Wrestling: Four Hubs advance to IHSA State Championships

Ten Rochelle athletes compete in IHSA 2A Sycamore Sectional

By Russ Hodges, Sports Editor
Posted 2/12/24

Junior Xavier Villalobos emerged with a black and blue face after a thrilling semifinal battle against Rock Island’s Daniel McGhee at the IHSA 2A Sycamore Sectional.

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Wrestling: Four Hubs advance to IHSA State Championships

Ten Rochelle athletes compete in IHSA 2A Sycamore Sectional


SYCAMORE — Junior Xavier Villalobos emerged with a black and blue face after a thrilling semifinal battle against Rock Island’s Daniel McGhee at the IHSA 2A Sycamore Sectional.

Both wrestlers entered Saturday’s semifinal bout in the 126-pound weight class with only one loss on the season. Villalobos suffered his only defeat at the XLVIII Sycamore Invitational in January, when McGhee bested him for an 8-3 decision. Villalobos earned his revenge at the sectional, however, erasing a 2-1 deficit in the second period after a mad scramble for position turned into a takedown-to-fall combination that enabled Villalobos to clinch a bid to the finals.

“I have to thank my practice partners and everyone who helped me understand his style of wrestling,” Villalobos said. “My coaches preached for me to wrestle my style and be ready for his doubles. I knew I couldn’t be afraid to take a couple of bruises and not look pretty. The scrambles were crazy, but I felt like the crowd had my back and it felt great to win.”

The hard-fought win moved Villalobos into the championship bout, where a first-period takedown allowed him to outlast Washington’s Eli Gonzalez for a 3-2 decision that clinched the sectional crown. Villalobos (40-1), who will be one of four Hubs advancing to the IHSA State Championships in Champaign this weekend, became Rochelle’s first sectional champion since former state runner-up Alex Harvey won the 195-pound division during the 2017-18 season.

“I’ve made it to state by taking third and fourth at sectionals, so it’s a different feeling to become a sectional champion because it’s a tough thing to do,” Villalobos said. “My goals for the state meet are the same as they’ve been in previous years. I want to go down there and brawl and beat some kids who might look over me or not expect me. I want to win a state title.”

The Hubs (23-6, 5-0 Interstate 8), who qualified 10 wrestlers for the sectional tournament, crowned two sectional champions during the final session of bouts on Saturday evening. Junior Kaiden Morris (38-3) brought home Rochelle’s second championship of the tournament, surging through the 215-pound weight class and winning all three of his matches. Morris sealed his first sectional title with an 11-4 decision over Crystal Lake Central’s Tommy McNeil in the finals.

“I was pushing the pace and wrestling my best,” Morris said. “Coach [Tyler] Baker has been preaching to me about getting my offense going and we had a big emphasis on that this week. I told myself before every match that my offense was going to be the biggest key to my success. This is my first time winning and I wanted it badly. I knew when I saw my bracket that it was doable for me and I set my goal earlier in the week that I wanted to be a sectional champion.”

Morris dominated his sectional title match, scoring three takedowns and icing the win with a near fall late in the third period. The junior reached the final round after defeating Crystal Lake South’s Dominic Ariola with a third-period fall in the quarterfinals and holding off Prairie Ridge’s John Fallaw for a 5-3 decision in the semifinals. Villalobos will wrestle at state for the third time in his career, while Morris will make his second career appearance at the state tournament.

“This tournament gave me a lot of confidence and I think that will carry over to the state tournament,” Morris said. “I want to be a state champion and that’s what I’ve wanted to be for as long as I’ve wrestled. I want to go down there and get it done and my thought is, why not me?”

Junior Grant Gensler (37-6) and senior Brock Metzger (34-6) punched tickets to the state meet during the consolation matches on Saturday. Gensler wrestled in the 165-pound weight class, earning his state berth after a first-period takedown led to a 3-0 decision over Dixon’s Jayce Kastner in the consolation semifinals. Gensler took third in his weight class, scoring two takedowns and adding a reversal for a 6-0 decision over Burlington Central’s Jonah Chavez.

Metzger won three consecutive bouts in the blood rounds to seal his bid in the state meet. Metzger battled in the 190-pound weight class, starting his consolation-round run with a fall over Crystal Lake South’s KC Brichta Bachar and a 5-1 decision over Metamora’s Adam Sloan, scoring a three-point near fall in the final moments to clinch the win. Metzger secured a state bid after a fall over Plano’s Prince Amakiri late in the first period of the consolation semifinals.

Sophomores Freddie Hernandez (30-14) and Brenden Voight (31-9) both made the consolation semifinals, but fell one victory short of qualifying for state. Hernandez went 2-2 over four bouts in the 106-pound weight class, scoring a fall over Woodstock’s Dominic Osinski and a 10-3 decision over Sycamore’s Charlie Olson. Voight went 3-2 over five bouts in the 144-pound weight class, earning falls over Rock Island’s Elijah Venegas and Dixon’s Jayden Weidman.

Sophomore Roman Villalobos (30-17) went 2-2 over four bouts in the 175-pound weight class, outlasting Peoria Richwoods wrestler Gabe Martinez for a 7-3 decision in the first round and notching a fall over Ottawa’s Wyatt Reding in the consolation rounds. Senior Tommy Tourdot (28-7) went 1-2 over three bouts in the 120-point weight class, earning a 6-4 decision against Crystal Lake Central’s Payton Ramsey, a former state qualifier, in the first round. 

Sophomore Keagan Albers (23-19) went 1-2 over three bouts in the 113-pound weight class, scoring a first-round fall over East Peoria’s Cooper Chester, who held a 22-3 record. Sophomore Deegan Schabacker (17-19) competed in the 132-pound weight class, finishing 0-2. The IHSA State Championships will run Thursday through Saturday at the State Farm Center.