Photo by Bill Roseberry
Entering Wednesday the Alton wrestling team was 7-1 and 2-0 in the Southwestern Conference. Here they are during a 33-23 win over Granite City on Dec. 10, the first win for the AHS program over the Warriors since 1938.
The Alton Redbird wrestling program is coming off one of its best seasons in program history.
AHS tied a school record in dual wins with 20 in ‘14-15 and set the benchmark in individual state qualifiers with four. Phyllip and Nicholas DeLoach went on to fourth-place finishes at state, the first time Alton had multiple medalists in the same season.
Now the DeLoach twins, along with state qualifiers Qian’te Wagner and Darian Pierson, have graduated. The DeLoach boys are at Mizzou, while Wagner is wrestling at McKendree University.
So on paper 2015-16 looks to be a rebuilding campaign, but not so fast. After the Birds secured a 33-23 victory over Southwestern Conference rival Granite City on Dec. 10, they were perched at 7-1 overall and 2-0 on the league slate. It was their first win over the Warriors since 1938, a signature triumph for the youthful grapplers.
Their only loss entering Wednesday was to Moline, ranked 14th in the Class 3A state rankings.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that even though we’ve lost people, we’re still making history and getting our wins,” senior Alejandro Lopez (145) said.
“Coming off losing five seniors and two people quitting last year, so we lost seven out of our starting lineup and having these guys fill in (is great). We’ve already lost two this year, one that’s kind of in trouble, and having kids step up from junior varsity and get some wins, it’s great.”
Head coach Eric Roberson, pointed to the Granite City match as a positive showing for some young Redbirds who stepped to the plate.
“We had a lot of kids in this dual who were not in last year’s dual,” Roberson said. “We had new faces in there. Alecquan Russell, my starting 220, he was out of the lineup. He’s just not in the lineup right now and it was nice to see some new faces be a part of this.
“We certainly miss those guys (from last year), they accounted for a lot of wins, but it’s time for some new kids to step up.”
Senior Connor Broyles, ranked No. 11 at 138 pounds in the state on www.illinoismatmen.com, is one of the leaders for this year’s squad. Broyles was a state qualifier at 120 pounds as a junior.
Broyles rallies for a team-first attitude. It’s what Alton showed against the Warriors and he thinks if everyone buys into that there will be a lot more success.
“I’m here to play a role; everybody is here to play a role,” Broyles said. “That’s why we’re here, to get things done. We’re going to do as much as we can and no matter what the result, as long as we go out there and give 100 we’re not going to be upset.”
He said that was the name of the game in the Granite City win and it worked.
“It’s a long time coming; coach wanted it, we wanted it,” Broyles said. “If we go out there and lose, but you try I’m not going to be mad. If you lay your head on the mat and you lose, no one’s going to be upset. If we go out and do our jobs, we’ll come out with a win and that’s what happened (against Granite City); we did our jobs.”
As for 2-0 in the SWC after the GCHS win, Roberson knows that’s not a normal spot for AHS. The Redbirds had a conference dual with Collinsville on Thursday after the deadline for the print edition.
“This is always a loss,” Roberson said with a chuckle of the Granite City dual. “We got over that hump, but in the conference Edwardsville is definitely the frontrunners right now. O’Fallon is really good, Collinsville is very solid. This is better than 0-2.”
Roberson praised some of his youngsters performing well on the mat, too. Growing and improving is the name of the game. Besides Broyles, the only other Alton wrestler receiving love in the state rankings is junior KeOntay Holmes, an honorable mention at 182 pounds.
“We’ve got some kids that wrestled JV last year like Courtney Wilson, who is improving; Hunter Hobbs at 120, only a sophomore, he’s improving,” Roberson said. “We’ve got a tough freshman (Garrett Simms) at 106. Reggie Rhins (220) in place of Alecquan Russell got a win (over Granite City); that was huge.”
As for making predictions, that’s not Roberson’s style or his team’s, so they will just grind it out and try to improve one day at a time.
“I’m not looking forward,” Roberson said. “We’re still a little bit raw and we’ve got a lot of work to do and have to learn how to train. We’re still doing a lot of teaching.”
Alton now looks to defend its Mascoutah Invite team-title from last season on Friday and Saturday.
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