OREGON — In what is a grueling two-day event, Princeton's Chase Tatum may have just as well been on a leisurely vacation at the Oregon 1A sectional, at least for part of it.
The PHS junior had a 26-second pin on Friday night and one of 3:08 in Saturday's semifinals to earn an automatic trip downstate and a berth in the 220-pound finals.
"It's feels great," Tatum said. "My mindset is to get it done as quick as I can. I got to get them before they get you."
After missing last year because of a torn labrum (from a football injury), Tatum (33-8) admitted he came into the postseason with a "chip on his shoulder."
Things got much tougher in the championship match against senior Maverick McPeek (37-2) of Dakota. After a scoreless first period in which no real shots were taken, McPeek took a 3-0 lead in the second period on an escape and takedown.
In the third period, McPeek got back points off a ride before eventually pinning Tatum with 50 seconds left.
"He let his arm get trapped," Princeton coach Steve Amy said. "Overall he wrestled pretty good. I'm excited we're heading down to the big spaceship (State Farm Center)."
McPeek took third at Champaign last year, has been a Princeton Invite champ and won the prestigious Dvorak tournament as sophomore.
Other than Tatum's performance, it was a downer of a meet for the Tigers. Junior Peyton Hammerich and Dallas Hill were expected to contend for trips downstate, but fell one match short.
At 160, Hammerich had to fight through the wrestlebacks after losing by a pin to Sam Durfey of Stillman Valley in Friday's quarterfinals. On Saturday he decisioned Steele Gustafson of Sherrard 8-3 and pinned Colin Dvorak of Lena-Winslow.
"Today's a new day," Hammerich said after the Dvorak match. "I've got to have a short memory and forget about last night. Everyone's gunning for a spot at the state tournament now."
In the final wrestleback that would determine his fate, Hammerich (35-6) took on Tristan Faworski (34-9) of Winnebago, someone Hammerich had beaten twice this season.
It looked good from the get-go, as Hammerich had a takedown 15 seconds in and another at the one-minute mark to take a 4-1 lead. Things changed quickly with Faworski reversing Hammerich and getting back points to take a 6-4 lead.
Faworski garnered a takedown, but Hammerich countered with a reversal to stay within 8-6. However, in the third period, Faworski put Hammerich on his back off a reversal and pinned him at 5:10.
"That was pretty disappointing," Amy said. "We got sloppy and let the match get out of control."
Hill lost a heartbreaker in the 195-pound quarterfinals to 8-4 Colton Ingram of Byron. The final was 8-7 and Hill could only wonder what could have been.
"I had to clear my head after that and come back fully focused," Hill said. "I need to get it done."
The PHS junior did come back with a vengeance, pinning both Chris Morris of Amboy and Nathan Elliot of Seneca.
In the so-called 'blood round," Hill (32-10) ran into pinning machine Eli Pannell of Fulton. Pannell was able to toss Hill twice and gain a 13-1 lead before earning his 28th pin of the season. That tied him with Steamer assistant coach Russ McAllister for the school record.
"We knew he was going for the throws and Dallas got caught," Amy said. "Credit to Peyton and Dallas for the great job they did in battling back after Friday."
The remainder of the Tiger sectional qualifiers were eliminated much sooner.
Caleb Alter had a pin Friday and then lost to eventual 113-pound runner-up Jacob Milliman of Oregon by pin. The sophomore was also pinned by Trapper Hartman of West Carroll to finish 17-21.
Junior Gabe Thompson came in with a .500 winning percentage, but left 19-21 after two losses at 138. Colin Colmone also went 0-2 at 106.
At 170, senior Zach Bohms (23-15) nearly started with a win, but lost 9-8 to Jose Tovar of Mooseheart. He then dropped a match to Mason Newman of Sterling Newman.
St. Bede got a win from Dominic Bima at 106. He pinned Wilson Widman of Seneca, but lost to Jaden Rice of Le-Win in 23 seconds by a pin. He lost his wrestleback, as well.
Bruin Charlie Korey had a decent showing with a 4-0 loss to Noah Schnere of Orion and a 16-0 technical fall over Logan Petre of Ottawa Marquette. Le-Win's Tanner Kalkbrenner ended his season, though, with a first-period pin at 126.
"Charlie was real careful with his shots. He broke (Petre) down and got tilts in for points," SBA coach Sam Allen said.
Also for St. Bede, Beau Gerber (113) and Noah Stetser (132), wrestling in a weight class with three state-placers lost twice.
• At state: Tatum drew an opening-round match vs. Michael Johnson (11-5), a junior from Elmhurst Immaculate Conception, who placed third at the Chicago Hope Sectional. Their winner draws the winner between Zach Kincaide (34-8), a senior from East Alton-Wood River, and No. 4 see Joey Regnier (35-4), a senior from Deer Creek-Mackinaw.
"Chase has a great opportunity in front of him this week. He wrestled well last weekend and put himself in a place where if he wrestles well he could make the podium," Amy said.
There are 16 wrestlers in each bracket with No. 1 seed Cody Miller (45-1), a senior from Bismarck-Henning, heading up the 220-pound bracket.
• Team duals: The sectional also was a chance to see how wrestlers from Erie-Prophetstown fared, as the Tigers face them at the sectional team dual on Feb. 0 at Morrison. E-P had two state qualifiers in 170-pound runner-up Mat Garrison and 160-pound champion Garrett Passmore, who had the best record (48-0) of anyone in the sectional.
"They're a pretty tough team," Amy said. "I don't know if we can get them."
"I think if we wrestle the way we're capable, we'll be okay," EP coach Tod McCullough said
Amy spoke of the difficulties of the dual-team format.
"It's a unique situation," he added. "We have one individual downstate and we'll be gone from Wednesday to Sunday. That makes it hard to hold practices, unless an assistant does it."
The big story from the sectional was the sudden rise of the Aurora Christian wrestling program. In only its second year, the Eagles had eight wrestlers in the championship bouts and two others going for third.
Returning 1A team champ Lena-Winslow faces Aurora Christian in the other sectional dual at Morrison.
"They've become a force in a hurry," LW coach Kevin Milder said.