Holden Brazelton is no stranger to what he’ll experience this week inside State Farm Center in Champaign.
The St. Joseph-Ogden High School wrestler qualified for the Class 1A state meet in February 2022, compiling a 3-2 record at 120 pounds as a freshman.
Now a sophomore, Brazelton is setting his sights on an even better showing at this week’s state meet, which starts Thursday.
And he has reason to feel confident. Brazelton has yet to lose a postseason match for the Spartans, winning a sectional title and a regional title in the last two weeks at 132 pounds.
Brazelton brings a 45-2 record into the state meet this week ahead of a first-round match against Reed-Custer junior Sam Begley (10-3). If Brazelton can get past Begley, a quarterfinal match would await against either Roxana freshman Logan Riggs (32-13) or Polo senior Wyatt Doty (40-4).
Wrestling starts Thursday at noon with first-round matches in 1A, with 1A quarterfinals set to start at 6:45 p.m. Thursday.
Semifinal matches are slated for 7 p.m. on Friday and state championship matches are set to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Brazelton is the lone SJO wrestler who will compete at the state meet as he tries to become the third Spartan to win a state championship. Wesley Kibler won a 1A state title at 195 in 2015 and Griffin Meeker won a state title at 182 in 2017.
Brazelton wins title in Clinton
Brazelton was one of two Spartans who competed this past weekend at the 1A Clinton Sectional, but the only one to secure a top-four finish needed in order to advance to the state meet.
Brazelton received a bye into the quarterfinals, where he won a 16-0 technical fall against Jonny Marquez of Beardstown to advance to the semifinals. Once there, Brazelton pinned Bradi Lahr of Quincy Notre Dame in 3 minutes, 14 seconds to secure his spot in the sectional championship match. Brazelton did not yield a point to Ian O’Connor of Illini Bluffs, winning via a 7-0 decision.
Owen Birt at 220 also wrestled for SJO at the Clinton Sectional, but lost two matches to end his senior season. Birt lost a 9-2 decision to Ethan Ladd of Macomb in his first-round match before losing a 7-5 decision to Landon Wierenga of Eureka in a consolation quarterfinal match. Birt finished with a 37-10 record in his final season at SJO.
Brazelton tops podium in LeRoy
SJO had three wrestlers earn top-three finishes at the LeRoy Regional on Feb. 4, with three more placing fourth in their respective weight classes.
The solid showing, punctuated by Brazelton winning a regional title at 132, helped SJO finish third in the 10-team regional meet with 114 points. Only regional champion LeRoy/Tri-Valley (224.5 points) and runner-up Unity (222.5 points) put together a better team score than SJO.
Brazelton won both his matches to earn a regional title. He earned a 15-0 technical fall against Avery McGraw from Unity in the semifinals before pinning Cayden Poole of Clinton in 1 minute, 40 seconds in the championship match.
Senior Hunter Ketchum at 182 and Birt at 220 overcame semifinal losses to place third in their weight classes.
Ketchum pinned Wyatt Vaughan of Monticello in 3:07 in his first-round match before getting pinned in 56 seconds by eventual regional champion Hunter Eastin of Unity in the semifinals.
Ketchum rallied to pin Quinn Perschall of Olympia in 47 seconds in his first wrestle back match before pinning Vaughan again in 2:55.
Birt defeated Nolan Yeary by pin in 1:50 in his quarterfinal match, but lost to Nathanael Gladden of Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin/Armstrong-Potomac by an 8-6 decision in the semifinals.
Birt then defeated Riley Jones of Monticello by pin in 1:05 in his first wrestleback match before pinning Yeary again, this time in 3:42, to win the 220 third-place match.
Freshman Jackson Walsh at 106, junior Emmit Holt at 113 and freshman Coy Hayes at 152 all placed fourth in their weight classes for the Spartans.
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