High School Sports

Althoff’s Kristoff goes out in style with Class 1A state wrestling championship

2019 State Wrestling - Medium

A look back at the IHSA State Wrestling Meet and the Southern Illinois athletes who competed
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A look back at the IHSA State Wrestling Meet and the Southern Illinois athletes who competed

One of the top wrestlers in Althoff High School history, senior Max Kristoff went out in style before a near capacity crowd at State Farm Arena on Saturday.

Competing with the style and poise of a four-time state tournament medal winner, Kristoff became the 11th state champion in Althoff history as he defeated Nolan Throne of Taylor Ridge (Rockridge) 3-0 in the Class 1A 145-pound final.

Ending his senior season with a 44-4 record, Kristoff was never threatened on Saturday. Jumping out to an early lead, Kristoff controlled the tempo and the match as he put his name in the Crusaders record book forever.

“It means a lot. I’ve worked very hard for this, but there is still work to do,’’ a smiling Kristoff said. “I couldn’t have done this without my practice partners, my teammates who are my brothers and my mom ... she’s my rock.’’

The state title is also the fifth for the Kristoff family. Max Kristoff’s dad, Kip, won three state championships while wrestling at Bethalto (Civic Memorial) High School, while his uncle, Mark also has won. Both, along with his grandfather, former Olympian and SIU-Edwardsville coaching legend Larry Kristoff, were on hand to see Max win his state title.

“My dad just wished me luck and do my best,’’ Max Kristoff said.

While Kristoff came out on top, Crusaders teammate Anthony Federico dropped a 12-0 decision to Noah Villareal of Aurora Christian in the 132-pound final. Federico ends his season with a 47-4 record.

“He (Villareal) is a great wrestler, a two-time state champion,’’ Althoff coach Mike Greenfield said. “Anthony had a great state tournament and exceptional season. He gave a great effort tonight.’’

Greenfield also knows about 145 pound state champions. As a wrestler at Althoff two decades ago, he won the first of his two state titles in the 145-pound weight class.

“I told Max that he would have had to beat me because I won at 145 my junior year,’’ Greenfield said, laughing. “Max has had a lot to live up too, and tonight and all season he did a great job for us.

“With the Braunagel twins graduating, Max has had to pick up a leadership role. His work ethic in the practice room was a great example for our young kids.’’

A third metro-east Class 1A wrestler, Roxana senior Alex MaGuire, lost the 152-pound title match 4-3 to Brody Ivy of Sterling Newman.

While the performances of Kristoff and Federico were the highlight of the weekend for Althoff they were just part of the story this weekend at State Farm Center.

Under Greenfield, the Crusaders saw six of their seven state tournament entries place in the top eight in their respective weight classes.

Matthew Minick placed fifth in the 103-pound bracket, while brother Shawn was fourth at 113. Carrying on the family name with yet another state medal, sophomore Joey Braunagel placed sixth in the 170-pound weight class.

Braunagel is the younger brother of Zac and Danny Braunagel, who both won state titles in 2017 and 2018. The Braunagel brothers are currently freshmen at the University of IIlinois.

Isaiah Bernal finished in the top eight in the 126-pound weight class.

Also placing in Class 1A were Carlyle senior Dale Allen, who placed fourth in the 220-pound weight class and Wood River’s Jake Erslon who was fourth at 170.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.