MAHOMET — One by one they walked up, smiled and put an arm around Rob Ledin.
The Mahomet-Seymour coach clasped an IHSA Class 2A regional plaque.
Several of his wrestlers clutched their own hardware — a picture frame encasing a miniature weight-class bracket, or a small metal medallion.
Ledin wasn’t denying a photo opportunity to any of his athletes. Not after what they accomplished Saturday.
“Awesome, awesome day,” Ledin said, tears welling in his eyes a short time later. “I’m just so proud of our guys.”
The host Bulldogs collected 10 top-three finishes — advancing all of those competitors to the sectional round — and held off 2A newcomer Bloomington 199 1/2-180 for M-S’s sixth consecutive regional team trophy.
“We knew from the get-go ... you put Bloomington and Normal (West) and us in the same regional, that’s a lot of points to be shaving,” said the 14th-year Bulldogs leader, referencing the move of those two foes and Morton down from Class 3A. “So we knew we had to step up and do some special things.”
Heading that ideal were five individual titlists — Noah Schnepper at 126 pounds, Chance Decker at 145, Gage Granadino at 152, Colton Crowley at 182 and Seth Buchanan at 285.
Four members of that quintet possessed either a No. 1 or 2 seed entering Saturday’s tournament.
But the senior Decker? If his weight class went according to seed, he wouldn’t have qualified for this weekend’s sectional.
Even though Decker was the regional’s reigning 138 champion, he accepted a No. 4 seed for this year’s 145 draw. This also despite Decker boasting 30 wins on the campaign — more than anyone else in the bracket.
“I came into the tournament knowing that I deserved better,” Decker said, “so the chip on my shoulder really came from the desire to help the team and really improve (our) standing.”
Decker first defeated unseeded Evan Ericson of Normal West by a second-round fall. Then he knocked off No. 1 seed Logan Hillard of Bloomington via a 9-7 overtime result.
“I was just impressed by the fact I was able to really keep pushing until the end,” Decker said, “and until he was at the point where he was ready to give up.”
In the 145 final, Decker fell behind Centennial’s Roger Edwards 8-5 before snagging an abrupt fall about one minute into the final period.
“I just had to reach my point of peace of mind,” Decker said, “in order to ... (get) an advantage in the end.”
Decker was joined by 170-pound teammate Peyton Myers in breaking seeding to M-S’s benefit.
Though the unseeded Myers ultimately missed out on a sectional berth, his quarterfinal success over No. 3 seed Ryan Vasey of Centennial was the first sign the Bulldogs could top the team field.
Buchanan closed the meet with an impressive display of his own. After suffering a hamstring cramp during his title match’s first period, Buchanan recovered and pinned Normal West’s Skyler Hufeld — the No. 1 seed — in the third frame.
“We’ve told him, ‘Bananas, water, et cetera,’” Ledin said. “Really preaching that kind of stuff, trying to keep them healthy knowing this was going to be a big day.”
M-S’s other sectional qualifiers were Braeden Heinold (second at 132), Logan Petro (second at 138), Brennan Houser (third at 160), Mateo Casillas (second at 195) and Daniel Renshaw (second at 220).
Courtesy yet another regional crown, the Bulldogs will suit up in the 2A Chatham Glenwood Dual Team Sectional later this month.
But first is this weekend’s 2A Mascoutah Individual Sectional. The final barrier before state.
“On paper, Bloomington was supposed to win the regional with the number of seeds they had,” Ledin said. “We just did our jobs, stayed within ourselves and wrestled, and that was what made it special.”