GRANITE CITY — For the first time in five years, the Granite City Warriors got an individual champion in the William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Wrestling Tournament.
Junior Kyle Thompson put an end to the Warriors’ five-year drought by beating Jon Fogarty of Lafayette 3-1 in overtime in the 170-pound championship match. Thompson became the first Granite City wrestler since Jake Gregerson in 2010 to win a title in the Granite City tournament.
“We’re proud of his efforts,” Granite City head coach George Kirgan said. “He’s being more and more coachable as he has gotten older and mature. He’s seeing that and how important that is.”
Also on Tuesday, Granite City senior Wilyonde Bell turned in another top-5 tournament finish as he placed third at 145. He beat Staley’s Tyler Craig 6-4 in overtime in the third-place match.
The Warriors finished 11th out of 23 teams with 298.5 points. It’s the second year in a row Granite City placed 11th in its tournament.
Kirgan said he was pleased with his team’s effort despite the 11th-place finish.
“It feels good to get a champ at the end and be 2-0 on the night in finals,” the Granite City coach said. “It’s always a good feeling. I’m happy. I think the kids are progressing and improving. I told them as long as you’re coachable and work hard, you’ll get better. That’s the whole goal for this season. It’s been a roller coaster (season), losing a lot of kids and having kids quit and having some other circumstances in their lives. It’s nice to have a good note tonight.”
After placing fourth last year, the Alton Redbirds dropped to 13th in this year’s tournament. The Redbirds scored 272.5 points and had two wrestlers placing third.
“We’re pleased with that, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Alton head coach Eric Roberson said. “This tournament keeps getting tougher. We finished in the middle of the pack and we want to improve on that. We want to stay consistently as a competitive team in this tournament. We need more guys medaling. We’ve got to work on getting more guys getting to the medal stand in this tournament.”
Junior KeOntay Holmes beat South Elgin’s Zack Crosby 3-1 in the 182-pound third-place match. Junior Keondrick Russell defeated Plainfield North’s Tim Donnahue by injury default in the 195-pound third-place match.
Holmes improved to 18-4 with the win over Crosby. Russell (17-5) won his third-place match by forfeit after Donnahue suffered an injury in the second period.
The Redbirds got a pair of fifth-place finishes from seniors Connor Broyles (20-4) and Alejandro Lopez (20-3). Broyles beat Sam Paneitz of Timberland 3-1 in the 132-pound fifth-place match and Lopez knocked off Huntley’s Juan Quiroz 7-3 in the 145-pound fifth-place match.
Roberson said his team started participating in the Granite City tournament four years ago so it can face some tough competition.
“Our kids need to see that there’s another level of good,” he said. “Obviously, some of these teams are in that level. This is the kind of competition that we’re going to see at our regional, sectional and state. They need to understand what they need to do to get to that level.”
Lafayette of St. Louis won with 583.5 points for its first Granite City tournament championship. Staley, Neosho, Plainfield South and CBC rounded out the top five.
Thompson became the first Granite City wrestler to win the Granite City tournament in Kirgan’s three-year coaching tenure. Kirgan, who graduated from Granite City in 2000, won the tournament title in 1997 and 1999.
Thompson clinched the tournament title by scoring a takedown with just eight seconds into the overtime period. He improved to 22-8.
Thompson, who was named on the all-Southwestern Conference football team this fall, said the title gave him a big boost of confidence for the rest of the season.
“My main goal is to make it to state and become a state place winner,” said Thompson, who lost to Fogarty on the first day of competition on Monday. “That’s the main goal. I’m going to keep fighting and keep working hard in the wrestling room.”
Bell placed in the Granite City tournament for the first time. Last week, he finished fifth at 145 pounds in the Kansas City Stampede.
“It felt amazing,” Bell said. “Last year, I didn’t place high. This year, I placed higher than I did last year and it was pretty amazing.”
Bell won the third-place match by scoring a takedown with 44 seconds left in the overtime period. Bell improved to 22-7.
“Will is such a good athlete,” Kirgan said. “When he figures out the coachable part and the work hard part, there’s no stopping him. But he has to work and he has to listen more.”
Also for the Warriors, junior Korinthian Nabors placed sixth at 285 and senior Joe Garcia finished seventh at 160.
“All the way up and down the lineup, we got a lot of good kids who are hard workers,” Kirgan said. “Joey Garcia came in and he hasn’t had a lot of matches. He’s been hurt his whole career. He came in and got eighth place. Our guys are showing improvement from our 106 pounder to our heavyweight. That’s a good thing to see.”