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By DANIEL L. CHAMNESS
For Rantoul Press
Nine seconds from a victory.
That is how close Jalen Cobb, Rantoul’s 152-pound grappler, was to staying alive in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Sectional. Cobb, wrestling
Carbondale’s Russel Leonard, was ahead 6-3, when Leonard turned him for the pinfall at the 5:51 mark.
It was Cobb’s second loss of the day as he finished 0-2 at the sectional.
“That was a heartbreaker,” Rantoul head coach Craig Acree said of the match with Leonard. “We beat him for 98 percent of that match. Javon took him down three times at will.
He took him down with a double leg and possibly relaxed a bit too much.
Leonard wrenched Javon to his back and scored the pin with three seconds left.”
Big moves were the theme of the day for Cobb, but unfortunately, they did not go his way.
Earlier in the day, he lost a 14-9 decision to Jake Smothers of Taylorville, Smothers scored five points on a single move.
“Our game plan, in both cases, worked,” Acree said. “Take away the one big move in the match against Smothers and we are dead even.”
While Tevin Rodgers was not as close, his matches at 182 pounds were probably tougher. Rogers opened with Royce Harris of Marion.
He lost by pinfall.
He then faced an athlete from Rochester won also won by pinfall.
“We went for it all against Royce,” said Acree. “We shot in from far away and wound up on our stomach. From there, he just turned Tevin and pinned him. Against the other athlete from Rochester, he was just big and strong and outmuscled us. Tevin was down by nine points when he was pinned.”
With the sectional outing, the Rantoul season comes to an end. Fittingly, the two wrestlers who advanced to the sectional had the most victories.
They were the two Eagle wrestlers who finished with over 20 wins. Rodgers ended the year with a 24-14 mark, while Cobb finished 22-15.
Both athletes will have another chance to advance to state in one year.
While the wrestling team will lose only Mitch Williams, their 220-pound wrestler to graduation, Acree is losing his assistant coach.
Ryan Prater, who helped Acree during the 2012-13 season, has decided to get back on the mat.
Prater, who only has one year of eligibility left, will use that year of eligibility at Elmhurst College, which is currently ranked in the NCAA Division III wrestling poll by D3wrestle.com. Prater will wrestle at 157 pounds.
“There are many people who are helping make this program improve,” Acree said. “Prater is lead among them. I believe he will be a national champion in 2014. He will be greatly missed. I also want to thank the parents of the wrestlers and the teaching staff that came and supported our team all year long. I am hoping to get more athletes interested in the sport.
Acree added, “There are some fine athletes walking the halls at Rantoul that do not even play a sport. I am hoping they will want to pursue wrestling. It is tough, but worth it. I am looking forward to next season and the challenges that present themselves.”