How would you prepare for a state championship dual on the wrestling mat? Intense preparation? Newman and Stillman Valley didn’t quite do that before their Class 1A title tilt at the IHSA Dual Team Wrestling tournament. What happened was probably the best image I had seen in my 15 years of covering high school sports.
This tops my #codycutter15 Top 15 moments of my high school journalism career.
(Writer’s Note: While trying to find pictures of these moments, I realized that most of them had been uploaded onto the Northern Illinois Sports Beat website have been erased from the internet cache when I pulled the plug on the site. Such pictures have likely also been deleted from my flash cards. I didn’t think about that when I thought about this blog series. However, I will try to write to create an image of the things that transpired.)
Northern Illinois has dominated the small school wrestling ranks for quite some time. Before Dakota’s string of championship success, the Class 1A title match came down to a pair of northern Illinois schools: Newman and Stillman Valley.
The Comets and Cardinals faced each other during the regular season in a triangular with Rock Falls. However, they were separated in different regional tournaments. After regionals, individual wrestlers from both teams still alive for individual championships met at the same sectional meet. Some even met at during the individual state tournament.
In team competition, both Newman and Stillman Valley won regional championships and both went to the same location for team sectionals. Both teams won their sectional dual, but did not face one another there. Instead, on their way to the championship dual, both teams had to beat two other teams at state to get there.
In the end, both Newman and Stillman Valley remained.
On the 2A championship mat, right next to the 1A mat, Montini and Crystal Lake Central were intensely preparing for their championship match. Montini being a state power, the focus from the CLC athletes was extremely lock-set. Likewise from Montini, who had a dynasty to uphold.
Next to that, on the 3A mat, Glenbard North and Minooka were preparing under the exact same mindset.
None of that happened on the 1A mat.
While intensity and focus was prevalent on the other side of Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Newman and Stillman Valley wrestlers were sitting down, or laying down on the mat, side-by-side talking to one another.
They talked about wrestling, talked about stuff outside of wrestling, and shared a lot before their match.
The image of three wrestlers (two Stillman Valley kids between a Newman kid) sitting with their legs crossed stuck out to me. The Newman kid’s father was one of the team doctors, and approached me to talk about “This is what high school sports is all about …”
And it is.
An extension of classroom learning. A field trip. A seminar of sorts. The opportunity to meet different people and talk about experiences toward achieving ones goals in life.
Winning isn’t necessarily the only accomplishment in high school sports competition. The ability to establish a bond between people with similar goals in mind is something that not a lot of people can dedicate an important part of time toward. Newman and Stillman Valley did this during the most important time of their high school wrestling careers, and is one of the most important images in IHSA State Series competition history.
Eventually, the personal preparation took place before their match. Newman won its first state championship since 1985 with a 40-32 win over the Cardinals. R. J. Troye’s win by fall in 1:16 at 171 pounds was the clincher with one match to go.
Stillman Valley put together a string of four straight state final trophies with the loss: two seconds and two thirds.