As February nears, the prep wrestling postseason is just hitting stride beginning on Saturday with sectional action at Northview High School.
Postseason means focus switches to more individual chases for the state finals and the Knights have high hopes for their squad.
"We've had a good week of practice and I think we're definitely ready for Saturday," commented coach Dan Mikesell of his squad. Mikesell believes that with another strong effort like last week's Western Indiana Conference meet team victory, his squad could challenge for second place in the team chase.
Bloomington South is a heavy favorite to repeat as sectional champions with a wealth of the state's strongest competitors. But the Knights have some title hopes of their own.
After taking five individual conference titles, the Knights are hoping for even more success in the sectional.
Corey Grigsby is Northview's only top seeded competitor. Entering sectionals with a 31-1 mark, Grigsby's top competition looks to be Chris Ferree of Bloomington South who enters with a 25-10 mark along with Sullivan's Shane McNeely who is 21-7.
Currently ranked 10th in the state at 125 pounds, Grigsby drops down to 119 where he placed second last year behind Tyler Goble of Bloomington South.
Goble bumps up to 135 this year and is the top seed at 33-2 this year.
Grigsby's only loss this year came to Tony Pope of South at 125 pounds. Pope will compete at 125 and is the defending champion in the class.
Northview's Matt Valmoja comes in at 13-11, seeded fourth and according to Mikesell is a key in the race for a top team finish.
"Matt (Valmoja) and Lucas Boyd (112 pounds) have been doing well in practice this week," commented Mikesell. "Lucas (Boyd) has really grown up a lot this year and (Matt) Valmoja has really been listening well. He beat a kid from South Vermillion at WIC's who he'd lost to earlier in the year."
Boyd at 14-13 drew Michael Jenkins of Terre Haute North in the opening round, a competitor that he'd lost to earlier in the year. "Lucas (Boyd) drew (Jenkins) and I think he's got a good shot at him the way he's been wrestling lately."
Wes Readinger of West Vigo is the top seed in the class with a 28-1 mark this year.
Another important class will be at 130 pounds where No. 2 seed Austin Staley will compete in a class that features top seed Kurt Kinser of Bloomington South who is 32-1 this year and ranked fifth.
"Austin (Staley) has got his work cut out for him," said Mikesell. "Kinser has beaten the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 7 ranked wrestler this year, but if he wrestles the way he's capable of I think he can win."
Sullivan's Jade McCammon is the top seed at 140 pounds with Chris Dean of Northview coming in at 18-17 this year. "McCammon has wrestled in a lot of big matches," noted Mikesell. "He's been around. He's got multiple national matches under his belt. Chris (Dean) is really young right now, but I see him where Jade (McCammon) is by the time he gets more experience."
At 145, Kelly Deckard of South is the top seed with Northview's Derek Mroczek coming in at 21-8 this year.
"I feel like (Derek Mroczek) has got a shot at the finals," said Mikesell. "I think that he matches up well with Deckard and has a good shot."
Northview's Brent Withers at 152 is another key for the Knights in their team scoring. "We need Brent (Withers) to have a good day," noted Mikesell. He draws Terre Haute North's Andrew Majors who is 14-14 while Withers is 17-18. The winner will likely get a matchup with top seed Bryce Kent of Bloomington South (20-4).
Chris Branam of the Cougars is the top seed at 160 pounds (30-4) with Northview's Doug Porter as the second seed.
"(Doug Porter) has improved so much," said Mikesell. "I'm really pleased with him this year. Last year he was more of a brawler, but he's figured out how to wrestle this year. It's been so much fun to coach him."
At 171 pounds, Greg Stultz is Northview's representative with a 15-19 mark and a first round matchup with Joe Price (2-11) of West Vigo. Defending sectional champion Billy Conder returns as the top seed and holds a 24-2 mark this year.
In the 189 pound class Heath Vandeventer of Bloomington North returns after winning a sectional title last year. He is the top seed and unbeaten at 35-0 and is the top ranked wrestler in the state at that weight class. The Knights will be represented by Robbie Paslich who according to Mikesell has worked hard to make this appearance. "Robbie (Paslich) dedicated himself to dropping down from 215 at the junior varsity level to compete for us. I'm confident in his ability to pick up some wins for us," said Mikesell.
Jeremiah Allen is 22-10 this year for Northview at the 215 pound level and will try and knock off LaShawn Tyler of Terre Haute North who is the top seed. "Jeremiah (Allen) is really coming into his own," said Mikesell. "He's got a tough match in Tyler."
At heavyweight the Knights have Tony Sanabria who would like nothing more than to get another crack at Sullivan's Tom Nero who beat him in the WIC finals. Nero is the top seed with a 28-3 mark.
Wrestlers must finish in the top four individually to move on to regional competition next week. With a handful of wrestlers hitting on all cylinders, the Knights could be very well represented at the next level.