Two championships and several other strong finishes led Robinson High School's wrestling team to a fifth-place finish at the annual Eastern Illinois Tournament (Jan. 26), which Robinson hosted this year.
The Maroons had 10 wrestlers place in their respective weight classes, including two first-place finishers, on their way to scoring 146.5 points to finish in the top five of the tournament, which featured 14 varsity teams, along with JV wrestlers from several schools.
That was quite a feat for the Maroons, who were without one of their top wrestlers in 195-pounder Grayson Wolf, who sustained a hand injury in practice last week and was unable to compete.
"Resting Grayson for regionals next week was the right decision, but as a coach, and I am human, so I will have to honest and tell you I was pretty bummed to scratch Grayson because he was a No. 1 seed and a lot of team points were lost," RHS head coach Joe Cunningham said. "But I told the kids that somehow the rest of you will have to find a way to make up those team points and boy did they ever wrestle hard to make that fifth place finish possible. Our gym was full of great wrestlers and tough teams Saturday. It is very possible that our kids might have wrestled with a state champ or two and certainly several state placers and our Robinson Maroons certainly held up to the challenge. These are teenage boys and one often has trouble figuring out what is going on inside their minds. But one thing I hope they realize is how special their efforts have been for building a team that can be here long into the future and today confirmed all the hard work."
Leading the way for RHS were Jordan Caballero and Jeff Hermann, who claimed championships at 126 and 138, respectively.
"Jordan has been with coach (Mike) Schrader since junior wrestling and they have a great understanding of how to work together," Cunningham said. "It is very rewarding to see a very deserving young man get rewarded and see that smile on top of the medal stand. Jeff is the definition of a wrestler and a competitor plain and simple. Sometimes he doubts himself, but I always believe he will win even against the very best. I hope he will use this momentum moving into regionals next week."
Caballero went 3-0 in his bracket with two pins and a major decision, while Hermann won by pin and major decision before winning the title bout via injury default.
Meanwhile, Fernando Zuniga turned in a second-place finish at 182, winning by technical fall and decision before being pinned in the championship match.
"I had told Fernando when the day began that I needed him to be a champ today and he came very close to pulling it off," Cunningham said. "Fernando is also peaking at the right time and I am very optimistic about his possibilities moving into regionals."
Also for RHS, Peyton Bugle went 3-1 to finish third at 106, Roger Cornwell III went 2-2 at 220 to finish fourth, Nick Eby was fourth at 170 with a 1-2 mark and Elliott Stifle came in fourth after suffering an knee injury in his semifinal match and was unable to continue to finish his day at 1-2.
Others to place included Bryan Dillery in fifth at 152 with a 4-1 mark, Aiden Schrader in sixth at 152 with a 3-2 record, which included a loss via pin to Dillery in the fifth-place match and Ethan Zakowski in sixth at 106 with a 2-2 mark.
"Peyton's third place was big and he has been improving every week," Cunningham said. "In fact, Peyton and Zakowski are developing into a powerful 1-2 punch for the future as they both grow and find separate weight classes. Roger has worked pretty hard this season and I have pushed him very hard to try and improve his diet and his conditioning. He has also overcome a mid-season injury and is starting to wrestle pretty well. Things are starting to click for Cole and Aiden and the wins both boys picked up Saturday earned us valuable team points. I was also very happy to put all of our available JV wrestlers on the mat today and give them valuable mat time. They are very important to our program as they represent our future."
Robinson also had wrestlers that won matches but didn't place, including Landyn Shonk (1-2) at 113, Josh Hatfield (1-2) at 132, Rusty Littlejohn at 132 (1-2), Cole Johnson (2-2) at 145, Brantley Littlejohn (1-2) at 182, Dalton Davis (1-2) at 220 and Cory Woods (2-2) at 285.
"Saturday was a big day for our program as we hosted the tournament and our kids defended our home mats very well," Cunningham said. "I am so proud of our team, our wrestlers, our coaches and our school for the wonderful day we were able to experience."
