CRETE | The last time Crete-Monee High School sent a wrestler to the IHSA state tournament in 2008, both Rasheed Flowers and Austin Rosenfeldt were in middle school and had never put on a singlet.
Flowers and Rosenfeldt were introduced to the sport their freshman year at the high school by Rob Zimmerman, who coached not only their freshman football team but was also the school's wrestling coach. Now juniors, both athletes have qualified for this weekend's Class 2A state tournament in Champaign to close out their first full seasons on the Warriors varsity team.
"Rasheed's drive is what has carried him," Zimmerman said. "And Austin is a big, strong kid who puts the time in in the weight room."
By coincidence, both wrestlers will face opponents named Zach in the first round of Class 2A action on Thursday. In the 170-pound draw, Flowers (18-11) will face Zach Oranger (24-14) of Hampshire, while in the 285-pound weight class, Rosenfeldt (12-2) will square off against Zach Epker (12-2) of Antioch. It will be the first time these wrestlers have faced each other.
"We don't know anything about these wrestlers, and they don't know anything about us, either," Zimmerman said. "I kind of like it that way, being unknown. I think it works to our advantage."
Rosenfeldt qualified for state with a third-place finish at the Lincoln-Way West Sectional last weekend, while Flowers made it with his fourth-place sectional finish. When Flowers started his postseason run at regionals, his record was barely above .500.
"I am extremely excited about going to state," Flowers said. "I feel very accomplished and just want to thank God. Going into the season, I was just hoping to establish myself as a wrestler and win more matches than I lost. I never imagined going this far."
Rosenfeldt decisioned the second-ranked Class 2A 285-pound wrestler from Gage Park for third place at the sectional meet. It was the highlight, to date, of a season that began with nagging back and knee injuries that forced Rosenfeldt to miss two regular-season tournaments. Rosenfeldt said he is healthy now and looking forward to seeing how far he can go in the state draw.
"I wasn't intimidated; I was excited to show people what I could do," Rosenfeldt said of his sectional upset for third place. "Beating him has built up my confidence. Now my goal is to at least place (at state)."
For Zimmerman, Rosenfeldt and Flowers represent only the tip of a rebuilding program. The Warriors had no seniors in the lineup when they began their postseason run.
"We will have a lot to look forward to next season," Zimmerman said.