URBANA — This wasn't the way this year was supposed to go. After losing over a dozen huge seniors, M-S wrestling faced a year of uncertainty.
But thanks to some big-time performances from some unsung heroes, the Bulldogs won the Class 2A Urbana Regional last Saturday. It was the program's fifth straight regional title.
M-S finished with 170 points. Danville had 148 and Centennial was in third with 139.
"We wrestled really well," M-S coach Rob Ledin said. "They wrestled as a team. All the stuff you preach to the guys, they came together on Saturday. It was a very pride-filled moment for our coaching staff to see our guys perform that way and wrestle tough."
Junior Chance Decker and sophomore Daniel Renshaw were both regional champions. Decker cruised to the championship at 138 pounds with a 13-8 decision victory over Eliseo Perez from Danville. Renshaw pinned Champaign Central's Julian Wilson for the championship at 195 pounds.
The daunting schedule that Ledin put together really paid off. Renshaw is 25-18 on the season, but despite the 18 losses, he's still a regional champ. Decker has 14 losses to his name this year, but he's still a ridiculously good wrestler who will have a chance to advance to state.
"In the seeding meeting, our guys have more losses than others and that's OK because it means we've challenged ourselves against good competition," Ledin said. "Chance (Decker) going into this tournament had 14 losses. Today, he's a regional champion. There were only two more guys in the regional bracket that have more losses than him. What does that mean? It means that these guys are battle-tested."
Decker and Renshaw were two of eight Bulldogs who advanced to sectionals. Mahomet-Seymour will host a Class 2A sectional meet today and Saturday.
Braden Heinold (120), Noah Schnepper (126), Gage Granadino (152) and Daunte Roberts (182) all took home second place. Owen Straub (113) and Wyatt Heimann (170) placed third to advance to sectionals.
"I was glad we were able to get Owen Straub back in the lineup," Ledin said. "We were able to insert Owen into 113, and that moved Braden Heinold into 120 and Noah Schnepper into 126. Those three placed third, second, second. Right there (that) won the regional for us. It was huge to just put guys in the proper place. Being able to have those guys back and put them in positions to help our team and really do well."
Brayden Bone, Seth Buchanan and Peyton Myers all finished fourth for the Bulldogs to contribute points, but their seasons will likely come to an untimely end individually. They will still be able to compete in the M-S team sectional bout on Feb. 19.
Buchanan's 6-3 decision loss in the third-place bout was especially tough. The 285-pounder leads the team in wins (33) and just got stuck in the toughest regional in the state.
"It's a heartbreaker for us, but we knew with three ranked wrestlers in the regional, that just doesn't happen too often," Ledin said.
"We knew all year that this was going to be a challenge. They got to be ready to help their team, but it was hard especially watching him havethe awesome year he had."
Regionals is the first step. Now, it's time for sectionals, and it'll be loaded. The competition ramps up, but eight Bulldogs will have a chance to get themselves to state if they can finish in the top-four of their weight class.
For now, the Bulldogs will relish in the fact that they're regional champions for the fifth straight season.
"Last year, we won the regional by 12 points," Ledin said with a laugh. "This year, it was 22 points. If you had told me that last year, I would have said you're crazy. They all did great. I didn't have a conniption at all during the tourney. I wanted it for those four seniors! I wanted them to walk out with four regional patches on their jackets. For all those guys to get it, that was huge."