GRANITE CITY — Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the War of the Worlds radio show caused widespread panic, Seabiscut defeated War Admiral in a horse race and William “Red” Schmitt was the captain for the Alton High wrestling team, the year was 1938.
That was the last time the Alton Redbirds defeated the Granite City Warriors in a wrestling dual — that is until Thursday. After a 77-year wait, the Redbirds defeated the Warriors 33-23 in a triangular meet in Granite City. Civic Memorial also competed, falling 78-6 to Alton and 75-3 to GCHS.
It's only the third time overall that Alton has bested the storied Granite City wrestling program. The other time was in 1935. There were two stints since the 30s that Alton didn't field a wrestling program for an extended period of time, but since its return in 1996 it has been going strong.
Like always, Schmitt, 94, was on hand to watch. A member of both school's Hall of Fames, an AHS grad and the longtime GCHS head wrestling coach, he doesn't miss when the two teams square off.
For the 2015-16 edition of the Redbirds, knowing they made a little bit of their own history was pretty cool.
“We saw the card from when they wrestled and beat them that long ago,” AHS senior 145-pounder Alejandro Lopez said.
Alton head coach Eric Roberson added, “I let the kids know about the history. I thought it might be a motivating factor for them and I think it probably was. They went out there and really showed it on the mat and it was fun.”
It didn't start out well for the Birds, which found themselves down 16-0 after three bouts with GCHS. Brandon Bettag picked up a 16-5 major decision over Alton's Montrail Johnson at 152, Andre Weathers of Granite City pinned Nolan Woszczynski in 1:56 at 160 and the Warriors got a forfeit win at 170.
GCHS head coach George Kirgan was proud of his squad. Wrestlers have been lost to injury, quitting the program and other unforeseen circumstances. Senior heavyweight Matt Wylie was recently lost for the season with a torn ACL and MCL, so with all the adversity Kirgan couldn't complain.
“I'm real proud of my boys, they wrestled today,” Kirgan said. “We had a lot of things outside of the room that we can't really do anything about, injuries, ineligibility, kids that quit, but those things happen. I'm real proud of my boys, everyone of our guys wrestled hard. The last two guys knew they had to pin and they were going all out.”
Alton scratched back to cut it to 16-15 when heavyweight Adam Kane blanked Devon Boyd 6-0. A 13-3 major decision by Mitchell Millsap at 106 gave the Warriors a little breathing room at 20-15, but the Redbirds reeled off the next four wins to go up 30-20.
Nigel Ward won 6-1 at 113, Hunter Hobbes prevailed 10-1 at 120, Courtney Wilson inched out a 2-1 decision at 126 and Connor Broyles bumped down to 132 to get a 17-2 tech fall against Jared Skaggs.
“That helped because Skaggs was one of their tougher lightweights,” Roberson said. “We thought it was a good time to have him go down. He certified at 132 tonight so we thought we'd make that matchup happen and it worked out in our favor.”
Broyles said it was all about doing what was best for the team.
“Me going down to 132, (Jaelyn Watkins) filling in at 138, what's going through my mind is I'm here to play a role,” Broyles said. “Everybody is here to play a role and get things done.
“It's all about the team. They say this is an individual sport, but right here, right now it's all about our team. This is my family and nobody wants to go out there and lose for their family.”
With Broyles' win, it left the Warriors needing big points in the final two matches. At 138, Jaelyn Watkins did what he needed to do, keeping GCHS' John Hirsch from producing those big points. Ultimately Hirsch won 2-1, but staying out of a major, a tech or a pin put the Warriors mathematically out of winning the dual.
“I wanted that win out of him, but he's a senior and he's been in and out of our program,” Roberson said of Watkins. “He's never really stuck with us and now that he got some momentum going, he's really athletic. He stayed with (Hirsch) and he probably could have won that match”
With the dual decided, the final bout of the night was arguably the best. Lopez drew Granite City's Wilyonde Bell at 145, who is an honorable mention in the state rankings.
A fast and physical bout, which stayed tight throughout, saw Lopez stave off a flurry from Bell at the end to log an 8-6 decision.
“I was up by two and I knew he was going to keep blasting in and go for a throw,” Lopez said. “I just wanted to get to a tie, get control and keep him circling and snapping and keep him from getting onto my legs.”
Roberson added, “Alejandro Lopez wrestled up to Bell's level. He didn't wrestle as well against CM, but he knew he had a good opponent and he stepped up.”
As for the Southwestern Conference, the Redbirds are now sitting at 2-0, while the Warriors dipped to 1-2 with Edwardsville lurking next week. Alton's next conference match is at Collinsville on Dec. 17.
Kirgan said the goal is to just keep improving and progressing with his young squad.
“All we can do is focus on improving,” he said. “It's all about improving and getting better and that's what I preach every day. You're in here, you're working hard, let's get better today. We put ourselves in a position to win tonight with what we had and I couldn't ask for anything more.”
It was a tough night for the Eagles, who were already without Jordan Stagner (220), out with a concussion. Unfortunately Brandon Copeland (145) had to be taken to the hospital with a possible concussion after his match with Lopez.
The bright spot for CM was 195-pound Brandon Carpenter who picked up a pin in 5:33 vs. Alton and won a 9-6 decision against Granite City, proving to be the only two victories on the mat by the Eagles.