Whitfield ready to compete in annual Granite City holiday wrestling tournament
By: Warren Mayes
Whitfield backs down from no one and the Warriors are out to see how the compare with the big boys in the 52nd annual William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament.
“Granite City is really the premier wrestling tournament in the area,” Whitfield coach Charlie Sherertz said. “We’re the smallest school in it and we don’t care. We wanted to be in there for the competition. I waited 10 years for them to take us in it.
“They took a chance on us. I think they’re pleased that they did.”
Certainly Whitfield has not been outclassed by going up against the larger schools.
“We finished in the top half year and got a trophy for finishing sixth. It’s tougher than our state tournament. I want us to be the most prepared team we can be for the state meet and being in the Granite City tournament helps us do that.
“It’s eight rounds over two days. You leave that tournament knowing you’ve been in one.”
The two-day tourney begins Friday (Dec. 28) and winds up Saturday. The finals are set to begin around 5 p.m. Saturday.
The 25 participating teams in the Granite City, Ill., meet feature numerous ranked teams in their respective states.
Teams from Illinois are: Alton, Aurora West, Cahokia, Carbondale, Granite City, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way West, Minooka, Mt. Zion, O’Fallon, Triad, Washington, Willowbrook, and Yorkville
Other teams from Missouri are: Francis Howell Central, Francis Howell North, Ft. Zumwalt West, McCluer North, Neosho, Northwest (House Springs), Staley, and Timberland.
Teams from Tennessee are: Christian Brothers of Memphis.
Teams from Georgia are: Archer.
Whitfield is ranked No. 4 in Missouri in Class 1. Timberland is No. 4 in Class 4 while Neosho is No. 1 and Staley is No. 4 in Class 3.
Christian Brothers and Archer are both ranked No. 1 in their states.
The ranked Illinois teams are No. 3 Lincoln-Way West in Class 2A, No. 5 Lincoln-Way Central in 3A, No. 6 Cahokia in 2A, No. 8 Washington in 2A, No. 9 Yorkville in 2A, No. 14 Minooka in 3A, No. 22 Triad in 2A and No. 25 Granite City in 3A.
Granite City coach George Kirgan is pleased with the teams that will be competing.
“It’s pretty strong. We’ve got teams from four different states,” said Kirgan, a 2000 Granite City graduate who is in his first year as head coach. “Three teams are ranked No. 1 in their respective states. We have the No. 1 Missouri team in Neosho, the No. 1 Tennessee team in Christian Brothers Memphis, and the No. 1 Georgia team in Archer.”
This tournament is important to Granite City. It’s lasted this long because of the quality of the event. It’s something the school looks forward to year every year.
“I think our kids thrive on the tradition of this tournament,” Kirgan said. “When you think about 52 years of tradition, that’s something. We could have possibly three generations of families to compete in this. It makes for a great time.”
Three Whitfield matmen are ranked No. 1 in their weight class for the tournament. Senior Chris Wilkes is the top-seed at 138 pounds. Rodney Hahn is No. 1 at 160 and his brother, William, is No. 1 at 170.
Wilkes, who has signed to go to North Carolina State, reached the finals last year. He was named the outstanding wrestling for the tournament last year when he won at 132.
This year, Wilkes has one loss. He lost to 7-6 James Krischke, of Fort Zumwalt West, at 145.
“We wrestled him out of his class,” Sherertz said. “He went up against their best kid. Jimmy is a long-time rival to Chris. I force him to take every challenge that comes his way.”
Sherertz said Wilkes will wrestle at 132 at Granite City.
“That’s his natural weight. That’s where he’s strongest,” Sherertz said. “He’ll be a 133-pounder at college. He’s got to be all guns blazing at Granite City.”
Rodney Hahn was runner-up at 145 last year at Granite City. He’ll be at 152 in the tournament this year, Sherertz said.
“He’s undefeated and he’s looking good,” Sherertz said. “He’ll have a chance to meet up a kid (Kaleb Baker) from Tennessee who he lost to last year. Rodney lost 15-13 to him last year in a crazy high-scoring match.
“It was the best match of the tournament from spectator’s point of view.”
Rodney Hahn has been getting looks from several Ivy League schools, Sherertz said.
William Hahn, who has signed with Duke, has one loss this year. He lost to Casey Bartee of St. Charles West at 170.
“He will be going at 160 in the tournament,” Sherertz said. “He’s been looking good for us.”