|Click Photo to Enlarge
Mooseheart's Sammy Strickland (center) and Junior Smith participate in the pre-meet parade of athletes at the IHSA Class 1A Byron Sectional.
Mooseheart 182-pound wrestler Junior Smith (left) searches for an opening in his opening round match with Stillman Valley's Aaron Person at the Class 1A Byron Sectional. Person pinned Smith 14 seconds into the third period.
Mooseheart 120-pounder Sammy Strickland (right) tries to score in his opening round match with Orion's Mike Dierikx at the Class 1A Byron Sectional. Dierikx defeated Strickland 18-2.
Feb. 10, BYRON – It certainly wasn't the kind of opening day Mooseheart's sectional qualifiers planned, but both do have the comfort of knowing that they are still alive.
Then again, everyone is still alive and 120-pounder Sammy Strickland and 182-pound wrestler Junior Smith have the difficult task of needing to win four straight matches on Saturday in the second day of competition at the Class 1A Byron Sectional in order to qualify for the state meet.
“I told them that it's 'do or die' now,” Mooseheart wrestling coach Mark Johnson said. “They know what they're up against and they have to fight through it. They have to win every match they face tomorrow and hopefully they'll wind up on top.”
Strickland lost in a technical fall in his opening-round match with Orion's Mike Dierikx. Strickland fell behind 7-1 midway through the opening period and was unable to recover.
“Sammy made it here after losing his only match last week at the regional,” Johnson said. “It was the luck of the draw, in a way. He knew he was going to have to wrestle some tough kids here. But it was a tough match in the first round and it's a tough one coming up.”
The match was stopped in the third period with Dierikx ahead 18-2, beyond the 15-point margin needed for a technical fall.
“He struggled,” Johnson said. “He hasn't won a match in the last couple of weeks and he's in a struggling mode. Hopefully he can get out of that tomorrow. We're at a tough sectional and this is what we expect.”
Strickland faces Rockford Lutheran's Caleb Micho in the opening round of wrestlebacks on Saturday.
On the scoreboard, Smith was in a decent position heading into the third period of his opening round match with Stillman Valley's Aaron Person. Smith led 3-2 and the match was as close on the mat as the score suggested – neither athlete had gained great advantage.
That changed in the 14 seconds wrestled in the third period. Smith went for a standing leg takedown, Person countered while Smith was off-balance. Smith suffered a takedown and pin in quick succession and the match was over.
“(Smith) came off an injury from football at the start of the season,” Johnson said. “He hasn't wrestled a whole lot. Prior to regionals and sectionals, he really only had two weeks of wrestling. He finished second in the regional, but every one of these regionals with kids coming here has pretty good kids wrestling.”
Johnson said Smith's stamina seemed to wane as the match progressed. Worse, he slightly injured his shoulder in the match, though Johnson said he expected Smith to be able to wrestle on Saturday.
“I think it would have been a struggle for him to get out of the third period,” Johnson said. “He tweaked his shoulder and that didn't help too much either. But we'll get him a nice rest and some ice on his shoulder and get him ready to go back out there.”