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SHELBYVILLE — Shelbyville wrestler Luke Brown was running out of time.

At last Saturday's Class 1A Tolono Unity Regional, the 126-pound Rams wrestler was knotted 0-0 with Ben Gavel from Tolono Unity in a semifinal as the clock in the final period was winding down.

Then things went silent. 

"The focus is just insane," Brown said. "People in the stands are screaming and really loud but it is silent in your head because you are so focused. You just want to get the job done.

"The stakes were getting pretty high and the pressure was on because whoever won had a for-sure spot going into sectionals, so I really wanted to win.

With 15 seconds left, Gavel stood up and Brown took him down to the mat.

"The relief just kind of flooded my body right away," Brown said. "Wow." 

Brown's victory at the semifinals and then a 4-2 decision against Joe Lashuay from Fithian Oakwood gave the senior wrestler his first regional championship and a trip to the 1A Carterville Sectional, which begin Friday and finish Saturday. 

"This was actually the first tournament I’ve ever won in high school," Brown said. "I guess I picked a good time to do it."

Shelbyville coach Greg Harkins has seen Brown, the team's captain, grow into an ideal wrestler. 

"When a coach talks about a dream kid, (Luke's) the definition of it," Harkins said. "When a coach talks about a kid who is coachable, a kid that works hard, a kid that listens and a kid that is respectful, he’s all of the above."

Brown (27-11) has made the trip to sectionals before, qualifying his sophomore and junior year, but Harkins said he sees a little more fire in his eyes this season as he searches for his first trip to state. 

"Luke is hungry for state," Harkins said. "When I talk to our future wrestlers, he is a prime example that I bring up. He came in at 95 pounds as a freshman and we kept preaching to keep hitting the weights and working hard in here and he has done that and now he is in a great position to be a state qualifier."

Brown, a self-described "math geek" and Eagle Scout, said he relishes the leadership role. 

"Last fall I also ran cross country and I was team captain and I think that really helped me get ready for the responsibilities I was going to have here, which is to always work as hard as you can and be a role model for the other wrestlers," he said. 

Joining Brown at the Carterville Sectional will be teammate Preston Quick (13-2), a sophomore who finished in third place at 106 pounds at regionals. 

Similar to Brown, Quick started wrestling far below the 106-pound weight class and has shown tremendous improvement. 

"Last year he was 94 pounds wrestling at 106 so he spent a lot of time in the weight room and that has been his focus," Harkins said. "Since wrestling ended last year he has put on 10 pounds of muscle and that made a huge difference. He went from knowing all the moves and being fine technically but was getting out-muscled. Now he’s a true 106-pounder and he’s got the technique."

Quick's performance in the third-place match, a 9-3 decision against Monticello's Eli Bailey, showed his determination. 

"I tried to get through to the third period and we were going at it and it was a points game and I think I wanted it a little more," Quick said. "It feels awesome to make it to sectionals and I surprised myself a little bit."

Cheering both Quick and Brown at sectionals will be their senior teammate Cade Helton, who last year qualified for the state tournament at 152 pounds. 

Helton broke his foot during the football season and had been unable to practice for most of the year with a hope of returning to action at regionals. 

"At regionals I tried to go and I got in on a couple shots but I couldn’t finish. I couldn’t stand up with my foot," he said. " I’m disappointed about it but I am happy for Luke and I hope he can make a big run.

"Luke is a very methodical wrestler. He thinks everything out before he does it. He’s very smart about what he does and he doesn’t put himself in a bad position."

Helton as become a student-coach for the Rams, helping the squad prepare. 

"I'm cheering them on; giving them tips. I plan to go and watch and help them get ready (at sectionals). Luke and I have wrestled forever and I would love to see him go to state with Preston," Helton said. 

Brown said he's eager to make the most of his last chance as state. 

"I think (being a senior) adds to my motivation in that everything you do is your last time so you should make it your best," he said. "I think I’ve got a very good chance at sectionals. I got a very good draw — on my side of the bracket the wrestlers who are around me I’ve beaten before. That’s a confidence booster, but at the same time I know it’s going to be hard and nothing is guaranteed."

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Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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