A perfect world would feature a four-for-four.
The Charleston High School wrestling team is sending one boy and three girls to the sectional wrestling competition this weekend with all four looking to make a run to the state tournament. Marcellx Boling, Alyania Bryant, Mackensie Williams, and Morgan Smallhorn will begin their quest with hopes of making it to state this Friday.
Boling qualified for the Class 2A Highland Sectional after finishing in third place at the regional.
“I could not be any prouder of Marcellx’s progress this season,” said Stanley. “From a technical standpoint, you can see the growth from competition to competition. His foot movement is getting smoother, he is starting to naturally hit fake, level changes, and setups with his shots that are throwing his opponents off guard, and with better balance and leverage he is working his way out of many difficult situations in matches, refusing to give up points in many places where they would have been gotten earlier in the season. I can feel all things firsthand sparring with him in practice as well. It gets a little tougher to keep him off my legs each time I go against him. He can move a lot like a lower weight with his foot movement and leg attacks but still has big guy power and strength to the upper body. This ability to wrestle both styles serves him well and the advantage it gives him will only continue to increase.”
Stanley said Boling is already pegged as a captain next season due to his progress from these last two seasons. Stanley believes that senior captain Alec Sellers, who was upset in the regional to miss out on the sectional competition, had a huge part in Boling’s rise this season.
“From a mental standpoint he is maturing and developing into the leader he will certainly be for his teammates in the seasons to come,” said Stanley. “He is learning to lose with respect, and reflect and learn from his wins and losses, using what happened to practice and prepare to make himself better for the next bouts. These things are all happening exponentially, and are head and shoulders above where he was with them last season. He, along with sophomore Stormy Hughes will be ready to take the reign from captain Alec Sellers and lead the rest of the boys as captains through their next season. Alec himself is no doubt a large part of why that is.”
Boling enters the sectional with a 17-12 record on the season and will have a tough road to make it to state, but the sophomore will certainly enjoy picking up the experience.
“Marcellx has a fairly favorable draw in the Sectional,” said Stanley. “He is no doubt a long shot to make it out, but with a first-round draw of a 15-10 freshman, it looks as though he has a solid shot to get to the quarter-finals before entering wrestle backs which would then only put him only a couple wins from getting through. Once you’re at that point and the State tournament is in your sight, you can see wrestlers reach and wrestle at new levels the moment, so you never know. One certain thing is that from experience alone, Marcellx will become a better wrestler this weekend. I believe in his abilities and whether it’s this year or not, I see the state tournament in Marcellx’s future.”
The trio of girls has a legitimate shot to make the state tournament. Byrnat, Williams, and Smallhorn will wrestle Friday and Saturday at Peoria Richwoods High School. Each will need to finish top-4 in their sectional bracket to move on to the state tournament in Bloomington.
Bryant, a senior, competes in the 125-pound class and should own a high seed in her bracket. Bryant is the younger sister of 2022 state qualifier Maddie Bryant, who was the first female Charleston wrestler to qualify for the state tournament. Bryant is 6-1 against other girls this season with her lone loss being to a former state champion out of Tennessee. Bryant earned an IWCOA state title at 125 pounds last year and has years of youth experience.
Williams, a junior, will compete in the 145-pound weight class. Williams is in her third year with the wrestling program and is eager to make it to state after just missing it last year. Williams is 6-4 against other girls this season with her last bout being a 4-6 loss to Oakwood’s Taylor Owens, a state-bound wrestler from last year. Williams was a match away from making state at 155 pounds last year.
“Her (Alaynia’s) experience should bode well for her in the coming weeks,” said Stanley. “Mackensie was a match away from making the state tournament last year at the 155 lb weight class and with her strength, another season of experience, and being down a weight class at 145 she should have an excellent chance of getting through.”
Smallhorn, a freshman, will compete in the 115-pound weight class. Smallhorn is 5-6 on the season against other girls. She owns a 2nd place finish at her first all-girls tournament at Pontiac earlier in the season.
“It will be toughest for Morgan, but only because of her limited experience,” said Stanley. “Being a first-year wrestler, Morgan is taking in a lot of information and learning a lot of techniques. This can lead her to be a little hesitant on the mat at times and unsure of herself when attempting those techniques. It’s going to be important for her to go out aggressively and to trust herself in all situations of the match, to let her body react to the situations, and not try and think through things too much. I believe Morgan can make it through if she sticks with the fundamentals that she knows best, keeps things simple, and stays high energy and aggressive through the tournament.”