Althoff senior Chase Bittle hopes to join some elite company this weekend as he leads a large contingent of local athletes into the IHSA state wrestling tournament at State Farm Center in Champaign.
A two-time state champion and three-time finalist, Bittle is the top seed in the Class 1A 126-pound weight class and will take on Tyler Harris, of Clinton, when first-round matches begin at 1 p.m. Thursday. Bittle, who owns the state record for most pins in a career with 142, will attempt to join Kip Kristoff as the only metro-east wrestlers with three state championships.
Kristoff, who competed at Bethalto High School (now Civic Memorial), won state titles in 1982, 83 and 85. He placed third in 1984.
"I've said it all year that Chase and the Braunagel brothers, Danny and Zac, are just at another level," Althoff coach Josh Harper said following the sectional tournament. "They have all been on a mission all year. Chase had the one weekend where he lost a couple of matches earlier, but he's been outstanding and dominated his opponents here again recently.
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"They are all three determined to end their high school careers with state championships this weekend.''
Danny Braunagel, who is 50-0 this season and will take a 99-match winning streak into his first-round match Thursday, is the top-seed in the 160-pound class. Twin brother Zac Braunagel is 47-2 and the top seed in the 182-pound class. Both Braunagel brothers won state titles a year ago.
Max Kristoff (138 pounds) and Anthony Federico (132) are also medal hopefuls for Althoff, which leads the area with seven state tournament qualifiers.
The Class 1A first-round matches begin a full three days of wrestling at State Farm Center. Class 2A first-round matches will begin at 3 p.m. with Class 3A matches set for 5 p.m. Quarterfinals and semifinals, along with wrestlebacks, are set for Friday with the medal round set for late Saturday afternoon and evening.
In Class 2A, East St. Louis senior Anthony King is the top seed in the 106-pound weight class and will take a 33-1 record into his first-round match. Cahokia has a pair of seeded wrestlers competing. Senior Martell Boone is the No. 2 seed in the 152-pound weight class and will take a 35-1 record into his first-round match.
Senior Rozelle Baker is 35-5 and is the fourth seed in the Class 2A 170-pound division.
Edwardsville junior Noah Surtin is the No. 2 seed in the 113-pound weight class, while teammate Luke Odom is seeded second in the 126-pound weight division. Three Belleville West wrestlers, including brothers Josh Koderhandt (106) and Justin Koderhandt (138), are also in the Class 3A field, while O'Fallon senior and sectional champion Jack Bond is in the 170-pound class.