The Waterloo High School wrestling team has steadily grown in members the past few seasons, with this winter being the pinnacle.
“This is the largest turnout I have had since I started here,” Waterloo head coach Chase Guercio said. “We have 45 kids out for wrestling, with only 14 open varsity positions.”
Guercio gives credit to the success of the Bulldogs Youth Wrestling Club for that growth.
“I think a lot of that has to do with our youth program, which has been very successful and the coaches who are running that operation in Red Bud,” Guercio said.
He added that recent state qualifying wrestlers Jordan Sommers, Brandon Lloyd and Gavin Hearren have motivated others in the school to join the team.
“Success from kids like Jordan, Brandon and Gavin making the state tournament is showing other kids here that you can wrestle and find success at our school,” Guercio said.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, all three of those wrestlers return.
“Jordan is the first state placer in school history. Brandon has the record for most single-season wins in our school’s history, and Gavin Hearren qualified for state last season,” Guercio said.
Waterloo has added some strong competition to its schedule this winter, including East St. Louis, Alton and Whitfield, and will participate in the always tough Red Schmitt Holiday Tournament at Granite City.
“Our goal this season is to compete for a conference championship in the ever-challenging Mississippi Valley Conference and celebrate a senior class that is probably the best in school history,” Guercio said.
Hearren, Lloyd and Sommers are all closing in on the 100-win mark for their careers, and Guercio thinks all three could find themselves on the podium at the state tournament.
Sommers recently committed to wrestle at McKendree University.
“Those kids have really helped to grow wrestling in our community and have made their school proud in the process,” he said.
Other seniors like Adron Winget, Kreighton Bair and Drew Rose are also leaders on the team.
“(They) have held spots in the lineup for us since their freshman years and they are tremendous leaders in our wrestling room,” Guercio said.
Two freshman to watch for this season, according to Guercio, are Ty Kinzinger (106 pounds) and Jackson Deutch (138 pounds).
“Both have some previous wrestling experience and are showing good progress at practice,” Guercio said.