Times Sports Editor
There were plenty of questions to be answered one year ago before the Northview wrestling team began its season.
The Knights had considerable youth and untested commodities throughout their lineup, mixed with some returning talent.
With its first match looming at Bloomington South on Wednesday, the Knights have the luxury of almost too much talent as coach Dan Mikesell searches for lineup spots for several competitors.
With eight regional qualifiers returning, Northview has plenty of talent and returning experience after losing just one regular varsity wrestler in state qualifier Chris Dean.
Five wrestlers return that won 29 or more matches last season so the Knights won't sneak up on anyone, a fact that isn't lost on Mikesell.
The Pingleton family has provided a couple of top competitors for Northview and Mikesell believes that Beau and Luke Pingleton are ready to make the next step in the postseason.
"We return possibly two semistate qualifiers from last year's team in the Pingleton brothers," said Mikesell.
Luke, a sophomore this season, will be slotted in at the 112/119 pound position after posting a 31-10 mark at 103 last year.
Beau Pingleton will move up to 145 pounds after finishing second in last year's regional and scoring a 39-4 mark overall.
"Beau has been one of my favorite kids to coach," said Mikesell of the senior.
"He is willing to do whatever is best for the team, works extremely hard in the off season at getting better and is turning out to show great leadership qualities. I am looking forward to his senior season. He is a true testament to the idea the hard work does make dreams come true."
Offseason wrestling in camps and tournaments has provided great tests for several Northview grapplers and Mikesell believes that all of those that attended will benefit during the prep season.
Both Pingletons competed over the summer and that work has helped them in the early stages of practice.
Kyle McCoy is another competitor, who, after going 29-8 and finishing fourth at the regional, could make the leap ahead to elite status according to Mikesell.
"(Kyle) had a great run last year at 119 and also attended camp with the team this summer. He is a great athlete and still relatively new to the sport so he is constantly learning," said Mikesell. "I really look for Kyle turn some heads this season and break through to the upper level of competition. Kyle is very hard working and a pleasure to coach. A great kid as well."
At 140 pounds, Brandon Hathaway made great strides for the Knights last year and went 32-10 overall. He could return at the same spot this year, with Broc Potter also in the running around the same class.
With either wrestler, Mikesell believes the middle of his lineup will be a strength.
"Brandon had a terrific spring and was our first state champion in folkstyle. He is very hardworking in practice and I know a lot of the younger wrestlers look up to him. His knowledge of the sport is starting to catch up with his raw talent and when that does happen, he could be one of the best wrestlers I have ever coached," assessed Mikesell.
Potter is a good example of a wrestler that has varsity talent, but hasn't quite been able to crack the lineup for the Knights.
Mikesell hoped that he might be able to fit in at 130, but is already pretty lean and is behind a potential state place winner.
"Broc is a great kid and the kind of person I want in my program so I am sure he will do what is best for the team and work hard to push guys in practice and play his role," noted Mikesell of his sophomore.
Zach Stultz (22-7) had some early injury problems for the Knights, but came on strong down the stretch and into the postseason where he was fourth in the regional.
Stultz will take over the 152-pound spot that Dean vacates and Mikesell believes that Stultz can fill Dean's shoes admirably.
"He had an awesome off season wrestling for Team Indiana and attending camps. Zach is healthy and my hope is he will stay that way the entire season," said Mikesell. "He has come a long way in wrestling and I am so proud of his accomplishments. I am certain he will advance deep into the state tournament."
The Knights will get a former competitor back after a year hiatus as Caleb Detrow will fill the 160-pound spot in his senior year. Brad Powell also has joined the team after he competed in middle school, but sat out his freshman year.
"Caleb Detrow had such promise as a freshman, then broke his wrist as a sophomore. He sat out last season, but is back and looking decent. He is talented and a good athlete and will for sure contribute to the team," mentioned Mikesell.
"He has been working really hard in practice and is becoming another great leader for our team," Mikesell commented on Herr-Smith, another regional qualifier. "This is going to be his break out year I believe. He qualified for regionals last year and we are looking for him to build on that experience and move even farther. He has been in the program for a long time, so now it is his turn to make something happen for himself."
In the upper weight classes, the Knights have more experience than they've had in recent years.
At 189 pounds will be senior Nathan Disney and freshman Tommy Holifield with sophomore Brady Silvers giving Northview lineup versatility and depth that will be important, especially early in the year.
"Nathan has a shoulder injury right now, so his status is up in the air," noted Mikesell. "Tommy was very successful in middle school and is starting to make the transition to high school wrestling. We have another freshman in the mix here with Brandon Pleake. But 189 pounds is a tough weight for a freshman, but either could contribute to our success."
Senior Jared Staley has taken over the 215 pound spot for the Knights and Mikesell has been pleased with his work in practice so far after qualifying for regional last year following a 26-16 season.
"I hope he can carry over his attitude from football and make his wrestling season as successful for him," mentioned Mikesell. "He has done a nice job getting down to weight already and will be a strong 215. He is really beginning to develop a nice style and is athletic for his size, so I really think he will surprise some people."
A rare commodity for Mikesell will be a competitor in the heavyweight spot, which has been difficult the past couple of years since Tony Sanabria graduated.
"Jacob Sharton wrestled as a freshman and decided to come out again this year as a senior," commented Mikesell. "He has done some nice work in the weight room and his body has really matured, so I am interested to see how this transfers over to competition."
The lower weight classes will see several younger competitors getting varsity time according to Mikesell.
Skyler Hall and Austin Sciotto will compete for the 103-pound spot with regular wrestle offs in practice determining the spot and the other getting time at 112 pounds.
Another question mark is 125 pounds, which could belong to junior regional champion, Chris Craft, though his status is still to be determined for this season. His presence in the lineup would give the Knights a powerful varsity roster.
Figuring in at 130 pounds is freshman Brandon Mikesell who has also been a competitor during summer tournaments.
He might also see some action at 125 if he can cut down that far.
"I am looking forward to Brandon being in the line up," said Mikesell. "He spent three hard weeks in a row at camp this summer and hopefully will make a nice transition into high school wrestling. I know he is looking forward to being on my team and he has some pretty lofty goals, he is by far one of the most dedicated kids to the sport."
With approximately 27 wrestlers on this year's team, Mikesell should also have a tough JV team as the middle school team has progressed as well.
That junior high program done a great job preparing the competitors for high school competition as Mikesell has six freshmen who could see varsity time already. And several others who could step in if needed.
Mikesell feels that his seniors will give his team a significant benefit during this season which could provide fans with an extended postseason ride.
"With out a doubt we have a lot of good seniors not only wrestling wise but good citizenship as well," noted Mikesell. "I said four years ago how much I like this group of kids and they have really stuck together and have promise for a great season. I would say all of them are leaders in their own unique way."