Althoff wrestlers are 'taking it one match at a time'
Althoff High School seniors Danny Braunagel and Chase Bittle have a history together as wrestlers that goes back to sixth grade.
They’ve trained together, traveled together and last year, along with Crusader teammate and Danny’s twin brother Zac Braunagel, won Illinois High School Association state wrestling championships together.
Last week at the Quincy Invitational, they made IHSA history together.
Bittle, competing in the 126-pound class, made Quinn Kelly, of St. Charles (Missouri) Lutheran, his 132nd career pin, a new Illinois record. Just minutes later, Danny Braunagel, at 160 pounds, defeated Quincy Notre Dame’s Sam Schlegl, 19-4, for his 61st career technical fall, also a state record.
Both Bittle and Danny Braunagel went on to win individual championships at the event. Althoff placed second behind Cahokia in the team competition.
“I think we’ve wrestled together since the sixth grade. My parents started the Crusaders Elite Wrestling Club along with some other parents from the Belleville Little Devils and the Braunagels came over,” said Bittle, a two-time state champion. “We had a lot of success together and I think its great to have someone right there with you who if not better, is just as good as you are.
“Last year at the state tournament it wasn’t just me who won a state championship, the Braunagels also each won one. It made the state tournament just that much better.”
Bittle broke the previous pins mark, which was held by Garrett Goebel, of Lombard Montini. The record was the first of two major accomplishments for Bittle, who earlier this week set a new Althoff record with his 178th career win. That former record belonged to Aaron Winning, a four-time state tournament medal winner from 2002-2006.
Danny Braunagel, who has 173 career wins and is Illinois’ top-ranked Class 1A 160-pound wrestler with a record of 41-0, broke the mark of 60 technical falls that was held by Tyler Schilson, of Warsaw, and Nate Jozsa, of Argenta-Oreana.
Headed to the University of Illinois in the fall to wrestle with twin Zac, Danny Braunagel has been one of the most dominant wrestlers in the state once again this season. Of his 41 wins, all have been by pin, technical fall or major decision. He has also won all of his matches by at least eight points.
Danny Braunagel said he wasn’t thinking of breaking any records when the season began. His goal has been to dominate and win another state championship.
“(The record) certainly wasn’t the goal this year. I was just looking one day, saw that I was close, and was able to get it,” Danny Braunagel said. “It’s really special because it means that all my hard work has paid off.
“My goal is just to go there and dominate. This means that I’m getting closer to accomplishing my goals.”
The Class 1A 152-pound state champion a year ago, Danny Braunagel will begin his quest to repeat at 160 pounds on Feb. 3, when Althoff plays host to a Class 1A regional. Danny Braunagel has high hopes not only for himself but for the Crusaders’ other state champions.
“That’s the goal. I just want to stay focused on each opponent and continue to dominate,” Danny Braunagel said. “The thing about it is that if I win it again, I probably won’t be doing it alone, I will most likely be doing it with Chase and Zac again. That would be pretty special to have multiple state champions from the same school two years in a row.
“But like I said, it’s one match at a time.”
Bittle is on pace to break another record. A state champion as a freshman three years ago, Bittle is currently tied with former Althoff great Mike Greenfield as the only Crusaders with two state championships. Bittle says he’s trying not to think about it.
“It would be great to win another state championship. But I’m not feeling any pressure to do it. I’m just going to go out there and do my best each match,” Bittle said. “To be able to break the state record for pins was something I knew I was closing in late last year. I used that as extra incentive to get ready for this year.”
Bittle will attend and wrestle at North Dakota State University next season.