Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton senior wrestler Nicholas DeLoach rides Whitfield’s Sky Darrah in the title bout at 152 pounds on Dec. 30 at the 54th annual William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament in Granite City. DeLoach won the title with a 13-5 decision and helped lead the Redbirds to a fourth-place team finish.
If the Alton Redbirds can close out the 2015 portion of the season like they started it in 2014, they won’t have much to complain about.
Alton secured the team title at the Mascoutah Invitational for the second year in a row on Dec. 20 and then nabbed fourth at the grueling William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament in Granite City on Dec. 30.
By press time this week, the most glaring blemish on the AHS docket so far was a tight 32-28 loss to Granite City at home early in the season. The Redbirds did battle Southwestern Conference leader Belleville West on Thursday at home following press time as well as having a quadrangular at Parkway South on Wednesday. AHS had one SWC loss entering the dual with the Maroons.
Following the William “Red” Schmitt Tournament, head coach Eric Roberson was stoked about how his team was performing on the mat, but he knows the first part of 2015 will test his squad.
Besides Wednesday’s trip to Parkway South, Thursday’s dual with West, Alton takes a trip to the Geneva Invite on Saturday, battles SWC rival Edwardsville next Thursday at home and heads to the Batavia Invite on Jan. 17.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Roberson said at GCHS. “We’ve got Belleville West, Parkway South, go to the Geneva Tournament next weekend. I’m just thinking, ‘What’s next?’”
And while Roberson thought the tournament in Granite City was a good barometer for what’s ahead, he tempered his excitement because of the major challenges ahead.
“I think it is, but we haven’t seen Edwardsville this year in a tournament or a dual, or West in a tournament or dual,” he said. “We’ve got some quality teams coming our way and we need to make sure we stay focused. Our season is not the Granite City tournament or the Mascoutah tournament, so we need to make sure we keep our goals in mind for the season. To me that’s conference, regionals, postseason, but this will definitely help, I think.”
The Redbirds are an honorable mention on www.illinoismatmen.com, just outside the top 25 in Class 3A with Edwardsville, owning the 25th spot and West sliding in at No. 23.
Alton does have three wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the state and two more earning honorable mentions.
Phyllip DeLoach is slated the No. 3 wrestler in Illinois at 145 pounds, Nicholas DeLoach is ranked No. 7 at 152 pounds and Q’iante Wagner rates No. 4 at 160 pounds. Connor Broyles is an honorable mention at 120 pounds, while heavyweight Darian Pierson also owns the honorable mention distinction.
The DeLoach twins and Wagner won championships in Granite City, with Wagner earning Outstanding Wrestler honors. The DeLoach boys and Broyles were champs in Mascoutah.
“We’re always trying to push each other in the practice room so we can win together, really,” Wagner said.
There are plenty of other AHS grapplers making pushes at strong seasons in ‘14-15, too. Christian Everage (132) medaled in Mascoutah, Alejandro Lopez (138) medaled in Mascoutah and took sixth in Granite City, Keontay Holmes (182) was third in Mascoutah and Granite City, Dylan Sims (113) was fourth in Mascoutah, Tim McCarvey (126) was seventh in Mascoutah and Cameron Cauley (170) was eighth in Granite City. Broyles was fifth at GCHS, while Pierson was third in Mascoutah and sixth in Granite City and Wagner was second in Mascoutah.
“(Holmes) only lost in the semi (at Granite City) on a controversial call, so he was just an eyelash from being in the finals,” Roberson said. “We had (Cauley) at 170 that placed eighth. Eleven of our 14 were scoring points for us in the second day (at Granite City), so I’m pretty pleased.”
But in the end, Alton’s conference hopes, postseason hopes and state medal hopes will land squarely on the shoulders of its three ranked senior leaders. The DeLoach twins and Wagner all qualified for state last season, but failed to medal. The trio looks to build on those experiences this year individually and to help gain success for the team.
“We’ve patented the phrase champions come in threes, because it’s always champions come in pairs and we’ve worked so hard in the room, all three of us,” Nicholas DeLoach said. “It’s a constant battle. When you step in the room, it’s nothing but work. We stop at nothing and all three of us always work hard, no matter what day it is, no matter what we do. We always put in hard work.”