CHAMPAIGN — The ceiling just continues to rise for the Washington wrestling team.
While it may not have been the weekend they hoped for overall, the Panthers still managed to earn a school-record 10 state medals and a record-tying three state championships Saturday at the IHSA Class 2A individual state wrestling tournament.
Juniors Dack Punke (113 pounds) and Jacob Warner (182) cruised to titles and were joined on the top position of the medal podium by sophomore upset specialist Tyler Delaware (120).
All four Punke brothers won medals, another first in state history for the Panther quartet, as Ryder Punke added a second at 160, Blaize Punke a fourth at 138 and Jace Punke sixth at 195.
And, after a tough 2-1 loss in the quarterfinals Friday, Notre Dame senior Dom Tudor cruised through the consolation bracket to earn a third-place medal at 285 pounds.
Warner (43-2), ranked No. 4 in the nation, was untested all weekend in earning his second state championship. The Panthers junior outscored his four opponents 65-9, including a 19-4 thrashing of Morris sophomore Cody Baldridge in the title bout.
“That was my goal,” Warner said of dominating. “I think I could have done a couple things better, a few technical things, but I think I wrestled well and I think it showed.”
Warner recorded seven takedowns, four back points and an escape in the finals.
“The first (title) is always special, but repeating reassures you are who you are,” Warner said. “Repeating meant a lot to me. I wanted to do it so bad and that’s kinda what drove me a lot throughout this past year.”
After losing to a pair of nationally ranked wrestlers his first two years, Dack Punke (44-4) was not to be denied this time.
The Panthers junior scored a takedown late in the first period and a reversal early in the second en route to a 5-2 victory against Ethan Harsted of Ottawa in the 113 finals.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to feel ever since I was a freshman and got denied that year in the semis,” said Punke, who outscored his four opponents 43-9 in the tournament. “I wanted to feel it my sophomore year and got denied in the finals, so it just had to be this year.”
Harsted put up a fight, a week after losing a 17-2 technical fall to Punke in the sectional semifinals.
“It’s the state finals and he’s gonna want it 10 times as much as he did in any previous matches, so what I had to do was stay in solid position and just compete in every single position,” Punke said.
Delaware, already with wins against the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked wrestlers, completed an impressive run through the tournament with a 4-3 victory against No. 3 ranked freshman Donnell Washington of Chicago Heights Marian in the 120-pound title bout.
The eighth-ranked Panthers sophomore, who entered without a regional or sectional title, trailed by a point before scoring a takedown in the final seconds to grab his first state championship.
“I’m just so happy I could cry,” said Delaware (37-8), who did just that when he met his parents in the stands.
Washington started the third period with an escape to take the lead and kept Delaware from scoring — until the end.
“I knew I had to get a takedown to get the win,” Delaware said. “I just shot in on a head inside single and went in between his legs and stood up, pulled his legs down and leased his leg with my leg and got the takedown.”
Ryder Punke (42-4) was Washington’s fourth finalist and fought unbeaten Chciago Heights Marian senior Jose Champagne (31-0) to the end, before losing a 5-2 decision. Champagne put the match away on a takedown with 55 seconds left.
“Losing sucks, but I just have to focus on next week and help my team win a state title,” said Punke, referring to the dual-team state tournament on Feb. 27.
Two-time champ Randy Meneweather (31-6) capped his high school career with a fifth-place medal. The Panthera senior pinned his first two opponents in wrestlebacks, but lost a 9-2 decision to Carbondale’s Cameron Caffey in the semifinals. He finished with a 4-1 win over Pontiac’s Jake Lanning.
Washinigton senior Ethan Reel (28-11), a two-time medalist who moved up three weight classes this year, was denied a final medal when he suffered a 4-2 loss in sudden victory against Kyle Ruettiger of New Lenox Lincoln-Way West in the 145-pound wrestleback quarterfinals.
Morton sophomore Mikie Hartnett (38-4) was unable to return, after suffering a knee injury in the 138-pound semifinals, and settled for a sixth-place medal.
“He’s a very hard worker and worked his tail off to get to this point,” said Morton coach Josh Prichard. “It’s a little disappointing. He’s had a great year.”
Washington senior Trey Keeley defeated Notre Dame senior J.P. Stedwill by an 8-2 decision in the wrestleback quarters to secure a medal at 106. After a 13-1 major, Keeley settled for fourth when he was caught in a cradle and pinned in 5:59 of a previously scoreless mach against Mattoon’s Trevor Edwards.
Dylan Thurston won his three wrestleback matches with easy, the last 9-2 for a third-place medal. Kyle Goin added a fifth at 152 for Washington.
Tudor pinned Bloomington’s John Ridgeway at the 3:09 mark to claim his first state medal and Notre Dame’s first since Duke Burk finished third in 2005.
“Not at all what I wanted,” said Tudor, who had a third-period pin and a 5-2 decision to reach the medal match. “I wanted to win, I’ve always wanted to win. I made stupid mistakes and lost. That was tough to bounce back, but I did the best I could coming back.”
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs