BELLEVILLE — The Alton Redbird wrestling team enjoyed a solid day on Saturday at the Class 3A Belleville West Regional.
Six Redbirds advanced to the Normal Community Sectional next week, with three champions, a second place finish and two thirds. The top three wrestlers in each class advanced.
As for the team standings, Alton came up a little short, finishing second to champion Edwardsville. The Tigers gathered 176 points with 10 wrestlers advancing. The rest of the team standings rounded out with: Alton (156), Belleville West (107), Granite City (100.5), Collinsville (90.5), O'Fallon (87), Quincy (65.5), Belleville East (58) and Danville (19).
“I was real proud of how our guys responded today,” AHS head coach Eric Roberson said. “We had some chances with some of the matches we were in. We had some thirds and I was proud of the way those guys battled today. This was about the way I thought it would go. I don't think there were any big surprises.”
Alton's big three secured individual titles on Saturday. Phyllip DeLoach (145), Nicholas DeLoach (152) and Qiant'e Wagner (160) were all regional champions.
Phyllip DeLoach earned his title with a 6-2 decision over Belleville West's Nick Foster, improving to 34-0 on the season.
“In the dual between Alton and Belleville West I kept the score low because I knew I was going to have to wrestle him again here at regional and maybe at sectionals,” Phyllip said. “I stayed conservative at the dual, but I knew I had to open up, hence the lead I got on him (today).”
Nicholas DeLoach (44-0) wrestled conservatively on Saturday in his 4-1 win over Edwardsville's James Ziegler. A late two points put his match away. It wasn't necessarily the way he wanted to approach it.
“It was a little nerve racking,” Nicholas said. “I had to be patient and that's not my style. I was uncomfortable with it, but I knew he was really good on his feet and he's really good at scrambling. I had to wait for my opening. I couldn't give away anything and I knew I had to push the pace when he was down. I stayed in good position and I knew it was going to come and I capitalized.”
Wagner's (38-3) bout at 160 was a little different. He wasn't familiar with his opponent Perez Porfirio, but still came out on top with a commanding 17-7 win. It's the first time Wagner has won a regional championship in his career.
“One thing about that match is I was wrestling a foreign wrestler,” Wagner said. “I'd never wrestled him before to get that extra little bit of experience to work with him. I just kept doing what I do usually in my matches, wrestle smart, keep my head up and keep working until I get the win.
“It feels really good to be a regional champ. That's something I haven't done and that was one of my goals this year. I'm glad I'm starting to hit on more and more goals. The next goal is sectional champ and the next goal is state and hopefully state champ as well.”
The other Alton grappler to reach a championship match was heavyweight Darian Pierson (31-8). Unfortunately, Pierson came up short in the finals against West's Ricky Nelson. Nelson pinned Pierson in 3:03.
Pierson is happy to be moving on with an opportunity at Nelson again and possibly a berth at state.
“It feels outstanding (to advance), because last year I made it to sectionals and I was one or two matches away from qualifying for state, so I hope to go up there and redeem myself,” Pierson said. “It all starts in the practice room, so I just need to start working harder.
“I realize (Nelson) is a tough opponent, but I'm going to have to step over obstacles like that all the time. Facing opponents like that just make you a better wrestler in the end. Hopefully I can just fix my mistakes. I hope I do face him again at sectionals because the more and more I face him the closer and closer I'm going to get to him.”
As for the other two Redbirds to qualify for sectionals, Connor Broyles (120) took third as well as Tim McCarvey 126. Broyles (34-6) pinned Quincy's Trevor Schutte in 1:12, while McCarvey (30-16) picked up a 19-2 technical fall over Joe Griffin of Edwardsville.
Roberson was pleased to see their dominance in their third-place bouts.
“To get a senior McCarvey through, great job for him,” Roberson said. “Broyles took a tough loss in the semis and then came back real strong to get third.”
It was just a pleasant day overall for Roberson and the Redbirds, who took 12 wrestlers to the regionals and moved 11 of them into championship and third-place matches.
“Eleven of our guys, four in the finals and then seven more going for third, which we won a few of those,” Roberson said. “I knew we had to battle to win a couple more, but they just didn't get it done. The kids looked tough and we'll still practice all week and we'll keep those fourth-place guys working out all week too and make sure we're all ready for sectionals no matter what happens.”