EDGINGTON — Eight years ago, the Erie-Prophetstown wrestling team enjoyed its finest season, one that saw the Panthers advance to the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
Before Saturday, Erie-Prophetstown had not lifted team wrestling hardware since that memorable campaign. In a tightly-contested 1A Rockridge Regional, all of that changed.
Led by undefeated senior Garrett Passmore's title run at 160 pounds, the Panthers came out on top in a tight team race, scoring 150 points to edge runner-up Mercer County by three for its first regional team trophy since 2010. Orion placed third with 129 points, followed by fourth-place Alleman (113).
"We've all been working hard for this," said E-P head coach Tod McCullough. "We told them (Saturday) that we had to come in here and have each kid do his job, and see what happens. We had a lot of kids step up today."
A perfect symbol of the Panthers' team triumph was Passmore, who continued his perfect season by going 3-0 to earn his second individual regional title in three years. Pinning Sherrard's Steele Gustafson in 2:44 for the gold medal, Passmore will take a 44-0 record to next weekend's Oregon Individual Sectional.
"I don't think about the record, just the opponent who's in front of me," he stated. "Every day is a new day, and anyone can step up and beat you. Right now, I'm just focusing on the one goal, to be on top of the podium at state. I thought I would wrestle well today, and I'm really happy. I'm ready for next weekend."
Four of Passmore's teammates also reached the title round, with the quartet of Cameron Abell (113 pounds), Chris Bonnell (120), Mat Garrison (170) and Lucas Carey (220) each scoring silver medals. Of the five E-P wrestlers competing for third place, four came away with victories and sectional berths.
"My concern going into the final round was not points, it was getting all of those kids to next weekend," McCullough said. "I told them if they took care of their matches, we'd see what happens. It all panned out in the end."
While Mercer County just missed out on a team title, its top wrestler gained a bit of personal redemption.
Senior 132-pounder Stone Engle found himself paired up with two-time defending state champion Tyler Fleetwood of Fulton for the first time since losing to Fleetwood in the Bob Mitton Invitational finals two weeks ago. After Fleetwood used a late third-period takedown to force overtime, the two traded escape points before Engle prevailed 6-4 in the fourth OT session.
"That was definitely on top of all the other matches we've had against each other, in my opinion," said Engle, who is now 37-1. "After giving up that takedown at the end of the third, and with this being my first time in a fourth OT, it feels great to get a win against an amazing wrestler like him."
Three of Engle's Golden Eagle teammates were golden Saturday, with Broctyn King (106), Camden Whitenack (120) and Steven Speaker II (170) each scoring their first regional championships.
King, a freshman, scored a 5-1 win over Alleman's Gage Mowry. Junior standout Whitenack pinned E-P's Bonnell in 3:33, with classmate Speaker edging the Panthers' Garrison in a 3-2 thriller.
Orion's lone champion was James Schnerre. Bumped up from 145 to 152 points, the unbeaten Schnerre (20-0) came away with a 5-2 win over Riverdale's Trystan Altensey.
Fulton's Eli Pannell (195) and Taylor Fleetwood (285) each struck gold, with Fleetwood fending off a rally by Orion's Logan Lee for a 10-9 decision. Lee, last year's 220-pound state champion, had trailed 8-1 at one point.
Making his regional debut, Alleman's Billy Taylor ended the day as the Pioneers' lone champion after pinning E-P's Abell in 2:22.
"I was excited to see how I could do here," he said. "I came in hoping to battle to the best of my ability, give my all and see where it took me."