The Althoff Crusaders came in fourth place Saturday at the Class 1A dual team state wrestling tournament at Grossinger Motors Arena.
In just their second trip to the dual team state finals, and their first since the 1994 season, the Crusaders clinched their first trophy by defeating Erie 52-24 in the quarterfinals before dropping a 39-38 decision to Vandalia in the semifinals.
Althoff (27-9) then lost the third-place match to Coal City 36-34.
"I couldn't be any more proud of a group of wrestlers than I am of this team," Althoff coach Josh Harper said. "It set the standard for Althoff teams of the future to try and meet.
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"We became the first team in school history to win a trophy, then lost a one-point match and a two-point match. We were right there."
In the third-place match, Althoff found itself down 12-0 after two and spent the rest of the match playing catch-up.
Class 1A 160-pound state champion Danny Braunagel won by technical fall to close the gap to 12-5, and minutes later, twin brother Zac Braunagel, the 182-pound state champion, won by pin.
But Coal City increased its lead to 27-11 with back-to-back pins at 195 and 220 pounds to increase its advantage.
A two-time state champion and two-time state runner-up, senior Chase Bittle ended his career with a nine-second pin in the 126-pound match. Bittle finished with a state-record 148 career pins.
Also winning were Matthew Minnick (106 pounds), Anthony Federico (132) and Max Kristoff (138). All three return next season.
"We have some very talented wrestlers returning next season, and they are going to have to be our leaders, but this senior class with the Braunagels, Chase (Bittle) and Grace (Kristoff), you don't replace kids like that," an emotional Harper said. " Six state championships, many other championships and the leadership they provided in the practice room — you just can't replace that.
"They will be missed tremendously."
Cahokia places second in Class 2A
After placing fourth in the dual team state finals in two of the last three years, the Cahokia Comanches earned the second place trophy in the Class 2A bracket.
The Comanches (21-5) defeated Chatham Glenwood 35-25 in the quarterfinals, then ran past Rochelle 60-22 in the semifinals. But taking on one of the top ranked programs in the nation — Washington — the Comanches managed to win just two matches and fell 59-12 in the title match.
Washington has now won the past three Class 2A state crowns.
"Did I feel like we had a chance going into the final match? There is always hope. There is always chance," Comanches coach Tom Reed said. "But we were going up against one of the top ranked teams in nation. We fell short. But I can't fault our effort.
"With these kids, I can never fault the effort."
Cahokia received wins from its top two wrestlers. Senior Rozell Baker, who won the Class 2A state crown last week, won by pin in his 170-pound match. Class 2A 220-pound state runner-up Jacob Bullock also won by pin for the Comanches.