Photo by Bill Roseberry
Roxana head coach Rob Milazzo works with senior Jarod Foiles during a 132-pound bout at the Mascoutah Tournament on Dec. 19. The Shells will be cast in the Class 1A Althoff Regional on Feb. 6.
Two months of highs and lows, cutting weight and nagging injuries have all led to this — the wrestling postseason.
The class 1A, 2A and 3A wrestling regionals are scheduled for Feb. 6 and the Greater Alton area teams — Alton, Civic Memorial, East Alton-Wood River and Roxana — are ready to get started.
“There are no secrets to this sport, no shortcuts. It’s all paved with hard work,” EA-WR head coach Dave Sobol said.
“The way I’ve always approached it is when it’s regionals everybody is 0-0. It’s a brand new season. You can make a great season bad and you can make a bad season great. The slate is clean and everything we’ve done prior to regionals has been preseason. It’s just another tournament and that’s the only way to approach it. You don’t worry about who, you worry about how you wrestle and that’s all we focus on.”
The Oilers and Shells are cast in the 1A Althoff Regional, while CM is at the 2A Triad Regional and Alton goes to the 3A Quincy Regional.
Roxana and EA-WR will have their work cut out for them in Belleville. The host Althoff Crusaders boast three top five ranked wrestlers in the state, including Chase Bittle (120) and Jarrid Braunagel (138), who are ranked first.
“Althoff has two guys ranked No. 1, they’re super tough and altogether they have five kids that should go to state,” Roxana head coach Rob Milazzo said. “We like our chances, though, and we’ll see what happens.”
The regional field at Althoff includes: Roxana, EA-WR, Althoff, Carlinville, Metro East Lutheran, Freeburg, Mount Olive and Pittsfield.
Milazzo admitted his numbers are down this season, but he knows the Shells still have some top individuals.
Junior James Henseler earned a sixth-place medal at 106 a year ago at state and is currently ranked 10th at 120 in the state, but will enter regionals at 126.
“It’s been a big jump for him to go from 106 to 126, so he’s lost a little bit more this season than he was used to last year, but we’ve been working on some things and hopefully we can get him back to the big show,” Milazzo said.
Senior Jarod Foiles, ranked third at 132, narrowly missed a state medal last year and Milazzo thinks he’ll be up to the task this time.
“Jarod looks great,” Milazzo said. “He went through a tough patch. He’s got a tremendous schedule of competition and he has double digit losses and he’s better than double digits. It’s just one of those years where he’s had a lot of tough kids he’s faced, but I really think he’ll be there at the end of the year. We pace ourselves and look forward to the end of the year and hopefully we’re ready.”
Wrestlers like Brett Nyswonger (8th at 220) and Owen Robinson (honorable mention at 285) look to make noise, too.
A pair of freshmen have Milazzo excited.
“We have two freshmen, Alex Maguire at 138 and Drew Huff at 170, and they both have winning records,” Milazzo said. “They’re doing a fabulous job and the future is bright for those two.”
EA-WR has junior Drew Sobol (2nd at 106), junior Zac Blasioli (4th at 152) and sophomore Zach Kincade (honorable mention at 195) looking to cause some damage, but coach Sobol is also stoked to have a young squad. It’s entirely a underclass act at EA-WR this season.
“One of the good signs is we don’t have any seniors,” Sobol said. “It’s bringing these freshmen in and getting them used to IHSA wrestling. It’s going from practicing two nights a week to every day, it’s eligibility every week, it’s transition. It’s going from a 1 and a half-minute period to a 2-minute period. The transition is tough and the kids really found out if they like it or they don’t and we’ve been fortunate, we still have our original 15 kids and 12 kids in the lineup. As young as they are they come back for more. It’s been fun and now especially is the fun part of the season.”
Alton head coach Eric Roberson and his Redbirds are going to become nomads for the postseason. They travel to Quincy for regionals, Bolingbrook for the individual sectional and Champaign for state.
“We’re used to the travel and we’ve been fortunate with the regionals. As far as I can remember we’ve never had to travel,” Roberson said. “It’s Quincy’s turn to not travel. I don’t think that’s going to be a big deal.”
The field includes: Alton, Belleville East, Belleville West, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Granite City, O’Fallon, Pekin and host Quincy. The Birds are familiar with the field, but that doesn’t make it easy.
“Realistically, it’s going to come down to a two-team race,” Roberson said. “Edwardsville has kind of separated themselves from the pack, at least in dual meets. O’Fallon is going to be right there in the hunt; Collinsville’s got a great tournament team. We’re definitely going to be right there too and competing for some of those top three spots.”
Alton seniors Connor Broyles (8th at 132) and Alejandro Lopez (honorable mention at 145) and junior KeOntay Holmes (12th at 182) all enjoy state recognition for the Birds.
They will have to do their thing to earn good sectional seedings, but Roberson implored others to step up on the big stage, too.
“You always have to have those kids that maybe didn’t wrestle that well throughout the year step up and wrestle well at regionals, but we also have to make sure our better kids are ready to go and they’re doing what they are supposed to do,” he said.
CM is cast in the Triad Regional with Cahokia, East St. Louis, Highland, Jacksonville, Jersey, Mascoutah, Waterloo and the host Knights.
Triad is the favorite with four wrestlers ranked in the top five in the state, including No. 2-rated Merik Fulton at 132 pounds.
The Eagles’ hopes rest on the shoulders of junior Brandon Carpenter and senior Jordan Stagner. Both qualified for sectionals last year and look to repeat this season.
The top three placers in each regional qualify for sectionals.
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