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Mooseheart 170-pounder Joe Feemorlu (right) works for an advantage in his wrestleback against Erie's Nick Williams in the IHSA Class 1A Oregon Sectional. Feemorlu lost the match 7-6 in three overtimes.
West Carroll's Jacob Klein (right) tries to elude Mooseheart's Junior Smith in the second period of their IHSA Class 1A Oregon Sectional182-pound wrestleback semifinal. Klein rallied to pin Smith in the third period of the match.
Mooseheart's U-Jay Smith tries to take down Riverdale's Logan Sherman in their IHSA Class 1A Oregon Sectional 220-pound wrestleback. Sherman pinned Smith in the first round of the match.
OREGON, IL, Feb. 9 – Being good, being close and being competitive did nothing to stop the flow of tears and frustration for Mooseheart's wrestling team at the IHSA Class 1A Oregon Sectional.
None of the Ramblers' four qualifers qualified for the state meet, and to-date, Mooseheart has still never had a state wrestling qualifier.
"As I've said before, this is an awfully good sectional," Mooseheart wrestling coach Mark Johnson said. "You're going to face good wrestlers."
Mooseheart's final hope in 2013 was senior Junior Smith at 182 pounds. Undefeated heading into Saturday's semifinals, Smith's Saturday began with a semifinal match against Logan Staver, the top-ranked wrestler in the state. Staver scored steadily through the match and was ahead 8-0 in the third period when he made the move that resulted in a pin. The loss to Staver was Smith's first defeat after 23 straight victories.
So the key match became a wrestleback semifinal against West Carroll's Jacob Klein. The winner advanced to the consolation match and earned a berth in the state meet. Smith led 4-2 after the first period, but Klein chipped at the lead and eventually tied the match early in the third period.
Klein then seized the advantage with a takedown with 90 seconds left in the match and was ahead 7-4 when he turned Smith onto his back. The referees ruled Klein pinned Smith with 32 seconds left in the match.
"If you look at all the weight classes, (182) was probably the toughest one here," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, the experience of the wrestlers here is just unbelievable, and (Smith's) just lacking a little of that experience."
Mooseheart's other three sectional qualifiers were eliminated during Saturday morning's wrestlebacks, though two of the three – Joe Feemorlu and U-Jay Smith – won one of their consolation bracket matches before being eliminated.
At 170 pounds, Feemorlu survived a 13-12 match with Wheaton Academy's John Gemmel where the result wasn't known until after the wrestlers walked off the mat. The scoreboard originally showed Gemmel as the victor and the referee raised the Warriors wrestler's hand. Then the score was rechecked at the official table, and Feemorlu was proclaimed the winner.
Feemorlu's next match, with Erie's Nick Williams, was equally close. A see-saw three periods left the pair tied at 6-6 and a further two overtime periods were unable settle the match. Williams earned an escape midway through the third overtime and Feemorlu was unable to score – and Williams advanced.
U-Jay Smith opened Saturday's action at 220 pounds with a win over Harvard's Christian Popoca. Smith next faced Riverdale's Logan Sherman and was pinned with 40 seconds remaining in the first period.
Sammy Strickland, Mooseheart's sectional qualifier at 120 pounds, was pinned in his opening wrestleback by Mendota's Jaron Robinson.
Junior Smith, U-Jay Smith and Strickland saw their careers end on Saturday. Junior Smith and Strickland were three-time sectional qualifiers.
"It's one of those things where we pick up the pieces and start over again," Johnson said.
Feemorlu is a sophomore who returns as one of the leaders for the 2013-14 team.
"He's got that experience now," Johnson said. "He knows what it's all about now. He was frustrated a bit when it went into overtime and now he has the experience of a match that's gone into overtime and what he has to do. We've got some good things to look forward to."