Times Sports Editor
The quest for a spot at Conseco Fieldhouse for the IHSAA State Wrestling Finals begins on Saturday for competitors from nine different high schools.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the individual regional while the top two teams move on to the team regional.
Northview is a year removed from qualifying 10 wrestlers for the next round and placed second to Bloomington South, a spot that was disappointing to coach Dan Mikesell.
This year's battle for a regional berth will be even more difficult according to the Knights' coach.
"It will be close between the top four teams, but the other teams all have kids that will score big points, so they will factor into who wins as well," said Mikesell. "We will have to wrestle almost perfect to win."
The pursuit of that perfection begins with the Knights' individual pursuits.
Northview will have one defending champion in action on Saturday as Beau Pingleton attempts to add a 140 pound title to his resume.
The seedings didn't work out particularly favorable to Pingleton who could face his old nemesis, Steve Spicer in the semifinals rather than the championship match. The seeding slight wasn't lost on Mikesell.
"Beau should be the No. 1 seed, but the seeding rules favored (Terry) Terrell. I was not very happy with how it shook out at the meeting," said Mikesell. "I am sure Beau can use it as a motivational tool. The match-up in the semis with Spicer will be fun. I am looking forward to it.
The two have split their meetings this season.
Both Luke Pingleton and Brandon Hathaway were runner-ups last year and are hoping to climb one more spot on the podium.
Hathaway gets a first round battle with Edgewood's Wes Adams (14-15) with a potential match with Sullivan's Holden Fudurich (24-3).
"Hathaway did not wrestle (Bloomington South's) Viterisi, but has lost to Fudurich. Again, it will be a huge match-up in the semifinals," said Mikesell.
However, Mikesell feels like Hathaway championship potential.
"Brandon has all the tools to get it done, he has some nagging injuries, nothing serious, hopefully he will wrestle tough and get through it," commented the Knights' coach. "He could be our dark horse."
Those valuable team points are what Pingleton hopes to garner with a championship run that begins in the semifinals after a bye and forfeit in the first two rounds.
However, his opener could be against a stout opponent in Bloomington South's Tyler Deckard (25-8).
"Luke has a great chance to win a sectional title. That match will go a long way as far as team scores," said Mikesell regarding the Deckard match. "I think Luke is wrestling better right now than he did in the beginning of the season."
Zach Stultz has wrestled well all year and that is reflected in a No. 20 ranking by the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches' Association.
The senior has a 33-2 record this year and faces off with Sullivan's Preston McCammon (8-16) in the first round as the top seed.
As the No. 1 seed, Mikesell believes his senior can bring home a championship.
"Zach is the No. 1 seed so I would expect him to win. This should be his first step on a four week journey," commented Mikesell about Stultz quest for the state finals. "He seems really focused in practice and I anticipate a nice showing on Saturday. We will take it one at a time with him."
Kyle McCoy was third at 125 pounds last year and seeks a championship at 130 this season beginning with a match with West Vigo's Daniel Lewellyn (12-11).
McCoy (28-9) is the top seed in the tourney, but has a tough road that could lead to a bout with Jeremy Salyers (34-8) of Edgewood.
"We will take it one match at a time with Kyle. On paper he should be in the finals. He is practicing hard and if he comes out Saturday and wrestles well I anticipate a championship for him," said Mikesell. "If we see Salyers in the finals and win, that will be huge for team points."
Senior leadership will be important and both Tom Herr-Smith and Caleb Dutrow hope to add extra points to the team chase.
Dutrow is dropping down to 145 after competing at 160 for much of the season. Herr-Smith will be at 160 for the postseason, moving down from 171.
"Tom wrestled up a little at the beginning of the season. He is a true 160 pounder," said Mikesell. "I like his chances to do well. Caleb has a great chance to reach the finals and get a revenge match against (Terre Haute South). If he has the right state of mind he could surprise some people."
Fellow senior, Jared Staley (27-9) gets a bye at 215 in the opener and will square off with Terre Haute South's Chris Cardinal (0-6).
The freshmen class is well represented and Brandon Mikesell is coming off a conference championship, but is moving up a weight class. That leaves his coach with a bit of uncertainty, though Mikesell believes his son can build on last week's success.
"Brandon would be really confident if he could have held his weight at 119," said Mikesell. "But, he is moving up a weight class and will be in the most competitive weight class in the tournament."
Mikesell will get a rematch with West Vigo's Ryan Roach in the opener, an opponent he's beaten before. But there are there are five competitors with 20-plus wins and another with a 16-3 mark.
Skyler Hall is at 103 pounds and has won 19 matches this year and gets Owen Valley's Dalton Kemp (20-11). Shawn Miracle of Bloomington South is the top seed and was fourth in last year's sectional.
Beau Judd, Brady Silvers and Tommy Holifield are expecting to make some postseason noise as well. Their roles on Saturday could push their team higher in the standings according to Mikesell.
"All of us need to score team points. Beau Judd and Brady Silvers got a good draw with forfeits in the pigtail so that will help us score," mentioned Mikesell. "I anticipate a match-up at 285 in the wrestle backs with Bloomington South."
Those middle round bouts will go a long way towards deciding what teams will be represented at the Seymour Team Regional on Wednesday.
"Anytime we face Bloomington South, Edgewood or Terre Haute South, we will have to pick up the intensity a little," said Mikesell. "We have as good a shot as anyone to win, I want to see us rise to the occasion."
Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. at Northview High School.