By Al Zipsie

Dakota/Orangeville won the NUIC wrestling title beating Lena-Winslow/Stockton 36-33 in a packed gym at Lena Wednesday.

While Lena-Winslow/Stockton are looking to defend their state championship. Dakota is hoping to get it back after winning four straight. The NUIC has been in the 1A title match the last six straight years, starting with an LW/Stockton runner-up finish in 2012. This season either school is looking to give the NUIC a sixth straight team championship.

Now the most important collision will happen at the Individual Regionals. It will be highly anticipated as the two powers battle and only the champion advances for a chance to win the team dual state crown.

The Panthers/Hawks (now 25-1) were previously unbeaten and the top-ranked 1A team. Dakota was ranked seventh and now 13-6 has a misleading record with no losses to 1A schools. It's all about the Regionals now. However, it will be interesting to see who is now ranked first in the state poll. Either Dakota, Lena-Winslow or possibly Aurora Christian or Coal City.

The dramatics came down to the last of the 14 matches.  Caleb Alber at 138 came up with a huge major decision to give Dakota the win 36-33.

Key close wins for Dakota came from Connor Elmer at 106 and 160 from Aiden Nardin. At 182 where Chad Gallagher delivered a pin over state-ranked Elijah Rowe. Dakota dominated the lighter weights to take the lead before Winston McPeek for the Panthers/Hawks gave them the lead at 33_32 with one match left.

Lena-Winslow/Stockton had won Abe's Rumble beating Coal City for the dual championship. They were led by the trio going for Individual State championships this year in Hunter Luke at 138, Rahveon Valentine 170 and Ian Kuehl at 285.

Dakota was runner-up to Coal City at the Princeton Invitational. Maverick McPeek remained unbeaten at 220 winning the elite Dvorak and the Pitt knocking off previously unbeaten Logan Lee of Orion 5-2. McPeek was named the tournaments most outstanding wrestler. McPeek, a senior was third at state and is on a mission to win the title this year.

Also at the Pitt placing for Dakota was freshman Andrew Wenzel fourth at 152. Alber fifth at 132, Cade Slayton sixth at 145, Gallagher sixth at 182 and Colt Oaks seventh at 170.