The Lafayette Lancers are looking forward to competing in the upcoming Granite City “Red Schmidt” Invitational.
That big wrestling tournament annual draws the best teams from the two-state area. It is set for Dec. 27-28. It will provide the Lafayette grapplers at good marker for where they are and what they need to do.
The Lancers are fresh off winning the Francis Howell North Invitational. Lafayette finished first with 168 points. Francis Howell was second in the eight-team tournament with 154 points.
This was Lafayette’s third year competing in the event. The Lancers are three-time pool champions and now two-time tournament champions.
The tournament helps set the tone for the season.
“One of our team goals is to place top three in every tournament of the year,” Lafayette coach Joe Wier said. “Winning a title in the first tournament is just icing on the cake. Our ultimate goal is to be strong in February at state and place top four in Class 4.
“We have some work to do but we took a few baby steps toward that goal.”
His squad was happy to open the season with a tournament title.
“The boys were excited as we have been working to compete for four weeks,” Wier said. “It is nice to see that we are heading the right direction. Our slogan is ‘Less than 1%,’ which will guide us the entire year. We constantly work on separating our team from others both physically and mentally by our training.”
Everyone is working hard, Wier said. But the start of a wrestling season means there is a lot of room for improvement.
“The beginning of the season is all about getting comfortable being uncomfortable,” Wier said. “The wrestlers are learning to get their timing back and it takes wrestling real matches to do that. This eight-team event is the smallest tournament that we are in as a team this season. We fought hard, made mistakes, and came out on top. That is a solid start.
“This was a good field that included Jackson, Francis Howell, Francis Howell North, Troy, Columbia Hickman, McCluer North, Kirkwood, and us.”
The Lancers had several matmen finish first.
At 120 pounds, sophomore Graham Tabor pins Jackson’s Rhett Wiseman in 4 minutes, 54 seconds.
“Rhett Wiseman was a state qualifier from Jackson,” Wier said. “Graham wrestled a smart, controlled tournament. He has trained like a madman for the past eight months to earn his spot on the varsity team. He is our most improved kid from last year to this year.”
Senior Henry Thomas pinned Troy’s Dalton Hoffmann at 138.
“Henry is a senior with a strong wrestling background. He has been in and out of the lineup for the past two years and now it is his time to shine,” Wier said. “He is very physical and a positionally smart wrestler who will do well this year because of his experiences battling to get his time to lead the team.”
Junior Evan Boren won round robin at 170. Wier likes what Boren brings to the squad.
“Evan is a pleasure to coach all around. His positive demeanor and constant drive in the practice room makes him a force to reckon with,” Wier said. “He won a match at state last year and looks to get a state medal this year. Evan has fun in the room with a wide variety of dad jokes that he uses frequently to lighten a tense mood.”
Sophomore Tommy Hagan won at 182. He pinned Jackson’s Cole Parker.
“Tommy is a sophomore with a senior mentality,” Hagan said. “Tommy is a gritty, hard-nosed football player that has become a very strong wrestler. Tommy was top eight in the state last year and had a constant attack mentality all tournament long. His goal is to earn a state medal this season(top six).”
Several Lancers wound up second. The second-place finishes were by sophomore Andrew Doehring at 132, junior Gabe Frankenberger at 145, and senior Anthony McRoberts at 285.
Wier said they all wrestled hard in the tournament.
“We have a strong core with these guys. Anthony lost to the defending state champion (Ryan) Skillington from Francis Howell but battled him well in the match. Drew Doehring was a pleasant surprise as a sophomore as he had a strong day going 4-1 with his only loss by a two-time state medalist 6-2 in Francis Howell’s Josh Kyle. He was a freshman/JV kid last year that has really started to develop as wrestler.
“Gabe Frankenberger is what we call ‘master of the funk’ as he is the most dangerous wrestler on the team. Gabe has crazy hips and can put opponents on their backs from every position.”
Wier said the Lancers have worked hard. His said most of our team wrestled at AAU Nationals at Disney World in Florida this summer. That experience was valuable.
“That big stage wrestling event has helped give our athletes perspective on how to compete in big matches,” Wier said.