High School Sports

Althoff's Braunagel twins are back-to-back state wrestling champs

Althoff's Danny Braunagel after beating Coal City's Daniel Jezik in the Class 1A 160-pound division championship match at the IHSA Individual Wrestling State Tournament in February.
Althoff's Danny Braunagel after beating Coal City's Daniel Jezik in the Class 1A 160-pound division championship match at the IHSA Individual Wrestling State Tournament in February. Special to the News-Democrat

For the second year in a row, Althoff's Braunagel twins — Danny and Zac — doubled up and dominated at the Class 1A state wrestling tournament at State Farm Center.

Wrestling on the University of Illinois campus that they will call home for the next four years as members of the Fighting Illini wrestling program, the Braunagels captured their back-to-back state wrestling titles in identical fashion, winning their championships by technical fall.

Danny Braunagel, who ended his season with a 54-0 record and won the last 103 matches of his high school career, defeated Daniel Jezik, of Coal City, in the 160-pound final. Zac Braunagel defeated Jonah Pearson, of Byron, in 4:46.

Zac Braunagel was 51-2 for the season.

"To win a second state title and second straight year with my twin brother ... I guess you could say twos are wild here tonight,'' Danny Braunagel said. "This is a great way to end our individual careers, but to me, it's continuing to work hard and become a better wrestler as I keep reaching toward the ultimate goal, which is to become the best in the world.''

Zac Braunagel, like his brother and training partner, conducted a takedown clinic in routing Pearson.

"It was just a case of going out there and dominating,'' Braunagel said. "Two win, two state titles means a lot, but I couldn't have done this without my brother. We train and live this sport all year. We train sometimes three and four times a day for this kind of result.

"I said last year that the state title was for my dad because it was his dream. Well this one, this year is for my mom.''

Althoff senior Chase Bittle's bid to make history fell short in the 126-pound final. Looking to join former Bethalto High School great Kip Kristoff as the only three-time state champions in metro-east high school history, Bittle dropped a 9-7 overtime decision to Noah Villarreal, of Chicago Christian.

Bittle held a 5-2 lead entering the third period, but by applying constant pressure against the Crusaders senior, Villarreal cut the lead to 7-6 with 19 seconds left. Bittle was then hit for a stalling call with 19 seconds to tie the match at 7.

Villarreal scored the winning takedown 30 seconds into the overtime period.

Cahokia senior Rozell Baker won the Class 2A 170-pound state crown, and Noah Surtin, of Edwardsville, made history when he became the first wrestler in school history to win a state title.

A junior, Surtin won the Class 3A 113-pound championship.

Surtin avenged his only loss of the season in the 113-pound final when he beat Dylan Ragusin, of Lombard Montini, 7-6 in the 113-pound final. The Edwardsville junior finished his season with a 50-1 record.

Beaten by Ragusin at the Loves Park Dvorak Tournament in December, Suritin jumped out to a 5-0 lead Saturday, then withstood a furious comeback by Ragusin in the closing seconds.

"The difference this time was I had the mindset to go out and be more offensive minded. I didn't do that the first time we wrestled,'' Surtin said. "To be the first state champion in school history means a lot. I didn't do it so much for myself, but I did it for the coaches, my teammates and the school."

Surtin's win was also an emotional one for coach Jon Wagner, who celebrated his 51st birthday Saturday. Wagner is also undergoing treatment for prostrate cancer and arrived in Champaign on Saturday.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of Noah Surtin. He is a kid who has been around the Edwardsville wrestling program for a long time. He does the work in the summer in the weight room, the practice room and the classroom," Wagner said. "It's so rewarding to see that hard work pay off.''

Baker, who finished his senior year at 39-5, pinned Nick Fetzner, of Crystal Lake Prairie Ride, in 2:28. As the final buzzer sounded, Baker sprinted across the mat and jumped into the arms of Comanches coach Tom Reed.

"This means the world to me. I've worked so hard for this, and to finally see it come true is amazing,'' Baker said.

Cahokia's Martell Boone (152 pounds) and Jacob Bullock (220) both lost title matches.

In addition to the seven metro-east wrestlers who competed in state championship matches Saturday, nine other local athletes also earned medals.

Althoff also got a fourth-place finish from Matthew Minick (106 pounds) and sixth-place medals from Anthony Federico (132) and Max Kristoff (138). Alex McGuire, of Roxana, placed third in the 145-pound weight class, while Clayton Sheldon, of Sparta, was fifth in the 220-pound weight class.

Cahokia, led by its trio of finalists, had four wrestlers earn medals in the Class 2A bracket. Rodney Evans placed fifth in the 132-pound division to round out the Comanches' quartet of placewinners. Anthony King, of East St. Louis, was the other medal winner in Class 2A, placing third in the 106-pound weight class.

Edwardsville sophomore Luke Odom was third in the Class 3A 126-pound bracket, while O'Fallon senior Jack Bond placed third in the Class 3A 170-pound weight class.

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