Josh Rozell, Devon Simpson and Gabe Wood had reason to celebrate at the Granite City Winter Sports Awards Night ceremony on March 9 at Memorial Gymnasium.
The three Granite City senior wrestlers earned an all-Southwestern Conference award. Rozell and Simpson were named first-team all-league in 132 and 138, respectively, and Wood earned second-team honors in 120.
Granite City coach George Kirgan said he was pleased to see all three seniors end their high school wrestling careers with an all-conference award.
“They put four years of hard work in,” Kirgan said. “All three of them were off and on again starters all four years. Devon Simpson had 115 career wins, which puts him in a pretty elite category. Josh Rozell was always somebody we can count on. He got big wins for us throughout the season. Gabe Wood was second-team all-conference, but he was right there beating that No. 1 guy.”
A total of 11 Granite City winter athletes earned all-conference honors, seven of them were wrestlers. Juniors Matt Wylie and Wilyonde Bell, sophomore Kyle Thompson and freshman Josh Harsh also were named on the all-league wrestling team.
“It’s been a challenging year, so I’m pleased to have seven guys all-conference,” Kirgan said. “At one time or another, we probably had nine kids who were injured or ineligible or had discipline problems. If you would have said that we would be without seven of our starters at the beginning of the year, there would be no way we would have won 22 dual meets and have seven all-conference wrestlers. But we did.”
Senior Catherine Jakich was the lone Granite City representative on the all-conference girls' basketball team, junior Kenny Berry earned all-league honors in boys' basketball and juniors Justin Simpson and Kennedy Rainwater were named on the all-league bowling team.
The wrestling team turned in the highest conference finish out of the Granite City winter teams. Granite City finished in a three-way tie for second with Belleville West and O’Fallon with a 5-2 record. Edwardsville won the league championship at 6-1.
“There’s good talent down here,” said Kirgan, whose team lost to Belleville West and Edwardsville in league matches. “We’re happy to compete in the conference and we think we’re better than how we did this year. I think we could have done better, but I’m sure every team feels that way.”
Simpson, Rozell and Wood were among the 23 seniors who were named on the all-conference wrestling team.
Simpson finished 46-11 and was the only Granite City wrestler competing at the state tournament. Rozell and Wood competed in sectionals on Feb. 14 at Normal Community High School.
Wylie earned first-team honors at 220 and Bell was named on the second team at 145. Wylie won a regional championship and Bell competed in sectionals.
“They have outstanding talent,” Kirgan said. “When they figure out that they are the best, then that’s what they’re going to be. That’s how good they are. It takes their head a little bit of time to figure out, ‘Hey, my body is capable of beating everybody.’”
Thompson was named on the second team at 160. He came up one place shy from qualifying for sectionals.
“Man, that kid’s got heart,” Kirgan said. “He wants to win so bad in everything he does. He’s a great athlete and a great kid. When he gets on the mat, he turns into a beast. He hates to lose so much. He’s a great athlete. He plays baseball, he plays football and he’s a great wrestler.”
Harsh earned third-team honors at 113, becoming one of just three freshmen on the all-conference wrestling team.
“He’s a great kid,” Kirgan said. “He has no fear. The one great example about him was he lost to a kid (Cam Wodocheck) last year in eighth grade from O’Fallon 17-2. That’s a butt whooping. In the regional tournament, he beats him 9-7. That’s some great improvement.”
Jakich was one of seven seniors on the all-conference girls' basketball team. She averaged 14 points per game in conference play.
Berry was one of just three juniors on the all-league boys' basketball team. He averaged 17 points per game in SWC play.
Simpson and Rainwater were the top bowlers for the Granite City boys' and girls' teams, respectively. Simpson averaged a 198 and Rainwater finished with a 155 average.