The Althoff Crusaders’ duo of Danny and Zac Braunagel made sure their dream came true Saturday at the State Farm Center.
Two of the top wrestlers in Southern Illinois for the past three years, the Braunagel brothers teamed with junior Chase Bittle to win three state championships to cap a memorable night for the Crusaders at the Illinois High School Association state wrestling tournament.
The 145-pound runner-up a year ago, Danny Braunagel took down Arieh Hart, of Anna-Jonesboro, three times to win the Class 1A 152-pound state title 10-4.
Zac Braunagel won the 170-pound state, and Bittle won a second-straight state title — this time in the 126-pound bracket.
Bittle said he was not surprised by Althoff’s dominance Saturday.
“We have a great practice room, and we push each other every day in practice,” Bittle said. “We knew that we could win all three titles tonight. It’s what we’ve worked for all year.”
Bittle, the 120-pound state champion a year ago and 113-pound runner-up two years ago, finished off a flawless state tournament with a pin over Jared Van Fleet, of Stillman Valley, in 1:18. Bittle, who finished his season at 46-1, pinned all four of his opponents in a dominating performance.
Zac Braunagel simply overpowered Andrew Wenger, of Dakota, in the 170-pound final. Leading 3-2, Braunagel scored a pair of takedowns in the second part of the match as he recorded a 7-2 win.
Following the win, Zac Braunagel talked about what the win meant to his brother and his dad, Joe Braunagel.
“We talked about it a lot — what it would mean if we could both win state championships. I think we talked about it every day since last year,” Zac Braunagel said. “It’s a dream true. I’m actually almost speechless right now,
“It means a lot to Danny and me. But I think it probably means just as much to my dad. This was his dream as well.”
Danny Braunagel, who ends his season at 47-0, was ranked No. 1 in the state in the 152-pound weight class all season. Wrestling in the opening match of the finals Saturday, he wasted little time in taking the lead over Hart.
“I kind of wanted to see how he (Hart) would wrestle, and then I was able to go for my shots and get a couple of takedowns. I had waited a long time to get back in this (state championship match,” Braunagel said. “After losing last year, it was tough to take. But I think it made me more determined this year.
“We have been looking forward to this for a long time.”
Althoff sophomore Max Kristoff won his third-place match in the 132-pound weight class and finished 40-11 for the year.
Althoff wrestlers have now won nine state medals in the past two years.
Wood River senior Zac Blasioli also won a state title. Blasioli defeated Troy Hild, of Porta, 7-5 in the 132-pound final.