In the history of Rantoul Township High School, there has never, ever been two medalists finish fourth place or better at the Illinois High School Association State Finals. Until Saturday, when Peter McCusker, Rantoul’s 145-pound grappler, and Nolan Roseman, Rantoul’s 152-pound wrestler, both finished fourth in their respective weight classes.
Purists will argue that the set up today is far different than in 1971, when Steve Estes and Wayne Angel both placed sixth in just a one-class system. Those two athletes placed sixth.
"I think that this accomplishment will sink in over the years," said Mark McCusker, the head coach of Rantoul. "There are 637 athletes that start this tournament and only 200 are leaving with individual hardware. Nolan has been able to earn a medal, which is what he has wanted for four years. For the second consecutive year, McCusker finished fourth at 145 pounds. In the third place match, he was topped by Lemont’s Grant LaDuke 5-2.
"It was disappointing not to go out on a win," said Peter McCusker. "I pushed the pace, but I got caught in leg cradle. I commend him for making the move, I would have done it if I had a chance. It was a four-point move and it was the difference in the match. I feel like I improved every year."
McCusker earned his two points on leg sweeps. The two-time all-stater was shooting on his Chicago-suburban opponent, but could not overcome the four-point move LaDuke had scored on earlier in the match.
The senior won his first two matches of the tournament, beating Thornton Fractional North’s Isaac Watkins and Grayslake Central’s Joey Murphy. He topped Watkins by pinfall at the 4:35 mark, while rolling to a 7-0 in the second round over Murphy.
In his third match of the tournament, the winner’s bracket semifinals, he ran into a buzzsaw named Nick Termini of Burlington Central. Termini entered the tournament undefeated and he left the State Farm Center in Champaign with an undefeated record and the 145-pound state championship.
"Peter is a great counter wrestler," said Mark McCusker. "He has been able to turn another athlete’s mistake into his benefit during his entire career. But, you need to score on offense at this level. He was not able to do that in a couple of the closer matches."
After losing to Termini in the semifinals, he was rotated to the consolation bracket where he faced Thomas Konetski of Clifton Central. He pinned Konetski at the 3:19 mark, before facing LaDuke in the third place match.
"I feel like I improved every year," said Peter McCusker. "Even though I finished fourth one year ago, I feel like I wrestled better this year than I had in previous years."
Roseman also grabbed fourth place, but he had to wrestle on more match than McCusker to accomplish the feat. In the third place match, the 152-pound senior took a chance trying a move that he normally does not try. The senior wrapped his arms around his Coal City opponent, Ryan Wasielewski, and attempted to lift him and put him on his back for the pin.
"Nolan is more of a shooter," explained Mark McCusker. "He tried something he thought would work, but when it did not, the other athlete was able to use his momentum to put Nolan on his back. I am happy he attempted that move. He had to make that decision immediately, it just did not work out for him."
But, if any match put a smile on the stoic senior's face, it had to be the 7-6 victory over Carbondale's Aron Taylor in the consolation semifinal. One week ago, the pair met in the sectional and Taylor won. Roseman earned a one point victory in the state finals.
"My goal was to get high up on the podium and earn a medal," said Roseman. "The win over Aron is one of the highlights of my career. Getting some revenge and some payback was nice. It was one of my better matches. I hit some lucky moves. In the third place match, I underestimated how tall Ryan was. When I lifted him up, I could not get him off the mat real well."
Roseman, who finished his career with a 45-5 record, posted a record of 4-2 at the state finals. He opened the tournament with a win over Nazareth Academy's Alex Corrilo, beating him 9-5. He would be topped by Peoria Notre Dame's Leo Mushinski in the second round. He then would win the next three consecutive matches, including the win over Taylor to set the third place contest with Wasielewski. He downed Marian Central Catholic's Kaden Randazzo (15-8) and Crystal Lake Central's Caden Ernd (3-2).
"I have been wanting to get on the podium for three years," said Roseman. "I wrestled well this final weekend. Durning my career at Rantoul, I had a chance to wrestle some tough kids and I almost made it over the hump and earned a medal one year ago."