By Pilar Barrio Sanchez
No sooner had Gavin Jones pinned his opponent for the 160-pound regional championship Saturday afternoon than he smiled, look toward his coaches and started hugging – his opponent, his coaches and even some of his teammates who were celebrating.
Jones (20-6) had taken down Mt. Vernon’s Ethan Rivera 2 minutes, 43 seconds into the match.
He had a reason smile. As did his teammates, four of whom also won individual titles and 11 total who advanced to next week’s sectionals after delivering Mattoon its first Class 2A IHSA regional wrestling championship since 2017.
Brady Foster (106), Coby Haney (113), Ricky Wright (120) and Kiefer Duncan (132) also captured titles, earning berths in next weekend’s sectional tournament at Mascoutah.
As regional champ, Mattoon also earned a berth in the state dual meet tournament set to begin the week after the state individual championships in Champaign from Feb. 20-22.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Mattoon coach Brett Porter said. “We entered 11 kids in the tournament and we qualified for sectionals – it’s everything you can expect and more.”
Jones, a senior, managed to twice pick up Mt. Vernon’s Ethan Rivera in the title match and went into the second round winning 4-1. Early in the second round, Jones was close to a pin but Rivera escaped before Jones pinned him 43 seconds into the period.
“He (Rivera) is a good wrestler,” Jones said. “I wrestled him at the Mascoutah tournament and he lasted all three periods with me. Today, I pinned him, but he is crazy good. I’m just glad I got to wrestle him one more time and to give him that hug.”
Charleston’s Brayden Doyle also won an individual title, defeating Carbondale’s Aiden Taylor 5-1 at 195 pounds. Doyle also had a pin in the semifinals, 47 seconds into that match.
“Last year, I was one match away of making into state,” Doyle said. “I messed up. Some rookie stuff. But now this is my fourth year. I hope I get it done now.”
The most exciting final game of the afternoon might have been between Charleston’s Trey Pearcy (33-2) and Marion’s Gaige Owens (41-3), who entered the weekend ranked fourth and fifth in the state at 126 pounds.
The two battled to a scoreless tie through two periods. With one minute left in the third period, Owens attacked first but Pearcy managed to get away doing a flip over his opponent. With 30 second left, Pearcy led 2-1. Both wrestlers were on the mat when Owens attacked to go ahead 5-2. With only two seconds left, Pearcy flipped Owens to put him on his back and was close to getting a pin as time expired.
“I got nervous, the last two seconds. I thought I had it, but I didn’t,” Pearcy said. “This is definitely a motivation to work harder and beat him next time.”
Mattoon advanced nine wrestlers into Saturday’s semifinals. Jeremiah Jones (138), Stewart Druin (145), Hayden Stanley (152) and Kyus Root (170) each took second. Logan Blackburn (126) and Leo Meyer (195) also advanced by winning their consolation finals for third place.
Root defaulted his title match at 170 for an injury. He had hurt his chest in practice the day before.
In the first final of the afternoon, Foster defeated Gage Kent from Carbondale, who had started the match strong by winning the first round 11-3 – and he ended it even stronger with a pin two minutes and 42 seconds into the match.
Haney then won his match when, ahead 10-0, he pinned his opponent with 1:16 left in the second period.
Haney was feeling really confident on his team’s overall performance after his match.
“We brought a lot of good kids,” Haney said. “I think we are going to get first for the teams here so I believe we can do a pretty good job in the team sectionals.”
After watching his two teammates win, Wright continued that winning streak for Mattoon. Wright managed to get the advantage by doing a hold that immobilized his Mt. Vernon opponent. He eventually got the pin 3:57 into the match.
Meyer was the last Mattoon wrestler to qualify Saturday. After losing in an early-round match at 195, the freshman wrestled back into contention. After he recorded a pin to reach the third-place match, Meyer fell behind 5-0. But he managed to turn his opponent onto his back and get a pin with 35 seconds left in the second round to advance.
On their behalf, the Trojans got four wrestlers into the tournament. Besides Doyle, Trey Pearcy (126), Tyler Thompson (152) and Wyatt Kennedy (220) advanced.
“We did pretty well,” Charleston coach John Hansen said, “We got four wrestlers into sectionals next week and then we have the state championship coming up, too, hopefully.”
- Mattoon 205
- Marion 168
- Carbondale 153
- Charleston 90
- MacArthur 83.5
- Eisenhower 68
- Mt Vernon 61
- Centralia 36
106: Brady Foster (Mattoon) pin Kent (Marion), 2:42
113: Coby Haney (Mattoon) pin Alshammari (Carbondale), 2:44
120: Ricky Wright (Mattoon) pin Davis (Mt Vernon), 3:57
126: Owens (Marion) def. Trey Pearcy (Charleston), 5-2
132: Kiefer Duncan (Mattoon) def. Hayes (Eisenhower), 4-1
138: Dampier (Jones) pin Jeremiah Jones (Mattoon), 1:06
145: Tucker (MacArthur) def. Stewart Druin (Mattoon), technical fall, 16-0
152: Taylor (Carbondale) pin Hayden Stanley (Mattoon), 5:24
160: Gavin Jones (Mattoon) pin Rivers (Mt Vernon), 2:43
170: Daly (Carbondale) def. Kyus Root (Mattoon), injury default
182: Flute (Marion) def. Naser (Carbondale), 11-2
195: Brayden Doyle (Charleston) def. Taylor (Carbondale), 5-1
220: Williams (MacArthur) pin Wyatt Kennedy (Charleston), 2:46
285: Gunn (Marion) pin Gadberry (Centralia), 2:25
Stories on this website would not be possible without the financial assistance of sponsors such as Joe & Sheila Dively. Please, support our sponsors who are listed on the website so we can keep producing stories like this on local sports.