Dan Eyrich, AP Sports
Both the Panther boys and girls wrestlers competed in IHSA Sectional competition on Friday and Saturday looking to earn their wat to the state finals.. The girls were at Geneseo and the boys at Byron. Once the mats were rolled up late Saturday afternoon the Panthers had two athletes headed to the state finals; Michelle Naftzger and Ryleigh Stephens.
The Lady Panthers had six wrestlers competing in Geneseo with four winning their opening matches on Friday. All six returned to the mats on Saturday with a trip to the state finals on the line for the top four finishers.
Ryleigh Stephens and Michelle Naftzger each earned a trip to Bloomington as they both finished fourth after battling through the wrestleback portion of their brackets.
Stephens, competing at 110 pounds, entered the meet with a sparkling 28-7 record. She opened with a dominating major decision (15-2) win over Doti of Minooka after receiving a first round bye. In her semifinal match, she lost a heartbreaker to Strenz of Sandwich who was able to make a takedown in the first period standup for the win. The loss sent Stephens, a freshman, into the wrestlebacks where she would need one more win to get to the third place match and qualify for the state finals. She picked by a fall early in the third period over Gamboa of Reed-Custer to punch her ticket to state. She came up short in her bid for third as she lost by fall to McDonnell of Morris (31-3).
Michelle Naftzger had a longer journey in the 130 pound bracket to get to the third place match as after winning her opening round match fell in the quarterfinals to Louderback of Camp Point Central by fall. It would take three wins for the sophomore to get to the state qualifying round. She started with a fall over Schilling of Geneseo followed by a fall over Zimmerman of Dekalb. That win put her in a match with Brianna Bynum of Sherrard. The two had met twice earlier in the season with Bynum getting both wins. Naftzger prevailed getting a fall in the second period to get to the coveted third place match. The sophomore went to the medal stand in fourth position after losing to Greisen of Seneca by fall late in the contest.
Jada Rosenow, after going 1-1 on Friday returned to the mat on Saturday wrestling at 140 pounds. She started with a win by fall over Giertuga of New Lenox but was eliminated in the next round falling to Hyde of Macomb.
Dena Cox wrestling at 135 pounds was also eliminated in the second round of wrestlebacks after splitting her matches on Friday losing to Walikonis of Burlington Central 10-1.
Senior, Jaelin Hawkins, wrestling at 105 pounds and freshman Rose Jackson, competing at 170 pounds were both eliminated on Saturday after losing their second matches.
Stephens and Naftzger will compete at the IHSA state finals in Bloomington starting on Friday, February 23rd.
Boys Compete At Byron
Four underclassmen represented the Panthers at the Byron 1A Sectional collecting a number of wins but failing to make the top four places to advance to the state finals.
Junior, Wyatt Goossens made a return trip to the sectional after coming up one match short last year of making the state finals. Unfortunately, the 144 pounder came up one win short again as he lost in a consolation semifinal by a 5-4 decision to end his season. Goossens entered the sectional with a glowing 28-6 mark and picked up the win in his first match by fall to advance to the quarterfinal. Goossens led that match 2-1 with one minute to go but gave up a takedown with 11 seconds left to lose 3-2 and send him to the wrestlebacks. The junior got back on track with a win by fall over Manley of Ottawa Marquette. He then picked up another win by scoring an escape with 45 second to go, the only points of the match, to defeat Jacks of Rock Island Alleman 1-0. Along with getting the victory Goossens picked up his 100th career win, which was celebrated mat side after his match.
Freshmen Tristan Hovey (150) and Caleb Reymer (285) both competed well with Hovey picking up two wins and Reymer one. Junior, Victor Bonnell (157) lost his first two matches to end his season with an impressive 25 wins.