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STANFORD – Jacob Meyer was Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s lone wrestler during his freshman year.
One would think, therefore, that it may have been fitting for him to be the first PBL wrestler to compete won the holy grail that is the state meet mat at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
The storybook ending did not come into fruition, as Meyer went 2-2 in last weekend’s Stanford Olympia Sectional and was eliminated in the wrestleback quarterfinals.
Therefore, much like a Cubs fan waiting for a long-overdue World Series performance, PBL wrestling fans will have to, as Panthers head coach Erik Ronney said, “wait ‘til next year” for a state qualifier.
“It sucks and it hurts,” Ronney said. “He started the program here, and I was hoping that he could be the first one to make it to state, but not everything happens the way you have it written down.”
Meyer pinned his first 170-pound opponent, D.J. Ackman of Knoxville, in 1:31 before getting pinned by Pittsfield’s Zach Abney -- who was ranked No. 1 in the weight class – in 4:52.
“In the second match, I lost to the top-ranked wrestler, but I managed to get a reversal on him, so I thought I had a good match,” Meyer said.
Meyer rebounded in the first round of wrestlebacks by pinning Beardstown’s Daniel Guzman in 3:59, setting up a wrestleback quarterfinal matchup against Jarod Noel of Bismarck-Henning.
Noel handed Meyer his only regional loss via pin the previous meet. He got the best of Meyer once again in sectionals with a 10-2 major decision.
“I‘m not really sure what happened in last match,” Meyer said. “It just didn’t fall into my hands.”
Ronney said Meyer had his chances in his two postseason meetings with Noel.
“He almost pinned him (in regionals) and he had an opportunity to pin him again,” Ronney said. “He just ran out of strength and time, so the better wrestler won. That kid’s going to state, and Jacob’s not.”
While PBL’s wrestling program will have plenty of chances to go to state in the future, Meyer will likely move forward toward college wrestling. He said he is considering Loras College in Iowa.
“I’m looking to wrestle in college – in the NCAA,” Meyer said. “I’ve been talking with some coaches. I’m not going to be one with (wrestling). I also want to come back and be able to coach whenever I can. I’ll be around for years and years. I know the coach of Loras College really well. I’m leaning toward Loras right now.”
In the meantime, Meyer said he may wrestle in some offseason programs as well.
“Wrestling is still a part of my life,” Meyer said. “I’m going to go to some offseason programs in April, June and July, going to places ranging all the way to Chicago,” Meyer said. “There are lots of good competitions with a lot of good kids. Some schools have some little tournaments, and I come to those with some of my teammates.”
As for his legacy, Meyer said he hopes to be a stepping stone – rather than a pedestal – for future PBL wrestlers and the future of the program.
“I feel like I left a good foundation for the future. Hopefully, there will be a future generation of local wrestlers that say, ‘I want to be better than him,’” Meyer said. “I don’t want to be the greatest wrestler to ever be at PBL. I want PBL to have state champions and nationally-ranked kids. I think in a couple of years, we’ll get there. I would not have gotten as far as I did without coach Ronney. If I had a few more years with coach Ronney, I could have gone to state. He knows how to coach. He’s got some good kids coming up through the youth club. In a few years, the program is going to skyrocket.”
In his first sectional appearance, sophomore Conrad Powell went 0-2 in the 195-pound division. Ronney said that was partially due to a size disadvantage.
“Conrad bumped up to 195,” Ronney said. “He weighed in at 182 and 183 in the two days, so you can obviously see that he was definitely well overmatched with weight, but he made it to sectionals as a sophomore, so that’s good. It’s a positive for him to wrestle well next year and stay in a fairly competitive weight class.”
Powell was pinned by Petersburg PORTA’s Logan Shafer 4:34 into his first-round match and lost his first-round wrestleback match via fall as well in 1:38 to Prairie Central’s Alex Rhoda.
“I feel like there were some moves on which I should have worked harder, especially in my first match,” Powell said. “I was winning 6-3 going into the third period. The kid rode my legs and turned around and stuck me. It was a mistake on my part. I should have ridden him out. I should have executed my wrestling better, but I’m proud of what I got this year and how far I’ve gone and how hard I’ve wrestled. I can just take this as a lesson for next year to get better.”
Despite losing both of his sectional matches and being one of only two PBL wrestlers to qualify for sectionals, Powell said he is proud of the season that he – and his team – produced.
“(Qualifying for sectionals was) definitely an accomplishment,” Powell said. “I’m happy I made it this far. There are definitely some things I’m going to work on in the offseason. I’m going to work on my takedowns, really work my pin combinations and hopefully make it farther next year in sectionals – maybe go to sectionals.
“I feel, as a team, we really fought through adversity and really tried our best. There were some guys that came up with some big wins this year, and there were some guys that came out just to have fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re going to build off this season and truly become a team to wrestle, eventually. I think we can really put this program in the right direction. I’m really proud of what the team’s done this year.”
With Powell returning for his junior year, as well as Colin Sullivan – who went to sectionals last year but lost due to injury default in this year’s regional -- Will Boman and J.T. Grady coming back for their senior seasons and Wyatt Morris for his junior season, Ronney said PBL has some sectional experience and some promising talent in place for next year.
“There was definitely progress made (this year), Ronney said. “Will Boman, being a first-year wrestler – if I had him an extra year, just like all these other kids, I could definitely say that we would have some state qualifiers this year, but it’s a new program with new kids and a new understanding. Hopefully next year, we will be able to get there.
“There were some unfortunate losses with Colin getting hurt (at regionals). He should have been there again. Wyatt Morris should have been there. We just need more practice time, and hopefully the kids can see their opportunities. A lot of the kids are hungry right now, but we also have another nine months until we see if they really want it again. J.T needs to learn some more moves. We’ve got a lot of young freshmen. Hopefully, our sophomores return and we have numbers next year, and we’ll see what happens.”
Whatever may happen in the program’s fifth season, Ronney said he would like to thank Jacob Meyer, as well as Alan and Marcia Meyer, for making that season – as well as the first four – possible.
“Without them, none of this would be possible,” Ronney said.
First round – Jacob Meyer (PBL) pinned D.J. Ackman (Knoxville), 1:31.
Quarterfinals – Zach Abney (Pittsfield) pinned Meyer, 4:52.
First-round wrestlebacks – Meyer pinned Daniel Guzman (Beardstown), 3:59.
Quarterfinal wrestlebacks – Jarod Noel (Bismarck-Henning) maj. dec. Meyer, 10-2.
First round – Logan Shafer (PORTA) pinned Conrad Powell (PBL), 4:34.
First-round wrestlebacks – Alex Rhoda (Prairie Central) pinned Powell, 1:38.