MATTOON — For the second straight season, the Mattoon wrestling team won a Class 2A regional championship.
This time, it came down to the final few matches. Mount Zion and Mattoon were swapping the top spot for much of the day, but the Green Wave scored a couple of crucial wins over the Braves and also picked up enough bonus points to score 183.5 points, two more than Mount Zion as the Green Wave won the regional title and a spot in the 2A sectional duals.
"It was awesome, it was a great day," Mattoon coach Brett Porter said. "I am really proud of my kids and how they performed. It was a team effort, and to have 10 guys get through to the sectionals, it's something we can build on."
Charleston finished in eighth place with 46 points and advanced one wrestler, Trey Pearcy, to sectionals, which is Friday and Saturday at Lincoln.
Not only did Mattoon win the regional championship, the Green Wave sent 10 of their 12 wrestlers to the sectional: Coby Haney, Rick Wright, Jeremiah Jones, Hayden Stanley, Nate Eldridge, Derek Owens, Michael Brown, Cayden Collings, Garrette Branson and Gabe Bradbury.
"We had a couple of surprises and some guys that really came through for us," Porter said. "We are extremely happy."
Branson was Mattoon's lone regional champion and only had to wrestle 31 seconds on Saturday. After a first-round bye, Branson, who is ranked No. 2 in 2A at 220, won by fall in 31 seconds in his semifinal match. Then Branson won by medical forfeit in the championship match.
"He has been practicing well. I know sectionals will be super tough with four top-ranked kids and the state champion," Porter said. "But he is ready for it. The practices and extra workouts he's had will set the tone for the upcoming weekend."
While Branson only wrestled for 31 seconds, senior Michael Brown had a different day at 170 pounds as he had the most messages. Brown won his first-round match by fall in 1:15 but lost in the quarterfinal 6-0. Brown bounced back with back-to-back pins, including one over Jeremiah Fitzgerrells, whom he lost to earlier this season. He reached the third-place match with a 2-1 decision and faced Effingham's Jarrett Jones for third. Brown lost to Jones earlier this season but got his payback with a 5-3 overtime win to advance to sectionals.
"It looked good for him and he made it through for us and I am really proud of him," Porter said.
At 113 pounds, Wright finished in third place and earned crucial points during that match. Wright pinned Mount Zion's Connor Morgeson, which gave Wright points for third place and bonus points for a pin.
"Ricky basically put us in a position by beating the Mount Zion kid by pinning him," Porter said.
Bradbury's third-place match was one of the last of the day at 285 pounds, and it helped Mattoon seal the win over Mount Zion. Bradbury earned bonus points because he pinned his opponent for third.
"We told him it came down to him," Porter said. "Not only did he win, but he got the pin, and it was a great finish for us."
Haney (106), Jones (120), Stanley (126), Owens (138) and Collings (182) were all runner-ups. Eldridge (132) finished in third place.
"Coby making it to the finals was big and not giving up a pin. Jeremiah made it to the finals as a freshman. Hayden as a sophomore going against a top-ranked kid, he looked good," Porter said. "Another freshman, Nate, made it to the sectionals in third with a pin in the third-place match. Derek, seeded fourth with a losing record, he is really finding himself at the right time. Cayden made it to the finals and didn't have a great finals match, but he's ready to go.
"I am super happy for all of our guys."
For Charleston, Pearcy was in the 113-pound weight class and beat Mattoon's Rick Wright by technical fall, 17-1 and lost in the championship in a close 9-8 decision to Marion's Gaige Owens. Pearcy is 27-4.