56th annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational wrestling tournament
PRINCETON — Steve Amy had never had anyone reach the finals of the Princeton Invitational in his first 10 years as head Princeton coach. On Saturday, he got two.
PHS senior Chase Tatum became the first Tiger to win the PIT since Ty Taylor in 2008, by claiming the 220-pound title. He was joined in the finals by classmate Dallas Hill, who took second at 195.
“It was a good day. I’m proud of those guys for how hard they’ve been working. They deserve it,” Amy said.
Tatum (21-1) had a little extra motivation heading into his match with Morrison’s Riley Wilkens. After defeating Wilkens earlier this season, Tatum said the Morrison coaches told Amy they were coming to get Tatum at the PIT.
The Mustangs learned to be careful what you wish for. Tatum dominated the match, taking the title belt by a 9-3 decision.
“He’s a big teddy bear. You don’t want to poke it too much,” Amy said with a laugh.
Tatum was overjoyed to win in front of the home crowd and said it was extra special becoming Amy’s first PIT champ.
“Man, it’s unbelievable. Coming in as a freshman, not even having this set in sight as a goal and then achieving it as as senior — it’s every one of these kids’ biggest dream to do something like that.
“We were talking about that before. I said, ‘Coach Amy, how many guys have you had come through and do this (reach the finals)?’ He said, ‘You guys (Tatum and Hill) would be my first.’ I was like, ‘Wow.’ I love to always do things like this, regional champ last year and this year. Just hoping to build off that.”
Amy said Tatum wrestled a real smart match in the finals, sticking to the game plan of getting one takedown each period.
“He’s been working on his different shots and ways to attack. It showed all weekend,” he said. He was setting up and creating angles and finishing his shots.”
Tatum was dominating throughout the PIT. He pinned his way to the semifinals with falls over Riley Wescott of Newman (1:45) and Gage Eastin of Orion (1:56). He scored a 11-2 major decision over Nate Hoover of Pittsfield.
Hill, who overcame a nasty injury in the first playoff football game, worked his way through the bottom bracket with a 4:20 tech fall over Martin Snyder of Dakota and a 3:33 fall over Caden Flanders of PORTA. He scored a 5-3 decision in overtime over Cole Garcia of Coal City in the semifinals.
Hill (7-1) battled Matt Kerr of Monticello into overtime again in the finals, before losing on a sudden death takedown.
“I tried for a headlock, and thought I had it. I felt myself start to roll. … It is what it is. I’ll come back and beat him at state or if I see him before that, hopefully.”
Amy questioned the deciding call.
“I thought we were out of bounds, but we didn’t get the call,” he said. “I asked them what changed to make it a takedown. Because position didn’t change the whole time they were rolling through, and they didn’t call anything until they blew the whistle.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Hill was truly just happy to be there.
“I was one of coach Amy’s first finalists. I did decent, did better than I thought I would, honestly,” he said. “I wasn’t even sure I was going to place. There was a lot of good kids in my bracket, lot of good records, and everybody fought pretty well.
“I’m grateful for me and Chase to be where we are. We train really hard together. I’m happy for coach Amy, because without him, we couldn’t have done any of this.”
Amy said Hill can be as good as he believes he can be.
“Dallas’ big thing is all about believing in himself,” Amy said. “When he realizes he’s one of the better guys in the state, then he’s going to end up on that podium (at state) in February.”
The only place-finisher for the Tigers was freshman Matthew Harris, who placed eighth at 113.
Overall, Amy said it was a really great tournament with Dakota claiming its first title in three years.
“We got a lot of good finals matches. Great competition throughout the tournament,” he said. “Saw a lot of upsets, even (Friday) night. Top-seeded guys getting knocked off. Couple guys that were three seeds placing seventh or eighth, like Matthew Harris. Tells you how deep the weight class really is.”
Tiger tales: PHS senior Peyton Hammerich, who placed third in the PIT a year ago, has been unable to wrestle this season due to a back injury. ... PHS had a mat dedication Friday night for the new signature center mat in honor of the late Tiger coach Randy Swinford, who passed away in 2017. “He wasn’t real big about promoting himself. It was something simple and small. I think he’d really like it and think it was pretty cool,” Amy said. Swinford’s widow, Lani, and daughter, Elise, were on hand for the ceremony Friday.