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Austin Upton and Austin Hedrick have carried the St. Joseph-Ogden wrestling team all season.
Last Saturday was no different.
The two seniors both won regional championships for the Spartans in their respective weight classes at the eight-team Class 1A Bismarck-Henning Regional.
“As a coaching staff we are very proud of those two wrestlers and we know that this is just a step towards their goals of being state qualifiers,” said head coach Richard Vetter. ”With a team as young and inexperienced as ours it shows the other wrestlers what hard work can help you to accomplish.”
Hedrick at 152 pounds and Upton at 170 helped SJO to a third-place finish in the team standings with 156 points. Aside from those two, six other Spartans finished in the top three to advance to this weekend’s Stanford Olympia Sectional, which starts on Friday and concludes on Saturday.
“I am very happy that we have eight sectional qualifiers,” Vetter said. “As a coaching staff we preach to the kids that it isn’t how you start the season it’s how you finish the season.”
Hedrick improved to 32-6 on the season after he won a 10-6 decision against Prairie Central’s Sam Schuler in the championship match at 152. Hedrick clinched his berth in the Olympia Sectional after he pinned Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Darren Eckerty in 3 minutes, 24 seconds.
Hedrick will face either Hunter Santamour (26-6) of El Paso-Gridley or Andrew Slusser of Kewanee (12-22) in his first sectional match.
Upton, now 39-1, beat Bismarck-Henning’s Jarod Noel by an 8-2 decision in the championship match and pinned Prairie Central’s Tyler Keneipp in 1:12 during the semifinals.
“Austin and Austin stayed focused on their goals of qualifying and placing at state,” Vetter said. “When they went out onto the mat they took care of business and took one step closer to achieving their goals.”
Upton will suare off against either Clinton’s Alex Wheat (26-6) or Beardstown’s Daniel Guzman (11-7) in his first match at the Olympia Sectional.
Freshman Shane Skinner at 113, freshman Gage Haga at 132, sophomore Gunnar Meeker at 160 and freshman Wesley Kibler at 182 all placed second to prolong their seasons for at least another weekend. Skinner (20-23) opens up his sectional against Quincy Notre Dame’s Riley Giesing (26-14), Haga (18-12) tangles with Eureka’s Andy Shannon (9-5) in his first-round sectional match, Meeker (20-10) wrestles LeRoy’s Caleb Wilson (28-10) and Kibler (23-12) goes against Eureka’s Camren Ryan (14-17) in his opening sectional match.
“I actually think that it is more difficult for the two wrestlers who have first round byes. Austin and Austin could be waiting 3-4 hrs before they wrestle their first matches on Friday,” Vetter said. ”They will be sitting around in the bleachers trying to stay focused. There are always guys who have a bye and then get upset in their first matches of the day. The guys who have first round matches will be able to get their “gitters” out of the way and can hopefully pull of an upset or two by wrestling.”
well. Juniors David Trewyn (126) and Ryan Koss (220) kept their season alive after going 3-1 at Bismarck-Henning to place third. Trewyn (23-23) will compete against Dustin Huss of Illini West (14-7) in his first-round sectional match while Koss (21-16) squares off against Eureka’s Christian Engel in his first match at the sectional meet.
If any SJO wrestler places in the top four of his weight class this weekend in Stanford, they’ll have a shorter drive the following weekend when the state finals take place at Assembly Hall in Champaign. The ultimate end goal for all high school wrestlers is nearly here, and eight Spartans will try to keep their dream alive for another weekend.
“Having multiple state qualifiers for a second year in a row would be a great thing for our program. It will be a great recruiting tool for future wrestlers and it will get more people excited about wrestling from within our community,” Vetter said. “Success breeds success.”