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Stillman Advances to State Wrestling C/O Jay Taft

February 23, 2011
Stillman Valley High School

MORRISON — Stillman Valley is headed back to the Class 1A team state tourney, it just didn’t come as easy as the Cardinals had hoped.

Instead, Sherrard pushed them all the way until the end, and Jose Abitua’s 6-5 win at 130 pounds finally secured the state berth in the final match of the night.

“It was a little more exciting than we were looking forward to. We would have liked this to be a little easier, but it’s a win, and we’re in,” Stillman Valley coach Jamie McCarty said. “Hopefully this will be a little bit of a wake-up call. The guys could feel our frustration on the coaches’ side, and they know this one was too close.”

The Cardinals lost two overtime matches early on and trailed 28-18 midway through the match.

Ranked as high as No. 2 as a team this year and coming off back-to-back third-place finishes in the team state tourneys, Stillman Valley was on the ropes.

But their two state champs, Nick Harrison and J.J. Whaley, got things turned around, and Abitua slammed the door closed.

“There was so much pressure on me with that match. That was the most pressure I’ve ever felt, and I’m just glad I could come through,” said the sophomore Abitua, who had to fight off a near-takedown for the final 14 seconds of the match. “I just knew I had to finish it; I had to get that one. Once I heard the crowd erupt, and I knew I had done it, it felt pretty good. No, it felt real good.”

Harrison, a three-time state champ at 119, won with a tech-fall, and newly-crowned Whaley got a pin at 125 for Stillman Valley as it climbed back into the match.

Tad Hawley (145) and Zach Patterson (160) both earned falls, and wins by Talon Paul (140) and A.J. Dobson (215) proved key as well.

“We needed every win we got in this one,” McCarty said. “A couple of guys that should have won didn’t, and we lost a couple of real tough ones, too. If we get one of those overtime matches, it never comes down to the last match of the night.

“But the key is we’re in, and we’re ready to go down there and make some noise.”
Stillman Valley will take on Wilmington, ranked No. 1 as a team in the final Illinois Best Weekly poll, in Saturday’s 9 a.m. quarterfinal in Bloomington.

A win would vault the Cardinals into the semis, and insure them two more matches and another medal.

Third-place and championship matches begin at 6 p.m.

Wrestling reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or

Copyright 2011 Rockford Register Star. Some rights reserved

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