Left: Tony Braswell (top) and an unidentified wrestler work during practice while (right) Brian Walsen and Chris Sambrotto work out.
There was plenty to celebrate for last season's Northview wrestling program, a Western Indiana Conference Championship, third place in the sectional and advancing eight competitors to the regional level and three to the semistate.
But as any coach will tell you, this is a whole new year, but Northview coach Dan Mikesell has many of the same goals for this season.
"Our goals are still to win the conference, earn at least second in the sectional and hopefully 17 wins overall," commented Mikesell. He also admitted however that repeating as WIC champions won't be easy. "The conference will probably be the toughest it's been since I've been here. Edgewood and Owen Valley all have some experienced guys coming back and Brown County has a freshman class that has won the middle school conference title the last two years."
Northview will have to replace some very key competitors from last season who have graduated, but this year's younger wrestlers won't have far to look for motivation.
Cory Grigsby and Tony Sanabria are two of Northview's most successful graduates from last season. Grigsby holds the record for most career wins and earned a berth in the IHSAA state finals last year, posting a season mark of 35-7. Sanabria meanwhile won 37 matches on the way to a semistate berth.
Both grads will be volunteer assistants with the Knights to help tutor some of the younger Knights. They will join Chris and Jeff Walker who will be splitting assistant coaching duties and both Brent Potter and Mike Nicosin will be helping this year too.
The Knights will return a quite a lot of experience as semistate qualifier Chris Dean returns after winning 28 last year. He will competing at 152 pounds early in the year and will likely move down to 145 or 140 as the season progresses.
Dean played a year of football which should add to his level of strength this year for the Knights. "The weight training will definitely help," commented Mikesell of his senior. "He's got great body control and he's quick. Chris has a great attitude and had an outstanding camp. We're expecting a lot out of him."
Austin Nicosin won 31 matches last season and was a regional qualifier at 112 pounds which is likely where he'll continue. "If Austin has any goal less than making the state finals then he's selling himself short," noted Mikesell. "He's one of the hardest working kids I've ever coached here."
Greg Stultz returns after wrestling at 160 last season and also moving on to regional competition and winning 27 matches. He'll likely move up to 171 this year to take over for the graduated Gatlin Ferro who was a regional qualifier.
"Greg (Stultz) has made so many strides and this is only his third year of wrestling," said Mikesell. "He had a great camp for us. He's a tough, hard-nosed kid."
Lucas Boyd and Beau Pingleton will vie for spots at the 119-125 level this season.
Pingleton advanced to regional as an alternate after placing fifth in the sectional. Boyd also placed fifth in the sectional last season at the 125 pound level and each of them are looking to move up to the next level for the Knights. "We're looking for Lucas to step up," said Mikesell. "He's had two years at the varsity level and I think he's ready to make major contributions."
Pingleton joined newcomers Zach Stultz and Chris Craft as competitors who had a strong showing at the cadet nationals last Spring Break. "All three of them won matches at the cadet nationals," said Mikesell. "Beau was one win away from being an All-American. If they can transfer that to this season then I definitely think they've got a shot at finishing high at the conference and maybe winning."
Josh Longo was the conference champion at 103 pounds last year and won 24 matches while placing fifth at the sectional. He'll move up in weight this season to give the Knights depth in the lower weight classes.
In the upper weight classes the Knights have the least experience which leaves the most room for improvement from competitors such as Daniel Pleake, Robbie Pasalich and first year wrestler, Brian Walden.
"I feel that (Daniel) Pleake can take the next step up and right now has the edge through experience. I think he can take the next step. Brian's (Walden) stronger, but Pleake has more experience."
Robbie Pasalich competed at 189 last season and should likely move up to 215 after winning nine matches last year. "Robbie's a senior and he's got a lot of experience. We expect him as a senior to win 20-25 matches this year."
Other contributors that will be stepping in to get a lot of varsity time will be Brian Griffin and Tommy Herr-Smith in the middle weights with Kurt Doughty and Matt Wellman adding depth in the upper classes. "Doughty and Wellman are big strong kids. They'll give up some added depth in the heavier weights," said Mikesell. Brandon Hathaway will also be a key component for the Knights and should see some time.
Numbers are continuing to grow for the Northview program as Mikesell noted that three years ago in his first season as head coach, the Knights had just 16 wrestlers come out for the team. That number is up to 36 in the early stages this season.
"We've got a great group this season," he mentioned. "These guys are eager to be on the team and they seem like their are going to be a fun team to be around."
the Knights will kick off their season with a trip to Bloomington North for a tournament on November 26 beginning at 9 a.m.