The Collinsville Kahoks may have opened some eyes last week by finishing second at the Mascoutah Invitational Wrestling Tournament.
A similar finish by the Kahoks at the Granite City/William 'Red' Schmitt Holiday Wrestling Tournament, which begins on Friday at Granite City High School, would be even more impressive.
Perennial Class 3A state title contender Minooka and national powers Neosho (Mo.) and Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers are among the top teams competing in the two-day event, which features many of the top high school wrestling teams in the Midwest.
"It's a great tournament, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to compete in such a prestigious event,'' Kahoks coach Tom Blaha said. "Its a chance for our kids to wrestle, in some cases, against athletes who are nationally ranked in their weight classes.
"I don't like to put a number on where I think we'll finish, but I think we're capable of being in the top half of the field. We'll have to wrestle well.''
Mascoutah Tournament champion Alton, Cahokia, Granite City, East St. Louis, Triad and O'Fallon are the other local schools that will be in action when session one begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Session two will follow one hour after the completion of the opening round. Session three is set for 9 a.m. Saturday, with the finals set for 5 p.m.
Tickets are $5 per session and are available at the gate.
Alton, which won its third Mascoutah Tournament title in four years with its narrow triumph over Collinsville, also figures to be in the hunt for a possible top 10 finish.
To do so, Redbirds coach Eric Roberson knows his team must wrestle well. But for Alton its all about progression.
"I said it last week as well. Our goal isn't to be at our best in December. Our goal is to work hard and to keep getting better every day, every practice and every match so that we're at our best in February for the state tournament series,'' Roberson said. "I was pleased at how we wrestled at Mascoutah. But we're going to need to be better this week. The competition here is at another level.''
Other Illinois teams competing include Aurora West, Lincoln-Way West, Mount Zion and Washington.