Jake Etcheson won a championship in the 160-pound division, and Alex Foster came up just short of a title in the 140-pound division, but it wasn’t enough to propel the Vandalia wrestling team to yet another first-place finish at the Bethalto Civic Memorial Invitational Saturday.
Coming off a triangular sweep of Mattoon and Cahokia Thursday at home, VCHS took aim at its second straight CM Tournament title and its seventh championship this decade at the 30th annual event.
VCHS had to settle for fifth, however, finishing with 140.5 points.
“We did OK, overall,” said VCHS coach Jason Clay of a 15-team tournament that got tougher this year with the addition of Alton Marquette, Eureka, Mo., and new champion St. Jacob Triad.
Improved depth is just one factor that kept the Vandals from repeating.
“(In order to win) you have to have multiple guys come through to the finals,” said Clay, whose team had two wrestlers reach the finals, compared to five last year. “Some teams had five, six, seven guys in the finals. …That’s where you really start racking up some points.”
Despite slipping in the team standings, there were several promising performances for the Vandals – none more so than Etcheson’s.
In just his second season of wrestling, Etcheson showed why Clay speaks so highly of his potential by sweeping his way to the title with a 3-0 record after placing fourth last year.
“He was pretty excited,” Clay said.
“I don’t know if he sees himself the way I do, with the ability he has. I think he’s maybe a little unsure of himself, so, hopefully, this will give him a boost of confidence. … He’s wrestled very well so far this year.”
Etcheson pinned Mattoon’s Cardaro Cavozos in the quarterfinals in 1 minute, 44 seconds before advancing to the finals with a 6-5 decision over Alton Marquette’s Smyth Bontemps. He then pinned Triad’s Chad Hayden in just 1:20 in the finals, moving to 5-1 on the young season.
Foster had to win three matches to get to the finals in the 140-pound division. He opened up with a major decision over Alton’s Brandon Clark before pinning East Alton-Wood River’s Taylor Weiglar in the quarterfinals.
He then got a little revenge, pulling out a 5-3 win over Mattoon’s Devin Patterson in the semifinals. Patterson beat Foster in a close match in the semifinals a year ago.
“He beat Mattoon’s best kid,” Clay said. “They had a good match last year, and Alex really controlled the match (this time).”
Foster came up on the short end of a 11-4 score against Triad’s Kevin Graumenz in the finals, however, but the match was much closer than the final tally indicates.
Foster was enjoying a 4-2 lead in the second period until he got reversed on what wound up being a five-point move for Graumenz.
“He maybe got too aggressive, but you can deal with those kinds of mistakes” Clay said. “Hopefully he can get a rematch at (the upcoming) Mascoutah (Tournament) and it will go the other way.”
Freshman Trever Pyle also continued to impress for the Vandals.
Pyle advanced to the semifinals in the 103-pound division by pulling out a 6-4 overtime decision over Triad’s Kyle Graumenz.
Pyle suffered his first varsity loss in the semis, dropping a 14-2 major decision to EA-Wood River’s Josh Bennett, but he closed out strong with a 12-8 win over Murphysboro’s Casey Brashear in the third-place match.
Jake Harris, Anthony Wernle and Caleb Walton added sixth-place finishes for Vandalia, while Justin Hill, Josh Vosholler, Anthony Coney, David Downs and Levi Ulmer had seventh-place finishes.
Vandalia 62, Mattoon 16
Vandalia 51, Cahokia 21
The Vandals had little trouble improving to 3-0 in the early going, as Pyle, Hill, Wernle, Foster, Harris, Walton and Devin Cook won two matches apiece.
Hill won both of his 112-pound matches via pin – dropping Mattoon’s Josh Johnson and Cahokia’s Michael Ross – while Cook won by fall in the 215-pound division and the 285-pound division over Mattoon’s Michael McKinney and Cahokia’s Rodney Young, respectively.
Walton was also dominant in claiming two victories in the 189-pound division, as he picked up a 25-10 major decision over Mitch Sawyer in his opening match before pinning Cahokia’s Lavante Lewis 2 minutes and 32 seconds into his second match.
Harris and Foster had similarly successful nights.
In the 135-pound division, Harris recorded a pin in 1:11 against Mattoon’s Luke Greer before taking a 15-6 major decision over Cahokia’s Lyjerrick Ward.
Foster pinned Mattoon’s Nick White in 1:19 prior to taking an 18-2 major decision over Cahokia’s Ivan Lester.
Pyle also recorded a pin – his second in three varsity matches – moving to 3-0 on his young career. Pyle needed just 2 minutes, 22 seconds to pin Cahokia’s Videl Akins. He won his other match via forfeit.
Etcheson recorded a pin at the 3:08 mark of his opening 160-pound match against Mattoon’s Trey Williams, but suffered a heartbreaking 15-14 defeat to Cahokia’s Darnell Thomas.
Also recording pins for Vandalia were Coney and Downs.
Downs did so in his first match of the night, dropping Mattoon’s Marty Culp in 3:26 in the 152-pound division. Coney moved to 2-0 in the early going by pinning Cahokia’s Bernard Gantt in his only match of the night.
“I thought Thursday night was a lot better effort (than last Tuesday’s season opener),” Clay said. “There was a lot more intensity.”