Photo by Bill Roseberry
Granite City junior wrestler Kyle Thompson controls Cam Hayes of Naperville (Central) at 160 pounds during the Class 3A individual state tournament at State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign Feb. 19.
Kyle Thompson came a long way on the wrestling mat for the Granite City Warriors during his junior campaign.
After failing to advance from regional action as a freshman or sophomore, Thompson was a state qualifier for GCHS as a junior and lost just a round short of earning a state medal at 160 pounds.
“He wasn’t picked by the experts to be here,” Granite City head wrestling coach George Kirgan said of Thompson at the Class 3A individual state tournament Feb. 20 at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center in Champaign. “He proved a lot of people wrong and I believe he’s an all-state wrestler.”
Thompson finished 40-13 on the season and advanced to the wrestleback quarterfinals at state, despite not being listed in the state rankings at 160 pounds.
He added a regional championship and an individual title at the William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament at GCHS to his resumé this season, too.
“I’ve come a long way,” Thompson said. “This is my first year making it out of the regional and now I’m wrestling on Saturday at state with a chance to medal at state. It’s a long way from where I came from.”
Thompson dropped his initial match at state this season, losing to Tom Czernek of Carol Stream (Glenbard North) 3-2. It left him at the mercy of the wrestlebacks, meaning if Czernek won he would get another match, but if Czernek lost his season would be over.
Luckily, Czernek won in the second round and Thompson drew Cam Hayes of Naperville (Central) and prevailed 4-3. He then wrestled Devin Donovan of Wheaton North in the wrestleback quarters, but lost 8-4 to end his season.
Kirgan is stoked with the way Thompson progressed this season and expects him to be even better as a senior for the Warriors.
“We’re real proud of Kyle; he’s worked real hard this season,” Kirgan said. “He pushes himself to the limits, going with coaches, going with better guys. It’s a good thing he’s a junior, so he’s got one more year and another opportunity to be at (state).
“He had 13 losses this season so to make into this top 8 of the state in the big schools, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Kirgan said the fact that Thompson wasn’t ranked in the state added to his mental focus down the stretch run of the season.
“I saw that chip on his shoulder where he was like, ‘Why am I not ranked?’” Kirgan said. “You’ve got to prove yourself and I think that chip on his shoulder helped motivate him throughout the season and he had a great season.”
Thompson puts a lot of stock in hard work; that was his game plan this season and it got him all the way to the state tournament.
“It’s all about coming back from adversity,” Thompson said. “All year long coach said, ‘If you work hard enough you’ll make it to state.’ I’ve been working hard all year and I talk to God every day and have faith in him and he has a plan for me to be great in wrestling, so I work hard every day to give honors to God.”
There will be no flying under the radar for Thompson next year. His performances in ‘15-16 won’t go unnoticed next season and this season’s experiences won’t go unused in his quest for improvement.
“I think he knows he belongs (at state) and he knows he should be on that podium next year, so that’s the goal now, work in the offseason to get him stronger, bigger,” Kirgan said. “He’s a football player, so we’ll get him big and strong for football and see where he weighs when it comes time to wrestle.”