MAPLE PARK – Not only did Kaneland wrestling fans watch the Knights win their first Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference meet of the season Thursday, but they saw the competition sitting on padded auditorium seats instead of hard wooden bleachers.
The coaching staff decided the team should try a different venue, moving from the Knights’ wrestling room to the school’s auditorium for senior night. The change of scenery and a fired up group of seniors led the Knights to a 43-15 conference win against Rochelle.
The Knights (12-13, 1-3 NI Big 12) dropped one match by decision. The team took three contests by falls and the remaining by decisions. Kaneland needed all three periods to win two contests and an extra period to take another two.
“The seniors got the rest of the kids fired up tonight. They were on fire,” Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said. “They came out and every one of them worked hard. They went six minutes in every match to do what they had to do for a Kaneland victory.”
Senior Nick Sharp gave Kaneland an early lead by pinning the Hubs’ Will Lawhorn 58 seconds into the 220-pound bout, the first match of the evening.
After Adam Mish lost the 106-pound bout to Jacob Meyers, Kaneland won the rest of the matches. Both teams lost two matches by forfeit.
Seniors Sonny Horn (138) and Dan Goress (145) also won their matches by falls.
Esai Ponce almost pinned Rochelle’s Joe Goshko at the end of the second period of their 132-pound match, but time ran out before he was awarded a fall. He settled for an 8-0 decision.
Stephen Gust (113) and Austin Parker (152) needed extra time to win their bouts. Gust wrestled Jeff Board to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation. A takedown at the start of the extra session earned him a 3-1 decision.
Parker rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the third period to tie Keagan Bryant at 6. He needed another minute in overtime to defeat Bryant, 8-6.
Connor Williams blanked TC Hager, 5-0, to take the 126-pound match.
The change of scenery might have done the Knights, who had struggled in conference play, some good.
“It was our first night in the auditorium,” Jahns said. “Coach [Jeremy] Kenny had a good idea to bring it down here and use the stage for these guys.”
Kaneland senior David Barnhart called it “a great experience for watching wrestling.”
“In the beginning, we thought it wouldn’t work because of the stage, but it just happened to work out perfectly,” Barnhart said.