ALTON – When a wrestling team sends seven individuals to a sectional and none of them are seniors, hopes are naturally high that several will qualify for state.
And if that does happen, the future suddenly becomes a lot brighter for those who get the valuable experience, as well as for the strength of the program.
That's why coach Jake Oster and his staff were so pleased after Yorkville was able to qualify three individuals for this weekend's Class 3A finals in Champaign.
And the good news for the Foxes is that those qualifiers, Joe Roberts and brothers Ben and Nick Stemmet, are just sophomores and should be major factors for awhile.
So while seeing other quality performers fall a bit short in the rugged sectional, the Foxes are looking forward to what their trio can do in Champaign.
All three sophomores made it to the championship mat where they lost to competitors with more varsity experience.
After recording pins in his first two matches, Roberts (40-8) won 12-6 over Providence's Josh Ramos in the 145-pound semifinals. But Oswego's Gannon Hughes, who's making his third straight state trip, beat him 15-8 for the championship.
"I didn't make it past regionals last year so I'm excited for next week and ready to go," Roberts said. "We're all sophomores so we've been together for about 10 years and we've all been training hard for this moment."
Nick Stemmet (36-5), who fell a win shy of a state trip in 2017, followed up on a pin in the 182 quarterfinals with a 4-0 semifinal victory over Oswego East's Jackson O'Reilly. He put up a good battle in the title match before falling 9-7 to Lincoln-Way East's Nick Mihajlovich.
"It's really nice to see the young guys make the trip downstate after all of the hours that we put in the practice room," Nick Stemmet said. "It's going to be helpful for me in the future to be there and get the experience, but I also want to make some noise."
Ben Stemmet (34-11) won a one-pointer in his opener and then was an 11-5 victor in the 195 quarterfinals before pinning Minooka's Drew Gutknecht in 3:06 in the semifinals. But in the championship match, he lost by fall in 3:51 to Moline's Hunter Henning.
"We're a really close group and we work hard together in practice so it's really special to go downstate, especially being so young and knowing what we can do in the future," Ben Stemmet said. "Our group was good in the IESA so for it to start translating at the high school level is pretty special."
The Foxes just missed getting two more individuals to Champaign as juniors Brady Fisher and Keenan Ness both saw successful seasons conclude just one win shy of state.
After getting pinned in the 220 quarterfinals, Fisher (41-5) won two major decisions before losing by technical fall to Plainfield Central's Tom Gustafson in the consolation semifinals.
And Ness (35-12) responded from a loss by the ultimate tiebreaker in the 285 quarterfinals with two falls before dropping an 8-2 decision to Plainfield East's Artese Gregory in his finale.
Also for the Foxes, junior Zack Katula (27-9) split four matches at 160 while freshman Cole Ferguson (32-16) went 0-2 at 113.