Less than a month ago, Bulls grapplers Bryce Griffin of Bethalto and Abe Wojcikiewicz of Alton were immersed in training for the IKWF State Championship, Novice Division. Griffin finished fourth at the sectional tournament, narrowly missing qualifying for IKWF State. Wojcikiewicz won the sectional and one match at the IKWF State tournament before bowing out.
Both Griffin and Wojcikiewicz, 10, were still eligible to compete in the Intermediate (9- to 10-year-olds) but bumped up to Novice to face the tougher competition and a chance to wrestle at IKWF State in Rockford. That decision paid huge dividends this past weekend.
The Bulls sent four wrestlers to the Midget State Championships in Danville, Ill., on March 19-20. This is the final IKWF tournament this season and is specifically set up for wrestlers age 9-10. This year’s tournament played host to 583 wrestlers. On his way to the Midget state title, Griffin won a 10-2 major decision, a 5-0 decision and a 5-2 decision setting up his finals match. In the championship, Griffin trailed most of the three periods, but forced overtime with an escape in the waning seconds. In the overtime period, Griffin wasted no time getting a quick takedown, securing a 4-2 sudden victory win and his first state championship.
In speaking on Griffin’s title run, Jeremy Christeson, who coached the finals match with Griffin’s father, Ryan Griffin, said he considered it an honor and privilege to coach the championship match with his longtime friend and former Bull teammate. Ryan Griffin came back to the Bulls following a nearly 20-year absence when Bryce Griffin began wrestling six years ago. Both Ryan Griffin and Jeremy Christeson wrestled for the Bulls in the 1980s.
For Wojcikiewicz, the third-place finish was bittersweet. Expected to compete for the championship, Wojcikiewicz lost a tough overtime decision in the quarterfinals. Even so, Wojcikiewicz battled back and won his next three matches to secure his medal.
Coach Griffin commented he was impressed with Wojcikiewicz’s mental toughness. After placing third, Wojcikiewicz had to watch a wrestler he beat earlier this year win the state championship at 101 pounds. Coach Griffin said Wojcikiewicz is the type of wrestler that will use this experience as motivation to be even better next year.
Zeke Rhodes, 10, of Staunton, and Kale Patterson, 9, of Bethalto, also wrestled for the Bulls but fell short of the medal rounds. Rhodes won a match in the 70-pound bracket but did not survive wrestlebacks. Patterson lost his opening match to the eventual champion at 64 pounds before being eliminated. Coach Ryan Griffin said of Rhodes and Patterson: “Both wrestled great all year and I expects great things from both next year. Both work hard in the practice room and I fully expect to see both kids in the wrestling room this off-season.”
The club boasts 24 Illinois state champions, 50 state placers, 17 national champions, 60 national place winners and 23 All-Americans and has been around since the 1970s. Many former Bulls wrestlers have gone on to obtain college scholarships.
For information, visit the club’s Facebook page or website at www.bethaltobullswrestling.com. Likewise, you can contact Coach Jeremy Christeson at (618) 779-3296 or Coach Steve Bryant at (618) 973-5168. The program is available for children age 4 to 14 of all skill levels.