BY CHAD DARE
Getting that first experience at the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament can be overwhelming.
On Thursday afternoon, three area wrestlers stepped onto the state tournament mats for the first time in their careers.
For Bismarck-Henning sophomore Jarod Noel, it turned into his first state victory as he defeated Benton’s Zach Mocaby, 11-2 in a preliminary round match at 170 pounds.
“It feels pretty awesome,’’ said Noel, who just missed advancing to state as a freshman a year ago. “It is a really great experience just being here.’’
Noel jumped out to an early lead with a first period takedown and he built a 7-0 after two periods. But things got a little different in the final two minutes.
“I’m feeling pretty dead actually,’’ Noel admitted. “He kind of kicked my butt a little at the end. He started getting the better of me and I just had to hold on.
“It was one of my better performances of the year.’’
On the other side was Danville freshman Javonte Crider and Oakwood sophomore Austin Shelton. Both Crider and Shelton suffered first-round losses.
“This is my first state meet,’’ said Crider, the lone representative of the Vikings. “I’m upset about losing, but I’m just a freshman and I have more learning to do.’’
One of the biggest things that Crider learned in his 7-3 loss to United Township junior Jeronnie Steward was the importance of strength.
“I was doing pretty good on my feet, but at the start of the second period, my coaches said to go down,’’ Crider said. “I had a feeling that wasn’t a good decision, because that kid was strong. I wanted to defer and make the decision in the third period, but I wasn’t going to go against my coach.’’
Crider was unable to get up off the mat in that period as Steward maintained his 4-1 lead.
“It was crushing my emotions that I couldn’t get up, because of how strong he was,’’ Crider said.
Now, the Danville freshman will be rooting for Steward to win in the quarterfinals to keep his hopes alive for an all-state finish.
“This was a lot different than last year when I was in youth wrestling. There is a lot more competition,’’ Crider said. “I learned this year that I can compete at this level and I feel like I can place in the future.
“Strength is something I’m going to work on during the entire offseason.’’
One wrestler that hopes to take everything he has learned from three previous trips to the state tournament this year is Bismarck-Henning’s Morgan Supergan.
The second-rated heavyweight, according Illinois Matmen, started his quest for state title on Thursday with a hard-fought 3-0 win over Adam Freimund of Harvard.
“Not exactly the type of match I was expecting, but the result was what I wanted,’’ said Supergan, who improved to 32-2 with the win. “It was a lot tougher than I was expecting.’’
A scoreless first period was a wakeup call for Supergan.
“I had to capitalize on his mistakes to move on, since I couldn’t get anything going offensively,’’ he said.
In the second two-minute period, Supergan caught Freimund for a 2-point nearfall. That was all the points the Blue Devil wrestler would need.
“I saw that he was starting to slip and I had to capitalize on it,’’ said Supergan, who finished sixth in last year’s Class 1A state tournament. “It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win.’’
Supergan is trying to become just the second wrestler in Bismarck-Henning history to win a state title, joining Eric Johnson the 152-pound champion in 1992 for the Blue Devils.
“I’m here to win it,’’ he said.
Supergan’s biggest rival, Josh Wallick of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, won by fall. Wallick has five consecutive matches against Supergan, including wins in this year’s regional and sectional championship matches.
While Supergan continues to build on his success, Oakwood’s Antonio Alvarez is still looking for his first win at state.
For the second year in a row, Alvarez suffered a tough preliminary round loss at state, as the Comet sophomore lost to Herscher’s Brandon Malone, 4-2 at 126 pounds.
“This hasn’t really been a good place for me,’’ said Alvarez, who got pinned in the final seconds of his preliminary round match as a freshman.
On Thursday, a scoreless first period was followed by Malone riding Alvarez for the entire 2-minute second period.
“He was really tough and he just had me in strength,’’ Alvarez said. “That second period took a lot out of me. I wasted too much time on the bottom.’’
In the third period, Malone got a quick 2-0 lead with a reversal, but Alvarez responded with his own reversal to tie the match at 2-2.
“I realized I just had to get more movement,’’ he said. “(Malone) wasn’t ready for that, and I just hit that re-switch.’’
But Malone had one more reversal left in him to claim the 4-2 victory over Alvarez.
Oakwood’s other representative, Shelton, wasn’t able to get anything going in his 7-0 loss to Plano’s Ivan Lopez.
The state tournament continues today at 8:30 a.m. with quarterfinal round matches, followed by first-round wrestlebacks at approximately 1 p.m. Semifinal matches in all three classes will begin at 7 p.m.