George Kirgan came into his office soaking in sweat after coaching a hard wrestling practice on Nov. 20 at the practice room.
The Granite City coach was just working out with his wrestlers.
“As you can tell, I’m working hard,” Kirgan said.
Kirgan said his wrestlers also were working hard in practice.
“We’ve been busting our butt,” he said. “I think our guys are going to be in shape.”
The Warriors hope the hard work will pay off this year. Granite City returns several wrestlers from last year’s squad that finished 22-4, had six sectional qualifiers and one state qualifier.
“I’m optimistic about the team,” Kirgan said. “I like the way the room is looking. I think we have some good quality kids who can do some things this year. We’re taking it a day at a time and trying to focus on improving. I’m not looking at the big picture right now. We’re just improving day by day and keep the kids positive and keep them motivated.”
The Warriors have six seniors on their team, two of them qualified for sectionals last year. They are Matt Wylie and Wilyonde Bell. Wylie won a regional championship at 220 and Bell qualified for sectionals for the first time by placing third at 145 in regionals.
Another returning senior is Joe Garcia. A year ago, he came up one place short of qualifying for sectionals as he placed fourth at 170 in regionals.
Kyle Thompson, Brandon Bettag, Austin Padgett, Korinthian Nabors and B.J. Hyde are among the juniors on the team. Thompson finished fourth in regionals at 160 and earned second-team all-Southwestern Conference honors.
Kirgan said he has high hopes of Nabors.
“He had a really good summer,” Kirgan said. “He worked really hard. So I’m looking for big things from him, too. He’s been working with Matt Wylie a lot and he’s making him better.”
Granite City lost several key wrestlers to graduation, including Devon Simpson, who was the Warriors’ lone state qualifier in 2015.
The Warriors have a Southwestern Conference match at O’Fallon on Thursday. Granite City began its league season last week with a victory over East St. Louis.
Last year, the Warriors finished in a three-way tie for second with Belleville West and O’Fallon at 5-2.
“I just think that if we take care of our business, we should win the conference,” Kirgan said. “If we wrestle like we’re capable and if we continue to progress like we’ve been doing, we’re the team to beat and that’s what I want to feel like. That’s what I want the kids to feel like. But I also want them to never be complacent. You’re never too good. There is always somebody out there better.”
The Warriors will compete in the Washington Duals on Saturday at Washington High School. They start their home season on Dec. 10 against Alton and Civic Memorial.
Granite City will compete in the Kansas City Stampede on Dec. 18-19, the Granite City Holiday Wrestling Tournament on Dec. 28-29 and the Geneseo Tournament on Jan. 15-16.