OREGON — Garrett Passmore had to wait until his senior season to capture his first individual sectional wrestling championship.
After achieving that milestone at Saturday's Oregon Sectional, the Erie-Prophetstown Panthers' 160-pound standout hopes to follow that up with his first state championship.
Scoring a pair of pins to reach the championship match against Aurora Christian freshman Jack Certa, Passmore capped his day of dominance by scoring a technical fall with just six seconds left in the bout, making him one of just two area wrestlers to earn sectional gold and continue his perfect season at 47-0.
"Last year, my goal was to get through regional and sectional by winning them both, but I came up short," said Passmore, who is making his third straight trip to the 1A state meet in Champaign. "This year, I was thinking that after I got the first one, a regional title, if I wanted to get my ultimate goal of standing on top of the podium (at state), I had to take the step and win here."
Erie-Prophetstown's other state qualifier was 170-pound runner-up Mat Garrison (33-11).
Passmore now finds his ultimate goal within his grasp.
"Winning state, that's been the goal all year," he stated. "I'm going to continue to work and fine-tune the things that got me to this point. I'm here, and I don't want to stop."
Joining E-P's Passmore as an area sectional champion Saturday was Kewanee senior Lewis Robinson, last year's state runner-up at 145 pounds. Competing at 152, Robinson moved closer to achieving his own state-title goal by besting Aurora Christian's Jay Cee Gonzalez 4-3 in the gold-medal match.
Citing a more aggressive offensive approach, Robinson (38-2) feels that could be the difference-maker between last year's first trip to the State Farm Center and this year's return sojourn.
"Last year, I was aggressive on offense, but not that much,'' he said. ``I've stepped up my game this year, and it's showed me that if I want to be a champion, I've got to work harder. This is a hard sectional, with a lot of ranked guys, and I'm glad I was able to come out on top.''
E-P's Garrison was one of six area wrestlers to reach the title match, but settle for sectional silver.
That group includes Mercer County senior 132-pounder Stone Engle, who lost for just the second time in 41 matches. Taking on once-beaten Jared Van Vleet of Stillman Valley in the finals, Engle entered the third period tied at 2-2, but Van Vleet tallied the next three points and then held on for a 5-4 decision.
"I'm not ashamed of that match. We both wrestled well, but he came out on top,'' said Engle. "A sectional title would've been nice, but I want to get a shot at a state title. I'm definitely going to use this as extra motivation.''
At 126 pounds, Rockridge sophomore standout Dallas Krueger (40-3) lost by technical fall to Aurora Christian's Noah Villarreal, but was pleased with his runner-up finish after taking fourth at sectionals last February. Now, he plans to improve on last year's sixth-place state showing.
"Hopefully I get put in a good draw, go down there and do what I want to do,'' he said. "I'm focused on next week. I've definitely got a different perspective on state.''
Krueger's Rocket teammate, senior 195-pounder Collin Schmidt (42-4), also settled for second place after dropping a 3-2 title-bout heartbreaker to Stillman Valley's Drake Jennings, who is ranked first in the state. However, that result is encouraging to Schmidt as he makes his third straight trip to Champaign.
"It's a tough one to lose, but he's No. 1 in the state. If I can wrestle him tough, I can wrestle anybody tough,'' Schmidt said. "It lets me know where I'm at.''
Riverdale freshman 182-pounder Bryan Caves had his championship bid denied when Byron senior Jonah Pearson pinned him with 53 seconds left in their bout. But before taking the mat for the finals, Caves had already achieved the victory he came here seeking.
"What I wanted to accomplish was to qualify for state," said Caves (39-6). ``I wanted to work hard here and qualify, and once I got to state, I could have fun with that. After losing (Saturday), my first thought is to get in the room and get better.''
Fulton senior 285-pounder Taylor Fleetwood (27-4) also finished as a runner-up, losing 3-1 to Lena-Winslow/Stockton's Ian Kuehl, who has now won 42 of 43 matches.
Advancing to state with third-place finishes were Alleman's Gage Mowry (106) and Jack Patting (132), Orion's James Schnerre (152) and defending state champ Logan Lee (285), Rockridge's Nolan Throne (138), Mercer County's Steven Speaker II (170), Fulton's Eli Pannell (195) and Morrison's Reilly Dolan (145).
The Pioneers' Patting topped two-time reigning state champion Tyler Fleetwood of Fulton 3-1 in their bronze-medal match.
"It's pretty exciting,'' Patting said. "He'd beaten me three times this year, so it's nice to get a win against him. It's a big confidence boost.''
Besides Fleetwood, area wrestlers who advanced after taking fourth were Alleman's Billy Taylor (113) and John West (182), Orion's Noah Schnerre (126) and Trent Scharpman (145), Riverdale's Trystan Altensey (152), Morrison's Augustus Linke (138) and Kewanee's Nathan Thumma (285).