It was a whirlwind season for East Alton-Wood River junior wrestler Zac Blasioli.
The scrappy grappler reached the Class 1A state championship match at 152 pounds at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Arena, narrowly missing a state title. He fell 4-3 to Garrett Brachbill of Shelbyville in the title bout, ending his season at 39-3 and the second state medal in his career. He finished sixth at state at 160 pounds as a freshman.
His second-place finish was the second in EA-WR history, joining Tony Kusmanoff, who did it in 1961 at 133 pounds. The Oilers have one state champion, Josh Bennett at 103 pounds in 2009. Blasioli hopes to join him next year.
Everything he accomplished as a junior, padded by his furious finish, helped him earn AdVantage News Wrestler of the Year. He’s had a little time to think about it and he’s relishing it, happy about what he accomplished and hungry for more success on the mat.
He admitted a new philosophy in his attack helped him tremendously this season.
“To start out the season I wasn’t wrestling the greatest,” Blasioli said. “I actually got put to my back in my second match and almost got pinned, which was crazy. So throughout the season we focused on the little things. I went into practice focusing on what I really need to work on, which was my shot. I would shoot on kids that I knew I could take down, but I wouldn’t shoot on tough opponents.
“Then as the regionals were getting close I was good to go. I wrestled Johnny (Darrah) of Mount Olive and beat him 3-1 the first match, because we’re both defensive, then I opened up, starting shooting and beat him 19-8. That’s where I saw if I shoot it’s definitely going to help and that’s what got me to state and in the state finals.”
He won tournament titles at Civic Memorial, Mount Olive and Rochester and was second at Mascoutah. He then secured a regional championship and was second at sectionals and state. He lost to Brachbill at both sectionals and state.
While finishing second at state was rewarding, it also left a little bit of a bad taste in Blasioli’s mouth — one he’s angling to fix as a senior.
“My first two days back (from state) I was sick and stayed home. I had the flu,” Blasioli said. “I sat in the shower for two days straight and thought about it over and over again. What could I have done different? What could have helped me win that match? A lot of my friends didn’t understand why I was like that, but I just want to know what I can do. I didn’t wrestle too much last summer, so my coach Jeremy (Christenson) told me I need to get in the room this summer. I’ve been practicing with Max Fritz out of Mount Olive. We actually just got back from Virginia Beach and I have a match at freestyle state on May 1. I’m going to stay busy all summer wrestling.”
Blasioli gave a lot of credit to his EA-WR support group, too, his teammates and especially Oilers’ head wrestling coach Dave Sobol.
“I’ve known coach for a long time and he’s a great coach, but he’s definitely been there for the ups and downs of my life,” Blasioli said. “He’s kind of been the dad figure in my life for a long time. We’re really, really close. I can call him at two in the morning just to talk. He’s definitely always been there for me, that’s all I can say.”
The Oilers return their whole squad next year and Blasioli is excited what they can accomplish as a team. As for him personally, it’s state title or bust.
“I was so close freshman year, made it to the semis, I made it to the finals this year and wrestled tough,” he said. “(A state title) is what it’s going to come down to next year.”