Photo by Bill Roseberry
Roxana’s Dalton Brito battles East St. Louis’ Tyler Dunn in the consolation semifinals at 126 pounds in the Mascoutah Tournament. He won the match 6-3. Brito looks to be a key contributor for the Shells this season.
The Roxana Shells have high hopes on the mat in 2014-15.
But what’s new? The long-standing successful wrestling program always expects big things. The Shells are coming off a 2013-14 season where they qualified for the Class 1A dual team state tournament but lost in the quarterfinal round 44-33 to Plano. Head coach Rob Milazzo knows that will be a hard act to follow, but it doesn’t mean Roxana can’t discover success.
“We’re excited about our individuals,” Milazzo said. “I’m not sure the team is going to come around, but that doesn’t happen very often. In the school now the wrestling program has only had four times we’ve been to the elite eight or better. It’s quite an honor and you’d like to get back there, but it doesn’t happen all the time. This year we’re going to concentrate on our individuals and if everything comes together and we end up winning the regional, we’ll be excited about it.”
Three of those individuals earned medals on Saturday at the Mascoutah Tournament. Senior Dalton Brito nabbed fourth at 126 pounds, senior Luke Curtis was seventh at 182 and sophomore James Henseler finished eighth at 106.
Brito and Curtis are coming off of state berths last season, too.
Brito is rated fifth at 132 pounds in the state, according to www.illinoismatmen.com, while Jarod Foiles is an honorable mention at 138 and Curtis is No. 11 at 195. Unfortunately, Foiles suffered a concussion Friday in Mascoutah.
“We’d like to be back (at state), but it’s not looking too good because we only have like four kids on the team right now,” Brito said. “Guys are out for injuries, infections and other stuff. Placing-wise, I think we have two good guys in myself and Luke Curtis, who should be able to place. That’s what I’m just looking forward to, is to place.”
Milazzo admitted the injuries are a bummer. At the Class 1A level there isn’t a lot of depth to easily overcome the injury bug.
“Right now our focus is on getting healthy,” Milazzo said. “We’re not healthy right now; we’ve got some kids that are hurt and we’re looking forward to them getting back in the lineup and seeing how far we can go with it.”
Besides Foiles, Jeddah Gallego (152), Michael Maddux (195), Brett Nysonger (220) and Owen Robinson (285) are on the shelf right now for the Shells and Milazzo hopes to get them back soon.
Brito, who wrestled his freshman season at Edwardsville before transferring to Roxana, said the depth factor is the major difference between the small schools and large schools, in his opinion.
“Wrestler-wise, the difficulty didn’t change really that much at all, it was just basically different people and different schools and the number of wrestlers,” Brito said.
Milazzo just hopes the Shells can be back at, or near, full strength by the time they hit the mat again. Roxana will compete in the STM New Years Challenge at the Danville Civic Center on Dec. 29 and 30. The tournament was moved from its annual location at the State Farm Center in Champaign and rescheduled from January. Even with the changes, it’s a tournament Milazzo takes a lot of pride in because it includes strictly 1A teams.
“They moved it from Champaign to Danville for one year because U of I is putting in new seating, but it’s going to be one heck of a tournament,” Milazzo said. “They have 40 teams and they’re all Class 1A teams and it’s always a nice measuring stick. We got 13th out of 36 last year. Obviously we’d like to improve on that, but that’s going to depend on our guys returning and being healthy. If we can get everybody back, it’s going to be a fun tournament for us.
“The New Years Challenge has all the quality kids we’re going to see at state individually or at duals. If we lose it gives us a measuring stick to build for the end of the season. Princeton (Invitational on Jan. 9 and 10) is almost all 1A, but the New Years Challenge is the only all 1A and in many ways it’s tougher than the state tournament as far as dual team because of the format. It’s a grind. You end up wrestling about 10 duals. They started it about four years ago.”
Follow @broseberry51 on Twitter and get daily local sports online at www.advantagenews.com