a talented Sycamore squad ranked No. 17 in the state for Class 2A.
The Spartans controlled most of the match, earning a 33-19 lead over the Hubs with only three head-to-head bouts remaining. Needing wins across all three bouts to clinch the dual victory, Rochelle rallied with its greatest comeback effort of the season, notching three straight falls to shock Sycamore 37-33 and send a packed home gymnasium into a roar of applause.
The No. 9 ranked Hubs (22-1, 5-0 Interstate 8) are now even with the school record for most dual victories in a season, which was set during the 1984-85 season and tied under former head coach Rich Harvey during the 2015-16 season.
“Everyone from the Fader family to the Harvey family has played a role in building our program,” head coach Alphonso Vruno said. “This season has been a culmination of the work that a lot of people have put into our program. It’s really exciting and it brings me a lot of pride to see the success we’re having. We knew Sycamore was going to come here and give us their best match of the season. They wrestled really well and I could tell they were coached really well.”
The Spartans struck first during the 138-pound bout, where Cole Kleiser outlasted Rochelle sophomore Weylin Nay for an 8-3 decision in a hard-fought battle. The Hubs tied the score in the 145-pound bout after freshman Brenden Voight recorded two takedowns in a 5-1 decision over Jaden Cochran. In another matchup of talented wrestlers, Sycamore’s Gus Cambier held off sophomore Grant Gensler in the 152-pound bout, winning the match with a 5-1 decision.
Cooper Bode and Zack Crawford ballooned the Spartan lead to 18-3, with Bode notching a second-period fall over sophomore Erich Metzger in the 160-pound bout and Crawford recording a first-period fall over freshman Roman Villalobos in the 170-pound bout. Junior Brock Metzger stopped the bleeding for the Hubs, nearly pinning Tyler Curtis in the 182-pound bout before ultimately settling for a 9-0 major decision that included two near falls and a takedown.
“Sycamore made some really good adjustments and they were able to beat some of our better kids this evening,” Vruno said. “[Zack] Crawford moving up to 170 and getting a pin was huge for them. I thought some of our kids were a little starstruck, but we had others who performed with the lights shining on them and it was really exciting to see, especially for our younger kids.”
Gable Carrick scored a first-period fall over junior Alexander McBride in the 195-pound bout, giving the Spartans a 24-7 advantage in the match. Sycamore and Rochelle exchanged forfeits over the 220-pound and 285-pound bouts, with sophomore Kaiden Morris receiving a free win along with Spartan heavyweight Lincoln Cooley. A huge turning point for the Hubs came in the 106-pound bout, where freshman Keagan Albers conceded an early takedown before using quick footwork and rotations to earn a first-period fall over Sycamore’s Michael Olson.
“Keagan deserves huge props for his win tonight,” Vruno said. “We told him that we needed a pin and for a freshman who’s wrestling at the varsity level to go out there and pin a decent kid was huge for us. When it comes down to needing pins to win, it becomes a lot more difficult to pin those opponents. It says a lot about our kids and their work ethic as well as their heart.”
Sycamore’s last win of the dual came during the 113-pound bout, where Tyler Lockhart edged junior Tommy Tourdot for a 7-2 decision. Rochelle's comeback began with sophomore Xavier Villalobos making quick work of the 120-pound bout, using a cradle to record a first-period fall against Connor Kness. Freshman Frank Nasca followed with a strong rally during the 126-pound bout, overcoming an early takedown to notch a second-period fall over Thomas Lind.
With the Spartans clinging to a 33-31 lead, Rochelle sent sophomore Joseph Nadig into the circle against Sycamore’s Jonathan Buckheister with a record-clinching win on the line. Forcing the issue early, Nadig earned a stalling point and a takedown to surge ahead 3-0 in the first period. After a near fall almost sealed the victory for the Hubs, Nadig successfully pinned Buckheister in the second period as the Rochelle fans erupted with cheers and applause.
“I think we have better performances in store for us,” Vruno said. “We talked about how we should be proud of winning the match, but there are bigger and better things in store. I’m waiting to see all 14 of our kids wrestle the best they possibly can and I’m excited for that performance.”