CARBONDALE — Cahokia leads defending champion Belleville Althoff by four points after the first day of the 57th annual Murdale Wrestling Tournament. The quarterfinals will begin at 9:30 a.m. today.
Both the Comanches (49.0) and the Crusaders (45.0) suffered only one loss in the first three rounds, with the difference being Althoff not fielding a wrestler in the 195 and 285 weight classes, while Cahokia didn’t field a wrestler in only the 195 weight class.
Locally, Murphysboro is in sixth place (32.0) followed by Marion in seventh (28.0), Carbondale 11th (23.5), West Frankfort 12th (19.0), Fairfield and Herrin tied for 13 (16.0), Benton 17th (14.0), Harrisburg 18th (13.0), Anna-Jonesboro 19th (12.5), Carterville 20th (11.0), Mount Vernon 21st (10.0), Centralia 22nd (7.0), Sparta 23rd (5.0) and Goreville 24th (2.0).
Overall, the top two seeds in each weight class won their preliminary matches to advance, possibly setting up the marquee matchups in the 126 and 152 weight classes.
Althoff senior Chase Bittle (28-2) in the 126-weight class is chasing history on two fronts — and got a leg up on becoming only the fifth wrestler to win four titles — by winning his pins in a total time of 30 seconds, advancing him to the quarterfinals to face Benton freshman Peyton Swigonski (15-7). His two pins give him 126 in his career, leaving him six away from setting the all-time Illinois record.
“I won’t be able to get the pin record this weekend, but hopefully I will next weekend,” Bittle said. “However, the plan for this tournament is to win my fourth title. I’ve never let nerves or anything get in the way, so I just go out there do what I know I can do.”
Carbondale senior Zach Williard (21-0) also won his first two matches by pins to advance to the quarterfinals against Anna-Jonesboro junior Clayton Ramage (13-7). Williard is a two-time champion, winning at 113 as a sophomore and at 120 last year.
“Hopefully I will see Chase in the finals,” Williard said. “He is a two-time state champion, so I’m looking forward to that match. We haven’t wrestled in high school, but we have in middle school and he has beaten me every time, so the plan is to keep him from winning that fourth title.”
If both win their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, it would be Williard standing in the way of Bittle joining Carbondale’s Larry Long (1981-84), Herrin’s Jake Holliday (2005-08), Carbondale’s Zane Richards (2009-12) and Mount Vernon’s Chase Vosburgh (2012-15) as four-time Murdale champions.
The other marquee matches are in the 152-weight class, where the top four seeds, who are all ranked in the top five in the state, have a combined record of 73-2.
Anna-Jonesboro senior Arieh Hart is ranked No. 1 with a 22-0 record after winning his first match by a 23-8 tech-fall at 4:43 and by a pin at 2:34. He will face Andrew Perry of Effingham (9-4) in the quarterfinals.
“I like the competition,” Hart said. “I’m coming in to see if I can come out on top and stay No. 1.”
Cahokia senior Martell Boone (13-0) is ranked No. 2 and won his first two matches by pins. He will face Althoff freshman Joe Braunagel (14-8) in the quarterfinals.
Glenwood senior Garrick Walker (19-0) is ranked No. 4 and won his first two matches by pins in under a minute each. He will face Harrisburg junior Jimmy Hicks (17-5) in the quarterfinals.
Carbondale senior Kolbi Caffey (19-2) is ranked No. 5 and won his first two matches by a 19-3 tech-fall and a pin at 1:12. He will face Mt. Zion senior Gus Wheeler (11-2) in his quarterfinals. Caffey is returning from a knee surgery that wiped out his junior season.
“My return is going pretty well,” Caffey said. “It’s a strong weight class with three guys with undefeated records, and I’m good too. I'm approaching these matches as the underdog and I don’t see that as a negative.”
Murphysboro senior Ryan Chambers (9-1) won last year at 138 and is ranked No. 4 this year at 145. He won his first two matches by pins in a 45 seconds and 3:04.
Also at 145, Carbondale sophomore Aron Taylor (17-3) is ranked No. 3 and won both his matches by pins in 21 seconds and 1:26. The two could meet in the finals.
Althoff senior Danny Braunagel (26-0) is ranked No. 1 at 160 and won his first two matches by tech-falls. He is a two-time champion and the reigning champ at 152. His brother Zach (24-1) won last year at 170 and is ranked No. 1 at 182. He won his first two matches by pins.