Northview's title winning athletes pose with coaches following Saturday's Western Indiana Conference championship. (From l-r) Rob Pasalich, Asst. Coach Brent Potter, Beau Pingleton, Head Coach Dan Mikesell, Chris Dean, Asst. Coach Chris Walker, Chris Craft and volunteer assistant Corey Grigsby. (Not pictured) Asst. Coach Chris Walker who was with the JV team at a Crawfordsville Tourney.
It's pretty likely that the celebration went long into the night for Northview's wrestlers after pinning down their third consecutive conference championship on Saturday.
There were no shortage of outstanding efforts for the Knights who, despite being the defending champions, came in gunning for Edgewood who had beaten them in a dual meet early in the year. According to head coach Dan Mikesell, this year's championship was just as tough, if not tougher to win than in previous years.
"I've said all year that the conference is by far the best it has been in the last three years, so I guess this win ranks in the top three," Mikesell joked. "At times this year, teams have been able to expose our youth and inexperience, the kids just really stepped up to the plate so to speak Saturday. To win with three freshman, six sophomores, two juniors and three seniors (Brian Walden is a first year wrestler) was a big challenge. I am just happy the kids expected to win and acted and wrestled like champions."
The Knights relative inexperience in some classes, coupled with the fact that Northview placed eight competitors in the championship bout on Saturday, made for some nerve wracking moments for Mikesell and his staff.
"My emotions were like a roller coaster during the finals. We split four for four so after four matches I was very happy and after the other four I was feeling bad for whoever lost. We found out after Hank got third that no one could catch us so at that point I felt a bit of relief."
And it was the dedication and determination during the offseason and regular season during practice that all pays off at this point of the year so it was gratifying for Mikesell to see his team enjoy the success. "The kids were pretty excited and it was fun to watch them enjoy it. They are the ones who deserve the credit because they earned the championship with their hard work, intensity and hustle. I was just along for the ride."
And what a ride it was for the entire team as Northview got team points from every wrestler who competed.
Northview got championship points from sophomore Beau Pingleton at 119, freshman Chris Craft at 125, senior Chris Dean at 145 and junior Rob Pasalich at 189.
"Beau looked very solid in the finals. Winning by a tech-fall is impressive to me. Beau has been very dedicated this year having to really work hard to make weight. He went to a take-down camp at Ohio State and it has really paid off as to his improvement on his feet. I think he has only scratched the surface on how good he can be," commented Mikesell on his 26-9 competitor who also had 18 falls for the season.
For Dean, a senior, Mikesell had plenty of praise for his competitor who placed second in last year's sectional.
"Chris Dean is just a real pleasure to coach. He really has opened up his offense since he has been back as compared to last year. It was a good tune up for him for next week as his competition will get a little stronger."
Craft has come on strong late in the season despite being a freshman and Saturday was even more gratifying since he overturned Shane McNeely of Sullivan who had beaten him a week prior.
"Craft didn't wrestle his best, but he wrestled pretty darn good. For a freshman to come through was great. I know he isn't looking at this to be the highlight of his career, and he knows he has to improve, but I was very happy he won. I don't think Chris has hit his peak yet this year, but I am confident he will."
Rob Pasalich's showed what sheer effort can achieve when he powered through three competitors for a championship for the Knights.
"Rob Pasalich is the epitome of what hard work and dedication can do for someone. I will say his win was very satisfying for me personally because he has done everything I have asked of him and it paid off. Saturday. Working hard doesn't guarantee a championship, but it sure increases your chances. Robbie is proof of that theory in my eyes," commented Mikesell.
While the championships were certainly a big key in the team championship, there were plenty of other highlights according to Mikesell.
"Brian Walden really had a good day. He got bumped to a #3 seed because someone withdrew. He took advantage of his position to get to the finals. Zach Stultz has really been looking good in practice, so his win over the #1 seed in the semi-finals didn't surprise me the way it did some other people. I was really proud of Nick Hensler getting a win in the consolations over a kid who beat him a week earlier by like 10 points."
"Josh Longo had another solid performance getting third. He's really maturing into a fine wrestler and Brian Griffin and Brandon Hathaway were a big factor with their points as well. They are just two great kids with a very bright future in our program. Hank Weishaupt lost by two to West Vigo in round one and then beat the same kid by one later for third. That was impressive to me that he could wrestle back through. His energy and stamina really paid off," said the Knights head coach. "Nathan Disney getting fourth was huge for the team points race. I am glad he came out for the team. It was a TOTAL team effort by all 14 guys. I was proud to be part of the experience with them."
While the team celebrated the WIC championship this past weekend, the team will ride that momentum into the bigger challenge of competing in a deep and talented sectional. The top two teams will advance into the regional round and the Knights have their sights set on raising some eyebrows around the state.
"It'll be my job to get them refocused this week and ready to have an even better day next Saturday. All I ask is that they continue to work hard and have no regrets about their preparation. I certainly am confident in their abilities," noted Mikesell.
Sectional competition will take place at Northview High School on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.
"Winning the WIC is great, and is one of our team goals," commented Mikesell. "But if you really want people around the state to turn their head and pay attention, you have to make some noise in the state tournament series. This time of year is the reason I came to Northview, and is the reason we train the way we do."