The Granite City Warriors wrestling team will be playing host to the William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament on Monday and Tuesday. Front row (from left): Brandon Bettag, Brendan Davis, Josh Harsh, Chris Santiago, Darrian Fair, John Buckingham, Wilyonde Bell; (second row) Joe Garcia, Kristian Nicard, Jordan Stermer, Austin Padgett, Greg Marti, Jared Skaggs, Kyle Thompson; (third row) Korinthian Nabors, Daniel Hileman, John Hirsch, Andre Weathers, Matt Wylie; (back row) head coach George Kirgan, assistant coach John Venne, volunteer Ernie Miller, volunteer Scott Moss, assistant coach Emanuel Brooks.
For almost 10 years, the Kansas City Stampede has been ranked as one of the top high school wrestling tournaments in the nation.
The Kansas City tournament, which began in 2006, has 40 teams from 11 states. 28 teams that were in this year’s tournament finished in the top four in state competition last year.
“That’s a loaded tournament,” Granite City coach George Kirgan said.
The Warriors finished 11th out of 40 teams with 39.5 points in the Kansas City Stampede Tournament. They had four wrestlers who competed in the championship round.
“It was a good tournament,” Kirgan said. “Every kid who wrestled had four or five matches. Every kid who wrestled had good matches and had some good competition. It’s the toughest tournament we’re in all year. It’s tougher than our state tournament.”
Now, the Warriors are preparing for another tough tournament, which is the 55th annual William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament on Monday and Tuesday at Memorial Gymnasium.
“That will be pretty cool,” Kirgan said. “It won’t be as tough as this Kansas City tournament, but it will be very tough.”
There are 24 teams from four states in this year’s tournament, including newcomers Marist High from Chicago and Harvard. Harvard, which competes in Class 1A, has the second-most wins behind Granite City in the state. Marist finished second in Class 3A two years ago.
“It should be a very good tournament,” Kirgan said.
Last year, the Warriors finished 11th with 324 points in the Granite City tournament. They had two wrestlers place in the top four.
“We didn’t do great,” Kirgan said. “It’s a tough tournament. We’re just trying to improve, so that’s the goal.”
So far, the Warriors are 4-6 in dual matches. They beat Lincoln-Way Central, Mount Zion, Civic Memorial and East St. Louis.
Kirgan said his team lost several wrestlers to injuries, including senior Matt Wylie, who won a regional championship last year. Wylie is out for the year with a torn ACL.
“Our boys are sticking it out and wrestling,” Kirgan said. “We have a young team. If these guys stick it out, they’re going to be tough in the future. I told them all that the toughest part about wrestling is keep coming. Keep coming to practice, keep coming to work. It will be like your job one day. You’re going to have a job and you may not want to go to work every day. But guess what, you’ve got to put food on the table and you’ve got to work.”
Kirgan said he’s pleased with the way senior Wilyonde Bell has been performing. Bell finished fifth in the 138-pound division at the Kansas City Stampede Tourney after pinning Trevor Brown of Christian Brothers in the second period of the fifth-place match.
“He did a really good job,” Kirgan said. “He wrestled really well. I’m very proud of him. He fought through a tough bracket.”
Freshman Mitchell Milsap placed 16th at 106 after losing 8-0 to Alex Valencia of Perry in the 15th-place match, junior Kyle Thompson finished 12th at 182 after losing to Zame Basma of Sand Springs 4-1 in the 11th-place match and junior Korinthian Nabors finished 14th at 285 after losing 8-2 to Brett Bridges of Ponca City in the 13th-place match.
John Buckingham, Nick Zambito Ryan Earney, Brandon Bettag, Brendan Davis, Jared Skaggs, Chase Nelson and John Hirsch also competed in Kansas City for the Warriors.