Zach Stultz (left) is the number four seed for the Northview Knights in the Western Indiana Conference Tournament.
Its put up or shutup time for wrestlers in the Western Indiana Conference this weekend as postseason competition begins.
Northview travels to Clinton for the conference championship at South Vermillion High School on Saturday and come in as the defending champions, but with something to prove.
The race appears to be between the Knights and the Edgewood Mustangs who have a talented roster and own a head-to-head 36-25 win on the Knights home mat.
Northview coach Dan Mikesell believes that as defending champs, the Knights won't be taken lightly, but that the Mustangs also have everyone's attention. "You know coming in as champs people are gunning for you. I think we
felt some pressure early on in the regular season, but right now Edgewood is
such a clear favorite all the pressure is on them."
Northview's grapplers are ready for the challenge however. "I know our kids have trained very hard and are confident in our system of wrestling, it will just boil down to us have a few upsets here and there," admitted Mikesell.
The top four wrestlers at each weight class are seeded while the rest are not. For the Knights, Beau Pingleton (119) boasts a top seed with his 23-9 mark this season and will matchup with Owen Valley's Rusty Bandy (3-6).
The other top seed comes from Chris Dean who has missed considerable time this year with a couple of injuries but adds a great deal to the team on the mat and from a leadership standpoint according to Mikesell. "We have had more than our fair share of injuries this year. Having Chris back in the lineup is a real boost for some of our kids. Having him back in the room during practice adds to our preparation and really increases our level of competition during practice. Right now we are as healthy as we are going to get."
That's certainly some good news for Northview fans who haven't really gotten a true sense of how good this team can be with all of the injuries including a season-ending chest injury to Austin Nicosin and missing Lucas Boyd all season due to a hand injury.
For Dean, the postseason is a chance to put the lost regular season behind him and focus on going deep into the state tournament and adding a conference championship to his belt. Though he didn't get much actual mat time during the year, going 4-2, both losses coming due to injury default, Mikesell believes Dean's offseason work will come in to play. "Luckily Chris is one that spent some time in the spring going to Freestyle and Greco (tournaments) and he went to camp over the summer. That mat time has really paid dividends in the fact that he had some extra experience coming into the season. As far as preparing differently, his legs weren't injured so he could still work on his cardio conditioning."
Northview also has three number two seeds who could earn valuable team points if they can pull off an upset here or there.
Chris Craft is 24-5 this season and a number two seed and could perhaps get a rematch with the top-seeded Shane McNeely who downed the Northview freshman in overtime, 9-7. Craft will open against South Vermillion's Brody Millikan (16-14).
Greg Stultz is one of the Knight's veteran competitors and has a number two seed at 171 with a 27-2 mark. Owen Valley's Mike Moore is the top seed with a 23-4 record. Stultz downed Moore last season in the conference tourney with a 4-3 decision at 160 pounds.
A key matchup could come at 189 pounds where Rob Pasalich is the number two seed but Edgewood has the top spot with Andy Pope's 27-4 mark. Pasalich is 19-12 this season and will take on Brown County's Ryan Fish (1-1) in his opening match.
The Mustangs also are seeded number one at 215 with Brandon Walls (30-4), but the class is well stocked with some tough grapplers.
Brown County's Chandler Coffey (22-2) is the number two seed and South Vermillion's Justin Vandivier is seeded third with his 23-4 mark. Northview's Nathan Disney (3-9) is unseeded and faces Vandivier in the opener.
Senior wrestler Brian Walden will get his first taste of postseason action Saturday and is the number four seed with a 9-19 mark. He will face off with Sullivan's Matt Market (1-4) in the first match and could add some important points if he can move deep into the brackets. Wes Ault of Brown County is the number one seed with his 22-2 mark.
Northview's youth will be tested this postseason and some of that comes in the lighter classes. According to Mikesell, his preparation for the underclassmen is just the same as with the more experienced members of the team. "They only get their freshman or sophomore season once and with injuries in athletics you never know if you are going to have another season or not. The only guarantee is the here and now. They need to take advantage of the opportunity and wrestle and train like mad men."
Nick Hensler will be the Knights' 103 pound competitor and, though unseeded at 6-9, has a chance to create a stir if he can get past number two seeded Caleb Bourland (20-3) in his opener. At 112, Josh Longo is the number four seed and will face off with Owen Valley's Clinton Mobley (15-4) who is unseeded. Brown County's Mitchell Richey (22-1) is the favorite.
In the 130 pound class Brian Griffin is seeded number four with an 18-13 mark and will receive a bye in the first round and could get a second round faceoff with top seeded Dan Wilson (17-6) who will be tested in the first round against Sullivan's Matt Gross (26-6).
Zach Stultz will compete at 135 for the Knights and has a number four seed with his 23-9 record. He will take on Caleb Arehart of South Vermillion who has a 5-19 mark. Dan Vangilder of West Vigo has the top spot with a 22-7 record.
Brandon Hathaway (18-13) is number three at the 140 pound level and has an opening matchup with Ashdon Frazier (8-24) of South Vermillion. Sullivan's Justin Cox (23-2) is top-seeded in the class.
Tommy Herr-Smith (15-12) is seeded number three for the Knights and will receive a bye in the first round. He could take on second seeded Ryan Jackson (13-9) of Edgewood in the second round. Casey Bybee is top seeded at 26-1 for Owen Valley.
Hank Weishaupt (16-13) is unseeded for Northview at 160 pounds and could earn some big points by getting past fourth seeded Jacob Leek (14-15) of West Vigo. Brown County's Trevor Duff (22-2) holds down the top spot for the Eagles.
The Knights will have their hands full trying to repeat as conference champs but Mikesell believes his team has what it takes to get the job done.
" These guys are already champions in my book. But to win the WIC, we have to have some guys place higher than they are seeded, get a lot of pins, wrestle with a lot of intensity and let the points fall how they can. I can't guarantee we will win, but I can promise our kids will wrestle with hustle and effort which is all I can ask of them. A little help from Brown County and Owen Valley when they match up against Edgewood would be helpful also, but we are going to do our best to control the things we can control and adjust our sails as best as we can according to how the wind is blowing. These types of tournaments are the reason I love coaching so much. I can't wait!