GODFREY — The Alton Redbirds welcomed the Edwardsville Tigers and Althoff Crusaders to the AHS mat on Thursday and came away with a split.
Unfortunately it was the one they lost that hurt the most.
Alton defeated Althoff 48-18, but lost to Edwardsville 32-21. The Birds are now 12-2 overall on the season and 3-2 in the rugged Southwestern Conference.
Entering Thursday in a four-way tie atop the SWC, Alton was looking for a shot at its first ever conference crown. That goal will have to wait.
EHS was arguably the biggest obstacle remaining between the Redbirds and that goal. The Tigers are 11-5 and 4-1 in the SWC following the triumph, standing a win ahead of Alton and tied with Belleville West and Granite City.
“Edwardsville's a good team, hats off to them,” AHS head coach Eric Roberson said. “They're a good team and of course I knew they were. I have a lot of respect for them, I just hate losing to them.”
EHS head coach Jon Wagner has a lot of respect for the SWC rival Redbirds, too. He knows how hard they work and how much talent they possess.
“They've been working with those guys real hard and we see (Alton) all summer long during training,” Wagner said. “They've got a great coaching staff with coach Roberson. They've got those kids working hard. Somebody won tonight, but it wasn't because the other team wasn't working hard. I really respect what they've got going on.”
It was a grueling test for both squads from the beginning.
The dual started at 152 pounds, where Alton's Nicholas DeLoach, ranked seventh in the state, pulled out a 7-2 decision over James Zeigler of Edwardsville.
It set up a showdown at 160 between Qiant'e Wagner of the Redbirds, ranked No. 4, and EHS' Chris Prosser, an honorable mention in the state. Back and forth early, Prosser was able to snag a lead and hold on for a 9-7 win, handing Wagner just his second loss on the season.
“Last year they split and they both went to state last year, so they're both good kids,” Roberson said of Prosser and Wagner. “They'll meet again, maybe a couple of times.”
The Redbirds and Tigers split the next two bouts. Cameron Cauley defeated Cyress Ahart of EHS 7-4 at 170 and then Alton's KeOntay Holmes fell 11-7 to James Waters at 182, leaving the team score knotted at 6-6.
An 8-0 major decision by Cameron Blair of Edwardsville over Keondrick Russell made it 10-6, but the Birds were able to nab wins at 220 and 285 to close out the first half of the dual with a 15-10 lead.
Alton's Alecquan Russell beat Nathan Crone 5-2 at 220 and Darian Pierson, an honorable mention in the state for AHS, pinned Bobby Burnside in 2:45 at heavyweight.
“That kept us in the dual,” Roberson said. “We were in it all the way. Darian Pierson had a nice pin at heavy and 220, great win there. Those were good, but we didn't win those key matchups like Prosser at 160.”
Edwardsville bounced back with a couple of tech falls to kick start the second half of the dual at 106 and 113, leading up to another anticipated match at 120 pounds. Alton's Connor Broyles and EHS' Tanner Ambry are both honorable mentions in the state.
Ambry owned a 1-0 lead late in the match, but Broyles scored an escape point in the waning seconds to knot it at 1-1. As time expired and it looked like it was headed to overtime though, Broyles was tagged with a penalty point for pushing Ambry at the edge of the mat going out of bounds, giving Ambry a 2-1 win and Edwardsville a 23-15 edge in the team scoring.
“We got one there at 120, not the way we like to win matches,” Wagner said. “I would have much rather rode him the last two seconds and just called it 1-0. I don't call the points. We don't want to win it like that, but I think we still did enough in the match and enough in the dual to win the dual meet.”
Roberson added, “120, that was a tough match. That call at the end, unsportsmanlike for pushing him out at the edge of the mat. That may have happened, but I don't think it was flagrant and for that ref to make that call at that particular time after we tied it up, I just think that's an unusual call to make and I certainly wasn't happy about it.”
AHS recovered with Tim McCarvey logging a nice 10-5 win over Devon Yancey at 126. It cut it to 23-18, but the Redbirds had to forfeit at 132, allowing the Tigers to go up 29-18.
Rafael Ronan's 3-0 win over Alejandro Lopez at 138 then sealed the deal for Edwardsville, making a big match between No. 4 rated Phyllip DeLoach and honorable mention Gavin McBride of EHS at 145 void. DeLoach prevailed 7-2 to complete the dual with the final score of 32-21.
Against Althoff, the Redbirds trailed 18-12 following the first half of that dual. They turned around and blanked the Crusaders 36-0 in the second stint of matches to win 48-18.
Edwardsville bested Althoff 49-25.
Now Alton gets right back on the mat, heading to the Batavia Invite on Friday and Saturday for more tough tests in the circle.
“We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves, we've got to get right back at it tomorrow,” Roberson said. “We've got to go to Chicago tomorrow and wrestle in a tournament and there's no time to think about this.”