By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Jeffrey Haley had his first shot at redemption in early January. When the 195-pound Quincy Notre Dame junior met Rock Falls' Shawn Skinner in the finals of the Quincy Invitational, Haley had an opportunity to get back at the wrestler who ended his sophomore season.
Skinner pinned Haley in the third period of the first round of wrestlebacks at the Class 1A state wrestling tournament at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.
Haley entered confident, but made one mistake and Skinner pinned him 1 minute, 45 seconds into the match.
"I felt good, but I slipped and got caught," Haley said.
Haley hopes his second chance at redemption will go a little more smoothly. He'll be one of nine area competitors competing in the IHSA state wrestling tournaments that start Friday.
In his first trip to state, Haley went 0-2. He earned another opportunity by finishing second at the Class 1A Olympia Sectional last weekend, and he has a 36-4 record.
QND Ken Mansell had hopes of using Haley's match against Skinner earlier this season as a measuring stick.
"That was a good test, and I really wanted that match to go the distance," Mansell said. "The good thing that the loss came early and that kid didn't learn a lot about Jeffrey. It gives him a chance for redemption."
As a whole, Haley is leading a driven group of QND wrestlers to state. Three of the four Raiders who qualified -- Darren Stephens (120 pounds), Gage Stephens (138) and Haley -- finished 0-5 as a group at state last season. Blake Schutte (152) is the lone first-time qualifier.
Competing in last year's state atmosphere was intimidating for Haley.
"I felt a lot of nerves being out there," Haley said. "(It's important to) stay calm. There's a ton of people there. It feels unreal. I just know I have to go out there and try to wrestle my hardest."
Mansell used it as a teaching moment. He feels sitting through losses by teammates had a negative impact overall.
"That was something we talked about in the offseason and something we talked about after it happened at Assembly Hall last year," Mansell said. "For some kids making the state tournament is the goal and anything else is gravy. What I wanted Jeff and those guys to work for was taking the next step and ending up on that podium. It's tough to watch your teammates all lose like that. Jeff has really worked with determination and drive."
Improving for Haley involved increasing his tempo. Haley went to several camps over the summer, including a takedown camp, to try to improve his offense.
"The last few years I haven't been quick enough," Haley said. "I go to practice everyday and am focused on working my moves faster."
Haley's willingness to take risks has helped him. During matches, Haley is willing to concede points to try new moves.
"His biggest strength is his heart," Mansell said. "He will not be denied. Last year, he took three kids to overtime to go to state. He's willing to take chances and be aggressive. He's willing to give up a takedown or a reversal during a match. He has a good piece of mind and is self-confident."
Haley will open up against Robinson's Nicolae Iovanac (33-10) in the first round Friday. Another shot at Skinner could materialize, but Haley is more concerned about landing on the podium.
"I'm just trying to keep my nerves down," Haley said. "It was nice getting there as a sophomore and getting a feel for it. It's just another big tournament to me."
Here's a breakdown of the area wrestlers headed to state wrestling tournaments this week. The MSHSAA tournaments start Thursday. The IHSA tournaments start Friday.
IHSA Class 3A
Dakota Downs, Sr., 170 pounds, Quincy High School, 39-2 record.
IHSA Class 1A
Darren Stephens, Jr., 120 pounds, Quincy Notre Dame, 30-7 record.
Gaeg Stephens, Sr., 138 pounds, Quincy Notre Dame, 35-2 record.
Jeffrey Haley, Jr., 195 pounds, Quincy Notre Dame, 36-4 record.
Zach Abney, Sr., 170 pounds, Pittsfield, 41-2 record.
Logan Thiele, Jr., 285 pounds, Pittsfield, 34-11 record.
Will Lucie, Fr., 106 pounds, West Hancock, 30-4 record.
Jack Lucie, Jr., 126 pounds, West Hancock, 38-1 record.
MSHSAA Class 3
Chandler Fohey, Soph., 106 pounds, Hannibal, 48-2 record.
Austin Janes, Soph., 113 pounds, Hannibal, 39-14 record.
Tyler Janes, Jr., 126 pounds, Hannibal, 51-4 record.
Colby Collings, Soph., 145 pounds, Hannibal, 49-6 record.
Kyle Muehring, Soph., 220 pounds, Hannibal, 43-6 record.