The Pekin wrestling team’s 18-year state tournament medal drought is over.
Jared Dowell saw to that Saturday in the Class 3A tournament at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
The junior finished in sixth place at 195 pounds and left the arena with the precious medal in his possession.
Derek Bly was the last Pekin wrestler to win a state medal. That was back in 2001 at 160 pounds in the Class AA tournament.
Dowell (34-7) wrestled six matches in three days last week against tough competition from the biggest high schools in the state. He went 3-3, losing his two matches in the medal round.
“You can’t scoff at a .500 record. Not at that level, not against the kids at that tournament,” said Pekin coach John Jacobs. “Jared did a great job.
“The state tournament is a grind for a wrestler. Besides the matches, there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting. It’s difficult to stay loose and motivated even though each match is tougher than the last one.”
Jacobs said Dowell raised some eyebrows at the State Farm Center.
“Jared came in under the radar,” he said. “But people know him now.”
Jacobs said he thought at the beginning of the season that Dowell could qualify for the state tournament. As for winning a medal, he wasn’t so sure.
“But as the season progressed, I could see Jared develop the confidence and mental edge he needed to do well at state,” Jacobs said.
Dowell wasn’t the only Pekin wrestler at the state tournament. Junior Ryan Haynes (30-10) lost two of three matches at 126 pounds.
“Ryan was in a very tough weight class,” Jacobs said.
For more on Dowell and Haynes, who each competed in the state tournament for the first time, see the Pekin Times print edition and pekintimes.com later this week.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.