2019 Eastern Illinois Tournament
At Robinson High School
Team scores - Olney 185, Oakwood-Salt Fork 171, Champaign Central 166, Clinton 149, Robinson 146.5, Effingham 108, Lawrenceville 84.5, Carterville 80, Danville 74, Westville 72.5, Charleston 56.5, Bismarck-Henning 47, Robinson JV 37, Champaign Judah Christian 36, St. Joseph-Ogden 33.5, Danville JV 30, Olney JV 25, Champaign Central JV 19.5, Champaign Central 4 8, Effingham JV 4, Bismarck-Henning JV 3, Westville 3 3.
120 - Elliott Stifle (R) major dec. Evan Beavers (CL) 11-2; injury default to Joe Lashuay (OSF) 4:59; injury default to Dylan Ritter (O) (4th place).
126 - Jordan Caballero (R) pinned Samuel Kaurin (CH) :33; major dec. Brian Reagan (OSF) 14-6; pinned Nick Kotiw (CC) 3:16 (1st place); Dylan Cravens (RJV) pinned by Joshua Foster (CAR) 1:41; pinned by Nat Nosler (SJO) 3:24.
132 - Josh Hatfield (R) pinned Jayce Shurr (W) :34; dec. by Colin Marschewski (E) 8-6; major dec. by Anterrius Turner (DJV) 15-4; Rusty Littlejohn (RJV) pinned by Zeth Stallings (L) :35; pinned Aaron Harmon (O) 2:32; pinned by Joseph Perez (CH) :27.
138 - Jeff Hermann (R) pinned Erik Sills (E) 2:22; major dec. Matt Jones (CAR) 13-3; won via injury default over Peyton Holt (SJO) 1:59 (1st place).
145 - Cole Johnson (R) pinned Ethan Lannom (CARJV) 1:50; pinned by Anthony Turner (D) 1:45; pinned Jakob Peirson (BH) :54; pinned by Jon Perry (E) 3:00; Tanis Lake (RJV) pinned by Alexis Lancaster (CC) :34; pinned by Jon Perry (E) 1:30.
152 - Aiden Schrader (R) pinned Kaidyn McCormick (CLJV) 3:54; pinned by Andrew Perry (E) 3:05; dec. Trace Foster (L) 10-5; pinned Kyle Stone (CJC) 3:22; pinned by Bryan Dillery (RJV) 4:15 (6th place); Bryan Dillery (RJV) pinned Kyle Stone (CJC) 4:39; pinned by Tate Johnson (OSF) 3:03; pinned Evan Overley (W) :31; pinned Zach Slifer (EJV) 5:46; pinned Aiden Schrader (R) 4:15 (5th place).
160 - J.D. Caballero (R) dec. by Tyler Thompson CH) 19-12; pinned by Tyler Marschewski (E) 4:22; Cameron Hardin (RJV) pinned by Mason Ajster (OSF) 1:16; pinned by Nick Fitch (L) 1:14.
170 - Nick Eby (R) major dec. Chris Steidel (BH) 11-1; dec. by Grant Albaugh (CJC) 5-2; pinned by Altone Brooks (CC) 3:11 (4th place); Reese Johnson (RJV) pinned by Chris Steidel (BH) 1:23; pinned by Levi Seitzinger (O) :11; Kolton Decker (R) pinned by Altone Brooks (CC) 2:42; pinned by Chris Steidel (BH) 1:12.
182 - Fernando Zuniga (R) tech. fall Eddie Cannull (L) 26-11; dec. Colby Smiley (OSF) 10-4; pinned by Micah Downs (CL) 1:25 (2nd place); Brantley Littlejohn won via injury default over McKenzie Eads (W); pinned by Colby Smiley (OSF) :23; pinned by Donnell McClure (BH) 2:49.
220 - Roger Cornwell III (R) pinned Jake Darby (BHJV) :51; dec. Jayden Miller (L) 4-1; pinned by Dawson Pruitt (W) 3:11; pinned by Caide Borden (OSF) 3:26 (4th place); Dalton Davis (RJV) pinned by Jayden Miller (L) 5:57; pinned Jake Darby (BHJV) 1:01; dec. by Dominic Perez (D) 6-2.
285 - Cory Woods (R) dec. Luke Smolak (CAR) 10-7; pinned by Hayden Copass (W) 1:39; pinned Jaime Escobedo (RJV) 2:19; pinned by Marcus Hites (E) 1:37; Jaime Escobedo (RJV) pinned by Brennen Lehmkuhl (OSF) 3:06; pinned by Cory Woods (R) 2:19.