Times Sports Editor
CLINTON -- Agonizingly close. That's how tight the battle for a fifth straight Western Indiana Conference Championship was between Edgewood and Northview on Saturday.
The Knights needed just one more win, but, at least on this day, the Mustangs were just good enough to win the title, 230-226, over the Knights. The host Wildcats finished third with 186.5 followed by Brown County, West Vigo, Sullivan and Owen Valley.
After the match, Mikesell commented on how difficult it was to come up short in the WIC meet for the first time as the coach.
"Losing the conference for the first time is tough enough and to couple it with the feeling that this is the best team I have had really hurts," said Mikesell. "Obviously the parity of wrestling has improved in the conference and this year, it really favored Edgewood. We placed higher than them in eight weight classes and beat them three-of-five in the finals, but that was just not quite enough."
In any tournament, there are a couple of flukes that change the momentum of the matches and Saturday was no different.
The Knights were one match away from going unbeaten in the first round, but at 215 pounds, Jared Staley made just one wrong move and wound up dropping his opener via fall. He later came back and beat the same wrestler 18-6.
Brandon Hathaway suffered much the same fate when he had Josh Rutherford of Brown County on his back searching for the fall, but Rutherford employed a back-bridge that led to Hathaway ending up on his back for a fall.
The Mustangs also got an upset in the finals as Jared Snyder earned a victory over No. 1 seed Wade Bohannon of South Vermillion.
Despite the loss, Mikesell pointed to the Mustangs' talent as well as his own team's success on the day.
"We had some opportunities that we let slip away in a couple of weight classes, but really we wrestled pretty good as a team," said Mikesell. "I am disappointed that we lost, but to bring in 13 kids and have all 13 place in the top-four and to put all 12 in the top-three, I can't ask for much more than that. Edgewood wrestled very well and had five champs. That was the difference."
The Knights did bring home three individual championships as freshman Brandon Mikesell won at 119-pounds, Beau Pingleton took the 140 title and Zach Stultz scored a 152-pound championship.
Stultz came in as the top seed in his class and got an opening bye before dropping James Brown of South Vermillion by fall in 2:19. He then put Edgewood's Zach Ferguson on his back in 3:57 in the finals.
"Zach continues to be on a mission," said Mikesell. "He really is executing some nice offense and defense on his feet and showing some versatility with his mat wrestling. He is wrestling with so much confidence right now, and that is nice to see as a coach heading into the post season."
Mikesell's son, Brandon was a bit of a surprise as a champion after coming in as a No. 3 seed, but he upset the top seed, Mest, to earn the title.
"Brandon had a nice tournament. He had a tough week in practice and the grind of the season really got to him, but somehow he sucked it up and put together two nice wins," said Mikesell. "Being seeded third and winning it was a nice accomplishment for him. He will have a very tough sectional and I hope he can rise to the occasion. Not very many freshman win conference titles, so I hope it boost his confidence."
At 140-pounds, Pingleton got a measure of revenge by dropping Edgewood's Steven Spicer in the championship, 6-3, after losing earlier to the top seed in a dual match.
The victory was just as sweet for Mikesell as a coach as for Pingleton.
"I was so proud of Beau. He really stepped up this week as a leader of our team and his persistence and hard work finally paid off," commented Mikesell. "He has been wrestling against Spicer since the eighth-grade and has never beaten him, so as a coach is was a very exciting moment for me."
Northview's bid for the team championship was also bolstered by runner-up finishes from 112-pounder Luke Pingleton, Kyle McCoy at 130-pounds, Tom Herr-Smith at 160 and freshman Tommy Holifield in the 189-pound class.
The match-ups in the finals were tough for us," admitted Mikesell. "Luke had a real stud from Brown county and Kyle lost a heat-breaker again to Brown county. He got called for stalling and that was the difference. Obviously I didn't agree, but that is wrestling and you have to go with the officials' judgment."
Skyler Hall placed third for the Knights at 103-pounds and Hathaway also earned third. Caleb Dutrow, Brady Silvers and Staley were third as well.
Beau Judd was fourth at heavyweight.
Northview begins the postseason chase for the IHSAA State Finals on Saturday when they host the sectional beginning at 10 a.m.
Western Indiana Conference Meet
Team Scores: Edgewood 230, Northview 226, South Vermillion 186.5, Brown County 173.5, West Vigo 137.5, Sullivan 124.5, Owen Valley 74.
Individual Northview results
103: Skyler Hall 3-1, (3rd)
112:Luke Pingleton 2-1, (2nd)
119: Brandon Mikesell 2-0, (1st)
130: Kyle McCoy 2-1, (2nd)
135:Brandon Hathaway 2-1, (3rd)
140: Beau Pingleton 3-0, (1st)
145:Caleb Dutrow 2-1, (3rd)
152: Zach Stultz 2-0, (1st)
160: Tommy Herr-Smith 2-1 (2nd)
171: Brady Silvers 3-1 (3rd)
189: Tommy Holifield 2-1 (2nd)
215: Jared Staley 2-1 (3rd)
285: Beau Judd 2-2, (4th)