ALTON – For Gannon Hughes and Allen Swanson, it was a case of been there, done that.
But for Jackson O’Reilly, the situation was much more stark, something to the effect of either get it done now or it’s not happening.
There was plenty of motivation for the three senior wrestlers from Oswego and Oswego East who took part in last weekend’s Class 3A Alton Sectional.
While Oswego’s Hughes was expected to advance to state for a third straight year and Swanson was anticipated to join him there for the second year in a row, there was much more uncertainty about O’Reilly being able to cap his career with an initial state trip.
But after getting derailed in the 182 semifinals in a 4-0 loss to Yorkville’s Nick Stemmet, the Wolves senior responded with an impressive 13-2 victory over Collinsville’s Russell March and then improved to 26-5 after pinning Lockport’s Yousif Salah to claim third place.
“I’m a four-time sectional qualifier, and last year was supposed to be the year but I broke my elbow, so it meant a lot to qualify this year,” O’Reilly said. “I missed half of the season, so I was a little worried that I wasn’t in as good as shape coming back. But after wrestling as well as I could, it means a lot to qualify. Being a senior didn’t mean anything about being guaranteed to go. Now the hard part is over, so anything can happen.”
Hughes entered the tournament as the one to beat at 145 and he didn’t disappoint. After posting a 9-5 win in Friday’s 145 quarterfinals, he claimed a 13-3 semifinal win over Oswego East’s Nico Patch and then captured a 15-8 title win over Yorkville’s Joe Roberts.
After improving to 42-2 on the season, Hughes can now set his sights on not only finally reaching the awards stand at state but also seeing how far up on it he can finish. A year ago, he lost a 3-1 decision to fall one win shy of earning a medal with a top-six showing.
“It’s very nice going into state this way and the the top-four get seeded,” Hughes said. “This is what I’ve been waiting for all year and what we’ve been working for since the offseason. I think it’s going to come down to who has a good tournament and I think I’m definitely capable of having that good tournament and hopefully I will surprise some people.”
Following a 10-5 quarterfinal win, Swanson followed with a 14-2 win in the 160 semifinals over Lincoln-Way West’s Jacob Cronk. In the title match, he met up again with Providence Catholic’s Cole Smith, who was a state runner-up last season. As in their earlier meeting this year, the Celtic senior prevailed by a point, this time 5-4, to drop Swanson to 40-4.
“I just have to watch the film and see what I did wrong and try ti improve it this week in practice,” Swanson said. “It’s all about how you compete next week.”
Patch, a Wolves junior, had two chances to earn a state berth but fell in both the semifinals and the consolation semifinals at 145. Following a 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Quincy’s Thomas Culp, Patch dropped a 13-3 decision to Hughes and then saw his season conclude at 33-14 following a 4-0 loss to Minooka’s Noah Boles.
Also participating in the sectional were Panthers junior Sam Saravia (126) and Wolves senior Austin Holpuch (160). Both went 0-2 – Saravia finished at 28-15 while Holpuch closed with a 14-14 mark.