For the sixth time in seven years, the Vandalia wrestling team has claimed the championship of the Bethalto Civic Memorial Invitational.
The Vandals bounced back from last year’s third-place finish in a big way Saturday, as first-place finishes by Nathan Stone, Matt Shroyer and Adam Bowling helped VCHS reclaim the crown.
Curtis Hemminghaus and Cody Pyle added second-place showings, as Vandalia finished with 232 points, far outpacing formidable opponents such as Murphysboro (199) and Civic Memorial (191.5), which placed second and third, respectively.
The Vandals also got third-place finishes from Alex Foster and Josh Eller in their respective weight divisions, and prep wrestling newcomer Jake Etcheson continued his strong debut with a fourth-place showing.
The veteran trio of Stone, Shroyer and Bowling remained undefeated on the season with their respective title runs.
After receiving a first-round bye, Stone advanced to the finals in the 285-pound division with back-to-back pins. He then took a 5-2 decision over Jacksonville’s Jordan Sweetin to claim the championship.
Bowling recorded three pins on his way to a first-place finish in the 152-pound division, the latter coming 5 minutes, 41 seconds against Highland’s Phil Rensing in the title match.
Shroyer needed just 1:02 to pin Murphysboro’s Cody Gould in the championship of the 215-pound division. Shroyer’s path to the finals included a 7-2 semifinal decision over Gould and a quarterfinal pin of Roxana’s Sammy Pirtle in 1:01.
Hemminghaus continued his outstanding start after a one-year hiatus from wrestling, as he recorded a pin and won an 11-2 decision before running into East Alton-Wood River standout Kyle Hanner in the final of the 171-pound division. Hemminghaus suffered his first loss of the young season in the title match, as Hanner claimed a 7-1 decision and was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.
Pyle also saw his quest for a title foiled by an Oiler, as Devin Terry topped the Vandals senior in a 16-2 decision in the 140-pound title match. Pyle was extremely impressive in advancing to the championship, needing less than two minutes to record of pair of pins.
Eller suffered his second narrow defeat to Mattoon’s Tyler Orr in three days, falling 2-1 in the semifinals of the 112-pound match. But he bounced back to top Civic Memorial’s Brandon Snyder, 10-3, in the third-place match.
Foster also finished strong after a semifinal loss, as he claimed third in the 135-pound division with a pin of Mt. Vernon’s Eric Pierce in 1:39.
Etcheson recorded a pair of pins to advance to the 160 semifinals, but the junior could not overcome an injury in a loss to Shea Baker. He then suffered a pin against Herrin’s Brandon Fortner in the third-place match.
Anthony Wehrle (103) and Kevin Paulding (130) added fifth-place showings for the Vandals, while Zach Ledbetter (135) placed sixth and Caleb Walton was seventh in the 189-pound division.
Vandalia 67, Cahokia 10
Vandalia 54, Mattoon 6
The Vandals had little trouble with a pair of opponents last Thursday in their home opener, as Wehrle and Hemminghaus recorded two pins apiece, and Paulding, Shroyer and Bowling each picked up two wins.
Hemminghaus needed exactly two minutes to overpower his two opponents.
‘He’s going to be a real good addition,’ Vandals coach Jason Clay said. ‘He has a little bit of experience, and he has great strength. That’s what all the kids say when they wrestle him in practice – man, he’s strong.’
Shroyer had the night’s quickest pin, as he needed just 23 seconds to dispose of Cahokia’s Rodney Young. He then capped his night with an impressive 9-4 win over Mattoon’s Clayton Kingery.
‘Matt had a pretty good (opponent) against Mattoon,’ Clay said. ‘I think he wrestled a lot better tonight than he did down at Belleville. I thought he was sharper, and his attacks were better. He looked a little more like what I expect Matt to look like once the season gets going.’
Eller made his season debut at the triangular, opening up with a 10-2 win over Cahokia’s Robert Cummings before suffering a 4-3 loss to Orr in one of the night’s more competitive bouts. The 119-pound match went to an ultimate tiebreaker after an overtime stalemate.
Clay wasn’t concerned by a rare loss by Eller.
‘He’s normally going to wrestle a lot at 112, and he’s been out and not practicing a whole lot,’ Clay said. ‘This was his first night, and he looked good in his first match, but I knew the second kid he was wrestling was pretty tough. He was fourth in the AA sectional last year at 103, so I knew it was going to be a good match, and it was.’
Foster came out on top in perhaps the most exciting match of the night, rallying from a 5-2 deficit in the final seconds for a 7-5 decision over Mattoon’s Dennis Patterson.
‘The kid shot in and Alex hit him with what we call a neck wrench, and he threw him to his back and held him there for five points,’ Clay said. ‘It was a good testament to Alex. He didn’t wrestle very well, but he’s a battler and he’s going to go all the time and keep battling.’
Walton also impressed his coach with a convincing 20-7 decision over the Green Waves’ Mitch Sawyer.
‘He’s light years ahead of where he was last year,’ Clay said.