CHAMPAIGN – Crystal Lake South 113-pound sophomore Christian Olsen tells himself every night before bed, “I’m a state champion.”
“Every single night before I went to bed, I was saying that to myself,” Olsen said. “I was writing it in journals. I was thinking it when I wasn’t saying it. I was just believing in myself. And now I’m here, so I have to make the most of it.”
Olsen, along with four other McHenry County wrestlers, will have a chance to prove he is a champion Saturday.
Olsen will wrestle for the Class 2A 113-pound state championship after defeating Mount Zion’s Kooper Loehr, 3-2, with a reversal in the final minute of Friday’s state semifinal.
“I got the reversal, I was thinking, ‘I have to hold on,’ ” Olsen said. “That was one of the hardest matches of my career.”
Olsen held on and held his arms up high after the buzzer.
Elsewhere in Class 2A, Marian Central’s Josh Glover (106) and Dylan Connell (160), along with Crystal Lake Central’s Brock Montford (182) will wrestle for state championships, which begin at 6 p.m. at State Farm Center in Champaign.
In Class 3A, Huntley’s David Ferrante (170) became the first Red Raiders wrestler ever to reach a state championship match.
“It’s huge for me, but the job’s not done,” Ferrante said.
Ferrante, a Northwestern commit, was a fourth-place medalist as a freshman but missed out on the podium last year as a sophomore.
In Class 1A, Johnsburg’s Justin Peake (182) lost his state semifinal match, 6-2, against Unity’s Cade Scott. Peake has guaranteed himself a state medal and now falls into the consolation semifinals.
Marian’s Connell won the Hurricanes’ first state championship since 1987 last year, when he won the Class 2A 152-pound title. Now the sophomore is going for back-to-back titles. He pinned Antioch’s Michael Volkmar barely more than a minute into their semifinal match.
Of the five local wrestlers going for titles, Connell is the only one who has been here before.
“[Saturday] I’ll probably weigh in, watch a little bit of wrestling, go rest back at the hotel, not get too anxious watching all this stuff going on,” Connell said.
All season Connell has touted the talents of Glover, who seeks to become Marian’s second freshman to win a state title in as many years.
Glover took an early lead against Lemont’s Evan Schiffman, and then made Schiffman come to him.
“I studied him, and I waited for him to attack,” Glover said. “I made him wrestle my match, and I just finished the job.”
Last week in the sectional consolation bracket, Glover scored a takedown in the final seconds to qualify for state with a one-point win in a do-or-die match. He went from narrowly missing out on state, to wrestling on the biggest stage.
“Never in my life would I have thought I’d make it this far,” Glover said.
Central’s Montford overcame adversity of his own.
The senior struggled as a 145-pounder last year, and in his own words, “pretty much got squeezed out of my spot” in the lineup. He didn’t even qualify for sectionals last season as a junior.
A year later and more than a few pounds stronger, Montford pinned Rochelle’s Ben Harvey in the third period of their 182-pound semifinal.
“I imaged myself winning this match a million times, but still never with a pin,” Montford said. “This is amazing.”