CHAMPAIGN – Willowbrook sophomore Matt Rowland got his first taste of what state wrestling is like, and now he wants more.
Rowland placed fifth in Class 3A at 152 pounds over the weekend at the State Farm Center in Champaign. He won his first match, lost a quarterfinal to eventual undefeated state champion Bryce Brill of Mt. Carmel, and went 3-1 in the wrestlebacks to earn a medal.
“It feels pretty good,” Rowland said. “It’s a good way to end my coach’s career because he’s retiring after this season. And to go out with a win is great.”
Willowbrook coach Bryan Murphy has been in charge of the program since the 2000-2001 school year. Rowland became the sixth Warrior wrestler to earn a medal during that Murphy’s tenure. Those six wrestlers combined for 10 medals and five state titles.
Rowland hopes he can add more medals and move up the places over the next two years. Finishing fifth as a sophomore in his first state appearance is a good step.
“Coming out of the tunnel my first time I had some jitters in my first match, but I got them out and got it done,” Rowland said. “[The key to moving up the podium is] working hard, putting in the work in the offseason and following in Steve Congenie’s footsteps.”
Congenie was a three-time medalist and two-time state champion who graduated in 2011. In addition to him, Rowland is chasing after his brother’s accomplishments. Dan Rowland was a two-time medalist, finishing his career as the runner-up at 170 pounds last year.
Dan gave Matt some advice ahead of the state tournament.
“He said to just wrestle how you are, just wrestle your match,” Matt Rowland said.
The sophomore said his speed was effective against his state opponents, but he needs to work on his escapes and wrestling when he is down on the mat. He finished the season with a 46-6 record.
Senior Jake Kroeger also competed at state and went 1-2 at 182 pounds. He lost his first match and won a match in the wrestlebacks before being eliminated.
• Jason Rossi contributed to this report
Willowbrook placewinners since 2001
• Mike Behnke 215 champ 2001
• Matt Roth 275 champ 2001
• Mike Behnke 275 champ 2002
• Steve Congenie 140 4th 2009
• Steve Congenie 152 champ 2010
• Steve Congenie 171 champ 2011
• Dan Rowland 160 3rd 2012
• Dan Rowland 170 2nd 2013
• Dan Draski 220 2nd 2013
• Matt Rowland 152 5th 2014