“You know that phrase, ‘What happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object?’” Litchfield assistant wrestling coach Coy Davidson said after the 152-pound championship match at the IWCOA Boys Open State Championships on June 24. “Will Carlile is both.”
That’s high praise from Davidson, who heads up the Panther wrestling program with another LHS legend, older brother Chance, but it’s also an accurate description of the most decorated wrestler and one of the greatest athletes in the history of Litchfield High School.
After becoming the first wrestler to win a state championship for the Panthers in its 51-year history, Carlile wasted little time in giving Litchfield it’s second champion as he went 4-0 at the IWCOA Boys Open State Championships in Springfield on Thursday, June 24, to win the 152-pound state title.
“It’s awesome. We work hard in the wrestling room and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and my coaches,” said the elated Carlile after his 3-0 win over Connor Huston of Coal City in the championship match.
While Carlile’s match in the championship was close on paper, it rarely felt in doubt during the three two-minute periods. Carlile scored first with a takedown a minute and 19 seconds into the match, then added a third point with an escape in the second period after starting the period on the bottom. With a 3-0 deficit, nothing Huston did to try and even things up worked as Carlile stuffed shot after shot before raising his arms and flashing a pair of twos with his index and middle fingers in celebration of his back-to-back titles.
“He was absolutely expecting to win. There was no doubt in his mind, the entire year really,” Chance Davidson said about Carlile’s confidence throughout the day. “At the state tournament, both years, he had one goal in mind and stuck to it the entire time. He wouldn’t let himself fail.”
He was right to be confident. His closest match before the final was a 5-3 win over fifth ranked Kaden Gream of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher.
“To me, the first match is always the hardest because you’ve got to get into your groove. You’re a little more nervous,” Carlile said.
Any nerves he had were quickly shaken off though, as he took a 4-1 lead in the first before Gream got a late point on an escape.
Another escape by the GCMSF senior cut the lead to one, but Carlile nearly scored a takedown at the buzzer and earned an escape of his own in the third to sew up the win.
His new two matches were less dramatic as he pinned seventh ranked Noah Schnerre of Orion with 20 seconds left in the first, followed by a 9-1 bullrush of tenth ranked Jake Sinclair of PORTA, with Sinclair’s only point coming on a stalling call in the final seconds.
The whole day seemed destined to end with Carlile and Huston squaring off in the finals on the same floor second ranked Coal City senior beat his Litchfield counterpart their freshman year at Abe’s Rumble (“Oh he did didn’t he! He gave me a bloody nose,” Carlile said when reminded that he had faced Huston before).
This time though, there was no doubt that the day belonged to Carlile, who not only battled through a late start due to COVID, but also fatigue from competing in the pole vault, where he finished seventh in state just a week before his triumph in Springfield.
“This one was a little bit harder because of COVID, because I didn’t have as much time to train, but we still got it done,” Carlile said of the challenges of 2021.
All of the hard work landed Carlile not only a second straight title, but a place atop the proverbial mountain of Litchfield High School wrestling according to his coaches.
“Will won last year and this year. Litchfield’s only got two state champs,” Chance Davidson said.
“You can’t beat math. Math doesn’t lie,” Coy Davidson added.
The win also means a lot to the Litchfield wrestling program as a whole, who wrestled most of the year with just seven or eight competitors filling the 14 weight classes. The Davidsons are hopeful that the success of Carlile and classmate Carter Powell, who finished fifth at state will help add numbers to Litchfield’s kids wrestling program, but only time will tell.
“To the wrestling environment in Litchfield, it’s huge, but wether or not it will build in the community is yet to be determined,” said Chance Davidson, whose team finished 12th out of 82 teams in the final state standings. “We had a hard time with it last year because of the virus, but hopefully great things are to come.”
And while Carlile’s time at LHS is complete, he is still determining whether he will continue his wrestling career beyond Thursday’s state final.
“I don’t know if I’m going to wrestle or not. We’ll have to wait and see,” said Carlile, who will be attending Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville next year and has talked with the Cougars’ coaching staff. “But if this is my last match, I can’t picture a better way to go out.”
Will Carlile (26-1)
152 Pounds: def. Kaden Gream (GCMSF) by dec. 5-3; def. Noah Schnerre (Orion) by fall at 1:40; def. Jake Sinclair (PORTA) by maj. dec. 9-1; def. Connor Huston (Coal City) by dec. 3-0 to place first.