CHAMPAIGN — Michael Carpenter, a Cumberland junior, trailed 5-0 in the first period in the fifth-place match of the 82nd annual Illinois High School Association state wrestling meet at the State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois Saturday. Carpenter stormed back with two points and 10 seconds later pinned Kolby Winter of Clinton to earn fifth place. He joined his teammate Rayce Zike, who was also fifth. The two became the first in school history to earn a medal in the same season. The two are the first since 2014 to medal. That year Nathan Day earned fourth place in the 120-pound weight class.
"To place fifth and to finish with a win is big," said Cumberland coach and graduate Ash Edmonds, who is in his second year. "It makes it a lot more worth it."
Carpenter finished 29-10, while Zike was 33-7 in the 160- and 126-pound weight classes. Carpenter was making his third straight appearance at state and Zike was making his second straight. The two were also the first to medal in their weight classes for the Pirates.
"We had three of the nine on the team make it to state," said Edmunds. "The kids have to believe that we can win matches against these bigger schools."
Pirate freshman Iysten Syfert also made it to state but was eliminated Friday.
"He is young like the others and he is going to learn and get better," said Edmunds of Syfert, who finished 26-14 in the 152-pound class.
"I tried to stay focused on what I had to do," said Carpenter of the fifth-place match. "I knew it was going to be a tough match either way. I just had to keep my composure and wrestle hard. It was a great atmosphere and I am glad I got to place this year."
Clinton is coached by Matt Cooper, a person Edmunds has known for a long time.
"Michael is a good mat wrestler and that is where he really excels," said Edmunds. "He gets reversals and stuff like that. He had the most success he has ever had after going 0-2 last year. He will be even better next year when he stays on his feet and stays off his knees, which had been a big issue."
Carpenter, who began the day with a 10-6 win over Lane Miller of Olympia, was elated to place fifth after being pinned in the wrestleback semifinals to Reuben Cantu of Knoxville in 34 seconds.
"It means a lot to me," said Carpenter. "Coach Edmunds has helped me a lot. I am ready to get back in it and hopefully get back here next year and place in the top three. That is my goal."
Edmunds said, "Cantu is a really strong kid and very technical in the things that he does, and that is where we kind of struggle. He just came out a lot harder in the semifinal wrestleback match than we did. That did encourage him to start a little stronger in the fifth-place match."
Zike started the day in the wrestleback semifinals against Asher Wiegand, and neither person scored until Wiegand scored a point with 1:45 in the second. Zike tied at it one with 1:17 remaining in the match. The contest went to a one-minute overtime and the score remained deadlocked at one. In the tiebreaker, Weigand scored three points and won 4-1.
"Wiegand is a senior and he is really tough," said Edmunds. "He has been up here four times and that is the first medal he got. He just wanted it more in that situation. Zike is young, not that is an excuse, but you have to learn how to win in those situations."
In the fifth-place match, Zike led 2-1 and took a 4-1 lead before winning by two over Wilmington's Jack Narine.
"That was a really good match," said Edmunds. "The Wilmington kid (Narine) wrestled really well at this tournament. Rayce had a good tournament. For not winning a match last year and coming back and getting a medal, we are definitely very happy with him especially for only being a sophomore. We just have to find a way to win up here. He is tired from three-day weigh-ins, and it really shows how strong you need to be."
Zike said one of the keys was to take the lead on Narine.
"I really wanted to come out and start out strong and have the lead from the beginning," said Zike. "I needed to win and I didn't care by how much."
Edmunds said, "He wasn't very happy about the semifinals as he wanted to get third. He was definitely motivated to come back and get fifth. It really shows as hard as it was for him to maintain weight. For him to come back and finish the win will help him for next year."