Four E.V. wrestlers advance to Districts, team finishes fourth at Sectionals

John FIsher was one of two English Valleys wrestlers to take first place, with two others advancing with second-place finishes at the Sectional tournament in North English held on February 3. Fisher beat Pekin's Mason Juhl with a pin late in the first period of the championship match at the 195-pound weight class.

Four English Valleys wrestlers are guaranteed action at the District level, while the others that competed at Sectionals, on February 3 at North English, could serve as alternates.

Keegan Cope was the first wrestler to take the mat for E.V. and in his first Sectionals appearance as a freshman, took home third place. He ran into Ethan Kupka of HLV early on, one of the more touted wrestlers of the class, and went the distance but lost to him 1-4. He responded with a pin in the third round of his next match, but then conceded second place by rule to Kupka.

In another first appearance for a Bear wrestler, Timmy Stecklein put himself in position to take home first place. After getting a bye, Stecklein was able to beat Pekin's Tyler Gillum with a pin early in the second period. He then lost a tough decision in the championship match that went the distance but was on the shorter side of a 9-17 score. Stecklein still had a chance to take second place but was pinned midway through the first period.

"Every day Timmy improves because he knew so little coming into the season," E.V. coach Steve Hester said. "He has a non-stop motor and he showed that by going late in his first match. He's liked the family atmosphere and he's been good for the team. He's excited."

The first English Valleys wrestler to advance was Seth Thompson, who battled his way to a first-place win in the 120-pound weight class bracket. Thompson only had to beat one man, as there were only two opponents total in the bracket. He went the distance but took a resounding 13-2 win with him to the top of the podium.

With no wrestlers competing in the middle-class weights, there was a sizeable wait before another E.V. wrestler had a chance at making the podium. Caleb Peach (170-pounds) was the next man up, and he was able to complete the task with a runner-up finish. Peach had a bye in the first round before beating Pekin's Jordan Hixson in a 11-4 decision. He went the distance again, but lost 5-12, still setting him up for a chance to advance. Peach won that crucial match by way of a 10-1 decision, ending the match midway.

"It was another week where we made improvements, Caleb gained some ground on Iowa Valley and that was nice to see," coach Hester said. "It's just fun to see the kids perform, and we met our team goal of everyone getting third or better."

Cael Hester (182-pounds) also made it to the podium, but at best would serve as an alternate at Districts. Hester lost a tough match with Skyler Juhl of Pekin, which resulted in a 7-22 finish early in the third period. Hester responded with a pin of Sigourney-Keota's Zeke Webb in the middle of the third period to give him a podium spot. By rule, he conceded second place and settled for third.

The second E.V. wrestler to find himself atop his weight class was John Fisher (195-pounds). Fisher's first match was his most difficult, as he had to go into the third period to pin his opponent. In the championship match, Fisher made things a little easier on himself, taking care of business late in the first period against Pekin's Mason Juhl.

"We were a little bit worried since John had an injury to his arm, we didn't know how that'd play out," coach Hester said. "We'd seen Mason down in Waco and beat him there, so we looked to try and get the pin early due to the injury."

Two E.V. wrestlers remained, and both made it to the podium, with one advancing for sure. Noah McCammant (220-pounds) finished his day in third place, which began with a sliver of a 0-1 loss in his first match. He bounced back with a 14-2 decision midway through his match against Pekin's Ethan Cooksey, which guaranteed a podium spot. Unfortunately for him, he was matched up with his earlier opponent, and by rule conceded the runner-up spot.

Daniel Tapken was the final wrestler to compete for E.V., with the final match of the day pushing him onwards to Districts. He got a first-round bye and then quickly pinned Sigourney-Keota's Sam Fowler in 30 seconds time. In a battle for the championship, and déjà vu from the week prior in the conference match, Tapken went down in the second period. He had a big final match, which he knew he needed, pinning his opponent midway through the first period.

The four wrestlers who advanced will look to punch their ticket to State when they compete at Districts in Pleasantville on February 10.  

"Getting close to the end, State is coming up quickly," coach Hester said. "You don't need too much coaching at this point."