Herald-Whig

Blue Devils' Yohn ready to challenge for state medal

 QHS-Fort Madison wrestling
| H-W Photo/Matt Schuckman
Matt Schuckman 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 14, 2019 2:50 am

QUINCY

Hunter Yohn doesn't want to disappoint.

Phil Neally doesn't see how he could.

Yohn's on-the-mat performance this season has been impressive. The Quincy High School senior carries a 41-3 record and a sectional runner-up finish into the Class 3A state tournament, beginning Thursday at State Farm Center in Champaign. He's looking to become the Blue Devils' first medalist since Dakota Downs in 2013.

Regardless of what happens, Yohn's presence in the wrestling room and leadership for a team which had half of its lineup filled by freshmen and sophomores is more valuable and more everlasting than a medal.

"To see him develop into a young man I am so proud of because of the way he's handled himself, that's a champion," said Neally, now in his 15th season coaching the Blue Devils. "He's made our team a priority for himself and from the standpoint that he's brought along our program in a positive way.

"He's showing what the Blue Devil wrestling program is about, on the mat and off the mat. He's got good character, does good in school, sets a good example leading our team. That's a success story."

Still, a medal is the goal.

Yohn, ranked sixth in the state at 160 according to IllinoisMatmen.com, drew Naperville North's Drake McIntyre (34-8) in the first round and could see fourth-ranked Brooke Emmerich (46-2) of Deerfield in the second round. Lockport's Baylor Fernandes, the top-ranked wrestler beat Yohn in last week's sectional championship match at Joliet Central, is on the other side of the bracket.

Yohn hopes for a rematch in the state title match.

"Never give up," Yohn said. "Work my butt off so I can get to that No. 1 spot on the podium."

It's been the goal since his first-round setback last season.

Yohn lost a 3-1 decision to Glenbard North's Anthony Marre in the opening round at 160 pounds and never wrestled again. Marre lost his next match and took the spot in the wrestlebacks Yohn would have had.

So his first state tournament appearance was over before it ever really got started.

That was disappointing.

"I never got to perform to my highest level, to my peak on this stage," Yohn said. "A lot of my family is traveling to see me. Hopefully, I can be at my No. 1 best."

Neally knows that's possible.

"You have to have the right mindset," Neally said. "You have to be able to face that adversity in a match and flip it on. You can't wait. When it's over with, it's too late. If things don't go right for you in one period, you have to be able to think, I've got the second and third period to take it on.'

"Even if you have a defeat, you have to overcome that. He's going to have a lot of support over there from coaches and family and friends. That should help him stay motivated."

Wrestling always has.

"It's shaped me into who I am today," Yohn said. "It's put me on the right path."

He gets to take the final steps on that path this weekend.

"Blessed," Yohn said. "I'm truly humbled to have my family come watch me. I hope I make it worthwhile."

He already has.