It's been a productive postseason so far for the Litchfield Middle School wrestling team, but the Panther Cubs are hoping for even more success this weekend.
Four members of the team will be competing in the IESA State Wrestling Tournament, which takes place March 8-9 at the Convocation Center on the campus of Northern Illinois University in Dekalb.
The quartet, consisting of two eighth graders, a seventh grader and a fifth grader, all finished in the top four at the Litchfield Sectional, which was held on Saturday, March 2.
Both eighth graders would earn runner-up finishes as Alex Powell was second at 85 pounds and Ashtin Carver was second at 95 pounds. Both Powell and Carver have been to state before, with Powell making it to the quarterfinals last year as a seventh grader and Carver going 1-1 at 70 pounds as a sixth grader.
Seventh grader Brennen McLarty was fourth at the Sectional at 275 pounds, while fifth grader Vincent Moore was third at 65 bounds. Both are first time state qualifiers.
The four made up a quarter of the 16 sectional qualifiers Litchfield had advance out of the regional in Auburn on Feb. 23. Moore, Carver and McLarty would all be regional champions, along with seventh grader Kaleb Crabtree, and eighth graders Blake Quinn and Charlie Rayphole. Coach Dan Newkirk said that Rayphole would have also been a contender to go to state at 155 pounds, but a severe ankle sprain before sectionals kept him off the mats.
Powell would be one of three second place finishers for the Panther Cubs, with eighth graders Korbe Hoover and James Newell also earning second place finishes.
Seven Litchfield wrestlers would take third at Auburn, including eighth graders Seth Kenter and Matt Barker, seventh graders Derrick Zupsich and Tug Schwab, sixth graders Charlie Priddle and Clayton Hauter and fifth grader Braxton Kieffer.
Just missing advancing to the sectional were sixth grader Elijah Farmer, seventh grader Brawley Jacobs and eighth grader Jake Cunningham, all of whom finished fourth at the regional.
The state meet will start with weigh-ins at 9:30 a.m. on March 8, with first round matches starting at 11:30 a.m. Vincent Moore will be one of the first to wrestle as he takes on seventh grader Jacob Mosier of Colfax Ridgeview in his first match.
Alex Powell will have seventh grader Samuel Begler of Braidwood Reed-Custer in his opener, while Ashtin Carver will face eighth grader Avery Speck of Glasford Illini Bluffs. Brennen McLarty will wrestle the second to last match of the first round, taking of Braidwood Reed-Custer eighth grader Gunnar Berg.
The quarterfinals and first round wrestlebacks will also be held on Friday, starting at 3:45 p.m. Second round wrestlebacks start day two of the tournament at 9 a.m., with a full slate of action leading up to the parade of champions at 4:45 p.m.