They are young and will be without one of their top seniors until late in the regular season, but the Waterloo wrestling team seems to be coming on.
A week after placing 11th with a short-handed squad at the Civic Memorial Tournament, the Bulldogs knocked off several of the same teams to capture the eight-team Jerseyville Tournament title Saturday.
It was the second wrestling championship for Waterloo, which also won at Jerseyville in 2003.
“We're definitely moving in the right direction,'' said first-year head coach Pat Stewart, who served as an assistant at Waterloo from 2007 through 2009. “The boys have been working hard and we're starting to see some results. We're 7-2 in duals and ended up tying a state record with a perfect 84-0 score in a dual win over Mater Dei.''
At Jerseyville, the Bulldogs received championship efforts from Mack Mundy at 132 pounds, Pat Bieber at 182 and Isaac Dodd at 195. Bieber, a junior, was Waterloo's only winner at Civic Memorial.
“We also had a bunch of seconds, thirds and fourths,'' Stewart said. “In fact, we had only one kid who failed to finish in the top four. That's pretty good, especially with a lineup filled with freshmen and sophomores. We only have three seniors.''
Another senior, Omar Farag, hurt his knee at the Disney Duals and is not expected back until mid-January.
“At this point, it looks like he won't be cleared until after the Quincy Tournament and right before our conference duals,'' Stewart said. “We're definitely excited about getting him back, hopefully in time to get him prepared for regionals. We've never had a state qualifier, but with this group, we feel like we have a few kids who might have a chance. And we'd love a chance to move on as a team.''
The move to three classes of wrestling competition in Illinois has definitely benefited schools like Waterloo, who previously battled against area powers like Edwardsville and Granite City for state berths.
“It's tough when you're trying to establish a program and you're up against the Belleville schools in regionals,'' Stewart said. “But in Class 2A, at least we feel like we have more of a shot. The Mississippi Valley is a very good small-school wrestling conference; schools like Triad, Highland, Jerseyville, Mascoutah and Civic Memorial are always going to have some tough kids. But it's that kind of competition that will hopefully get us prepared for February.''
The Bulldogs will return to tournament action this weekend at Mascoutah.
“A strong showing there would definitely open some eyes,'' Stewart said.
Other champions at Jerseyville were: Jerseyville's Brandon Critchfield (106), Centralia's Trey Westbrook (113), East St. Louis' Norman Robinson (120), East St. Louis' Don Cavitt (126), Jerseyville's Cody Torrey (138), Springfield's Jason Scherer (145), Jerseyville's Shad Hillis (152), Jerseyville's Jake Zedolek (160), Centralia's Mason White (170), East Alton-Wood River's Brad Carr (220) and East St. Louis' Antonio James (285).
SHOWDOWN IN EDWARDSVILLE
Two of the area's fiercest rivals will square off Thursday when Edwardsville hosts Granite City in a Southwestern Conference dual at the Jon Davis Wrestling Center. Action will begin with the JV match at 6 p.m.
“In my opinion, it's the best rivalry in Southern Illinois,'' Edwardsville coach Jon Wagner said. “Both schools have great wrestlers and the fans on both sides really get into it, too. When you combine the atmosphere and the intensity, this is what high school wrestling is all about.''
This year's match will have a bit of a different look as George Kirgan has taken over as head coach at Granite City after serving six seasons as an assistant under his father, Allen, who retired last spring.
“Other than Allen Kirgan being in the stands instead of on the bench, I don't expect much to change,'' Wagner said. “It's still Edwardsville-Granite City wrestling, one of those events that fans from both communities have circled on their calenders.''
Some highlights from other weekend tournament action. ...
• Ladue placed fourth behind Pleasant Valley, Kirksville and Hannibal in the nine-team Kirksville Tiger Classic. The Rams, who took first at John Burroughs to open their tournament schedule, had two individual champions -- Antonio Escobar (106) and Chase Ridenour (152) -- in Kirksville.
• After winning its own tournament a week earlier, Civic Memorial took ninth in the 39th annual Pontiac Invitational. Joliet Central won the 16-team event. The top finisher for Civic Memorial was Keith McDonough (6-1), who took the title at 103. The Eagles' Christian Schaub was third at 120.
• Jackson followed up on a first-place finish at the Patriot Classic at Parkway South by winning the Ray Doney Invitational on Saturday at Ritenour. Area champions at Ritenour were SLUH's Sean Mulligan (126), SLUH's Joe Reichold (132), McCluer North's Anthony Nichols (138), Hazelwood East's Cody Bain (145), Ritenour's Tyron Welch (160), McCluer North's Gary Washington (170), Ritenour's Lamar Welch (182), Westminster's Bennett Lewis (195) and Herculaneum's Brian Duncan (285).
• The Holt JV won the Union Tournament, beating out Logan-Rogersville for the top spot in the 10-team event. The Indians were paced by champions Gavin Londoff (106) and Mike Brown (113). Other area winners at Union were: Union's Jordan Nowak (126), Webster Groves' Ryan Roemmerman (132), Union's Alex Gaebe (138), Union's Devon Fennessey (145), Union's Cody Pace (152), Brentwood's Mykell Hudspeth (160), Union's Dalton Kuenzel (170), Webster Groves' Blake Workman (182), Webster Groves' Patrick Megown (220) and Lutheran South's Joey Loesch (285).