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The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: Feb. 15, 2024

Feb. 15—Sports Editor Matt Daniels with a look at what's going on around the area:

Three reasons we love sports today

➜ 1. Go ahead and pick an IHSA state finals destination that has more staying power than wrestling and Champaign. You can't. The home to the state finals since 1973 is back for another three-day showcase from Thursday through Saturday.

➜ Two future Illini will vie for their third straight state titles. Anthony Ruzic, a senior from Auburn, has a 42-1 record at 126 pounds in Class 1A. And Jayden Colon, a senior from St. Charles East, has a 37-5 record at 144 pounds in Class 3A.

➜ 3. How cool is it that girls' flag football will become an IHSA state series this year? So cool. More than 100 schools are already signed up, with Wednesday's announcement at Halas Hall signifying state finals will take place Oct. 11-12.

Numbers game: 79

Area wrestlers, since 1973, who have left Champaign with wrestling state titles. The school with the most in that time span? Mahomet-Seymour. The Bulldogs have had 30 state champions in the last half-century, with current SIUE baseball player Mateo Casillas the most recent one after winning one at 195 pounds in Class 2A last February. Closer to C-U, Centennial, Champaign Central and Urbana have a combined 10 state titles in the last 50 years.

Crowd control

Three events I'm paying attention to

➜ 1. Mt. Zion at Champaign Central girls' basketball. The Class 3A regional title game at Combes Gym tips off at 6 p.m. Thursday, with the fourth-seeded Maroons (13-17) trying to upset the top-seeded Braves (19-12) and deliver Central its first regional title since 2010.

➜ 2. St. Thomas More vs. Watseka girls' basketball. The Class 2A regional title game at Wilcox Gym in Bismarck tips at 7 p.m. Thursday between top-seeded Watseka (25-4) and fourth-seeded STM (13-15).

➜ 3. Tri-County vs. Tuscola girls' basketball. The Class 1A regional title game in Bethany tips at 6 p.m. Thursday as top-seeded Tuscola (27-2) tries to win its third straight regional championship.

Coach's corner

Three questions with Mahomet-Seymour wrestling coach Rob Ledin, a four-time N-G Coach of the Year who helped the Bulldogs win their 10th straight regional title this month and will have two wrestlers — Justus Vrona at 126 pounds and Gage Decker at 157 pounds — competing in the Class 2A state finals in Champaign today:

➜ 1. My favorite sports teams are ... the Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox.

➜ 2. Three coaches I'd like to have dinner with are ... Mark Johnson, Cael Sanderson and Nick Saban.

➜ 3. My biggest pet peeve is ... not giving your best effort.