Golden Eagles readying for state

Staff reports
Members of the Mercer County High School wrestling team front row from the left, are: Payton Holmes, Jesse Snyder, Austin Skiles, Ethan Ball, Derrick Morford, Logan Snyder, Zach Nelson, Alek Blaser. Second row: Bryce Skiles, Rory Schwass, CJ DeSpain, Chris Hedrick, Roman Knox, Devin Morford, Quinton Russell, Logan Tompkins, Tim Willet. Third Row:Asst. Coach Nat Zunkel, Asst. Coach Jason Snyder, Jon Ricke, AJ Schroeder, Preston Smith, John Doherty, Steven Gipson, Landon McIntosh, Brandon Schroeder, Asst. Coach Jeremy Finch.

Mercer County head wrestling coach Joe Verlinden knew this year's team would be a good one but they have surpassed even his expectations.

The squad was 21-1 in dual meet, as of Jan. 24 and ranked as high as eighth in the state of Illinois.

Behind those kind of heady numbers you would expect to find a veteran squad.

Instead you've got a Mercer County team that fields eight freshman starters.

"It's been a phenomenal season," said Verlinden. "We've got a tremendous freshmen group."

Verlinden added, "We should be favored to win regionals. We've beat every team in our regional. At the beginning of the year I thought we would be 18-4 at the most."

The Golden Eagles are solid up and down the line though.

Freshman Bryce Skiles is 27-2 at 103 pounds.

Freshman Logan Snyder is 25-6 at 112 pounds.

Freshman Jesse Snyder is 22-6 at 119 pounds.

At 125 pounds Austin Skiles, Bryce's brother, is ranked third in the state with a 25-1 record. Last year he placed second in the state.

Sophomore Derrick Morford is 28-3 at 130 pounds.

Freshman Zach Nelson is 24-6 at 135 pounds.

Freshman Payton Holmes is 4-2 at 140 pounds.

Freshman Brandon Doherty is 12-13 at 145 pounds.

Junior Roman Knox is 9-7 at 152 pounds.

Senior Ethan Ball is 30-0 at 160 pounds and is ranked first in the state.

Freshman Landon McIntosh is 13-7.

At 189 pounds freshman Otto Dillie is 2-5 while freshman Brandon Schroeder is 3-6.

At 215 pounds senior A. J. Schroeder is 12-16.

At heavyweight senior Preston Smith is 17-11.

That's the starting lineup right now but Verlinden has some depth also.

Sophomore Alek Blaser is 12-4 wrestling at 119 pounds. Logan Tompkins is 5-3 at 125 and 130 pounds. Jon Ricke is 4-3 at 145 pounds. Junior C.J. DeSpain is 7-12 at 145 and 152 pounds freshman Devan Morford is 7-3 at 125-130 pounds.

"We've finished second in two tournaments and third in another tournament," said Verlinden about the season. While Verlinden is confident about the regional he says, "Our sectional is loaded."

He looks at Ball and Bryce Skiles making it to state and thinks Derrick Morford is the next best hope the Golden Eagles have to advance further than the sectional level.