SANDWICH — Before the start of the championship round at the Sandwich Class 2A Wrestling Regional, Ottawa coach Pete Marx had a pretty good idea that his Pirate matmen were in for a special afternoon. OHS had positioned itself perfectly, placing 12 wrestlers throughout the 14 weight classes competing for a chance to advance to the Class 2A Individual Sectional next Saturday at Sycamore.
Not only did the Pirates move nine competitors to Sycamore with a pair of regional championships, six second-place finishes and one third-place ranking. they also captured their second consecutive team regional title by amassing 186 points to outdistance second-place host Indians' 149 points here on Saturday afternoon.
The Indians collected four second-place medallions and a trio of third-place hardware , all seven of those also heading for Sycamore.
Streator — the only other Times area school competing at Sandwich — finished in eighth place in the nine-team field with 44.5 points and will advance two competitors to Sycamore next weekend after earning one second and one third-place medal.
But the afternoon belonged to the Pirates and for the second year in a row they hoisted a regional championship plaque. OHS will now advance as a group to the LaSalle-Peru Class 2A Team Sectional Tuesday Feb. 20, where it will battle Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference foe Rochelle.
"Back-to-back regional titles for our team is just outstanding and that was one of our goals coming into the season," Marx said. "We were able to accomplish that goal and now we'll get ready for individual sectionals next weekend and then individual state before we'll get another chance to go to state as a team. Hopefully, we can advance further than we did last year."
In the lower weight classes, the Pirates placed five wrestlers in consecutive championship matches, but came away with one title.
At 106 pounds, Luke Fleming (30-6) lost a 15-5 major decision to Joliet Catholic's Dean Hamiti (37-4) who is the No. 1 ranked wrestler in Class 2A at that weight by illinoismatmen.com.
Riley Hanson (24-14) then followed by dropping the championship bout at 113 after getting pinned by Jack Finnegan (32-5) of Joliet Catholic.
At 120 pounds, Ottawa's Rafael Munoz (35-6) fell 7-0 to Kaneland's Nathan Orosco (29-7).
However, Pirate senior and No. 2-ranked Ethan Harsted (36-1) quickly reversed the trend of finals losses when he pinned Jorge Aguilar (23-15) of Plano at 1:00 to win his fourth consecutive regional championship.
"It feels good to win four and it was a pretty good match for me but I've got a tough sectional ahead next week at Sycamore," Harsted said. "Hopefully I can grind there and make it to state again."
Ottawa's Bradley Ruger (18-10) followed by falling to Manteno's Caleb Boudreau (35-2) after a 13-4 major decision in the championship bout at 132 pounds. The Pirates then took a few weight classes off without medals before Matt Snyder (11-4) captured third place at 182 pounds..
Senior Tre Fritz (18-18) gave Ottawa its second championship of the afternoon after he gutted out a 7-3 decision against Plano's Antonio Peray (17-17). It was Fritz's first regional title.
"This was my first tournament win in my high school wrestling career and I've wrestled for three years, so it's pretty exciting for me," Fritz said. "I'm just so proud to be going to sectionals individually and with my team to sectionals."
Ottawa then concluded its fine day with second place finishes from Brence Smith (22-20) at 220 and Cameron Vernoy (25-12) at 285.
Sandwich opened with three consecutive third-place medals from Justin Avery (21-10) at 106 pounds, Tyler Schindlbeck (24-6) at 113 and Cael Schindlbeck (29-9) at 120 before Jacob Newberry dropped a hotly contested match at 138 pounds against archrival Cooper Kensel of Plano. Kensel caught Newberry with a late pin at 5:50.
Jackson Murphy (23-9) then followed with a second-place finish at 152 as did Zach Reyes (33-4) at 170 and Wyatt Murphy (26-9) at 182, which concluded the Indians fine second-place team performance.
"It was a pretty good tournament and we got a bunch of kids through to sectionals," said SHS coach Josh McCarty. "We just fell short in some matches and Ottawa went the other way and pulled away from us. But I'm proud of our kids for wrestling well."
Streator's best effort came from Mike Dunkleberger (31-4) at 145 pounds. In what proved to be one of the best matches of the tournament, Plano's Ivan Garcia (25-7) managed to best Dunkleberger during a 6-4 championship decision, just the third loss of the season for the Streator standout.
"With both of us, it always seems to come down to little things that he's gotten the best of me so far this season," Dunkleberger said, "but I'm proud to be going to sectionals for the third time and hopefully I can advance to state from there."
The Bulldogs also saw Alex Granados (6-2) advance to sectionals after a third-place win at 285.