EDGINGTON — In his state wrestling debut last February, Rockridge’s Nolan Throne came ever so close to reigning as the king of his weight class.
Competing at 138 pounds in Champaign last winter, Throne ended up settling for a bronze medal as only a 2-1 quarterfinal setback to eventual state champion Joey Bianchini of Elmhurst IC Catholic kept him from the top of the Class 1A podium.
“The quarterfinal match against Joey Bianchini, I actually was able to take him down. That opened my eyes, and I said, `Wow, I can actually hang with these guys,’” Throne said. “That showed I wasn’t there for the ride, that I was there to wrestle, to end up on the podium.”
Motivated by last season’s state finish, this week’s Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Area Pacesetter looks to ascend to state wrestling’s throne and become the first Rocket to do so since Branden Nimrick in 2005.
Competing now at 145 pounds after starting the season at 152, Throne perhaps gave a sign of things to come last weekend when he picked up his first individual title at the Princeton Invitational Tournament, a rugged event commonly referred to as “mini-state.”
Ranked third as a 152-pounder, Throne came up against fourth-ranked Jack Patting of Alleman in the 145-pound finals at Princeton and battled his way to a 5-3 decision, his 22nd win in 23 matches.
“Getting a title at PIT under my belt is really nice,” said Throne, who also has nine pins and four technical falls this season. “Last year, I ended up getting sick around the time of the tournament, so I didn’t wrestle how I wanted to and ended up getting fifth place after getting third as a freshman.
“This year, I wanted to make sure to stay more healthy, and wrestle up to my potential, instead of regressing. Going into my match with Jack, I knew if I didn’t wrestle up to my potential, I wouldn’t have the outcome I wanted.”
Adding to the challenge for Throne last Saturday was the fact that he and Patting wrestle together as members of the Young Guns club, and that each has a knowledge of the other individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Jack and I are pretty close friends; we talk quite a bit outside of wrestling,” Throne said. “I knew going in he was going to be a tough competitor. Hats off to him, he did a great job. It was a really tough match, and I look forward to more of them in the future.”
Since dropping from 152 to 145 pounds at the Abe’s Rumble meet in Springfield just after Christmas, Throne appears to have found his niche.
“I knew I wanted to go 145; I didn’t think I was as big as I could be at 152 pounds,” said Throne, whose lone loss came to Sterling Newman’s Brody Ivey in the 152-pound finals of the Erie-Prophetstown Holiday Tournament. “At 145, I feel like I’m good to go there.”
Having progressed from a freshman season in which he finished as a regional runner-up at 126 to last year’s success, which included individual titles at Orion’s Bob Mitton Invite as well as the 1A regionals, Throne feels ready to reign supreme come next month.
“Last year’s definitely given me a lot of motivation,” he stated. “Finishing third is not my goal for the year. I want to keep progressing, and hopefully the hard work I’ve put in gets me to the top of the podium in Champaign.”