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With the IHSA State Wrestling tournament beginning this weekend, the St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans will be well represented once preliminary action begins on Thursday.
Four Spartan grapplers made it through sectionals, with one of those, Griffin Meeker, being the only one that has any state tournament experience. The other three SJO wrestlers to qualify are Jake Wendling (So.) at 106 pounds, Austin McConaha (Fr.) at 113 pounds, and Jason Bowman (Jr.) at 170 pounds. Meeker will wrestle in the 182-pound class.
Wendling had to work his way through the consolation bracket in order to advance, and after receiving a first round bye for his performance in the regional, lost his first match, a 7-3 decision to Levi Neuleib of Heyworth to bounce him to the consolation side of the bracket. Wendling received another pass on that side of the bracket, then advanced due to an injury at the 9:00 mark over Hugo Gill of Beardstown. Wendling then recorded a 9-1 major decision over Jonah Sinclair of Petersburg Porta, then dispatched Kade Schoch of Eureka with a 10-0 major decision. That set up a rematch with Neuleib, which was won by Wendling (38-7) in a fall at the 5:25 mark of the match. Wendling advanced with a third place finish in the sectional bracket.
McConaha had a similar road, although Austin lost his first match to Colton Tay of Ridgeview by a 7-1 decision. From there, McConaha advanced with a bye, setting up a match with Clayton Boehler of Camp Point Central, a match that McConaha won in a fall at four minutes. McConaha then faced Jeb Benson of Macomb, and won an ultimate tie-breaker 3-2 victory. McConaha’s next opponent was Wesly Litwiller of Olympia, and Austin came away victorious in that match as well, getting an 8-2 decision. McConaha’s final match was against Vincent Rink of Herscher for third place, with Rink getting the win in an 11-2 major decision. However, McConaha (38-9) finished fourth in the sectional and advances to state as a result.
Jason Bowman also qualified for state for the first time, and like Wendling, received a first round bye into the next round, then won a 9-7 decision over Jake Crisman of Knoxville. Bowman’s next match was a loss to Dylan Reaves of Erie-Prophetstown in a 10-6 decision, sending Bowman to the consolation bracket. There, Bowman received another bye, where he faced Andrew Mammen of St. Thomas More and recorded a 4-2 decision for the victory. That win put Bowman (35-7) in the third place match for a rematch with Crisman, and due to an injury at the 1:21 mark of the match, had to settle for fourth, but good enough to advance to the state tournament.
Meeker, who set the school record for wins last week at the regional meet in St. Joseph, had dealt with a shoulder injury this season that kept him out of several matches, but is back and ready to compete for a state title at the 182-pound division. Meeker received a first round bye, then had a 20-3 technical fall over Drake Dietrich of Chillicothe IVC. Meeker’s next match was also a win, a 12-2 major decision over Chad Grimm of Beardstown. That set up a sectional title matchup against Logan Winter of Clinton, who came into the title match at 40-1. Meeker had command of the match until late in the contest, when Winter went ahead and won by the slimmest of margins at 7-6 to win the sectional. Meeker (34-2) still has a great chance to get the ultimate prize, which is a state championship.
It should be an interesting few days at the State Farm Center in Champaign, with preliminary matches beginning Thursday afternoon. The action continues Thursday, then all day Friday and Saturday, with the March of Champions set for Saturday evening.