CHAMPAIGN – Richmond-Burton’s Cameron Kennedy, a senior, has placed each of his three previous years at the state final.
Last year, he lost in the final. On Friday, he made it back to the finals with a hard-fought, 1-0, win against Chicago Bowen’s Rudolph Johnson in the 126-pound Class 2A semifinal.
The first period looked more like slap fighting than wrestling as both wrestlers battled with their hands. Kennedy said the referee warned them in the second period to cut it out or he would toss both wrestlers. After the warning, Kennedy put out his hand to shake as a gesture of starting over.
“We were going at it. It was a battle,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know if [Johnson] wanted to shake my hand or not.”
Johnson gave an escape to Kennedy to start the second period for the match’s only point and Kennedy rode out Johnson in the third.
Kennedy will face Montini’s Jordan Laster in the championship in a rematch of the Antioch Sectional final where Laster won, 6-4.
Garrett Sutton, Kennedy’s teammate and cousin, also advanced to the finals at 152 with a 19-3 technical fall against East Moline’s Tanner Schuldt. Sutton will see an old friend in the championship in Sycamore’s Austin Culton.
The two wrestled club together but have never met on the mat as they were never in the same weight class.
“We’re not going to act like friends out there,” Sutton said.
This will be Sutton’s first time in the final, but the experience is not foreign to him as a spectator.
“I’ve been watching it for eight or nine years,” Sutton said. “It’s not as scary as it used to be.”
After a one and done state finals experience last year, McHenry’s Wade Lardy became the first area 3A wrestler to make it to a championship match at state. Lardy beat Lake Park’s Austin Schoen, 5-3, in the 145 semifinal.
Warriors coach Will Gaddy said a key to the match was Lardy riding out Schoen in the second period. Lardy got a late third period takedown to put the match away.
“It was tough riding that kid,” Gaddy said of Schoen. “I think riding him out like that was huge.”
Schoen is ranked No. 3 by Illinoismatmen.com and Lardy is No. 7. In the Barrington Sectional championship, Lardy beat No. 2-ranked Justin Weber from Stevenson.
“Wade just keeps knocking off top ranked kids,” Gaddy said.
Lardy’s toughest challenge may be in the finals where he will see undefeated Bryce Brill (48-0) from Mount Carmel. Brill major decisioned Lardy (44-2) earlier this season.
Harvard’s Anthony Luis advanced to the finals at 106 in 1A with a 5-3 win against Zach Lorek from McNamara. Lorek struck first with a first period takedown but the match was tied 2-2 heading into the third period. After an escape by Lorek to start the third and a stalling call against him to tie the score back up, Luis hit a takedown with less than 10 seconds remaining to win.
In the first period, Luis said he learned that he was going to have difficulty taking down Lorek by shooting at his legs. The third period saw Luis go to plan B and locked onto Lorek’s upper body to take him down.
“At the beginning of the match I was learning what [Lorek] was doing,” Luis said. “I went to the second tier move.”
Hornets coach Tim Haak said he likes Luis’ chances late in close matches.
“[Luis] handles things well mentally and emotionally,” Haak said. “He just stayed aggressive. We want him in those flurries.”
Luis will see undefeated Cody Minnick (47-0) from Coal City in the championship match. At state last year, Luis (39-6) defeated Minnick in the semifinal wrestle backs, 3-1 in overtime.
Also in Class 2A, Crystal Lake Central’s Andrew Marsden was taken down in overtime in his 6-4 semifinal loss to East Moline’s Markus Murphy. In 3A, Prairie Ridge’s Travis Piotrowski lost a, 6-3, decision to Plainfield South’s Miguel Silva in the semifinals. Crystal Lake South’s Nick Gil got pinned by Glenbard North’s Jered Cortez in the 126 semifinal.
Marsden, Piotrowski and Gil move to the consolation semifinals and are guaranteed a top six place.