Eight O’Fallon High wrestlers were equal to the challenge Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Granite City regional, qualifying for the IHSA sectional tournament to be held Saturday, Feb. 11 in Normal. Three of the eight OTHS qualifiers emerged from the mat test unscathed, earning individual championships in their respective weight classes.
Alek Ziegler (120 pounds), Jack Bond (160 pounds) and Mason Hewitt (182 pounds) were O’Fallon’s top wrestlers in the regional, all winning first place medals.
Ziegler improved to 33-3 en route to his regional title. The OTHS grappler pinned Belleville East’s Trey Fernandes at 22:20 of their semi-final match and collected his first place hardware by man-handling Granite City’s Josh Harsh 8-1 in the title tilt.
Jack Bond’s championship came on the strength of two decisions. The O’Fallon 160-pounder cruised to a semi-final victory over Granite City’s Cordelle Mackin 10-1 and survived a stern test in securing his first-place medal by outlasting Edwardsville’s Guy Brown 5-4. The 160-pound title boosts Bond’s seasonal mark to an exceptional 35-1 as he prepares for sectional action.
Mason Hewitt, O’Fallon’s third regional champ, needed three victories to earn first-place honors. Hewitt opened with a solid performance, pinning Belleville East’s Raymon DeWalt at 1:55 of the first period. The Panther 182-pounder doubled up on his pin count in the semi-finals, nailing Granite City’s Chase Nelson to the mat at 5:04. The win propelled Hewitt into the championship round against Alton’s Keontay Holmes. A key reversal proved the key for the OTHS senior, earning him a 3-2 decision.
The five other O’Fallon wrestlers who qualified for sectional action punched their qualifying tickets to Normal with three second-place finishes and two thirds.
Alex Fulton (126 pounds), Brian Ahle (220 pounds) and Kobey Bosworth (195 pounds) earned second-place medals. Ahle and Bosworth were just a point away from adding to O’Fallon’s list of champions. Ahle lost 3-2 in his final to Tyree Williams of Quincy, while Bosworth was tripped up by Granite City’s Kyle Thompson 4-3 in the title face-off.
A pair of OTHS freshmen rounded out the list of Panther sectional qualifiers. Mason Baker (285 pounds) lost by pin to Korinthian Nabors of Granite City in semi-final action but rebounded to defeat Alton’s Ryan Kane 3-2 for third place. Nasim Chelbi, competing in his first year on the mat, won an 8-7 decision over Collinsville’s Garrett Lee before losing to Noah Surin of Edwardsville by pin.
“We have an excellent complement of wrestlers representing O’Fallon in the sectional,” said Panther head coach Glenn Exton. “Six of our eight entries have experience at the sectional level, so I anticipate that they will have a legitimate shot at qualifying for the state finals. We have been at or near the top against the top competition throughout the season. The sectional tournament offers our wrestlers another chance to move into the exceptional category.”