Final act still unwritten for Eagles wrestlers

RANTOUL — Peter McCusker and Nolan Roseman already are part of history.

That's even before whatever occurs in next month's wrestling postseason.

Rantoul grappling — now part of a co-op with Paxton-Buckley-Loda — doesn't possess an abundance of state-level success. During the 1970-71 school year, the Eagles garnered a pair of sixth-place medals.

Those were their first on that stage. And their only ones until 2016.

That's when the Rantoul trio of Demarius Smith, McCusker and Roseman hit the scene and revitalized the program.

Smith is now wrestling at Illinois. McCusker and Roseman, meanwhile, are seniors gearing up for one last hoorah with the Eagles.

And some fresh state hardware.

"I've set high goals for myself, so I want to finally achieve those goals," Roseman said. "It kind of sets some standards for the younger kids that are coming in."

"I don't know if this will be the end, but this is really big — almost like graduation," McCusker added. "It's almost like your last chance, so you've got to make the most of it."

Roseman never has missed the Class 2A state meet. He's a three-time qualifier at three different weight classes, though he didn't land his first match win on that stage until he was a 138-pounder last year.

McCusker missed out on state as a freshman, but quickly rose to the plateau by his sophomore campaign. As a 145-pound junior, he capped the meet by placing fourth.

That equaled Rantoul's fifth-ever state podium finish, following a pair from Smith at 145 and 152 pounds prior to his graduation in 2017.

"They've put in a lot of time, a lot of hours traveling, working in a variety of camps and situations," Eagles coach Mark McCusker said. "It's gratifying, really, to see that they're achieving at this level."

Peter McCusker and Roseman accept being the faces of the Rantoul/PBL wrestling squad.

That role also was held by Smith for a time. His influence, though, lives on through McCusker and Roseman.

"I saw him, how he finished his senior year," Roseman said of Smith. "I wanted to finish out on top, or as best as I could get in the state. ... His motivation just kind of helped me work harder."

"It gave me a bar to try to strive for," McCusker added. "You want to live up (to) and do better than those before you."

Both are off to a steady start in that regard.

McCusker maintains a 28-3 mark at 145 pounds, and Roseman boasts a 28-2 ledger at 152 pounds.

This does bring up a unique element of the pair's final prep run: McCusker always wrestled a weight above Roseman.

Until now.

"Last year, I felt like I cut a lot of weight, and it was kind of tough to maintain it," Roseman said. "I kind of lost most of the strength I put in during the season."

McCusker is holding firm at 145, but he tried something different before the grappling season: cross-country running.

"It gave me a baseline shape," McCusker said. "It helped me not getting too fat or anything."

Even with these shifts, the two are keeping on as practice partners. It's been that way all through high school — and even before then.

"That's probably been a very big component and key to their success," Mark McCusker said. "You can have Dan Gable coaching them, but if you're not wrestling anybody worth anything (it doesn't matter)."

Peter McCusker and Roseman have proved their value time and again.

They'll attempt to be the best at their weights when the Illini Prairie Conference Meet concludes Monday in Tolono, then aim to do the same at the 2A Urbana Regional on Feb. 2 and beyond.

Perhaps it'll leave them front and center in their school's grappling lore.

"We definitely want to see Peter placing higher than fourth," Mark McCusker said. "And we want to see Nolan on the podium. ... We were looking fourth or above, easily."

clikas@news-gazette.com

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Wrestling, Sports

Comments

Comments for this post are inactive.