Five matches away from a trip to the Class 1A Dual State Wrestling Tournament, the Althoff Crusaders couldn’t close the deal on Tuesday at Vandalia High School.
Vandalia junior Kendrick Woolsey scored a takedown 26 seconds into overtime to defeat Althoff senior Rodney Baker in the 285-pound match to cap a dramatic comeback as the Vandals rallied for a 36-29 win at the Class 1A Vandalia Dual Team Sectional Tournament.
Leading 2-0 after an escape to start the third period, Woolsey was hit with two stalling calls — each resulting in a point for Baker — late in the final minute, sending the match into overtime. But Woolsey made up for the miscues when he got behind Baker early in the overtime session to score the win and send the Vandals into the Class 1A Dual Team State Tournament on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
Woolsey’s win was the crowning moment for the Vandals who trailed 30-15 following a pin by Althoff freshman Zac Braunagel in the 170-pound match.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
“He made it a little more interesting than it had to be with the two stalling calls, but Kendrick was able to get the takedown when it counted,” Vandals coach Jason Clay said. “He (Baker) had gotten us twice before including at the sectional a couple of weeks ago and we knew that someone needed to turn that around tonight.”
“I was concerned when we were down 30-15 heading into the 182-pound match. But I liked our matchups at 182 and 195 and when we needed bonus points with the pins we were able to get them. This is a tough group of kids. They kept fighting.”
While Althoff fell short in Class 1A, the Triad Knights earned a bid to the Class 2A State Tournament with a 42-29 win over Chatham-Glenwood at the Taylorville Sectional. The Knights will take on Oak Forest at 9 a.m. on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Edwardsville also fell short. The Tigers dropped a 42-26 match to Lockport at the Taylorville Sectional on Tuesday.
While Woolsey’s win proved to be the clincher, the Crusaders received a costly penalty point for slapping the mat following a pin by Vandals junior Bobby Bradley in the 195-pound match.
Coupled with Bradley’s pin, the penalty point left Althoff leading just 29-27 heading into the 220-pound weight class. When the Crusaders forfeited at 220, the Vandals held a four-point 33-29 lead.
“It was a big point because down four points we had to wrestle a different way than we would have had to if we were only down three points and just needing a decision to tie the match. You don’t like to think about one thing, but the penalty point was big,” Althoff coach Josh Harper said, “The kids did their job. We won the matches we thought we would.
“It’s just sad to come so close and come up short. We had a great year and it was one where we saw the program show a lot of progress. Credit goes to Vandalia. There is a lot of tradition in wrestling here and I guess the road to the dual team state tournament seems to run through here as well.”
Althoff got off to a good start. Freshman Chase Bittle, the runnerup in the 113-pound weight class at the individual state tournament, won his match by major decision as Althoff took a 4-0 lead.
Two pins by the Vandals at 120 and 126 pounds left the Cruaders down 12-4, but when senior Jevon Hay won 9-2 in the 132-pound match, the Crusaders got on on a roll.
Three time state tournament Jarid Braunagel won by pin in the 138-pound match and when little brother Danny Braunagel followed with a pin at at 145, the Crusaders had a 19-12 lead.
Senior Cody Harris then increased the lead to 24-12 win a win by technical fall in the 152-pound match. But Zac Braunagel’s win at 170-pounds proved to be the final bright spot of the day for Althoff.