Rantoul wrestling returns three sectional qualifiers, eight letter winners

RANTOUL — Last year, the Rantoul wrestling team had one athlete earn an all-state medal.

This year, as the season starts, Mark McCusker, the Eagles’ second-year head coach, knows there are two athletes that should be on the medal stand come February.

Nolan Roseman, a junior, is one of those wrestlers. Roseman posted a 40-7 mark one year ago and had the misfortune of drawing the eventual state champion in the first round and the bronze medalist in the second round. He lost the two matches by a combined 10 points, losing to the state champion, who was defending his 2016 title, by a 9-3 score.

He lost 4-0 to the eventual third-place finisher. Roseman wrestled at 132 pounds as a sophomore and wants to move up to 138 pounds this year.

"This year, as in every year, I just want to be the best wrestler that I can be on the mat," Roseman said. "I want to make it back to the state finals. There are some outings that I am looking forward to. I got some tough matches from Cahokia and Carbondale last year. I know the Mahomet-Seymour tournament will be tough this year. To make sure I am better, I have been lifting and trying to perfect my technique."

The other state-qualifying returner is Peter McCusker, the head coach’s son. Like Roseman, McCusker is a junior. As a sophomore, he missed placing at 138 pounds by only one match. He was 36-6 overall and posted a 2-2 mark at the state finals.

"I should be better than I was one year ago," McCusker said. "I wrestled in five tournaments after the high school season ended. My main goal is to make it back to state and get on the medal stand. I don't care what my record is going into the state finals."

While McCusker did not face the defending state champion in the first round, he did encounter him in the second round. Like Roseman, he also faced the athlete that would end up finishing third.

"These two guys will be the anchors and the leaders on our team," Mark McCusker said of the juniors. "They both work extremely hard and push themselves. Both always like wrestling better competition and challenging themselves."

While the pair is the best chance for the Eagles to qualify for the state finals, they have other returning letter winners and athletes that hope to be at the state championships as well.

Seth Sprandel posted a 20-18 mark at 195 pounds and hopes to move up to 220 pounds. At 195 pounds, he advanced to the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Sectional in Mascoutah.

"I am stronger than I was last year," Sprandel said. "Making it to the sectionals really opened my eyes. It made me want to advance to the next level, and that is what I am going for.”

McCusker wants Sprandel, a senior who played football in the fall, to be a little more aggressive on the mat. The second-year coach also expects added strength from his senior.

"We want him to be a little bit trimmer," McCusker said.

Kameren Goodell will be the Eagles wrestler at either 145 pounds or 152 pounds. Last year, a broken rib forced him out of the competition at regional.

"I feel like I match up strength wise very well at 145 pounds," Goodell said. "I feel like I am vastly improved and feel like I am capable of placing at the state finals.

To improve, Goodell attended several open practices and has the benefit of wrestling against some wrestlers from other programs. He competed against athletes from Mattoon and Washington and also participated in several tournaments in Indiana.

"Kameren's shots and moves on the wrestling mat are so sharp," McCusker said. "At times last year, he would go for it all and get caught in a bad position. He is a great kid and an even better competitor."

Other returning letter winners include Corbin Lantis, Lucas Bertram, Dominick Santiago and Anthony Nash.

McCusker is awaiting body fat measurements and is not sure where all the grapplers will be competing. Lantis competed at 152 and 160 pounds, while Bertram was the heavyweight, Santiago was 195 and 220, and Nash was the 106-pounder.

"Corbin is a guy that will surprise some teams," McCusker said. "He has been working hard and will have a much better year this year. He was a first-year wrestler and knows what to expect now. Lucas is like Corbin. He should have a much better year, and he should be much more competitive with wrestlers in his weight division.

“Dominick often gave up 10-15 pounds because of his position in the lineup. He improved so much during the season last year. Anthony wrestled varsity as a freshman and caught on very quickly. He did not do anything in the postseason, but we expect him to make it to at least the sectional."

The Eagles, who were 12-16 in dual outings one year ago, have several holes in the lineup they are hoping to fill. Their big loss to graduation was Demarius Smith, who is now 20 minutes south in Champaign, suiting up for the University of Illinois.

Smith finished in the top four as a junior and a senior in the respective weight classes of 145 pounds and 152 pounds. He finished second in state last season, losing only to the eventual state champion at 152 pounds, Highland's Trent Rakers. He lost to Rakers twice during the season. Those were the only blemishes on his 35-2 mark. He finished in fourth place at 145 pounds as a junior.

"Demarius was a high-caliber wrestler that brought experience and grit to our wrestling room," McCusker said. "He was a great wrestling partner in practice for not only Peter, but Nolan as well. I can't state what having a guy like him on your team does when you know every time he goes on the mat during the regular season, you can pretty much count on him getting you a victory."

McCusker will be assisted this year by Tony Worthington and Clint Anderson. Both are Rantoul graduates and former Eagles wrestlers.

Worthington teaches at the school and has coached before. Anderson was a volunteer coach a year ago and is familiar with the system. He is described as a good motivator and has been helpful pushing the guys and challenging them during drilling and conditioning.

sports@rantoulpress.com

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Wrestling, Sports

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