Despite canceled tournament, Illini Bluffs Junior High wrestlers celebrate successful year

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GLASFORD, Ill. (WMBD)– Three young wrestlers from Illini Bluffs Junior High School were on their way to the state tournament until it was canceled amid fears of the COVID-19 outbreak, now they’re grappling with the disappointment.

This triple threat of young wrestlers was working towards being state champs all year–until their coach had to tell them it was canceled. Eighth graders, Ian O’Connor and Hunter Robbins and seventh-grader, Jackson Carrol all qualified for the IESA state wrestling tournament scheduled for this weekend.

On Thursday, their coach, Bo Grandy had to break the news they won’t get a chance to place at state.

“My immediate thought was how the boys were going to handle it. They’ve worked the last eight or nine years for this moment. I expected great things out of them this year and was devastated for them,” Grandy said.

Grandy says these three boys are dedicated to maintaining their weights and getting better on the mats.

“These three; Hunter, Ian, and Jackson are probably the most dedicated and hardest workers you’ll find out on the wrestling mat. All three have wrestled since they were six years old,” Grandy said.

For eighth-grader, Hunter Robbins, it was about redemption after finishing as the state runner-up in 2019.

“I started off the season with the right mindset this year after coming off losing in the state finals last year and this year, I worked harder than ever and planned on winning it,” Robbins said.

At 23 wins and zero losses, Robbins didn’t lose a match all season long and was upset he didn’t get the chance to cap it off at state.

“This year, I went undefeated and I put in a lot of work and it kind of just came to an end,” Robbins said.

Eighth-grader, Ian O’Connor is a third-generation wrestler. This was a chance to live up to his family’s legacy.

“I never had the experience before and most of my family has gone to state so I’ve been down there a few times to watch, but I’ve never wrestled at state,” O’Connor said.

He also finished with a perfect record of 26 wins and zero losses.

“It’s been a pretty good season overall. I improved a lot from last year, so that was a good thing to start my season with,” O’Connor said.

Seventh-grader, Jackson Carrol qualified for state two years in a row and was hoping to finish a shortened, but strong season of 14 wins and one loss.

“I missed half of it with a broken hand so I came in and won my first two matches–third one I lost, my only one all year,” Carrol said.

Carrol was hoping to place atop the podium as he was one of the top wrestlers in the state.

“It would’ve been my second time–last year I qualified and this year was really fun knowing I had a really good year, it was all set up and would’ve been in the finals,” Carrol said.

Despite the cancellation, their coach is still proud of the young men they are becoming.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach them on and off since they were six years old, they’re leaders on and off the mat; in the classroom. They’re great kids,” Grandy said.

He was hoping to coach his two eighth-graders one last time before they leave for high school.

“Hunter and Ian are 8th graders and this was going be my last chance to coach them. I was really looking forward to ending the season with them on a great note,” Grandy said.

Grandy and the three boys had lunch provided to them today by the Illini Bluffs athletic director and will be celebrating together Friday night as well.

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