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By DANIEL L. CHAMNESS
For Rantoul Press
On the scoreboard, the takedown slam by Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher wrestler Josh Wallick was only worth two points.
But mentally it was worth much more than that.
Wallick’s slam of Gus Eisele of Poplar Grove North Boone during their Illinois High School Association Class 1A 285-pound title match not only showed Eisele who was the stronger wrestler, but also brought a loud cheer from the fans at the Assembly Hall.
“I wanted to send a message to him,” Wallick said of the slam. “I could hear the air rushing out of his lungs. After that takedown, the match seemed to go much easier. I thought from the beginning of the match that I was a little bit stronger.”
The only question after that was would Wallick win by pinfall, decision, major decision or technical fall. Less than three minutes into the match and leading by 8-0, Wallick provided the answer: pinfall at the 2.53 mark.
“I was so happy not to have to wait until 10 p.m. to wrestle,” Wallick said. “I knew if I could get him on his back, there would be no problem pinning him. I am already thinking about next year. I know I have weight room workout tomorrow.”
Wallick, who finished the year with a 50-0 mark, won more than half of his matches this year by pinfall. He was one of only two athletes at the state final who won their matches by pinfall. In addition, he was one of three athletes who was not scored on during his title match.
GCMS/F, and its predecessor Gibson City High School, have a long and storied history. But winning a state championship is a rarity, and only five former Falcons or Greyhounds as the case may be have been able to call themselves state champions. If Wallick, who finished third one year ago, wins next year, he would become the first GCMS/F athlete to win two state titles. He would also become the first to win three state wrestling medals.
“I am looking forward to having him back again next year,” GCMS/F head coach Josh Carter said. “He loves to wrestle and loves to challenge himself. Josh met the challenges this year. We are going to be take several angles for next year. First, we want to repeat. But we also want to prepare Josh to be a college athlete. It does not matter if it is football or wrestling.”
McClure earns a fourth. Wallick was not the only Falcon athlete to take home some hardware from the state finals. By taking fourth in the 138-pound division, Chet McClure joins Wallick and five other Falcons who have won at least two state medals.
GCMS/F had one athlete that earned two medals. Ironically, it was Chet’s father, Dave McClure, who wrestled for Gibson City in the mid-1980s.
“My ultimate goal was to win the state championship,” said McClure, who was fifth at 132 pounds one year ago. “It was a great run for me. Having the experience I had I was blessed.”
McClure was topped 5-3 in the third-place match by Lena-Winslow grappler Austin McPeek. With the loss, McClure slipped to 46-6 for the year.
It was the second time in the tournament that McClure faced McPeek. After McClure downed Peotone’s Gabe Hartnett by pinfall in the preliminary round, he lost to McPeek in the quarterfinals by a 4-2 count.
“I thought the second match was a little better, even though it was still a two-point spread,” McClure said. “I am looking forward to wrestling for GCMS one more time at least. Hopefully, we will make it to state as a team.”
McClure then moved to the wrestlebacks and defeated West Frankfort’s Gavin Restivo by pinfall (5:27) and Quincy Notre Dame’s Gage Stephens by major decision (9-1).
“Chet has been a leader for us,” Carter said. “Kids follow him, and he leads by example. He will be sorely missed next year.”
McClure will be leaving because of graduation as will Dylan Donner, who wrestled at 120 pounds for GCMS. Donner lost his first round match to Coal City’s Casey Brown, who won by pinfall with only five seconds to go. Donner lost in the first round of wrestlebacks as well, losing by pinfall to Byron’s Nelson Baker. Donner finished his career with a 37-14 mark. Donner also has the most pins in GCMS/F history as he pinned 84 opponents.
“Dylan is so fired up at all times,” Carter said. “He always seemed to have that killer instinct, and that is probably why he had so many pinfall victories. He knew when the right time to go for it.”
Cameron Schwing, like Wallick, is a junior and is slated to return in one year. He finished the season with a 42-6 mark. After defeating Wilmington’s Colin Weis by pinfall (3:28) in the first round, the 113 pounder was topped by Poplar Grove North Boone’s Brandon Briggs 2-1 in the quarterfinals. He defeated Roxana’s Jeremy O’Gara beating him 12-3, which is a major decision. Belleville Althoff Catholic’s Jarrid Braunagel won a 5-2 decision over Schwing, who finished 42-6.
“Of our wrestlers, no one had a tougher draw than Schwing,” Carter said. “He faced the athlete that finished third and the one that won the title. He was disappointed.
Another athlete that will be great for us next year.”