By Al Zipsie

The top two wrestling teams in the state collided last Thursday. On the line bragging rights and most likely a NUIC title. Dakota gave the Panther/Hawks the defending state champions their first loss of the year in a 26-19 dual win.

However, both coaches Kevin Milder of Lena-Winslow/Stockton and Pete Alber of Dakota will both tell you what really matters is the Polo Individual wrestling regional February 8th. The team point champion from the Individual regional is the only one who advances for a team dual state championship. The other team's season ends. It's too bad that the top two teams can't meet in the State championship match. The current format makes it that only one can even make the State team tournament.
Dakota won the state championship four straight years from 2013 to 16. Lena-Winslow has won the Regional the last three years and two of those years the state championship. So one of those schools is trying to make it a state title for the NUIC in seven of the last eight years.
Both Dakota and Lena-Winslow/Stockton beat the host West Carroll in matches. The tri-meet featured two defending state champions in Anthony Wenzel of Dakota at 170, Ethen Doty of West Carroll at 132 and two Panther/Hawks who finished fourth at state last season in Jason Hermann and Case Harmston. It was a low scoring match as only one of the matches was more than a double-digit loss. Showing how close both teams are no tech falls or pins were recorded with every match going the full six minutes. Dakota won 8 of the 14 matches.
The biggest win of the night was a 15-2 major decision at 152 which gave LW/S their biggest lead of the night at 16-11. Then the Indians came roaring back with five straight wins to lead 26-16 with only the 285 match left. Gennings Dunker of the Panther/Hawks edged Dalton Riggle 5-4 to make the final 26-19 Dakota. The Indians also got wins from twins Maddux Blakely at 113 and Phoenix Blakely at 120 and Lucas Sutherland at 138. The Indians streak was started by Aiden Nardin at 160 with a 4-0 shutout. Wenzel followed defeating a top-notch Panther/Hawk 5-3 to put Dakota ahead to stay at 17-16. Evan Riggle kept it rolling at 182 with a 2-0 win, Martin Snyder 4-0 at 195 and Cody Meade clinched it with a 3-0 decision at 220.
Dakota had been ranked as low as fifth in recent times. Then they beat Coal City in a dual 49-26 and then won the Princeton Invitational for the second straight year topping runner up Vandalia by 17 points. After the win over Lena-Winslow/Stockton, the Illini's Matmen promptly gave the top ranking to the Indians. Dakota is 18-6 which is misleading when you consider how they wrestle highly ranked and larger schools. At Princeton Dakota's Maddux Blakely and Wenzel won their second straight PIT title. Maddux knocked off a pair of unbeaten wrestlers and won the title match with an 18-4 major. Wenzel (26-1) notched his 100th career win with a 4-2 win in the final. Senior Evan Riggle also won the title at 182. Riggle made state as a freshman, missed out as a sophomore and an injury ended last season. Riggle is on a roll hoping to make the podium this season. Third was Phoenix Blakely at 120 and Tyler Simmer at 132 who had a hard-earned six straight wins in the wrestle backs. Maddux and Phoenix Blakely are from the talented Alber wrestling family. Their mother Jennifer, is the sister of Josh Alber a four-time state champion at Dakota and the only wrestler in Illinois history to never lose or tie.
The Panther/Hawks topped the 60 team Abe's Rumble field going 9-0 and defeating 4th ranked Tolono Unity 40-30 in the championship. Going unbeaten on the day were Dillon Raab at 113, Zach White 120, Marey Roby at 132-138, Winston McPeek 138-145, Simon Rillie 145-152, Andrew Haas at 160-172 and Harmston 170-182. 8-1 on the day was Garret Luke at 106 and Hermann at 152-160.
Stateline Sports Hub. NUIC basketball rankings.
Boys
1. East Dubuque. 16-2.
2. Lena-Winslow. 14-4.
3. Pecatonica. 17-6.
4. Eastland. 12-4.
5. Dakota. 12-4.
6. Scales Mound. 15-6.
7. Orangeville. 9-4.
8. Galena. 11-7.
9. Aquin. 11-7.
10. Warren. 8-3.
Girls.
1. Amboy. 19-1. Amboy plays Eastland Jan 21.
2. Eastland. 21-2.
3. Aquin. 19-5.
4. Galena. 18-5.
5. Dakota. 14-7.
6. Stockton. 14-6.
7. Durand. 11-5.
8. Lena-Winslow. 14-8.
9. East Dubuque. 11-9.
10. Forreston. 12-12.