AdVantage News | Caleb Motsinger
Alton’s Darian Pierson wrestles at Edwardsville on January 16.
Wrestling is not only a team sport, it’s an individual sport. The six wrestling teams AdVantage News covers have passed the halfway point of their season and are gearing for regionals.
We plan to pay individual attention to each of these teams throughout the rest of their seasons. And though the schools vary in sizes and team records, all of them have athletes that have done well this year.
East Alton-Wood River
Coach Dave Sobol said nearly every area school this year has wrestlers who could qualify for the state championships.
“Southern Illinois has a rich wrestling tradition,” he said, “3A Schools like Belleville East and West, Alton High and Edwardsville usually always send someone to state, but we have a pretty good mix of 2A schools too.”
But the Oilers, along with Roxana and Marquette, are 1A and don’t have the numbers many neighboring schools do.
“We haven’t won any tournaments this year because we’re usually up against schools twice as big as we are,” he said.
The Oilers have only five wrestlers on the team this year; but Sobol said they do pretty well against schools their size. However, he said the future looks bright for EA-WR; with 14 eighth-graders set to join the team next year and two freshmen that have each had a successful inaugural season.
Freshmen Zach Blasioli was named the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrestler of the week Jan. 13. He is 24-5 this season alongside freshman Drew Sobol, who wrestles in the 106-pound class. He’s 22-4 this season, with both of their losses coming from 2A and 3A schools.
Mike Hall, a senior, junior Ray Widdows, Darian Maclamore, a sophomore, and freshman Jon Wright round out this year’s roster.
“Things are looking up,” Sobol said. “I have a lot of good eighth graders coming in, so if we keep grinding there should be a light at the end of the tunnel.”
EA-WR’s regionals will be at Mt. Olive, along with Roxana, Marquette and Belleville-Althoff.
Alton High School
Coach Eric Roberson has had a lot of canceled meets this year due to snow.
But the Redbirds are 9-3 so far this season in Southwest Conference; going up against powerhouse schools like Granite City and Edwardsville. Roberson said Alton’s goal is to finish in the upper half of their conference.
“Of course we’d like to win though,” he said.
The Redbirds finished first in the Mascoutah Tourney and first in the Geneva Tournament. They came in second at the Batavia Tournament and fourth at the Granite City Tournament Jan. 13-14.
Their regionals are in Granite City this year and Connor Broyles, a sophomore at 113, T.J. Gallion at 132 and Phillip DeLoach, a junior at 138.
“We’re a strong tournament team,” Roberson said. “And we’ve just got two seniors in starting line up.”
Nicholas DeLoach, Phyllip’s twin brother at 145 and Qiante Wagner, at 152, have put together some solid matches this year as well. Coach Roberson also mentioned 170-pound senior Quinten Lawerence and junior heavyweight Damien Pearson as guys who could do well in their regionals.
“Everyone is doing well and pulling their weight,” Roberson said. “ We have about five meets before regionals and my guys are working hard and I’m excited to see how they will do.”
Marquette closed the wrestling program down in 2000, it started back two years ago.
“Last year we started fresh, and this year we only had four guys come out initially,” coach David Elliot said. “We lost a guy earlier this season to an injury and now we’re down to three.”
The Explorers will head to Mt. Olive for their regionals with two freshmen, Deyton Mitchell and Marshal Youngblood and Jacob Loftus, a sophomore.
“We have one kid who transferred this year but he had to sit out due to IHSA rules and we’ll have him next year, but all three kids are going to be back; they’re all underclassman.”
Elliot said being shorthanded this year makes it hard for them to dual other teams, but it hasn’t stopped them from getting in tournaments and getting every match they can.
“We went to the Bethalto Tournament at the beginning of the year, then we went to Mt. Olive and we’ll be going to Rochester this weekend,” he said. “The Prairie State Conference Tournament was canceled for Feb. 5 with Wood River, Mt. Olive and Metro-East Lutheran, but Metro-East canceled their program, and we are trying to fill that spot.
Coach Allen Snyder is in his fifth year at the helm of the Panther’s wrestling program. He said he usually has about 40 kids come out, but like many smaller schools in the area enrollment is down and teams are smaller.
“We lost a lot of talent from last years team but my guys have been working hard all season to rebuild,” he said. “We are headed into a tough regional as a team, but individually we have some who should stand out.”
He pointed to returning state qualifier Brandon Critchfield, at 120, saying he was looking to make a repeat. And because of underclassmen like Critchfield, Dylan Torrey, Jordan McQuaid, and Nick Howell, Snyder said, the future of Panther wrestling looks bright.
Their 2A regionals at Mascoutah pit them against Triad, Civic Memorial, Cahokia, Highland, Waterloo and East St. Louis. And though they are low in numbers compared to others in their regionals, Snyder believes their individual talent may take them far.
But down the river at Roxana, things are looking good for the Shells as they head into the post season.
Coach Rob Milazzo said they are ranked 12th in the State in Class A, with three kids in particular doing very well this season heading into their regional at Mt. Olive.
He pointed to Jeremy O’Gara, a 113-pound senior, Jarod Foiles, a 120-pound sophomore and Dalton Brito, a junior at 126, as possibly making a run at State. Milazzo said O’Gara is the fourth-ranked 2A wrestler in his weight class, Rito is ranked eighth and Foiles is honorable mention.
“This is a great 2A program with 60 kids in it doing pretty well,” Milazzo said. “Our big rivals going into the post season are Litchfield and Vandalia. We also wrestle most of the Southwest Conference against bigger schools like Granite City, Belleville East and West, O’Fallon, Alton and Collinsville.”
And when talking about how they match up with bigger schools, Milazzo said the Panthers do pretty well.
“There is a big difference between class A and 3A,” he said, “We do OK against them, but after switching to Class A competition a few years back we got pretty competitive.”
Milazzo is in his ninth year with the Shells. He carries on the coaching tradition of his father, Larry Milazzo, who coached at Roxana for thirty years before him.
The Eagles are heading to Mascoutah Feb. 1 to face-off against Mississippi Valley Conference schools Jerseyville, Triad, Mascoutah, Waterloo and Highland.
They will be heading back to Mascoutah for regionals and to Chatham Glenwood for sectionals. Coach Chad Young has been at the helm of the coaching staff for six years, but with the program for fourteen.
He said his team has won about half of their matches this year, with Gage Overton, a 145-pound senior, returning as a State qualifier from last year’s team.
Young said Brayton Williams, a 152-pound junior, Drake Boverie, a 126-pound sophomore and Christian Schaub, at 113, a junior, all placed in regionals and went to sectionals last year and are looking to return.