Northview wrestling fans turned out in solid support of their squad in their first meet of the season, and for good reason.
Hopes are quite high for the Knights after picking up a team conference title last season and returning seven wrestlers who won more than 15 matches last year.
Tops among those is senior Cory Grigsby who won 39 matches last season, advanced to semistate competition and won a WIC title and was second at the regional level. He'll be competing at the 130 pound level at least early in the season. "We're definitely banking on him being a leader this year," said head coach Dan Mikesell of Grigsby. "He's not a very vocal person, but everyone looks up to him. He's had a rough start to the season, but he's a smart kid, he'll turn it on when it's time."
Grigsby is far from alone when it comes to returning talent as seniors Jeremiah Allen and Tony Sanabria forma very formidable upper weight class at 215 and heavyweight for the Knights.
Allen, coming off a 24-12 mark last year, a WIC title, and a second place sectional finish, has already moved to 6-0 this season and is ready to advance upon his accomplishments from the previous year.
"Jeremiah (Allen) and Tony (Sanabria) have gotten so much stronger from last year," commented Mikesell. "We're hoping to get some guys early in the season, to test Jeremiah. The thing about him is that he's going to outwork you."
As for Sanabria, who is also 6-0 this year and coming off a 30+ win season, he's got some of the toughest competition in the state right in his backyard. "He's really got some tough kids in his sectional," noted Mikesell. "His goal is to win a conference and sectional title this year."
Standing in his way will be defending sectional champion Tom Nero of Sullivan along with Terre Haute North's LaShawn Tyler who has bumped up from 215 after winning that sectional class last year.
Also returning from last season will be senior Brent Withers at 152 after winning 19 matches last year, he's 4-2 to start the year after advancing to regional competition after placing fourth in the sectional. "Brent (Withers) is going to win a lot of matches for us," said Mikesell. "I think he'll be a sectional favorite. He's been a leader of the team in the preseason while football was still in season and he's not afraid of that role."
At 189 pounds is Rob Pasalich who was 3-2 in the first tourney and has put a lot of work in to add depth to the Knights' squad.
"He's really worked hard," said Mikesell. "He's dropped a lot of weight and has really bought into the idea of working hard and has gone to the camps."
Sophomore Chris Dean won 20 matches last year and came into Wednesday's match with the Panthers with a 5-0 mark. "He really had a great camp," noted Mikesell. "He's very athletic. Watching Chris wrestle, you see what goes on in our practices. He implements everything that we teach. He's going to be a bright spot for us."
Sophomore Lucas Boyd has perhaps changed the most from last season.
After competing at 112 last year and winning 15 matches, he has bumped up to 125 pounds after putting in a lot of offseason work. "He's definitely a product of our Advanced P.E. class," mentioned Mikesell. "He worked really hard and has a never say die attitude."
A big boost to the lineup is returning 112-pounder Austin Nicosin who sat out last season after breaking a leg in an accident. "He might have missed the school season, noted Mikesell. "But he wrestled probably 35 matches in freestyle and finished seventh in the state. He really adds a lot to us and I have high aspirations for him."
Junior Michael McClelland and freshman Brian Griffith will be battling for the 135 pound spot with McClelland currently holding the spot. "He's very athletic he helps us a lot at that spot in the lineup."
Still stocking the Northview cupboard is 172 pounder Greg Stultz who won 15 last year and went 4-1 at the Bloomington North tourney to start the season and took a very talented Daniel Eads of Bloomington South the distance in losing a 12-9 nailbiter. "Greg (Stultz) has really worked hard in the offseason," commented Mikesell of his junior. "He wrestled probably 35 matches in the offseason and that's what it takes to get better. It's only the second year (Stultz) has wrestled."
Stultz, according to Mikesell, will likely drop down to 160 pounds as injured Gatlin Ferrow returns to the lineup and then bumps down a couple of freshmen who've shown talent thus far.
"I'm really happy with how our freshman class is looking so far," said Mikesell. "I think we've got some talent coming in. It's just a matter of them believing in what we're doing here. So far I really like what I've seen."
And Wabash Valley wrestling coaches and fans should take note that Mikesell's work in the offseason with the junior high program as well as with different camps and training programs is beginning to payoff in his first crop of freshmen infused into the Northview lineup.
The Knights have featured five freshmen in the lineup so far this year and they went 15-7 in their opening tournament at Bloomington North.
In the lower weight classes, frosh Josh Longo enters the lineup after going 3-2 in his debut at Bloomington North, he'll be joined by fellow first year man, Beau Pingleton at 119 pounds. "Josh (Longo) was one of our middle school wrestlers last year," said Mikesell. "I love his attitude and I like how he really works hard in practice. He never quits."
Of Pingleton, whose cousin, Charlie Pingleton placed second in the state in back-to-back years for Greencastle before graduating last year, Mikesell has high hopes. "He's got the name (for wrestling)," quipped Mikesell. "I'm really excited to coach him. He has competed for us in eighth grade and has gone to the camps. I think he is an up and coming star."
He'll be pushed by another talented freshman in Tyler Webster who'll keep Pingleton from being satisfied in the lineup.
At 140 pounds, Caleb Detrow went 4-1 in the first tourney and has big shoes to fill after the graduation of state finals participant Austin Staley.
"(Caleb) competed in freestyle during the offseason and was unbeaten in eighth grade. He really adds a lot to the team. He moved in from New Castle and has a good wrestling background."
With the returning talent and the influx of skilled youth, the Knights have big goals for the year according to Mikesell. "Our goals are getting 20 dual meet wins, winning the WIC again and to at least place second in our sectional."
After a big start to the season and as experienced is gained from the freshmen, there could be no limits to this year's achievements.