Sports

Stephens' aggressiveness in opening match energizes Raiders

Posted: Feb. 15, 2013 12:58 am Updated: Mar. 8, 2013 1:15 am

By THE HERALD-WHIG
STAFF

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Darren Stephens wasted no time announcing his presence at the Illinois Class 1A state wrestling tournament Thursday.

The rest of the Quincy Notre Dame wrestlers simply followed suit.

Stephens, a junior wrestling at 120 pounds, scored a takedown six seconds into his preliminary match and dominated from start to finish to beat Wilmington's Austin Headrick 10-4 at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall.

"Darren came out and set the tone," QND coach Ken Mansell said. "It's easy to follow your teammates when they come out like that. He was aggressive right off the bat."

Moments later, the Raiders' Gage Stephens wasted no time pinning Chicago Hope's Jonavan Huggins in 1 minute, 2 seconds at 138 pounds.

"It was bam, bam right away," Mansell said.

Jeffrey Haley wasn't quite as quick in his 7-2 decision over Robinson's Nicolae Iovanac at 195 pounds, but he was equally dominant. That was after giving up a first-period takedown.

"Haley gave up a sloppy takedown," Mansell said. "That seemed to wake him up because that got him mad. He came back nice and strong. Jeffrey dominated the match."

Blake Schutte was the only QND wrestler not to advance.

Schutte, a junior at 152, was aggressive against second-seeded Keegan Gardner of West Frankfurt but suffered a 14-1 major decision loss.

"He went out there not afraid at all, not intimidated," Mansell said. "If you watched the match, Blake went after him really hard. He was aggressive. He didn't sit there and get the bejesus beaten out of him. That was the quintessential sign of effort."

Schutte and Quincy High School's Dakota Downs must wait until after Friday morning's quarterfinals to see if they are in the wrestlebacks.

Downs was the only other area wrestler to suffer a preliminary defeat. A second-period mistake led to a takedown and three-point nearfall for Chicago Marist's Alex Benoit, and he rode out Downs in the third period for a 7-2 victory.

If Gardner and Benoit win their quarterfinal matches, Schutte and Downs will move into the wrestlebacks. If either Gardner or Benoit loses, they get the spot in the wrestlebacks.

The Lucie brothers don't have those worries.

Will Lucie, a West Hancock freshman at 106, defeated Chicago Hope's Andrew Verr 12-7. Meanwhile, his older brother, Jack, a senior wrestling at 126, scored a 10-0 major decision over Gordon Tech's Eric Estrada.

Pittsfield's Zach Abney started his quest of a state title at 170 with a 10-1 major decision over Shelbyville's Josh Hicks.

Meanwhile, Saukees heavvweight Logan Thiele was pinned in 1:37 by Sherrard's Ben Corlett.

-- sports@whig.com/221-3366

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