PRINCETON — Earl Towne wasn't ready to let it go. He wasn't ready to turn in his singlet and see his Princeton Tiger wrestling career vanish in front of his eyes.
So he stepped out on the mat for the final time at Prouty Gymnasium Saturday, and for what could have been the final time wrestling ever, and did something about it. Towne defeated Oregon's Doug Shaw 8-2 in the third-place match at 145 pounds in the Princeton 1A regional.
"You don't know if it's going to be the last match of your season and your career. That's what pushed me to do so good because I didn't want that to be my last match I ever have," Towne said. "Being at home is even better and getting out of regionals senior year and just keeping it going."
The PHS senior will be joined by classmates Logan McCauley (152) and Ben Staton (285), also third-place finishers, at the IHSA individual sectional competition at Byron beginning Friday.
"Means a lot to me and to not to be the only one. It's really nice to go to sectionals," McCauley said.
PHS coach Steve Amy said he would have liked to get a few more out, but "I believe we will always feel that way."
He said those who made it out all wrestled "very smart" throughout the day.
"They have all put their time in with all of them coming up through Tiger Town and that showed this weekend. When you get into the wrestlebacks its always important to understand the situation and do what’s needed to move on to the next week," he said.
"All three are very talented and have the potential to get to the state tournament. They just have to believe in themselves and go out and compete for six minutes."
Towne (29-7) met Shaw twice before this season and had his game plan all planned out.
"Just shoot, just ride him out and grind it out," said Towne, who last reached sectionals his freshmen year.
Towne opened with a fall at 2:51 over Ashton-Franklin Center's Byron Howlett before being turned at 5:05 by top-seed and eventual champ Mark McDonnell of Morrison. Towne kept his hopes alive by defeating Ottawa Marquette's Nick Harcar 8-3 in wrestlebacks, another match he called as one for "heart and pride."
McCauley followed Towne to the mat at 152, squaring off against Amboy's Nathan Schrock in a do-or-die match for third-place. He had already taken Schrock down in his first match of the day (1:22) and was confident he could get his man, using a fall at 1:51 to punch his ticket to sectional.
"I knew I had a really good high crotch, so I wanted to take him down with a high crotch and put him on his back, and then I knew it would be over," McCauley said.
Leading 10-3 at the time of his fall, McCauley (19-20) admitted he kind of had it in cruise control until his coaches fired him up to go for the kill.
"I was starting to protect my lead a little bit, but then my coach started getting on me. I started to get fired up and I got everything out and left it on the mat." he said, adding that getting a pin or a tech is always better than getting it by points.
McCauley was the victim of a fall at 0:59 to top-seed Brian Bahrs of Newman in the semifinals. He said his main goal was to get a shot at him and "try to get him down, but I never got the chance."
Staton used a little strategy, electing to wrestle up at heavyweight after sizing up the field at 220, which included three wrestlers with winning records — Derek Dingman (27-8) of Rock Falls, Darius Decker (24-6) of Amboy and Jake Fassler (29-6) of Oregon. Staton (now 13-15) wrestled most of the season at 220 and came in weighing 226.
"Just thought I'd do better at heavyweight. At 220 I really wasn't getting anything done so I decided to bump up," he said, noting that wrestling at 220 showed him how to wrestle at a faster pace and open up more angles and get more shots in.
The strategy proved most successful when he pinned Oregon's Colby Dace at 3:03 to claim third place. He wanted to get it done in the second period, but said "third's fine."
The Tiger heavyweight also pinned Ashton's Storm Bressen (0;31) and Morrison's Alex Fischbach (0:38). He lost by a 1:53 fall in the semifinals to regional champ Jake Wells of Newman.
Princeton's Mason Baele (106), Tim Hilliard (120) and James Dove (138) also reached the third-place matches, but couldn't make it out. Baele went down by fall at 0:59 to Rock Falls' Gage Butler, Hilliard lost by tech fall at 5:26 to Amboy's Christopher Jones and Dove dropped a 3-0 decision to Amboy's Jason Bontz.
• Sectional pairings: At Byyon, Towne will face Marian Central Catholic senior Austine Sabella (31-9), wrestling into Stillman Valley junior Talon Paul (25-2); McCauley will meet Erie-Prophetstown senior Nick Stoddard (32-60 with the winner drawing Lena-Winslow junior T.J. Knutson (31-8); and Staton squares off vs. Sherrard sophomore Ben Corlett (21-7), wrestling into North Boone sophomore Gus Eisele (23-6),