BLOOMINGTON — The sweep is complete.
The Washington senior wrestlers, with a little help from a few younger members of the family, wrapped up a high school career knowing nothing but state championships.
The top-ranked Panthers secured their fourth consecutive Class 2A dual-team title Saturday with a 45-21 victory over No. 3 Coal City in the championship at Grossinger Motors Arena.
“Four years of hard work, four years of giving it your all, four years of state championships. I think that sounds worth it to me,” Washington senior Jace Punke said.
After 17- and 22-second pins in the first two rounds, Punke (48-1) put the capper on title No. 4 with an 11-1 major decision at 195 pounds — the ninth and final Panther victory of the dual.
“When I heard the starting weight was going to be 182 (in the semifinals), I knew I'd be the last match coming into the finals dual,” Punke said. “It was really important to me to cap off Washington's fourth title and go out there and lay the Punke legacy down for the final time.”
The younger Punke’s three graduated brothers (Ryder, Dack and Blaize) were all part of the four-peat.
“Four in a row is awesome and I'm glad for them to have the opportunity, but maybe the bigger emotion for me right now is that I've watched these guys grow up with this program,” Washington coach Nick Miller said. “To coach those guys in their last match, that's at the top of my mind. It's going go take some time to let the four titles settle in, but I'm just glad for this senior class.”
Washington (22-10) had to come from behind to beat Coal City by 10 points in the regular season, but the Panthers took control of this one early.
Senior Gabe Robison opened the match with a pin in just 70 seconds.
“I've never really started ... 220s don't normally start,” Robison said. “But I like to get the pin and get the momentum going. It was sweet.”
Dylan Cooper followed with a 4-2 decision at 285 and, after a loss, Washington won five of the next six matches to open up a 35-12 lead. That stretch included a 17-2 technical fall by sophomore Abe Hinrichsen at 113, a pin in 1:16 by sophomore Joey Cape at 120 and a 15-0 tech fall by junior Brody Norman at 126.
Junior Zeke Hulet bumped up to 138 and got a 9-1 major decision and freshman Donnie Hidden’s pin in 1:17 followed at 145. Senior Jared Head put the dual out of reach with a 15-second pin of Ashton Harvey at 160.
“I was just ready to wrestle,” said Head. “That was my last match. I was ready to put it all out there. I came out with everything I had right away. The goal was to put it away as fast as I can.”
Head (49-2) is one of six seniors on Washington’s state tourney roster.
“I don't really have words,” Head said. “It's just awesome. It's crazy to see the growth these guys had. That's unreal. We had so many young guys step up to the plate and work their butts off all year long and this is the result.”
Miller credited a quick start and experience in the finale.
“Momentum,” Miller said. “That's what I told the guys at the end of the meet tonight what the difference was. (And) we’ve been there. These guys know what it's like to be in this match.”
Coal City (38-4) beat No. 2 ranked Woodstock Marian 30-29 to reach its fifth title bout (second four times in 1A).
Washington reached its fifth consecutive title appearance with a 45-24 victory against No. 24 Troy Triad, after a close call against No. 5 Lemont in the quarterfinals.
Spearheaded by first-period pins from Hinrichsen (21 seconds), Punke (22 seconds), Cape (1:30) and a 16-0 tech fall by Norman, Washington led Triad 39-3 after nine matches.
Washington’s closest dual came in the quarterfinals, as it escaped with a 40-31 victory against No. 5 Lemont. The Panthers trailed 31-30, before Jacob Sollberger scored a 14-0 major decision at 160 and Head wrapped up the dual with a pin in just 1:40 at 170.
“We knew Lemont would be tough,” Miller said. “They match up well with us. We knew there were about four or five swing matches in that dual. Looking at them, we came away with three of them and gave two of them up."
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs