A. Phyllip DeLoach of Alton, right, and Brandon Critchfield of Jersey
A. Phyllip DeLoach of Alton and Brandon Critchfield of Jersey had something in common the past winter — both proved to be elite matmen. That’s why they are the AdVantage News’ Prep Wrestlers of the Year.
It was DeLoach starting quicker at 138 pounds, but Critchfield finishing faster at 120. Critchfield, a sophomore with a 36-10 record, took fourth in the IHSA Class 2A finals. DeLoach, a junior, closed at 46-3 in Class 3A competition after carrying a 44-1 record to state.
Thus, they shared success stories.
Critchfield’s main tale unfolded at the state tournament. He finished third at the Mascoutah Regional and fourth at the Chatham Glenwood, so there was no telling how he would do at state. But that’s when he delivered his best grappling.
“It was the highlight of my season,” Critchfield said. “I was able to turn it up at state because I was really pumped up about it.”
His state success didn’t surprise Jersey coach Allen Snyder. After all, Critchfield’s dad, Ted, was a standout wrestler at Jersey High.
“Brandon has an outstanding work ethic and has dedicated most of his young life to wrestling,” Snyder said. “He brings a high expectation to our wrestling room, which elevates our other athletes.
Snyder added, “We are looking forward to the future of his high school career and hopefully he will get to compete at the collegiate level.”
Critchfield’s state finish was the best for any wrestler in Jersey High history. The Champaign showing has him primed for bigger and better things the next two seasons.
“I was more mature and stronger this season and it was a big thrill to finish fourth in state,” Critchfield said. “But I think I can do better than that. I’m going to work very hard in the off-season because my goal is to become a state champion.”
That’s also the objective for DeLoach, winner of the Granite City Regional and Normal West Community Sectional.
“I want to be the first Alton High wrestler to win a state championship,” he said. Taylor McGiffen of the Redbirds finished second at 182 in 2012 and William Vahle was runner-up at 155 in 1938.
DeLoach, who went 2-2 at state this year, added: “I was two seconds away from placing at state and it kind of hurts me. It’s disappointing, but it’s a big motivation for next season.
“I’ll be motivated all season to win it.”
AHS coach Eric Roberson foresees more good work from DeLoach, also a champion at Mascoutah, Batavia and Granite City the past season. His only regular-season loss came in the finals of the Batavia Tournament.
“Phyllip has been a very important part of our success at Alton High the past few seasons,” Roberson said. “He understands the importance of hard work and he trains hard during practice sessions. He drills, runs, lifts weights, and works in the off season freestyle club.
“As hard as he does work, I think he can take his training to a new level,” Roberson said. “His loss at state should do nothing but motivate him to do that. He is very talented and has great mental toughness.”
DeLoach promises to be more mentally durable in 2014-15 and he will team with twin Nicholas and Qiante Wagner to make the Redbirds formidable.
“Coach said wrestling is 20 percent physical and 80 percent mental,” said DeLoach, eyeing a collegiate career in his sport. “I want to wrestle in Division I competition, maybe at an Ivy League school.”