GRANITE CITY — For the second year in a row the Alton Redbirds earned a fourth place finish at the Williams “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament in Granite City.
Phyllip DeLoach (145), Nicholas DeLoach (152) and Q'iante Wagner (160) all earned individual titles to pace the Redbirds. Wagner put the cherry on top earning the Outstanding Wrestler award for the tournament. Overall eight Alton wrestlers corralled top 10 finishes in the tourney.
Defending Missouri Class 3 champion Neosho (641) nabbed the team title, with Washington (589) and Plainfield South (493) also finishing ahead of Alton (476).
“Overall a pretty good team effort,” AHS head coach Eric Roberson said. “Fourth place at this tournament, I'm pretty proud of our kids. Two days of wrestling, lots of matches, great competition — that's why we come to this tournament.”
Great competition is what epitomized Wagner's championship match at 160 pounds. He battled Washington's Randy Meneweather, the same opponent he beat for his title at 152 pounds in the 2013 Schmitt Tourney. After that loss to Wagner a year ago, Meneweather went on to a Class 2A IHSA state championship at 152.
This season, Meneweather is ranked No. 1 in the state at 160 in Class 2A. He was 22-2 entering his match with Wagner on Tuesday and had won via pin in 33 seconds and 57 seconds in his first two matches in the tournament.
A grueling battle of strength between Wagner and Meneweather through three periods came to a head in the waning seconds when Wagner locked his fingers and held on for dear life, not allowing Meneweather an escape point. Wagner took him back to the mat and ultimately won the match 2-1.
“That was a heart racing match right there,” Wagner said. “I had to keep pushing, keep it going like I did last year. I just wanted to come out here and show my team I'm as good as they are. I just came out and pulled out a win. You might have thought my grip was strong, but his grip was probably two, three times as strong as mine. All I was thinking about was keep moving him and keep him under my control.”
The performance ultimately earned Wagner Outstanding Wrestler honors, something Roberson thought his senior deserved.
“I had a couple coaches that are friends of mine come up to me and say, 'He's getting outstanding wrestler after that win,'” Roberson said. “I guess if you beat a state champ...Meneweather had pins throughout the tournament, so I think Q'iante is very deserving of the outstanding wrestler.”
Wagner added, “This feels great to win outstanding wrestler. I've never actually won outstanding wrestler. I've never actually come close, so this feels good to have something dedicated to me really.”
As for the other Alton champs, the DeLoach twins, it was extra sweet for them both winning titles this year. A year ago Nicholas was injured, so Phyllip said it was more gratifying to win it with his brother.
Phyllip bested Mount Zion's Jake Eckenrod 4-2 to earn his title.
“I worked really hard for this. I knew this tournament was coming up and it's something I work for,” Phyllip said. “I won it last year, so I'm a two-time champion of this tournament.
“But if I win and my brother doesn't...it's a brother thing, we both want to win and it's a healthy competition we have with each other.”
Nicholas being back from injury to compete in Granite City this year was gratifying enough, but winning his title with a commanding 13-5 victory over Whitfield's Sky Darrah provided the exclamation point.
“I was on injury last year so I just came back so much more hungry,” Nicholas said. “This year I had to come back and get it done and I won this tournament for the first time ever.”
He added that after watching Phyllip it drove him to win, too.
“Absolutely, we do everything together,” Nicholas said. “We just work together so well and I knew we had to do it together. It just made everything much more complete.”
Joining the trio of champs with good tournaments were: Connor Broyles, fifth at 120, Alejandro Lopez, sixth at 138, Cameron Cauley, eighth at 170, Keontay Holmes, third at 182 and Darian Pierson, sixth at 285.
Roberson was especially pleased with the sophomore Holmes, who is improving immensely with every match this season.
“(Holmes) only lost in the semis on what I call a controversial or questionable call,” Roberson said. “He was just an eyelash from being in the finals.
“We also had another sophomore (Cauley) at 170 that finished eighth. We had eight guys in the top bracket and three more in the middle bracket so 11 of our guys were scoring points for us throughout the second day, so I'm pretty pleased.”