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2016 IESA State Wrestling Tournament

History could be made this coming weekend when a field of 456 wrestlers from 134 schools across the state will compete in the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) state wrestling finals at the 37th annual Boys State Wrestling Tournament held at the Convocation Center on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.

Paul Keene, an 8th grader from Peotone has a chance to make IESA history. He will be attempting to become the first ever four time individual weight class champion in the 37 year history of the state series. Keene won his first title as a 5th grader in 2013 in the 65 lb. weight class. He moved to the 70 lb. weight class in 2014 as a 6th grader and captured first place. Last year as a 7th grader, Keene moved to the 85 lb. weight class and won his third individual championship. This year he goes for the record in the 95 lb. weight class. There have been five other individuals with three championships. Should Keene make it to the finals, fans will want to be sure to stay in their seats to watch his chance for IESA history.

There will be a total of 703 bouts over the two days with competition in 19 weight classes. It is the 11th time in IESA history that the state final wrestling field includes 100 or more schools. Last year, 126 schools advanced at least one wrestler to the big stage. Breakdown of the competitors by grade in school is: 18 fifth graders, 52 sixth graders, 92 seventh graders and 294 eighth graders.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. Friday and bouts will begin on eight mats at 3:30. The preliminary round and first round bouts in the championship bracket will be conducted Friday. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and wrestling resumes at 9:00 a.m. Semifinals are set to begin Saturday afternoon at approximately 12:30 p.m. Championship bouts are scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. Championship bouts will be conducted simultaneously on two mats.

Single-day tickets are priced at $10.00 each day for high school students and adults. Price of single-day tickets for senior citizens (age 62 and above) and students in grades K-8 is $5.00 each. Children below kindergarten are admitted free. Advanced ticket sales for the state finals at the NIU Convocation Center are now available through Ticketmaster. Those who purchase their tickets in advance will bypass the ticket purchase line and simply proceed to the admission door. If you want to purchase tickets in advance simply go to www.ticketmaster.com, type in NIU Convocation Center and then find the IESA Wrestling Finals link. The standard Ticketmaster surcharge will be applied.

Visit www.iesa.org for additional information regarding complete pairings by weight class, team rosters, the 2016 Grand Marshals and the sectional place winners by site. Results from the state tournament will be posted continuously throughout the weekend.

This year's Grand Marshals are Joe Cliffe and Dwayne Love. Cliffe is a stalwart in the wrestling community with a decorated career as both a wrestler and as a head coach. He represented the United States in the World University Games held in Moscow, Russia in 1973 and served as the head wrestling coach at Georgetown High School, Plano High School, and Fairbury Prairie Central High School. In 2011, he became the head coach for Forrest Prairie Central Junior High School. Love served as the head wrestling coach at Plano Middle School starting in 2002 and remained in that position until 2012. During his tenure as the head coach, the program expanded to include 5th graders on his teams and he started the Tiger Invitational.

In addition to Keene, there are four other state champions returning from a season ago, all possessing the drive to recapture last year's magic. Austin Spacht, an 8th grader from Bradley Central, won the 65 lb. weight class in 2014 and stood on the podium last year as the champion in the 70 lb. weight class. He will be looking to win a third individual title this year competing in the 80 lb. weight class. Last year's 75 lb. champion, Nathan Berta, a 7th grader from Channahon, has also moved to the 80 lb. class this year. With Spacht and Berta both competing in the 80 lb. class this year only one will take home the gold medal. They are on opposite sides of the bracket so they could meet in the championship match of the 80 lb. class. Billy Tay, a 7th grader from Forrest Prairie Central, won the 65 lb. class last year and has moved to the 70 lb. class this year. Finally, Peyton Lane, an 8th grader from Mattoon, will be looking to stand on the podium as a champion in the 105 lb. class after winning first place in the 80 lb. class last year.

Mahomet-Seymour is the all-time leading producer of individual state champions with 43. Sandwich is next at 25 followed by Coal City with 24 winners, Bloomington JHS with 23 champions, Shorewood Troy with 22 champions and New Lenox (Oster-Oakview Liberty, and Martino) at 20. They are the only schools in IESA wrestling history to have 20 or more individual champions.

The all-time record for most qualifiers by a single school is 20---Wheeling Holmes advanced 20 wrestlers to the finals in 1986 and New Lenox also advanced 20 in 2006. This year, Homer Glen Homer qualified the most wrestlers for the state tournament with 12 while Woodridge Jefferson qualified the second most wrestlers with 11 and Bradley Central is third with 10 wrestlers advancing.

The Mahomet-Seymour Bulldogs lead in team titles with 6, the last coming in 2009. Mahomet-Seymour won its other team titles in 1984-92-93-94-96. Second is the New Lenox program with 5 titles--1986, 87, 89, 2002, and 2003. Tied for third in team titles are DeKalb Huntley and Bloomington JHS with four each.

Last year's team champion was Cahokia Wirth. The team championship appears to be a wide open race this year. Any of the sectional champions or runner-ups is likely to walk away with the team title.

The Convocation Center is hosting the IESA State Wrestling Tournament for the 14th straight year. The NIU campus is site of the event for the 18th consecutive year.

Media wishing to cover the event must send an email from the general manager of the outlet to Steve Endsley at the IESA Office by 12 noon on Thursday, March 10 to request credentials. He may be reached via email at steve@iesa.org.



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