Mattoon returns a team that could contend for the Apollo Conference, whose season begins Jan. 12.

But area coaches favor Mahomet-Seymour to take the championship.

The Bulldogs return nine of 14 starters from last year’s team that placed third place at the IHSA State Dual Team. The Bulldogs are returning Apollo Conference champions and return 21 overall varsity letter winners. Those around the conference echo the same sentiment when it comes to favoring Mahomet-Seymour. 

“I believe we have the team to win the conference this season,” said Mahomet wrestling coach Rob Ledin. 

Added Mt. Zion coach David Klemm: “I believe Mahomet would be the favorite to win the Apollo. They have many returning starters that went deep into the postseason last year.”

The Mahomet returns three state qualifiers:

• Mateo Casillas, the went 57-2 and finished third in the state at 195 pounds.

• Senior Caden Hatton, who went 49-8 took fifth in the state at 106 pounds. He will compete at 113 pounds this season.

• Senior Brennan Houser placed sixth at 170 pounds and owned a 44-12 record last season, but he will be moved up to the 182-pound weight class. 

Plus they have added another state qualifier – Donovan Lewis of Prairie Central, who transferred to the school.

• Other Mahomet returning wrestlers – sophomore Camden Heinhold (28-22) at 128 pounds, junior Donovan Lewis (32-10) at 138 pounds, junior Tallen Pawlak (35-15) at 145 pounds, and junior Cale Hillard at 170 pounds who placed eighth in the state at the IWCOA Fresh/Soph State Tournament.

Senior Colton Crowley (40-15) at 220 pounds and Camden Harms (36-10) returning as potential state qualifiers this season. 

But they will have to battle past a strong Mattoon squad that returns several state qualifiers and has wrestlers at every weight class.

“Mattoon and Mahomet always have really good numbers with a deep line up and great coaching,” said Taylorville coach Jake Smothers. “They have wrestled very well the last few years, and I expect that standard to continue.” 

Mattoon came up short at the conference championship due to injuries and forfeits, but expectations are high for the Green Wave this season.

The team has lost several regional champions.

Gone from last year’s team – decorated wrestler Kiefer Duncan, who finished the year 43-3 and third in the 145-pound weight class. Brady Foster and Aidan Spurgeon, who both fell one match shy of finishing with a medal at the State Finals, is gone. Mick Porter, a regional champ, who was a consistent wrestler for many years. 

“As a team, goals have been set to compete for an Apollo Championship and qualify at least four individuals to the IHSA State Championships in Champaign,” said Porter. 

Leading the way will be two wrestlers that finished All-State last season. Junior Korbin Bateman was 36-6 and finished fourth in the 126-pound weight class. Also returning is Leo Meyer, who was 35-11 last season and finished 6th at the State Finals. Aidan Blackburn (33-13) returns from qualifying for state as a sophomore. 

Sophomore Ben Capitosti (22-13) recorded over 20 wins last season and was an All-Stater at the F/S Championships, while Logan Blackburn (13-4) and, Kael Alexander (11-17), and Miles Clapp are also returning varsity contributors. 

“Mattoon again has some dominant wrestlers several returning state qualifiers that will be contending for individual state titles and medals this year,” said Charleston coach Mike Stanley. “Returning state place winner Korbin Bateman at 126, or 132 will be a legitimate contender for a title. Aidan Blackburn and Leo Meyer will also be returning and have a good shot to medal I believe. Aidan’s brother Logan has been held back by injuries his first two years but if he stays healthy he should also make some noise.”

Mount Zion and Lincoln should be in the mix for the third spot in the conference. For Mount Zion, the team returns four returning sectional qualifiers. That includes senior Aiden Ledbetter at 285 pounds, juniors Mason Gray at 113 pounds and Remington Hiser at 220 pounds, and sophomore Bradley Wilson at 120 pounds. 

Stanley is hopeful the Trojans can be in the mix for the middle of the conference. Gone from the Trojans was the team’s lone boy sectional qualifier in Josh Wiley, who was 20-8 last season. Stepping up will be senior captain Alec Sellers, who will compete in the 160-pound weight class. 

The Trojans also have a mix of sophomores that competed as freshmen last season. Isaiah Lutrell competed at 106/113 pounds last year. Ben Coffey will be pegged to compete at 145 pounds, while Marcellx Boling (225), and Stormy Hughes (285) all return after starting last year. 

“While I don’t expect us to compete at the top of the conference this season we are making improvements and gains, and we are heading in the right direction,” said Stanley. “Each of the wrestlers in our room is becoming better today and tomorrow than they were yesterday and if we continue this trend we are all going to end up where we want to be.”

Taylorville’s numbers are down this year but Smothers said the program brings back some quality wrestlers. That includes two returning seniors that qualified for the state tournament last year. Leading the team will be William Blue who qualified at 195 pounds in his junior season. Also returning is Landon Molinia, who qualified for the IWCOA state tournament as a sophomore at 182 pounds. His junior season was cut early due to an injury but appears to be healthy. 

“William was able to go the distance and compete very well with the returning state champ his first match and won a match in the wrestlebacks,” said Smothers. “It did not end well with an injury in his last match at state in the second round of the wrestleback but he is very excited to get back to another wrestling season and is even more hungry to prove himself again. Landon has gotten healthy and put a lot of time on the mat this off-season and is looking to go out his senior year with a bang. The Apollo Conference has a lot of high-level athletes on all teams and we are excited for another year to compete.”

Apollo schedule

January 12Mt. Zionvs.Effingham
at Mt. ZionMt. Zionvs.Mattoon
January 12Charlestonvs.Lincoln
at CharlestonCharlestonvs.Mahomet
January 17Effinghamvs.Mahomet
at EffinghamMattoonvs.Charleston
January 17Taylorvillevs.Lincoln
at TaylorvilleTaylorvillevs.Mt. Zion
Lincolnvs.Mt. Zion
January 24Mahometvs.Taylorville
at Mahomet-SeymourCharlestonvs.Mt. Zion
Mt. Zionvs.Mahomet
January 24Lincolnvs.Effingham
at LincolnLincolnvs.Mattoon