Ten years from now, this is going to make one heckuva story to tell at Christmas.
Even in the present, Mackenzie Williams’ path to state is already the ultimate war story.
A dislocated shoulder, a fight in the “blood rounds,” and finishing past her sectional seed cultivated a dream dating back to her freshman year, the Charleston High School Junior is, in fact, a state qualifier.
“I’m really excited,” said Williams. “I knew going into my blood round, I had to win. There was no other option.”
Williams entered the Sectional as the No. 6 overall seed with an overall record of 11-22. Williams spent the bulk of the season wrestling the boys but took care of business by defeating Joslynn Casperson of Bloomington by fall with 1:38 remaining. Williams then upset the NO. 3 seed Aaneshia Duffin of Peoria Richwoods, who had a first-round bye, by fall with 1:17 remaining.
Mikah Merrill of Goreville sent Williams to the wrestle backs with a major decision 9-5 win over Williams. That set up a match with Cynthia Macke with an opportunity to qualify for state on the line.
For Williams, it might have felt like her dream would come to an end when she dislocated her shoulder after the second period.
“I didn’t even realize it until I went into the final period,” said Williams. “I had her on the bottom and both coaches were yelling at me to get the pin. The whole time I tried and just couldn’t do it. I gave it my all. I held onto her arm but I just couldn’t get the pin.”
Despite battling through extreme shoulder pain, Williams did just enough to hold off Macke to take the narrow 3-2 major decision to make the final four.
“I knew the pain was there,” said Williams. “But, I just didn’t think about it because I knew I had to win. The pain didn’t matter.”
Williams had the opportunity to wrestle for third place but the match ended 50 seconds into the match.
“I talked to Coach (Stanley) on the phone and he was so happy for me,” said Williams. “He said to go out and see what I could do. I got a takedown, but she grabbed my arm and flipped me and I just couldn’t fight off the pain anymore.”
Third or fourth place, it didn’t matter because the only two words Williams wanted, in the end, was “state qualifier.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” said Williams. “I’m just so happy. I was down points almost the entire time in my blood round match. Then, I only won by one point because of a stalling call.”
Williams will bring her 14-24 overall record to state and take on Dempsey Atkinson (17-11) of Rochelle. Williams has been with the program since her freshman year. While she has goals of her own, taking in the experience will be something she takes in the most.
“I’ve grown as a wrestler,” said Williams. “I don’t always give myself credit or sell myself short. It’s pretty cool to know that I can do big things. It’s that moment of realization that you are good enough. I know these girls at state have worked their butts off. They deserve to be there. I am going to go out and do my best in my matches the entire time. It’s going to come down to who can outlast the other.”