CHAMPAIGN — East Alton-Wood River junior Zac Blasioli will have to wait another year to revel in the success of being a state champion wrestler, but there's no doubt Saturday gave him the taste for it.
Blasioli dropped a tight 4-3 decision in the Class 1A 152-pound state finals Saturday at the State Farm Center on the campus of University of Illinois in Champaign. Shelbyville's Garrett Brachbill secured the state title, improving to 47-0 on the season. Blasioli wrapped up at 39-3, including two losses to Brachbill.
“I'm coming back for it next year most definitely, there's no stopping me,” Blasioli said following the match.
Blasioli trailed 3-1 in the final minute to Brachbill, but picked up a takedown to tie it at 3-3. Unfortunately, Brachbill earned an escape point with about 25 seconds remaining and Blasioli couldn't counter in time, leading to the 4-3 loss. Blasioli also lost to Brachbill 3-2 in a tight final at the 1A Carterville Sectional.
“As soon as I got the takedown I went for a quick, cheap tilt to put him to his back and I didn't get the count for the back points,” Blasioli said. “I just tried to keep him down, keep pressure on him. He's a tough wrestler and it was definitely a close match at sectionals and I knew it was going to be a close match today.”
Blasioli finished sixth as a freshman at state at 160 pounds, but took a step backward last season. He qualified for the 1A state tournament in the 152-pound division, but finished 0-2, short of the medal rounds.
Now he becomes the first EA-WR wrestler in school history to win multiple medals and he still has a year remaining with the Oilers.
His conditioning improved in '15-16, but head coach Dave Sobol believes a tweak to his offensive arsenal assisted in his ascension to the state final.
“What Zac committed to was his shots this year,” Sobol said. “It was rough because he's a banger and a brawler and we've been watching him try to muscle guys, but now you see him taking shots and he's scoring. He won his (semifinal) overtime match on a shot. He's committed to that shot now and that's what changed him. It changed him as a wrestler and it progressed him to the finals. He wouldn't have been there without that shot and the commitment to that shot.”
Sobol always boasts of Blasioli's commitment to the sport and intense work ethic. Those were keys to his successful season and his coach couldn't be prouder of him.
Sobol just thought it was a well earned championship for Brachbill.
“Being in the final and giving ourselves the opportunity to be here, the kid's effort was there,” Sobol said of Blasioli. “(Brachbill) was 47-0, the kid had a perfect season and he deserved it. Zac wrestled hard and came up a point short, but that's the way it goes sometimes.”
There is a short list of individual state champions in Oiler history in any sport. Josh Bennett is the only wrestling state champ, winning a 1A state championship in '08-09 at 103 pounds. Travis Williams nabbed a 1A triple jump state title in '02 in boys' track and field and Amy and Sara Hazen won a doubles title in girls' tennis in 1991.
While Blasioli narrowly missed adding his name to that list, he did become the first two-time state medalist for EA-WR and with fellow junior Drew Sobol (106) garnering a fourth-place medal, they became the first multi-medalists in the same season for the Oilers.
Coach Sobol thinks their efforts and accomplishments aren't going unnoticed at EA-WR. Athletics director Adam Miller did his part to promote them from back home this weekend and Sobol appreciates that.
“Adam Miller had the auditorium and they had the matches on the big screen during live matches and he was sending me pictures and the kids were going nuts,” Sobol said. “They were watching the boys and he was showing the kids jumping up and down.
“It's tough when you're down and the whole school has been down. I've been there so long and maybe if this boosts it up a little with these two boys, then that's a good start and we need that.”