The Edwardsville Tigers used superior depth during the 2014-15 regular season to overwhlem the competition as they won an outright Southwestern Conference wrestling title.
That same Edwardsville team was on display again Saturday at the Class 3A Belleville West Regional. The outcome was almost identitical.
Sophomore Ben Schlueter won the 113-pound championship and senior Tanner Ambry scored a 1-0 win over Gabe Wood of Granite City in the championship bout at 120 to lead the way as Edwardsville won the team title before a large turnout at West High School.
Offsetting the impressive performances of brothers Phyllip Deloach and Nick Deloach, along with Qiante Wagner, for Alton, the Tigers had 14 wrestlers earn top four finishes and finished with 176 points, 20 more than second place the Redbirds (156) and 69 points in front of third-place Belleville West (107).
More importantly, the Tigers qualified 10 of their wrestlers for the Normal Sectional on Feb. 13-14.
Tigers coach Jon Wagner said the depth of his team was the difference. But the titles won by Ambry and Schlueter were equally important.
“With Alton’s strength in the middle weights (145-160), I was concerned and so for Ben and Tanner to win at 113 and 120 pounds was big for us,’’ Wagner said. “But to have 12 kids in the top four and advance 10 to sectionals, shows our depth which has been a big part of this team all year.
“We have a lot of good wrestlers on this team and we have even more at home. It was a good effort.’’
Phylllip Deloach (145) and Nick Deloach (152) improved to a combined 84-0 this year, while Wagner is 41-3 after winning the 160-pound title for Alton, which will send six wrestlers to sectional. The host Maroons also have six sectional qualifiers.
The Maroons got championship efforts from Garrett Bass (106) and Ricky Nelson (285). Nelson, a three-sport athlete, was especally impressive in scoring a pin over Darian Pierson of Alton in 3 minutes and 3 seconds of their title match.
“He’s got muscles his coach never had,’’ Maroons coach Al Sears said after watching Nelson have his way with Pierson in the final. “The Pierson kid is a good wrestler with 35 wins and Ricky went out and just dominated. He is just so strong.
“Garrett Bass has been wrestling for a long time, even though he’s only a freshman. We think that both those kids have a chance of doing well the next two weeks.’’[
Also advancing for the Maroons were Vick Beloch (113), Dorian Hoskins (132), Nick Foster (145) and JD Bass (152).
Granite City, which placed fourth with 100 points, also had six wrestlers move on. The Warriors were led by Matt Wylie, who took the title at 220. Wood and Devon Simpson (138) placed second.
Collinsville (90 points) and O’Fallon (87) rounded out the top six teams. Junior Cole Zabala (132) led the Kahoks with a title, while Jacob Blaha (126) was second.
O’Fallon received a title from Quin Preston (195). Keajion Jennings (170) and Mason Hewitt (182) both took second for the Panthers.
Belleville East wasn’t a factor in the team competition, placing eighth with 58 points, but the Lancers did get title efforts from Lucas Bernal (126) and Matt Striegel (170). Jan Yates was second at 220 for East.
“Being seniors, I’m very happy for both Lucas and Matt. Hopefully they can have another good week of practice and be ready to go next week at sectionals,” ,’’ Lancers coach Maurice Brown said. “It only gets tougher from here and I’m sure Matt, being a two-time state qualifier, realizes that
“Jan Yates is a kid who has wrestled in the 285-pound weight class all year because we didn’t have a heavyweight. He weighs in at 215, so that means he’s giving up 60-70 pounds each night. But he never complained. We were able to move him down to 220 for the regional and I couldn’t be happier for the young man. He took one for the team all year and he deserves a chance to get to state.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.