Whaley aims to Lift Stillman Valley by Jay Taft
February 23, 2011Stillman Valley High School
When J.J. Whaley was laying in a hospital bed after a motorcycle accident late last summer, the Stillman Valley sophomore wasn't sure if he was going to be able to wrestle at all this season.
Not only did he wrestle, but he will step onto the mat tonight just four team wins away from two state championships in the same season.
"I really can't believe it. Back after the accident, I pretty much thought: ‘There goes my dream,'" Whaley said. "But there I was at the first practice of the season, and I didn't miss a thing. My head was killing me all year, but I never stopped."
Whaley suffered a head injury during the accident, one that caused a 13-inch gash across the back of his head and left him with a concussion. His brother, Tony, who was driving the bike, broke his leg and has had four surgeries since. It was unclear how long the younger Whaley would be out of wrestling, but some thought it could keep him out the entire year.
It ended up costing him four days in the hospital; that's about it. Since then, Whaley has been back in the wrestling room and back on the mat. Whaley (39-7) rolled to the 125-pound Class 1A individual state championship last weekend, storming through the bracket with a fall, a tech fall and an 11-1 major decision over Leroy's Justin Meyers in the finals, followed by a leap into his coaches' arms.
Starting today in the Morrison Sectional, he will look to help get the Cardinals back to the team state tourney Saturday in Bloomington.
Stillman Valley took third as a team last year and the year before, and second in 2008. They head into the postseason ranked sixth after going 17-6 in duals this year.
"J.J. is a perfect example of what this team is like this year," three-time state champ Nick Harrison said. "He never gives up, no matter what, and he'll keep coming at you and coming at you, until you have nothing left to give."
To get to the team state tourney, Stillman Valley will have to defeat Sherrard in today's sectional. The Cardinals are looking for their fourth straight team state berth.
Sherrard senior Seth Whan (41-3) lost only one match at state, to Lena-Winslow's Trey Griffin, in the 189-pound final. However, he was the team's only individual medalist. Harrison anchors a Stillman Valley squad that finished last weekend's tourney with two champs - Harrison and Whaley - and two other placers, Tad Hawley (145) and Miah Shearer (112), both of whom finished fourth.
"Our guys are performers," first-year Stillman Valley head coach Jamie McCarty said. "They like doing well in the big tournaments."
On the other side of the Morrison Sectional bracket, fifth-ranked Sterling Newman (22-2) - which had one individual state champ (Jake Snow) and two second-place finishers - will face off against No. 3 Harvard (25-2) - which had one medalist. The two winners from each sectional will advance to Saturday's team state quarterfinals.
By Jay Taft, RRSTAR