BELLEVILLE — A year ago, Matt Wylie lost to Edwardsville’s Matt Kent in the 220-pound Class 3A regional championship match at Granite City.
On Saturday at the Class 3A Belleville West Regional, Wylie was back in the 220-pound championship match. And this time, the Granite City junior made sure he wasn’t going to lose again.
Wylie defeated Belleville East senior Jan Yates 9-8 in the title match. He was the only Granite City wrestler to win a regional championship.
“I was coming off a hard injury with my MCL this year,” Wylie said. “It’s amazing to win the regional and be able to move on to sectionals. Hopefully, I’ll get a big win there.”
Wylie is one of six Granite City wrestlers who qualified for the Class 3A Normal Sectional on Saturday. The others are seniors Josh Rozell, Devon Simpson and Gabe Wood, junior Wilyonde Bell and freshman Josh Harsh.
Simpson and Wood finished second in 138 and 120, respectively. Rozell (132), Bell (145) and Harsh (113) finished third in their respective weight classes. The top three finishers in each weight class advance to sectionals.
“I was happy to get six out,” Granite City coach George Kirgan said.
Now, the Warriors are setting their sights on qualifying all six wrestlers to the state tournament in Champaign. The top four finishers in each weight class at sectionals advance to state.
“That would be amazing,” Kirgan said. “That’s the goal and hopefully, some alternates can get into the tournament, too. We have three alternates. Maybe those alternates can get a chance to make it to state.”
The Warriors finished fourth in regionals for the second year in a row. They scored 100.5 points in the nine-team regional tournament.
Wylie is 11-2 and will be competing in sectionals for the second straight year. He credits Kirgan for his successful junior season.
“In practice, coach was busting our butts,” Wylie said. “We didn’t get a break at all. We were running sprints and drills. I’ve been wrestling with coach for the past three weeks. I haven’t had a regular kid wrestler to wrestle with. It’s been coach. Coach sees a lot of potential in me and I’m going to show him that he’s correct.”
Last year, Wylie lost 11-3 to Kent in the 220 title match at regionals. Kent went on to earn a third-place finish at state.
On Saturday, Wylie trailed Yates 8-7 before scoring two points on a takedown in the closing seconds of the second period.
“He’s got the heart to finish the match,” Kirgan said. “In a close match, he finds a way to win.”
Wood, who will be competing in sectionals for the third time, lost 1-0 to Edwardsville senior Tanner Ambry in the 120 regional championship match.
“He was a better wrestler at that match, but I’ll see him at sectionals and hopefully, it would be the other way,” said Wood, who will take a 32-13 record into sectionals.
Simpson will compete in sectionals for the second straight year. He was pinned by Quincy junior Michael Peters with 40 seconds left in the first period of the 138 championship match.
Simpson (42-7) is looking to qualify for state for the second year in a row. Last year, he lost in the first round at 138.
“Last year, it was difficult,” Simpson said. “There were a lot of seniors in our bracket. There were some really good guys. It made me better for this year.”
Rozell (29-11) pinned Edwardsville sophomore Martel Evans in the 132 third-place match. He will be competing at sectionals for the second straight year.
Rozell said he will be happy if he, Simpson and Wood end their high school wrestling careers with a trip to Champaign.
“That would be huge for the whole entire team,” Rozell said. “It would help boost the confidence for next year.”
Bell and Harsh will compete in sectionals for the first time. Bell (32-16) beat Collinsville sophomore Tawon Swinson 17-5 in the 145 third-place match and Harsh (18-12) cruised to an 11-0 win over Alton freshman Hunter Hobbs in the 113 third-place match.
The Warriors also got fourth-place finishes from freshman Brendan Davis (106), sophomore Kyle Thompson (160) and junior Joe Garcia (170).