CARTERVILLE — Anna-Jonesboro freshman Arojae Hart and West Frankfort junior Connor Eaton won sectional titles to lead six other local grapplers at the Carterville Class 1A sectional Saturday. The group qualified for the IHSA wrestling state Class 1A individual tournament next week at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
Hart (25-5) swept through the competition at the 113 weight class in his first two matches. After a bye, he won via a 12-3 major decision over Aiden York from Monticello, followed by a 5-3 decision over Shawn Minick from Belleville Althoff in the semifinals.
In the final against Oakwood, sophomore Gage Reed Hart seemingly took a 2-0 lead with 36.7 seconds left in the first period. However, the points were taken away when it was determined the takedown was out of bounds.
Reed took the lead in the second period with an escape at the 20 second mark, and held that lead going into the third period. Hart tied the match with 40 seconds left on an escape to send the match into overtime.
“It was a very hard match,” Hart said. “I was really trying to work for it the whole time and I finally got it off. I kicked my foot out and finally slipped out of there.”
The first one minute overtime period was scoreless and Hart took the lead by escaping with a mere 16.5 seconds left in the second 30 second overtime period. Reed tied the score again with 12.3 seconds left in the third overtime period, sending the match into the ultimate tiebreaker — a fourth 30 second overtime period. Hart started on top and rode Reed for the entire time to capture the title.
“The first overtime I was just trying to see what I could do and trying to get my shots in, but he kept tying up with me,” Hart said. “In the second, I kept trying to kick my foot out of a very tight grip and barely got it out. In the third I kept trying to hold on to it, but it slipped right through my arms. In the tiebreaker I was up so I just had to keep him from scoring. With 15 seconds left he about got up, but I held his leg and brought him back down. With three seconds left he tried the exact same thing and again he didn’t get away.”
Eaton won his second consecutive 170 sectional title to qualify for the third time at that weight class by a 6-5 decision over sophomore Joey Braunagel from Belleville Althoff.
“It was a very long match with 10 out-of-bounds calls, which is a lot,” Eaton said. “It didn’t go exactly as planned because I expected to put at least 10 on him, but a win is a win whether its by one point or more.”
Eaton took the early lead with an escape at the 16 second mark of the first period. He extended his lead to 4-0 with an escape at the 22 second mark, followed by a takedown with 1:17 left in the second period.
With 56.2 seconds left in the period, Braunagel was awarded a penalty point when Eaton was cautioned for the second time, and seven seconds later, cut the lead to 4-2 with an escape. Eaton was then penalized again with 4.6 seconds left in the second to cut his lead to 4-3 heading into the third period.
“I jumped the gun too quick trying to get those takedowns in,” Eaton said.
With 59.3 seconds left Braunagel tied the score on an escape and almost scored a takedown with 16.1 seconds remaining, but it was ruled out of bounds. On the maneuver, Eaton was kneed in the left knee causing a slight delay as he recovered.
Eaton not only recovered, but came out energized, taking down Braunagel with 3.1 seconds left to reclaim the lead. Braunagel was awarded an escape at the buzzer to cut the final margin to 6-5.
“On several of the out-of-bounds calls I thought I should have been given a takedown, so not getting those calls kind of got me mad, which I guess benefited me because I came back and got the win with three seconds left,” Eaton said. “Just the adrenaline rush in those last five seconds gets you through most matches.”
Harrisburg’s Kyle Cavender advanced to state for the first time since his freshman year with a second place finish at 138. The senior lost to Ezra Elliott from Hoopston by a pin with 37 seconds left in the first period.
Anna-Jonesboro senior Nate Kisat advanced to the state tournament for the first time, finishing second at 145 thanks to a pin with 25 seconds left in the first period to Max Kristoff from Belleville Althoff.
Also advancing to state were Pinckneyville junior Ryder Parson with a third place finish at 120, and three others with fourth place finishes. Carterville senior Matt Jones at 138, Kyle Cavender’s twin brother Kody at 145 and Benton sophomore Gabe Craig at 285 were among the other athletes to accomplish the feat.
Sitting in the wings are the four alternates: Anna-Jonesboro sophomore Amiyah Hart at 106, Benton sophomore Peyton Swigonski at 132, Carterville senior Bailey Hicks at 160 and Anna-Jonesboro senior Reid Morrison at 195.
At the Mahomet-Seymour Class 2A sectional, Carbondale qualified three wrestlers for the state finals. Junior Aron Taylor won the 152 weight class with an 11-3 major decision over Zeke Waltz from Jersey, sophomore Luke Daley finished third at 160 via a 7-0 decision over Devin Wills from Highland, and senior Colin Bybee finished third at 182 with an 8-5 decision over Kaleb Port from Triad.
Marion qualified two wrestlers. Freshman Nate Dampler finished second at 132 by a 7-2 decision to Jeremiah Jones of Mattoon. and Gage Owens finished third at 120 by a 6-5 decision over Colton Burtle from Lanphier.