Win four consecutive wrestling matches.
That’s what’s needed to win a state wrestling title.
Sounds simple, right? Well, easier said than done.
The chase to stand atop the podium come Saturday night was right in front of two St. Joseph-Ogden High School juniors starting Thursday during the Class 1A state wrestling meet at State Farm Center in Champaign.
AJ Wagner and Isaiah Immke competed for the Spartans at state after making it out of last Saturday’s Olympia Sectional, with Wagner at 113 pounds and Immke at 145 pounds.
Wagner, who placed fourth at the Olympia Sectional and carries a 41-8 record on the season before wrestling at state for the second straight season, opens his state stay against junior Michael DiBenedetto (23-8) of IC Catholic. Wagner lost to DiBenedetto in a 4-0 decision.
Immke, who finished third in his weight class at the Olympia Sectional and is 20-7 on the season, began his first state meet against senior Jeff Hermann (37-5) of Robinson. Immke lost to Hermann 12-4 in a major decision.
Immke, by virtue of his regional title, received a bye into the quarterfinals at Olympia, but had to overcome a quick defeat to ensure he’d wrestle in Champaign this week. Daniel Gutierrez of Dwight pinned Immke in 4 minutes, 27 seconds during Immke’s first sectional match, but he battled back to win his next four matches to secure his spot at state.
Immke pinned Marshall Gudauskas of Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin in 1 minute, 11 seconds during his first wrestleback match before securing an 8-7 decision against Carson Tippie of Mercer County in the wrestleback quarterfinals.
Immke then held on to defeat Justin Jones of Hoopeston Area by an 8-7 decision to lock up a spot at state. The top four finishers in each weight class at the sectional level qualify for state.
Immke didn’t slow down, though, in the third-place match and pinned Levi Leitner of Tremont in 1:27.
Wagner won his first two matches at the sectional meet to advance to the semifinals, opening up with a pin of Jac Couri from Peoria Notre Dame in 1:21 and then a pin of Josiah Grant of Tremont in 1:41. Wagner, though, lost an 8-3 decision to Broctyn King of Mercer County in the semifinals before he pinned Couri again in only 30 seconds during a wrestleback semifinal match to advance to the third-place match. Wagner suffered a 3-1 loss to Paul Ishikawa of Illini Bluffs in the third-place match.
SJO had one other wrestler, sophomore Isaiah Moore, compete at the Olympia Sectional. Moore pinned Logan Poisal of Tremont in 25 seconds during his first-round match before he lost by a 17-2 technical fall to Tristan Daugherty of Peoria Notre in the quarterfinals and then lost by pin in 3:18 to Mitchell Connor of Chillicothe IVC in Moore’s first wrestleback match. Moore capped his season with a 32-13 record.
The 1A state meet began with first-round matches starting at noon on Thursday, with quarterfinals slated to begin at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday.
On Friday, first-round wrestleback matches are set to start at 11 a.m. before second-round wrestleback matches begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. The 1A semifinals are slated to start at 7 p.m. on Friday.
For the final day of the state meet on Saturday, quarterfinal wrestle backs begin at 9 a.m., followed by semifinal wrestle backs at 11 a.m. and third-place and fifth-place matches at 1 p.m.
The Grand March is set to begin at 5:30 p.m., with state championship matches starting at 6 p.m.