EVANSVILLE -- The long road south to the Evansville Reitz Semistate mirrors the path to the state wrestling finals.
For Northview seniors Beau Pingleton and Zach Stultz, the trip ended with a pass to Conseco Fieldhouse and the IHSAA State Wrestling Finals beginning on Friday evening.
Both wrestlers reached the semi-state finals and were runner-ups after tough finals losses. But both will advance to the state finals.
Brandon Hathaway and Kyle McCoy each won their first round match-ups but weren't able to overcome tough opponents in the 'to go round.'
Coach Dan Mikesell has been with the Northview wrestling program a relatively short amount of time, but each year has been one of improvements and this year has been another stepping stone.
"We had four in the round to go last year and only got one through," said the fifth-year head coach. "We had four to go this year again and we batted .500. It is so tough down there, was a feeling."
Pingleton has been celebrating his senior year in style, compiling a 40-win season and his first berth in the state finals.
Saturday's journey began with a tough match against a talented competitor in Tanner Babb, who also had the benefit of wrestling on his home mat.
"We had worked on what to do to stop his star move this week and Beau took control from the beginning and never looked back," said Mikesell of stopping the Reitz senior. "(Beau) wrestled smart and really looked tough."
Pingleton saw Nic Denton in the semi-finals and, after having already qualified for the state finals, could have let up against a 43-win opponent.
According to Mikesell, Denton was a familiar opponent for Pingleton and that helped the Knights' senior.
"We have wrestled (Denton) several times in ISWA wrestling, so we knew exactly what he was going to do. Beau had never beaten him before, but really kicked it in and dominated him," commented Mikesell. "It was a perfect time to beat him for the first time.
The championship bout saw Pingleton lined up opposite top-ranked Evansville Mater Dei's Drew Lappe.
Lappe got the best of Pingleton in the finals, winning via fall, but Mikesell believes the competition will better Pingleton for the finals.
"I know (Beau) was disappointed, but he was also excited knowing that he has a week to practice and get ready to make a run to place in state," said Mikesell. "The good news is we will be in the opposite bracket of Lappe next week. I will be shocked if he (Lappe) is not in the finals next week."
Stultz also got a first round bye as a regional champion and got a second round match with Castle's Andrew Pettijohn and had to win to qualify for the state finals.
Stultz didn't allow his opponent to dictate the tempo at all and wrestled to his own strengths according to Mikesell.
"We wrestled very patient and pressed (Pettijohn) the whole match. We got a stalling call on him late in the second and that forced him to have to try something in the third and Zach was able to win the scramble for the takedown and the 3-2 decision," commented Mikesell.
In the semifinals, Stultz squared off with New Albany's Brent Kaelin (39-7) and was able to win the takedown battle for a berth in the championship match against Martinsville's Briar Runyon (35-1).
"(Runyon) was third in the state last year," said Mikesell. "We have beat him once in freestyle and lost to him a couple of times. Zach made one mistake early and got his hands high and allowed him to get into our legs. After that we wrestled even with him, but could not break him to get any offense going."
Runyon was able to escape with a 3-1 championship match victory that will earn him a berth in the state finals along with Stultz.
Getting those second-place finishes were nice so we could get a draw that is better next week," said Mikesell. "First-place finishers wrestle fourth place finishers and seconds wrestle thirds."
At 130 pounds, Kyle McCoy scored a first round victory against Whiteland's Jordan Pittman, but was defeated by unbeaten Connor Zuber of Evansville Memorial in the second round. Zuber went on to claim the championship over Southwestern's Michael Harmon.
Junior Brandon Hathaway also was a first round victor before falling to eventual runner-up, Jae VanHorn of Franklin Community (44-2).
"Kyle and Brandon Hathaway both had great first round matches and were one win away from the big dance," said Mikesell of his juniors. "I was excited about their attitude and the way they approached their ticket match. Both of them knew it was going to be tough, but they didn't back down and gave each of their opponents a tough match."
"They each had about the toughest draw you could have, but they didn't dwell on that and just went out and wrestled," mentioned Mikesell. "I was very proud to be their coach, I am sure they will use this to motivate them in the off-season and I look forward to them being the senior leaders for next year."
In the state finals, Pingleton will get a Friday night bout with Pendleton Heights' Cory Wenzara (39-5), who was third in his semi-state.
Stultz will see Yorktown junior, Kyle Mosier (41-2) in his first round match.
"What a nice way for Beau and Zach to finish their high school careers," said Mikesell of the seniors' advancement to the state finals. "They have put so much time and dedication into the sport and we have traveled so much together, I can't express how excited I am to see them reach the highest level. I am confident that they will have a great week of preparation and will wrestle the best match of their career on Friday night to set themselves up to get on the awards podium in Conseco."
Friday's first-round begins at 6 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse with Saturday's quarterfinals beginning at 9:30 a.m. Admission is $8 for each day.
Evansville Reitz Semistate
Top-three advance to state finals
103: Raley (Indian Creek) over Milton (Center Grove) 4-2
Hall (Harrison) over Schofield (Franklin Community) 4-3
112: Johns (Evansville Reitz) over Hutchinson (Eastern Pekin) 9-1
Richey (Brown County) over Griesemer (Princeton) Fall
119: Weinzapfel (Mater Dei) over Bartlett (Southwestern) 5-1
Deem (Center Grove) over Durran (Charlestown) 3-2
125: Jones (Evansville Reitz) over Sims (Mater Dei) 5-2
Bealmear (Tri -- West) over Oxley (New Albany) Fall
130: Zuber (Evansville Memorial) over Crump (Center Grove) 3-1
Harmon (Southwestern) over Smith (Franklin Community) 11-2
135: Viterisi (Bloomington South) over VanHorn (Franklin Community) 3-0
Krulik (Martinsville) over Welch (Castle) 2-0
140: Lappe (Mater Dei) over Pingleton (Northview) Fall
Millenbaugh (Columbus North) over Denton (Cascade) 4-0
145: Rodriguez (New Albany) over Ott (Columbus North) 3-1 OT
Houchins (Evansville Reitz) over Richard (Castle) 3-2
152: Runyan (Martinsville) over Stultz (Northview) 3-1
Lovelace (Mater Dei) over Kaelin (New Albany) 4-1
160: Wedding (Evansville Memorial) over Jones (Avon) 6-4
Mappes (Center Grove) over Alvey (Floyd Central) 3-2
171: Samuels (Floyd Central) over Jenkins (New Albany) 15-3
Leach (Avon) over Dewig (Mater Dei) 6-1
189: McGrady (Columbus East) over Schneider (Mater Dei) 3-2 3OT
Cook (Providence) over Scott (Avon) Fall
215: Coffey (Brown County) over Steinhart (Jasper) Inj. Def.
Johnson (Avon) over Todd (Evansville North) Fall
285: Campbell (Evansville Reitz) over Clark (Jeffersonville) 3-2
Niemeir (Mater Dei) over White (Mt. Vernon) 7-3