MATTOON — If advancing to Saturday’s round of their own IHSA Class 3A Mattoon Sectional, Green Wave wrestlers would not have to rise and travel.
But that extra sleep might not matter in at least one case.
Cooper Collings has already become a morning person this season because of a shoulder injury that changed his early season training to swimming at the YMCA.
“That was new this year,” the Green Wave junior said, “waking up in the morning and swimming.”
We’re talking getting up at 5 a.m. for that pre-school workout.
“Once I get in the pool I’m fine,” Collings said. “I wake up after a while.”
Collings says he is healed and ready to go now for Friday’s second round of the Mattoon Sectional to start at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
As the 106-pound champion of the Mount Zion Regional he has a first-round bye.
Also ready is Treighton Gullion, who spent some time this season recovering from his own shoulder injury and running at the Y, though he did that after school instead of at a time some people hadn’t started breakfast.
“I feel stronger than I actually was before the injury,” said the senior and third-place regional finisher at 145 pounds.
Seven Mattoon wrestlers are hoping to be at their best getting to compete at home and trying to advance to the state meet scheduled for Thursday through Saturday next week at the Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Collings, who won his 106-pound weight class at last week’s Mount Zion Regional, and 132-pound senior Creed Janes go as regional champions with first-round byes.
Ryan Paige, who like Janes reached last year’s state meet when both were juniors, is a regional runner-up at 285 pounds while sophomore 120-pounder Bradley Burbes, the 145-pound senior Gullion, 170-pound junior Nick Polston and 182-pound junior Chase Rogers advanced to the sectional with third-place regional finishes.
Repeating as a regional champion is just part of the journey for Janes.
“The ultimate goal of every high school wrestler is to be a state champion,” he said.
More immediately Janes with his 29-4 senior season record is looking at the possible chance to avenge one of his losses by meeting Champaign Centennial’s Darren Wynn, who is 35-1 and in the other half of the bracket.
“The first time my head wasn’t in it,” Janes said of the December loss. “That’s definitely motivated me to work harder in the (wrestling) room.”
With hopes of wrestling at SIU Edwardsville or another college, Janes has seen his improvement from last year’s state berth.
“I’m just more experienced,” he said. “I’m starting to chain wrestle more going from one move to another without thinking about it.”
Paige also has possibilities of wrestling at SIUE or playing college football with Southeast Missouri in that picture.
To maintain some football lineman weight, Paige has moved up to the 285-pound weight class after reaching the state at 225 pounds last year.
“It’s just a different weight class,” he said. “The guys are a lot bigger here. I kind of like the challenge. I like to use my speed to my advantage.”
Plus, he likes not having to worry about watching what he eats in order to make his weight limit.
“I enjoy it quite a bit,” Paige said. “I’m about 30 pounds under.”
Gullion, on the other hand, has to sometimes resort to a liquid diet to wrestle in the 145 weight class.
He is hoping to have that problem at least for another week and maybe into college.
“I’ve wrestled for 14 years,” Gullion said. “It all hit me in second hour (Tuesday). I was listening to my headphones and I realized it’s all over after this.
“I can’t say I haven’t put my all into it. It’s been fun. I wouldn’t be where I am now without Coach (Brett) Porter.”
With a 23-8 record, Gullion sees the opportunity to extend his high school career to next week.
“I’ve just got to keep my head on straight, eat right and focus,” he said.
Collings is repeat regional champion with a 21-5 record looking to add to his career that includes an Illinois Elementary School Association state championship as a seventh-grader and runner-up finish as an eighth-grader.
“I just want to win two to get to the finals,” he said.
He also feels better prepared to top last year’s sectional performance.
“I’m more experienced,” the junior said. “You know what you’re doing.”
Polston is back in the sectional where he qualified as a freshman before missing last season.
He missed the early part of this season with a hip flexor injury.
“It was pretty frustrating but my goals were for the end of the season not the beginning of the season,” the 170-pound junior said.
Now he has an 18-9 record trying to reach the state.
“I know it’s going to be tough but if I do my best I can make it,” he said. “I just have to be relaxed and go out and wrestle.”
This sectional appearance may already make a 16-14 season a success for Burbes.
“It feels good considering the fact I missed last year because of mistakes I made,” the 120-pound sophomore said. “To be a sectional qualifier, I wasn’t expecting that.”
Now Burbes has the chance to avenge an earlier loss in today’s first round against Urbana’s Chanc McQueen.
“He beat me by a point,” Burbes said. “He got a takedown the last couple of seconds. I’m pretty confident. I was cutting a lot of weight and I wasn’t ready for that match.”
Now each of the Wave wrestlers hope to be ready with Porter hoping to add to his streak of having at least one state qualifier in each of his first four years coaching Mattoon.
“I set my goals at the beginning of the year to get four kids to the state tournament,” Porter said, “and I think we’re on pace.”
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