The historic season for Waterloo High School wrestling ended Saturday with its first state medal in the sport.
Jordan Sommers, a 195-pound sophomore, capped off his amazing 2019-20 campaign with a fifth place medal at the IHSA Class 2A state wrestling meet in Champaign.
He went 32-6 this season and was both a regional and sectional champion.
“I had a lot of fun,” Sommers said of the state appearance. “But honestly, I think I could’ve wrestled a little better.”
Waterloo had qualified four wrestlers for state in its entire program history prior to this season. The Bulldogs sent three to state this year after qualifying six for the sectional round.
At state, Sommers opened with a win in overtime against Gavin Anseth of Rochelle on Thursday before losing by fall to Niall Schoenfelder of Antioch in the quarterfinals. He then won by decision over Donte Reed of Thornton Fractional North (Calumet City) and won by decision over Julian Ryerson of Crystal Lake Central.
In the consolation semifinals, Sommers lost by decision to Kyle Koelblinger of Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge. Sommers secured the fifth place medal by medical forfeit over Mitch Hutmacher of Chatham-Glenwood.
“Jordan Sommers has been incredible all year,” WHS wrestling head coach Chase Guercio said. “This is a kid who eats and breathes wrestling, which has historically been uncommon at WHS. He has placed first at four different tournaments including regionals and sectionals, and he was the only non-senior to place at state. The day after the tournament, he was already back in the gym training. He wants to be great so badly, and he feeds off other people telling him he can’t do something. He and I have connected over that line of thinking.”
Sommers already has his sights set on a return state trip in 2021.
“It was nice in the moment, but I’m ready to go for a state title next year,” he told the Republic-Times.
Sommers also credited Guercio and assistant coach Rodney Newbury for their leadership.
“He’s there for me whenever I need anything and is always keeping me focused,” Sommers said of Guercio. “Coach Newbury helps me with the technical aspects and with film. They’re just great leaders.”
In Class 2A 160 pounds, Waterloo’s Brandon Lloyd (40-13) lost by decision in his first state match to Braeden Wittkamp of Deerfield before winning in the consolation round by fall over Tom Crane of Chicago Brother Rice.
In his second consolation round match, Lloyd lost by decision to Matt Zuber of Oak Park Fenwick.
Lloyd set the single-season wins record at WHS this season.
“Brandon showed up with a stomach bug that he had been fighting through during the week, so I think if he was healthy he wins that first match against the Deerfield kid, but he did a good job of bouncing back on day two and beating a tough kid from Chicago,” Guercio assessed. “He ultimately lost to the wrestler who placed fourth, but Brandon had an excellent season and I am so proud of him. He is such a joy to coach and he broke an impressive record for school wins in only his sophomore season.”
In Class 2A 285 pounds, Brett Howard (37-11) lost to Payton Piraino of LaSalle and Max Ness of Antioch in his state appearance. A starting left tackle for the Waterloo football squad, Howard earned first team all-conference after going unbeaten at this year’s Mississippi Valley Conference wrestling tournament.
“Brett was one of the few kids at the state tournament who had no experience prior to high school,” Guercio said. “To see how far he has come in just three years is pretty impressive. He’s another one of those kids who we are so grateful to have. We try to recruit football players because wrestling transfers so well to the field, particularly for linemen. I look forward to watching Brett grow not only in wrestling, but football and track as well.”
Guercio said that overall, his wrestlers performed well at state.
“It was a big stage, and every single kid there was a tough wrestler,” he said. “This was the first time any of our kids had been at the tournament, but we told them all week not to show up as a fan. We wanted to represent our town and community and make people remember our school.”
All three of these wrestlers and other top performers return next year for Waterloo, which is on an upward trajectory as a program these past two years under Guercio.
“When Rodney and I took over the job, there were people in the local wrestling community who said we would not have success because Waterloo doesn’t produce wrestlers.” Guercio said. “Obviously, that is not true, and Rodney and I believe in our kids with everything we have. This year was only a starting point. We tell our kids all the time that as bad as you may want to be great, there is a kid training in Chicago or Springfield or some corner of this state who wants to be a champion. One day, you two will meet, and the one who worked harder is going to win.
“We are grateful but not satisfied in our season, and we want to continue to spread the love of wrestling to our kids and make them lifelong fans of this great sport.”