PRINCETON— There was no better place for the young Princeton Tiger wrestling team to learn than Prouty Gym over the weekend.
Thirty teams ventured to Princeton for the 50th annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational wrestling tournament, aka the PIT, featuring 80 IHSA state qualifiers, 39 state medalists and 10 state champions.
“Hopefully, they learned what it takes to get to that next level,” PHS coach Steve Amy said. “They’re coming here to compete and coming to win. That’s something our kids got to learn. They’ve got to realize they’re still young and inexperienced. Those kids that are placing right now, they’ve been wrestling a long time and they know what it takes to get to that level.
“That’s what we’re trying to do out there and do things the right way. Work the techniques the right way, push yourself every situation you can.”
Just two Tigers advanced to Saturday’s second day of wrestling.
Sophomore Drew Pranka won his first match at 152, defeating Chris Verdin of Palos Heights Shepard by fall at 1:25. He was on the other end of a fall at the hands of Sterling’s Bryce Ivey at 2:25 and again at 4:48 to Coal City’s Michael Czaja.
“Drew wrestled well (Friday). Got here (Saturday) morning, came out a little flat and made some small mistakes and those guys capitalized on it and took advantage of it,” Amy said. “He was pressing trying to make something happen ... that happens. He’s still young, he’s a sophomore in his first real year full-time varsity and he’s improving and hadn’t wrestled in a month. He did well.
Tim Hillard also lived for a second day at 125, pinning Vandalia’s Adam Palmer at 0:40 before losing to eventual champion Jake Snow of Newman by tech fall 18-2. On Saturday, he came back for a 1:50 pinfall over Monticello’s Dakota Brown before bowing out by fall to Wilmington’s Casey Grskivick at 4:07.
The only others to win a match were freshmen Luke Marselle (1-2), who scored a 4-3 decision at 106 in his first match and junior Caleb Dickens (1-2), who won his first at 152 by a 4-2 decision.
The Tigers placed 30th out of 31 teams with 19 points, edging Reed Custer by one point.
• Notes: Amy said the 50th PIT lived up to its billing with wrestling finals which very well could play out again at state next month. Dakota’s Josh Alber (25-0), a two-time state champion, breezed to the PIT crown at 120 by fall. He’s ranked seventh in the nation. He claimed Most Outstanding Wrestling honors for the lower weights with Zach Nelson of Mercer County, a 12-1 champion at 152, at taking them for upper weights. “There’s quite a few state-placers and qualifiers we’ll see down at Champaign in a month and a half,” Amy said. ...Dakota captured the team title, edging defending champion Wilmington 190-171.5. Newcomer Mercer County was third (166.5). ... The placards handed out to each weight champion were adorned with a large No. 50 in recognition of the 50th annual PIT that was started by founder and former PHS coach Lyle King in 1963.