Three Pekin wrestlers are headed to the Class 3A sectionals.
One of them is “on fire,” in the words of Dragons coach John Jacobs.
That would be junior Jared Dowell, who won the 195-pound championship Saturday at the Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional, pinning all three of his opponents.
“I told Jared after the regional that if they were giving out an outstanding wrestler award, I would have voted for him,” Jacobs said. “He wrestled like a man on a mission and he didn’t back down from anyone.
“His goal is to get to Champaign (for the state tournament) and he’s taken the first step.”
Dowell (28-3) pinned Moline’s Payton Abney in 1:05 in the regional quarterfinals, Normal West’s Kywuan Albright in 1:52 in the semifinals and Minooka’s Connor Colbert in 2:59 in the finals.
That’s a total of 5:16 on the mat in three matches. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t compete in the Mid-Illini Conference tournament two weeks earlier because of a shoulder injury.
“Was Jared OK physically Saturday? It seemed like it,” Jacobs said.
Pekin’s other qualifiers for this weekend’s Joliet Central Sectional are junior Ryan Haynes (126) and sophomore Drake Hawkins (132). Each won his third-place regional match, a match in which the winner moves on and the loser is done for the season.
Haynes (26-6) began his day with a 10-2 win over Normal West’s Joe Jarvis then he lost 8-2 to New Lenox Lincoln-Way West’s Javan Estrada in the semifinals.
Haynes pinned Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Evan McCord in 1:07 in the consolation semifinals and beat Moline’s Kole Brower 6-3 in the third-place match.
Jacobs said Haynes started slowly in the regional but later rose to the occasion, avenging a loss to Brower earlier in the season.
After getting a bye in the first round, Hawkins (28-8) pinned Normal West’s Ethan Thomas in 3:43 then lost 11-5 to Minooka’s Michael Ruettiger in the semifinals.
Back came Hawkins in the consolation semifinals with a 4-3 win over Normal Community’s Carter Owen and he pinned Lincoln-Way West’s Kenner Guzman in 3:18 in the third-place match.
Haynes is now 3-for-3 in qualifying for sectionals in his Pekin career. Hawkins is 2-for-2. Dowell has qualified for sectionals twice.
Pekin finished seventh of nine teams in the regional team standings, but Jacobs wasn’t disappointed. It’s tough for a young, inexperienced team to do well in the Class 3A postseason.
“I enjoyed the day Saturday,” Jacobs said. “Our kids competed hard against good competition.”
Sophomore Isaac Lollar (152), who didn’t enter the Dragons’ lineup until midway through the season and is a first-year wrestler, brought smiles to the faces of Pekin’s contingent when he pinned Bradley-Bourbonnais’ David Chen in 3:42 in the consolation round.
“Everything with Isaac is paint-by-numbers now,” Jacobs said. “But he’s learning quickly and he wants to learn.”
The top four finishers in each weight class in sectionals will move on to the state tournament Feb. 14-16 at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.