BELLEVILLE — In the midst of another solid season, the Belleville East Lancers added another top six tournament finish to their 2013-14 wrestling resume on Saturday at the Morton Invitational.
Freshman Austin Thurman continued to surprise in the 160-pound weight class while junior Lucas Bernal and senior Matt Striegel also won titles as the Belleville East matmen placed second in the 12-team event.
A former member of the Crusaders Elite Wrestling Club and a two-time Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation state qualifier, Thurman raised his record to 20-6 by winning the title to lead the way for East, which finished with 129 points.
Taylorville won the team championship with 166 points.
Lancers coach Maurice Brown said Thurman's performance this season at a weight class usually dominated by juniors and seniors, isn't that much of a surprise.
"Austin comes from a wrestling background and has been around the sport his entire life. His family understands what it takes and is very supportive,'' Brown said. "His dad, Kelly, wrestled at Oklahoma State which is one of the top college programs in the nation. Austin has great knowledge of the sport. He's quick and he's strong.''
Bartonville-Limestone and Pekin tied for third place at Morton with 124 points each, while Normal West rounded out the top five teams with 120 points.
Earlier this season led by Thurman, Striegel (170) and Bernal (113), the Lancers have rolled up a sixth place finish at the Mascoutah Invitational and a second place finish at the Lincoln Tournament, along with its runner-up place at Morton. All three top-six finishes have come in the last four weeks.
"I thought coming into the season that we cold have a good tournament team because we have seven or weight classes where we're pretty good," Brown said. "The goal of course, is to get the kids ready for the regional in three weeks.
"Right now, I like the way we're wrestling. But we need to keep improving heading down the stretch here.''
Striegel, a Class 3A State Tournament qualifier a year ago, has been nothing short of brilliant all season. With a 24-1 mark, the East grappler has been ranked between fifth and seventh at 170 pounds all season.
"Both Lucas (Bernal) and Matt have been solid all year. They are kids who work hard in the offseason and compete in tournaments. They do what it takes to be successful in this sport,'' Brown said. "Matt's only loss came by a point to the No. 2 ranked kid in Class 2A. He can compete with anybody in the state.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org