The flu tried to steal Jon Wallace's moment, but the Hebron junior wasn't about to let it.
"I was wrestling," Wallace said, "no matter what."
Weakened and 10 pounds lighter, Wallace gutted through Saturday's Crown Point Sectional, and his effort did not go unrewarded. After losing his opener, he won his next two matches to reach the consolation round. Despite a loss there, Wallace finished fourth in the 215 weight class -- though he checked in on the scale at about 185 -- to become the Hawks' first regional qualifier.
"I was running on adrenaline," he said. "The whole day, I had a hot dog and a Gatorade. To be the first, it's awesome. I did make history. That's pretty important to me. I hope to set the standard. I want more guys to go to regionals. I want everyone to get to experience this. It's a great feeling."
Hebron coach Todd Adamczyk could not underestimate the importance of advancing a wrestler in the program's first postseason foray.
"This is so huge for us," Adamczyk said. "We talked about having three, four kids who had a good shot, and Jon was first or second. But I don't think the rest of the world expected us to have somebody get through. It wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to show up, get our heads kicked in and go home."
Highlighted by Wallace, the Hawks had four wrestlers place in the top six.
"It's a message, especially to our middle school kids," Adamczyk said. "They were all in the room (Monday) and Jon was working out. I explained to them that he was getting ready to go for the regional. I invited all of them to ride the bus with us."
The berth capped quite a turnaround for Wallace, who actually left the team during the season last year.
"Believe it or not, he was kind of a disappointment," Adamczyk said. "He had some issues and it was affecting him and the rest of the team. We kind of mutually decided he shouldn't be there. He's a different kid (this year). He got his head together, got things worked out. He's grown up a lot."
Hampered by a shoulder injury as a sophomore, Wallace wasn't performing as well as hoped, and just didn't have the drive to stick it out.
"Wrestling was a small priority," he said. "Everyone was so much better than me and it just got to me. This year, I knew I had to make it a big priority. I wanted to do big things, for me and for the team. All around, I'm just a lot better wrestler. I'm 20 times better than last year."
While Wallace isn't a captain, he's an unquestioned presence on the team.
"He's a leader, whether he wants to be or not," Adamczyk said. "He's got the type of personality, he can just walk into a room and take charge."
Ironically, Wallace is now helping teammates deal with the same struggles he went through last season.
"Guys'll say, 'Oh, we suck,'" Wallace said. "I tell them, 'We don't suck. They just have more experience than us.' I'm trying to lead the right way, help guys understand moves."
Wallace (16-16) faces Portage's Vince Fischer, the LaPorte Sectional champion, in the first round of Saturday's LaPorte Regional.
"I'm going all out," Wallace said. "I don't want my season to be over yet. I hope to go to semistate."