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Seventy percent would earn these wrestlers a solid C-minus in the classroom.
70 percent advancing from sectionals to state? That’ll get them an A-plus on the mat.
Monticello will have seven participants this weekend at the Assembly Hall (out of 10 sectional qualifiers) after a strong competition at the Class 1A individual sectional in Vandalia.
Tanner VanDalsen had the Sages’ lone sectional championship at 195 pounds after he won a 4-2 decision against Cumberland’s Timmy Carli.
Just a week ago, the Monticello senior defeated Carli by three points to win the regional.
The sectional title is yet another notch in VanDalsen’s belt as he continues to turn in a magical senior season. He holds a 39-7 record entering the state tournament this weekend.
“He is so determined. He knows this is his senior year. He worked so hard in the offseason for it. He just keeps plugging away and he has such lofty goals for himself and he has all year,” coach Andy Moore said of VanDalsen. “Every time he gets to the next stage in the season, we talk about the next one. He comes up and reminds me what his goal is and the belief he has in himself.
“He’s improved a great amount from last year and he’s managing his matches and coming out with wins.”
Moore was also impressed with how VanDalsen took care of business against an opponent who was very familiar with his strategy heading into the bout.
“That’s the third time he’s seen (Carli) this year,” Moore said. “There were multiple wrestlers there this weekend who had beaten kids two, three, four times throughout the season and this meet they didn’t. The more you wrestle, the more you compete against somebody; the more you close the gap.
“Tanner was able to stay ahead of him despite the multiple times he had seen him.”
Austin Hyde at 126, Jacob Burton at 160 and Brendan Menacher at 182 all placed second for Monticello, while Logan Knisley (106) and Dylan Knisley (145) came in third.
“It was such a relief to see all four of them reach the championship match because then we knew they were going (to state),” Moore said. “There was a lot of weight off their shoulders. They didn’t have to win that last match in order to go.
“And then the Knisley brothers were two of them who lost matches Friday night and kind of closed the door of opportunity on themselves and had to battle back. They took a harder path with it, but they were both able to compete and both beat some quality wrestlers in order to find their way back into a state berth.”
Zach Armstrong also will wrestle in the state meet after placing fourth at 220.
“Going into it optimistically from a coaching standpoint I believed that we could get seven through, but honestly after Friday night – Friday night we did not have a good round,” Moore said. “We struggled a little bit and lost a couple matches I thought we should have won.
“So I was a little nervous and wondering what would come about on Saturday.
The next day brought a focused effort by the Sages and results a little easier on their coach’s stomach.
A number of wrestlers advanced through the consolation bracket to place high enough for state, including the Knisley brothers who both fought to third place after early losses.
“They made the path a little bit harder on themselves, but they worked their tails off and got to where they needed to get to qualify for state,” Moore said.
Litchfield, Monticello opponent in the team sectionals the weekend after state, will also send seven wrestlers to Champaign from the Vandalia sectional.
Senior Devon Fenton (126) was Litchfield’s only sectional champion.
“They’re obviously going to pose a challenge when it comes to our dual,” Moore said of Litchfield.