CHAMPAIGN — Zac Blasioli of East Alton-Wood River is one win away from being a state champion.
The junior 152-pounder for the Oilers defeated Jared Packer of Dakota 4-2 in overtime to advance to the Class 1A title bout on Saturday at U of I's State Farm Center in Champaign. He will meet Shelbyville's Garrett Brachbill in the finals sometime after 5:30 p.m. Brachbill bested Blasioli 3-2 in a tight match at the Carterville Sectional.
Blasioli, who snared a sixth place medal as a freshman, becomes the first multiple medalist in wrestling for the Oilers and Saturday he will look to become the second state champion for the program. Josh Bennett won a state title at 103 pounds as a freshman in '08-09.
Blasioli fought back from a 2-0 deficit vs. Packer with a pair of escapes, forced overtime and got a takedown to win. Then his mind went blank.
“It was nothing,” Blasioli said of what was going through his head. “Everything I ever wanted just came to me. My freshman and sophomore years weren't too good of years for me. I placed freshman year, but everything is coming together now and I just feel great.”
EA-WR head coach Dave Sobol was equally excited.
“We have a slogan in our room that it's tough beating a kid that doesn't quit and there's a prime example,” Sobol said. “He's down 2-0, battles back with two escapes, wins it in overtime with a takedown. That's just all big heart right there.”
Now Blasioli will prepare for Brachbill. He said it's just all mental at this point and being ready to take center stage at state.
“(Brachbill), I lost to him 3-2 at the sectional final and it was a tough match, a debatable call on the takedown he got,” Blasioli said. “I just need to keep pushing the pace and do what I do and win a state title.”
Blasioli's teammate Drew Sobol (106) also wrestled in the semifinals of the championship bracket Friday. Unfortunately, he lost 6-0 to Joe Bianchini of Elmhurst (IC Catholic) in that match.
Sobol now awaits his next opponent in the semifinals of the wrestlebacks. He is guaranteed a medal, but it will be somewhere between 3-6.
Sobol and Blasioli mark the first time EA-WR has had multiple medal winners in the same year.
“For the accomplishments of these two young men, it's their work ethics and they are reaping the rewards from it,” coach Sobol said. “There are no shortcuts, or secrets in this sport, it's paved in hard work and they showed what they're made of. We've got to bounce back and get (Drew) to third. These guys weren't unblemished coming into this tournament so we'll just keep doing what we're doing and push the pace, the gas pedal is all the way down.”
Alton's Connor Broyles (132) and Granite City's Kyle Thompson (160) punched their tickets to Saturday in Class 3A.
Broyles pinned Niko Derain of St. Charles (East) in 5:45 during his match Thursday, but lost via a 17-2 tech fall to Dylan Duncan of Montini in the championship quarters. Roughly 45 minutes later Broyles had to regroup for wrestlebacks, beating Patrick Ryan of New Trier 8-5 to move on to the wrestleback quarters, a win away from the medal round. He will battle Danny Madonia of Hoffman Estates (Conant) on Saturday.
“One more match and it's the medal round tomorrow, so that's do or die,” Alton head coach Eric Roberson said. “I think his head is in the right place. He looked pretty confident (vs. Ryan). He just got outwrestled by what I think was a better wrestler in the quarterfinals. With that round happening right away I think he was OK. Mentally he was in the right frame of mind.”
Broyles believes his state experience as a junior assisted him on the first two days of state this year and will again when he takes the mat on Saturday.
“Everybody is watching you,” Broyles said. “You just can't feel the fear and you have to let it fuel you. There definitely weren't as many nerves as there were last year. It's my last year to get something done, but it's still not as many nerves as the first year I came up here to compete under this dome.”
Thompson of the Warriors was competing for the first time on the state mat as a junior, but he believes his progression this season has fueled him and helped suppress the butterflies.
“I've come a long way,” Thompson said. “This is my first year even making it out of the regional and now I'm here (at state) wrestling on Saturday. I have a chance at placing at state man. For a first year making it out of regionals, that's a long way to come from.”
GCHS head coach George Kirgan understands his program has suffered through a tumultuous season plagued by injuries and wrestlers leaving the program. If Thompson comes through on Saturday though Kirgan believes it will completely alter the outlook of the season.
“We're real proud of Kyle,” Kirgan said. “He's worked real hard this season, pushing himself to the limits. We believe he's going to win tomorrow and that will make the season much brighter. I'm very happy.”
In other 1A competition, Roxana's Jarod Foiles (132) is still alive in the wrestlebacks going into Saturday. After winning his first match on Thursday, a pin in 1:13 over Jordan Ho of Normal University, Foiles lost via pin in 2:09 to Byron's Nolan Baker sending him to wrestlebacks.
Foiles then picked up a 19-5 major decision over Wilmington's Landon Flynn. He now draws Braysen Singleton of Taylor Ridge (Rockridge) in the wrestleback quarterfinals. Class 1A wrestlebacks are set to start at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Civic Memorial's lone state representative, junior Brandon Carpenter, is still alive in the Class 2A bracket entering Saturday. Carpenter lost his opening round match at 182 pounds via pin in 3:28 to Cody Ralston of Richton Park (Rich South), but got a second chance in the wrestlebacks. Carpenter came back to defeat Numan Ayhan of Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South) 7-4 to advance to the quarterfinal wrestlebacks. He will face Hunter Crowley of Mahomet-Seymour on Saturday morning.
Roxana's Alex Maguire (138), Brett Nyswonger (220) and Owen Robinson (285), as well as EA-WR's Zach Kincade (195) and Alton's Alejandro Lopez (145) all saw their seasons conclude. Lopez lost his opening match and didn't advance to the wrestlebacks, while Kincade and Robinson went 0-2. Maguire and Nyswonger each won their initial matches, but then lost in the quarterfinals and the first round of wrestlebacks to go 1-2 at state.
Roberson said it was tough for Lopez to stomach, but he applauded him for what he's meant to the AHS program.
“I know Alejandro is disappointed, but that doesn't reflect on everything he's done throughout the season,” Roberson said. “He's worked really hard to get here. He started wrestling as a freshman. His goal was to get to state and once he got here, whatever happens happens. We're pleased with Alejandro and we're going to miss the heck out of him.”