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Into the PIT

Posted Thursday, January 06, 2011 by Steve Amy

Into the PIT

By Chris Yucus - cyucus@bcrnews.com
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One of the premier prep wrestling events in the state, the PIT boasts wrestlers from 29 Illinois high schools, including 2010 1A State team champ PORTA, state runner-up Gibson City, and fourth-place Wilmington. Along with all the returning grappling talent, a new addition this year will be a live streaming Web broadcast from the IllinoisMatmen.com website.

Four returning state champions will be on the mats, including 119-pounder Trent Lyons of Reed Custer, 130-pounder Thorina Twyner of Orion, Brian Bahrs of Newman (152) and Michael Sojka of Winnebago (215).

“This is one of the reasons our program is known,” said PHS coach Steve Amy, who is once again assisted by former Tiger coach Randy Swinford in running the PIT. “It’s huge; I don’t know if words can describe how big it is for our program. It’s a big fundraiser for the school, and it brings in a ton of money for the town.”

Amy said he doesn’t need to give his troops any extra motivation to perform at the PIT.

“They’re excited about it. They know how big this tournament is — it’s a mini state tournament. For those guys who don’t place (at the state tournament), it’s a chance for them to show what they have on the state-level stage. It’s an indicator of what you have to do to get to that (state tournament) level.”

The host Tigers return one place winner from last year’s tournament, senior 160-pounder Dylan Olson (11-3), who is currently ranked No. 12 in the state by the Illinois Matmen publication. Olson, who claimed fifth as a junior, will have a tough return trip to medal, with a bracket that includes No. 2 ranked Zach Boyer of Reed Custer, No. 5 Jared Lauber (IVC), and No. 7 state-ranked Branson Cain of Riverdale.

“He’s got a tough weight class; there’s a lot of guys who are ranked that will be here,” said Amy. “But he can get a top placement again if he wrestles up to his potential. He’s very talented, and he works hard. There’s some stuff he’s working on right now that’s helping him in his matches.”

Some of the Tigers’ other best bets for a medal finish include No. 11 state-ranked sophomore Reece Bird, who will be making his season debut at 103 pounds, and his older brother Reiter, a senior who is ranked No. 12 at 135 pounds (11-4). Another Tiger grappler with a good chance at medaling is 11th ranked 140-pound senior Cody Cumpton (12-5).

Amy stressed that nobody will have an easy road to a medal performance.

“All these brackets are loaded with ranked guys,” Amy said, adding that if his squad performed “up to potential,” they would be in contention for some high finishes.

Perhaps the toughest weight class in the tournament is the 152-pound division. Six state qualifiers from 2010 are in the weight class, including last year’s champ Bahrs and 2010 145-pound runner up Trace Engelkes of Winnebago. All told, nine of the top 10 ranked 152-pounders, including PHS’ Earl Towne at No. 10, will grace the bracket.

“One hundred and fifty-two is probably the toughest, but if you look at 103, that class is loaded as well,” Amy said.

Amy said Tigers are starting to hit their stride around halfway through the season.

“At this point we haven’t hit our full potential yet, but we’ve done a good job,” said Amy, adding that the PIT was good preparation for regionals, where he hoped his squad would be firing on all cylinders.

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