Northwood Middle School eighth-grader Isaiah Vela pinned his opponent with 28 seconds left in the third period to win the 126-pound championship in the Illinois Elementary School Association state wrestling tournament.
“I was definitely a little skeptical and a little scared, but I ended up just getting out of my head and wrestled my match,” Isaiah said.
Eight Northwood and Creekside Middle School wrestlers qualified for the IESA state boys wrestling tournament which was held March 10 and 11 at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb.
Isaiah, who is the school’s second state champion – the first being Brian Rivera in 1999 – gave up only seven points the entire postseason in regional, sectional and state matches. He finished second in conference, won the regional and then the sectional to advance to the state meet.
Isaiah wrestled all three years in middle school. He now is focused on training for the IESA national team competition coming up in Danville in a couple weeks.
NWMS wrestling head coach Don Wicker coached Rivera, too. Wicker took a break from coaching wrestling some years ago and returned this year to coach with Nick Rago and Nick Dimaio.
“We are super proud of the kids. What a way to cap off our season with a state champion,” Wicker said.
Other wrestlers attending the state meet from Northwood were seventh-grader Clay Barnett and eighth-graders Conor Reyes and Shane Sims. Barnett, 65 pounds, lost 2-1 in the preliminary round; Reyes, 80, wrestled twice, losing by fall and default; and Sims, 185, pinned his opponent in the preliminaries and then lost in the first round.
Creekside wrestlers who advanced to state included seventh-graders Travis Cote, Caleb Sciame and Maximus Blamey and eighth-grader Alex Zange. Caleb, 75, and Alex, 145, advanced to the quarterfinals, winning as many as four matches. Travis, 75, won his preliminary match 6-4, and Maximus, 167, pinned his opponent in the preliminaries. Both lost by fall in the first round.