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Pirates halted 1 step from Dual Team State

LA SALLE — With their areas of strength so well-defined and well-known to each other, the 2017-18 Ottawa Pirates' and Rochelle Hubs' meetings on the mats were almost certain to come down a few deciding factors:

Minimizing points surrendered to the other team's best wrestlers.

Maximizing points scored with your own best.

Gaining whatever small advantages can be had on the lineup card.

And, at the end of the day, scratching out wins at a few key weight classes.

Back in mid-December, most of those deciding factors went Ottawa's way, leading to a three-point Pirates victory that gave Ottawa a NIB 12 West conference victory.

Tuesday evening in the La Salle-Peru Class 2A Dual Team Sectional, most of those factors went Rochelle's way, leading to a 42-36 final score that ended another successful, regional-championship season for the Pirates and sent the Hubs on to this weekend's IHSA Dual Team State Finals.

"Rochelle has a very good team," Pirates coach Pete Marx said. "We knew coming in, it was tooth-and-nail last time, and it was tooth-and-nail this time. ... We knew it was going to come down to one or two matches, and unfortunately for us this time they got the swing matches we got last time. ...

"It's a bitter pill right now, but it's one we'll bounce back from, and hopefully the kids will use this as motivation for next year."

While their meeting back in December ended with a dramatic win from Ottawa ace Ethan Harsted to complete a Pirates comeback, Tuesday's sectional opened with Harsted. The result, however, was the same as Ottawa's 132-pounder efficiently built a 7-1 lead before pinning Rochelle's Andy Silva 1:28 in to give the Pirates a 6-0 lead and add to his school records for both career wins and pins.

Three of the Pirates' next four grapplers to report fought hard and were successful in at least preventing their Rochelle counterparts from getting the maximum six points — Bradley Ruger (138) losing an 18-6 major decision to Justin Hernandez; Hunter Duffy (145) gutting out a 24-8 technical fall loss to Eddie Villalobos; and Nick Stehl (160) losing a heartbreaker of a decision, 7-5 in overtime, to Gavin Ansteth. In the latter, Stehl led 5-2 with 30 seconds left in the third period and 5-3 in the final 10 seconds before an out-of-nowhere reversal forced the sudden-death OT period.

Coupled with a 52-second pinfall scored by Rochelle's Ehren Metger over Quincy Torres (152) and four straight pinfall victories after the overtime win at 160 — Pat Walsh (170) pinned in the second, Matt Snyder (182) in the third, Tre Fritz (195) in the first and Brence Smith (220) in the third after controlling things the majority of the second and third periods — the Hubs wrapped up the points victory and the trip to state before the weight classes flipped back to the lower, stronger ones for the Pirates.

"The matchups tonight and getting the win at 160 pounds from Gavin Ansteth was big," said Rochelle coach Richard Harvey, "and (Bryan) Garza stepping in at 170 and getting the pin, Ben Harvey at 182 getting the pin there. Everybody did their jobs, and it worked out the way it was supposed to tonight.

"We knew we had to win almost all the matches from 138 on up, and we were able to do that. We sealed the deal before we got to heavyweight, which is what we wanted to do. We had to seal the deal before we got to those lower weights, and I'm so proud of the kids."

Cameron Vernoy (285) put in a hard-fought pinfall triumph over Will Jandak in 4:22 to give Ottawa its second win of the day, then Austin Howard (106), Cole Flores (113), Luke Fleming (120) and Rafael Munoz (126) closed out the proceedings with forfeit wins to account for the 42-36 final.

On the other end of Sellett Gymnasium, powerhouse Washington also advanced to IHSA Dual Team State with a 54-15 win over the host Cavaliers. Andy Wertz (11-4 decision), Hunter Holdcraft (second-period pinfall) and Nick McGee (forfeit) scored the L-P victories.

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