The Waterloo High School wrestling team, Monroe County’s only such high school program, is off to a hot start, with a 9-1 team record and several grapplers holding onto undefeated records on the young season.
“They’re going to be tough this year,” said head coach Pat Stewart.
Team captains are Paul Stewart, Joe Snover and Pat Bieber. Last season, Bieber, who wrestles in the 182-pound class, became the first WHS wrestler to compete in the state tournament and is currently one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state.
“Bieber is undefeated, sitting around 10-0. Paul (Stewart) and Austin (Stewart) are both 11-3, Kersten Panzau is 12-3, and our heavyweight is around 8-2,” Stewart said.
The team’s only loss came to Belleville West, while the team registered wins against Civic Memorial, Jersey Community High School, Althoff, Mater Dei, Mt. Olive, Centralia, Fairfield, Murphysboro and Roxana. The ‘Dogs have two contests coming up this week, playing host to Cahokia and Wood River on Wednesday and participating in the large Mascoutah tourney, which boasts more than 20 teams, this weekend.
There are 14 weight classes, from 106 to 285 pounds. And Waterloo wrestlers have been dominating their classes all season, from 113-pound wrestler Corey Cissell up to 285-pound heavyweight Tyler Maul.
Stewart said this year’s group has the potential to be the first WHS wrestling team to make it to sectionals – and beyond.
“Our gauging process is that if we can do well at Mascoutah, we can do well at Quincy. If we can do well at Quincy, we can do well at state,” Stewart said.Paul Stewart wrestles against Civic Memorial earlier this season. (submitted photo)
The coach also likes his team’s chances of winning their conference this year, despite, or perhaps because, they have the opportunity to compete against MVC foe Highland, who boasts the top heavyweight in the state – senior Tanner Farmer, a University of Nebraska football commit.
“It pushes them because you’re not going to see any better than this kid (Farmer) at state,” he said.
And Stewart said if his team can stay healthy and stay positive, their chances of competing at state, both as a team and for a handful of individuals, is good.
“It’s going be a lot of work. We have to stay healthy, stay positive,” he said. “These kids are in excellent physical shape. They’re tough. They have 7, 8, 10 percent body fat.”
Strict federal guidelines ensure wrestlers are using safe methods to maintain their weights and set a minimum body fat percentage of 7 percent.
“A good diet and exercise are the keys,” Stewart said.
The coach is looking ahead to the team’s big matches, but also to a little bit of a break over the holidays.
“We’ve got to get everyone healthy. We’ve got a couple people injured right now – like Snover’s elbow — and that’s going to cost us some points,” Stewart said. “We have a break after this weekend until January. It will be good for rest and healing.
“Hopefully they’ll enjoy the new year and get their two-pound weight allowance.”
Wrestling regulations permit each wrestler to gain two pounds as a “growth allowance” addition to each weight class after the Christmas holiday.
When action resumes after the holiday, the ‘Dogs will travel to Carbondale Jan. 11 for the Murdale Varsity Tournament, and Civic Memorial Jan. 15.