Deep Collinsville squad earns first win over Granite City

Chalk one up for the teacher and his Collinsville High School wrestling team.

Collinsville wrestler Dylan Hosier ignited a large home crowd with a wild 19-17 win over Granite City’s Chris Santiago in the 106-pound match and the emotionally-charged Kahoks took off from there as they went on to defeat Granite City for the first time in school history, 38-21 on Thursday at Collinsville High School.

Utilizing its strength in the lower weight classes, Collinsville (12-3) won six of the first eight matches to build up a commanding lead.

A perennial state power, Granite City rallied in the middle weight classes, but when Derron Miller defeated the Warriors Nick Zambito 6-1 in the 195-pound match, the Kahoks had defeated their Southwestern Conference foe for the first time in 45 years.

The Collinsville wrestling program began in the 1970 season.

“We have been building towards this for the last few years but we had just never been able to get over the hump. To finally be able to beat them (Granite City).... yes, the kids were excited,’’ Kahoks coach Tom Blaha said. “We do a blind draw to see what weight class the match starts at and so when we started at 106 pounds, it was good for us. We’ve got some good wrestlers in the lighter weights and we were able to get on a little roll.’’

The victory was also special for Blaha who was an assistant coach at Granite City for several years before taking over the head coaching duties at Collinsville 16 years ago. Among the wrestlers Blaha helped mentor while with the Warriors was current Granite City head coach George Kirgan and assistant coach John Venne.

Now after losing to his former pupils for several years, Blaha finally got a little pay back in the Kahoks win.

“I was there (Granite City) for George’s first three years and I was there when (John) Venne won the state title. I gave him my (wrestling) shoes. I told him that if he won state, he could have shoes,’’ Blaha said. “They are both friends and I like to think I was a mentor to them when they were in high school.

“The students had been able to get the teacher (Blaha) up until Thursday. But the teacher finally had his day.’’

While Hosier’s win got the Kahoks off to a 3-0 start, it also got the large Kahoks crowd into the match even more.

“It was a match which went back and forth so the fans were really into it,’’ Blaha said. “The match was in the center of the gym floor and things got a little heated a c ouple of times because the emotions were running high on both sides.

“Granite City isn’t used to losing and our kids knew that we had never beaten them. The atmosphere that night was pretty intense.’’

After Collinsville’s JD Higdon won at 113 pounds and Granite City’s Josh Harsh won by injury deault at 120 pounds to tie the match at 6, Collinsville took control by winning the next four matches.

Jevon Pargo (126), Jake Blaha and Cole Zabala (138) all scored wins and when Zackary Warren won by pin at 145, the Kahoks had a big lead.

“Cole (Zabala) has had a great year and has 21 pins in his 24 wins and he beat a very good kid in Wilyonde (Bell) it was a big victory for us. Both of those kids had placed in the (Granite City) holiday tournament.

“Then Zackary (Warren) got us a big win at 145.’’

After a double disqualification at 152 pounds, Collinsville senior Adam Gillespie came off the bench to defeat Chase Nelson 6-5 in the 160 pound match.

Granite City drew closer when Andre Weathers (170) and Kyle Thompson (182), but when Miller won at 195, the Kahoks had the win.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean