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Zerban greeted back in Bethalto on March 13 at Trimpe Middle School by Bulls teammates.
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Zerban poses with family and coaches following his win.
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Bulls state qualifiers and Bulls teammates cheer them on.
Prior to Saturday, Vinny Zerban of the Bethalto Bulls Wrestling Club had twice walked the parade of finalists at the Illinois Kids Federation State Tournament and twice he came up just short, finishing second place.
On Saturday, Zerban righted himself and capped a post-season run by winning first place in the senior 89-pound bracket during the 46th annual IKWF State Tournament at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.
Zerban had a bye in the preliminary round before winning by pin in 4:02 in the first round. Zerban then won 12-0 in the quarterfinal and 6-2 in the semifinal, setting up his third straight finals match. Unlike in previous seasons, Zerban dominated the finals match from start to finish, besting his opponent 5-0 on the way to picking up the state championship. In winning the championship, Zerban bested the top 24 wrestlers in Illinois at 89 pounds.
The Bulls sent 10 wrestlers to the state tournament, with Zerban leaving as its lone medalist. Caleb Tyus, Caine Tyus, Peyton Bechtold and Brady Christeson all posted wins in the preliminary round but failed to advance any further. Abe Wojcikiewicz and Dillion Dublo both won in their first round match after receiving a bye in the preliminary round but both lost subsequent matches and were eliminated.
Zerban joins a prestigious list of former Bulls champions, a list that includes his uncle, Bulls coach Steven Bryant, among other greats. Zerban became the 16th Bull wrestler to win the championship at the IKWF state finals. The number of Illinois state champions swells to 23 when you include Bantam and Midget champions.
Zerban, 13, is eligible to wrestle in the IKWF tournament next year. Next season, Zerban will have an opportunity include himself among the best of the best when it comes to Bulls wrestling. Dating back to the 1970s, only two Bulls have been two-time IKWF champions. One is Jason Christeson, brother of Bulls coach Jeremy Christeson. The other is Steve Bryant.
The Bulls finished 29th out of 175 teams at the IKWF state finals. All of the Bulls wrestlers competing this weekend will have an opportunity to return next year with the exception of Brady Christeson. With Zerban set to take a run at being only the third to Bull to repeat as state champion and the supporting cast that should surround him next season, the future looks bright.
The club, first established in the 1970s, boasts 23 Illinois state champions, 49 state placers, 17 national champions, 60 national place winners and 23 All-Americans. Many former Bulls wrestlers have gone on to obtain college scholarships.
For more information, visit the club 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.
Off-season training is starting soon so sign up now and be a part of the Bethalto Bulls Wrestling Club.
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Mkenzie Staggs displays her fourth-place medal at Girls State.
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Abigail Rhodes stands on the podium after her third-place finish at girls' state.
Bulls place two at girls’ state championship
Capping off an astonishing weekend for the Bethalto Bulls Wrestling Club, Abigail Rhodes and Mkenzie Staggs placed third and fourth, respectively, at the Illinois Girls Folkstyle State Championship at East Aurora High School in Aurora.
Rhodes lost her first match to the eventual state champion and then reeled off three straight wins on her way to her third-place finish. Staggs also lost only to the champion and in a heartbreaker 9-6 in the third-place match.
Both Rhodes and Staggs prepared for this moment by competing in open tournaments throughout the season. That meant they often would have to compete with some of the top boys in their weight class in Illinois. Coach Wilson Rawlings said of his wrestlers, “Never once did either girl complain about who they had to wrestle. They wrestled the toughest competition they could find. Both girls won numerous matches against boys this year and their preparation and dedication to the sport of wrestling is why both are now state placers.” Coach Rawlings was joined at Girls State by Coach Steve Bryant, who added that both wrestlers were a joy to be around all year.
Rhodes is in sixth grade and Staggs is in seventh grade, meaning both girls have two more years to add their name to the list of Bulls state champions.