Beau Pingleton (right) prepares to pin down a win earlier this year. Pingleton is a No. 3 seed for the Knights in the sectional today.
'This time its for real' might be an appropriate mantra for this weekend's Northview Wrestling Sectional. Because unlike all the dual matches, invites, tournaments and conference matches, the sectional means you wrestle your best or you might go home.
For the Northview Knights, the team appears to be peaking at just the right time for head coach Dan Mikesell.
Following their third consecutive conference championship last Saturday at Clinton, the Knights set their sights on advancing to the regional level as a team for the first time. Only the top two teams will advance past the sectional while the top four individuals in each weight class move on.
"The boys were really focused on Monday. They know that the "real" season starts this Saturday and they have had a good week of preparation. They have done some nice things this year and obviously advancing as a team would be the next step for our program," noted Mikesell.
Moving on past the sectional level is no easy feat as the Northview Sectional boasts some big dogs.
Bloomington South is perhaps the biggest of them all, featuring several of the state's top ranked competitors and brings back four sectional champions from last year in Chris Head (103), Reece Freeman (112), Kurt Kinser (145) and Paul Young (160).
Mikesell, however, believes that his team has a strong shot at that second spot along with a few familiar opponents.
"The battle for second will be very tight. Edgewood, Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South all have legitimate shots to advance. But, I believe we have a strong shot as well. It will take a strong performance, but I believe we can do it."
Northview will be expecting another strong showing from their competitors, much like the gutsy display last weekend at the WIC meet where they won four classes and got 11 top three finishes.
When asked where some of the key matchups might lie, Mikesell noted that there were plenty of spots where the team could pick up key points towards a regional berth.
"There are really so many (key matchups) its hard to narrow down to just a few. But,
all of our number one seeds will be key and our number two and threes will have tough semi-final matches. The semi-final round will be huge in determining the team scores."
Several Knights have experienced success in their opening matchup, but the preparation needs to be just as razor sharp this time around.
Beau Pingleton is a No. 3 seed at 119 pounds and will kick off the meet against Edgewood's Matt Hasty (15-20) who he beat by a comfortable 16-1 margin at the WIC meet. A win there would place him one win from the finals where he could possibly face the fourth-ranked Freeman (32-0) of Bloomington South.
Josh Longo (13-5) owns a narrow 5-4 victory over his first round opponent, Nick Loffredo of Terre Haute South in a dual match so a repeat win would be even sweeter and would place him into a possible semifinal berth against the Panthers' Head (22-3) who is currently ranked third. Longo's success could go a long way to providing crucial points in the team race.
At 140 pounds, Brandon Hathaway (22-14) scored a fall over Andy Jackson (18-15) of West Vigo earlier this season and a win there could set up a rematch with Sullivan's Justin Cox (27-2). Cox owns a fall over Hathaway earlier this season so a reversal of fortune would be big for the Northview competitor.
Though these three Knights have had a degree of success over their first round opponent, Mikesell believes nothing can be taken for granted. "Beating a guy the second time can sometimes be difficult. I think in all three cases it will boil down to being focused on that match. Just because you have beaten a guy doesn't guarantee you'll do it again. But, we should be wrestling better this time of the year, so I expect all three to win again."
For Brian Walden, Tommy Herr-Smith and Hank Weishaupt, their sights are set on a bit of revenge against their first round opponents who have beaten the three Knights in prior matchups.
"It will be a good measuring stick as far as how much they have improved. Two of those matches, Herr-Smith and Walden we were winning and got pinned. Hopefully we can stay off our backs and finish the deal this time."
All three grapplers have been coming on strong of late with Herr-Smith and Walden placing second at the WIC and Weishaupt third.
Walden (11-23) is a much different wrestler than he was the last time he faced Tyler Grubb of Bloomington South (10-23). The first matchup came in one of Walden's first varsity wrestling matches. Herr-Smith (17-13) takes on Chris Duncan (19-8) of Terre Haute South who won by fall in a dual match earlier and Weishaupt (19-14) dropped a decision to Ben Miller of South. The three are important cogs for the Knights on Saturday and the team success.
At 125 pounds, Chris Craft is the top seed and there will be plenty of attention on the freshman when he squares off in the first round against Nick Hobbs of the Braves a semifinal matchup against Edgewood's Steve Spicer, who craft edged 9-3 at the WIC. A win there could see another battle with Sullivan's Shane McNeeley. Craft and McNeeley have split two overtime decisions this season.
"Spicer is a good freshmen. I am sure he and Chris will see each other several times over the next few year," commented Mikesell. "This might be the third weekend in a row that Chris has had to wrestle McNeeley. We'll be ready for another tough match up in the finals."
Chris Dean (8-2) won a WIC title last weekend and was second at the sectional level last year and gets a top seed this year at 145.
His first round match is versus Michael Everhart (5-17) with a possible second round match against Jake Ferguson of Edgewood who Dean defeated last weekend by a tech fall.
At 130, Brian Griffin (21-15) was fourth in the conference and takes on West Vigo's Daniel Wilson (21-6) and at 135, third seeded Zach Stultz (26-10) faces Terre Haute North's Derek Doti (9-9). A win for Stultz in the first round with give a matchup against Owen Valley's Chase Snodgrass, a fourth place finisher in last year's sectional.
Greg Stultz (25-3) was fourth last year at 160 and a conference runnerup last weekend and gets a matchup with Sean Gillenwater of Bloomington North (4-6) in the opener. A finals matchup could get Stultz a rematch against Mike Moore of Owen Valley who has given Stultz two of his losses.
Rob Pasalich (23-12) is a top seed at 189 and takes on Leo Tauer (4-7) in his opener and has an opportunity for a sectional title for the Knights.
At 103 pounds, Nick Hensler (8-12) hopes to build on his sixth place finish at the WIC meet when he takes on Daniel Young of Bloomington South.
Mikesell believes that with the team he brings to the mat on Saturday, the Knights have a strong shot at being the first team to advance to the regional level.
"It is going to happen, so it is up to this group to be the first. I know they want to take advantage of having the shot at being the first team to advance, so it will be a matter of them putting an exclamation point at the end of this season."
Northview gets their shot at making their statement beginning at 10 a.m. this morning.