ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity wrestling team crowned four individual champions and brought home the team title during Saturday’s IHSA 2A Rochelle Regional. It’s Rochelle’s first regional championship as a team since the 2017-18 season, when the Hubs defeated Ottawa at the dual-team sectional and brought home the fourth-place trophy at the dual-team state meet.
Sophomore Freddie Hernandez (28-12) was the first Rochelle athlete to secure a regional crown on Saturday. The No. 1 seed in the 106-pound bracket, Hernandez took a first-round bye into the semifinals, where the sophomore scored a 27-second fall over Rockford East’s Tyler Gentry. Hernandez battled Sycamore’s Charlie Olson for the regional championship, recording three takedowns and an escape to emerge with a 7-2 decision and his first regional title.
“It means a lot to me because I feel like I improved a lot from last year,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been working hard and we’ve put in a lot of hard work as a team. I’ve been practicing hard in the room and we have good coaches. My practice partner Keagan [Albers] has been pushing me. I love this sport and I’m excited for more wrestling. I love this team and we’ve been through a lot.”
Junior Xavier Villalobos (37-1) was next to grab a regional title for the Hubs (23-6, 5-0 Interstate 8). Villalobos cruised through the 126-pound bracket on Saturday, receiving a first-round bye before using 43 seconds to notch a fall over Rockford East’s Rafael Esquer Santana. Villalobos had no issues in the finals, scoring a 19-3 technical fall over Woodstock’s Taqi Baker. Villalobos compiled six takedowns and added two three-point near falls in his regional championship win.
“It’s a big deal for us and we’ve been preaching all year that we’re looking forward to making a run to the team state meet and doing something great,” Villalobos said. “It feels good to prove ourselves as we look to accomplish that goal. My keys were on offense and keeping the pace up. I was able to get my opponents moving to where I was able to be successful. I’m looking forward to more time in the room with this team. These guys and this community are like family.”
Junior Grant Gensler (34-5) brought home Rochelle’s third regional title of the afternoon, rolling through the 165-pound bracket after a first-round bye and two victories. Gensler earned a fall over Sycamore’s Adam Carrick in the semifinal round and held off Rockford East’s Malachi Cannon for a 5-0 decision in the finals, scoring four first-period points to emerge victorious.
“It means a lot because we’ve worked hard to get this done and we were able to come out and execute,” Gensler said. “We’ve been drilling hard in the room and my drilling partner Brenden [Voight] has been great. Our coaches have also been giving me extra help when they can. I’m excited for some good competition at the dual-team sectional and it should be good fun.”
Junior Kaiden Morris (35-3) rounded out Rochelle’s regional champions with a first-place finish in the 215-pound weight class on Saturday. Morris took a first-round bye into the semifinals, where he worked for a second-period fall against Rockford East’s Orion Losiniecki. Morris faced Sycamore’s Gable Carrick in the finals, using a big first period to emerge with a 10-2 major decision. Morris held a 6-0 lead after a takedown and two two-point near falls in the first period.
“My goals coming in were to win individually and as a team,” Morris said. “Getting those goals feels great and it sets us up for the next few weeks. I worked with coach [Tyler] Baker a few times in practice this week and I’ve been dealing with a little bit of a knee injury, but I was able to push the pace in my matches and confidence was a big thing for me. I’m excited for the dual team sectional because it’s something new and we aren’t really sure what to expect.”
Rochelle scored 190.5 points to finish first out of eight schools in the regional tournament. The Hubs advanced 10 individuals to the IHSA 2A Sycamore Sectional, which will be held from Feb. 9-10 at Sycamore High School. Rochelle ended Saturday’s regional tournament with three second-place medalists including sophomore 132-pounder Deegan Schabacker (17-17), sophomore 144-pounder Brenden Voight (28-7) and senior 190-pounder Brock Metzger (30-4).
The Hubs also qualified three third-place medalists including sophomore 113-pounder Keagan Albers (22-17), senior 120-pounder Tommy Tourdot (27-5) and sophomore 175-pounder Roman Villalobos (28-15). Freshman 138-pounder Josh Lassiter (15-18) and freshman 150-pounder Angel Hernandez (9-21) each went 1-2 over three bouts in Saturday’s regional tournament.