Times Sports Editor
The Northview wrestling team is looking for a return to the top of the Western Indiana Conference wrestling mountain this weekend.
A third-place finish in last year's conference tourney was a step back and the Knights are gunning to dethrone the host South Vermillion Wildcats, who are also the defending champions. The Edgewood Mustangs placed second last year and a much-improved West Vigo Vikings team will be in the hunt as well.
On paper, the Knights come in as the favorite, but coach Dan Mikesell knows that tournaments are not won on paper.
"What we basically have to do is to come out and earn ourselves the win by wrestling hard and wrestling smart," coach Dan Mikesell said of chasing a team title. "We have to wrestle hard, be aggressive and finish periods and score at the edge of the mat. If everybody wrestling according to their seed, we're in the driver's seat. We have to perform like we can."
The Knights have five top seeds in the tournament this season, which displays the wrestlers success against the other competitors in their class, but also provides a little more motivation for opponents.
"For the number one seed guys, they just have to come out and wrestle every match like it's a championship match," Mikesell said. "They have to realize that when you're the number one seed that everyone's gunning for you. They have to wrestle with confidence and not wrestling with the pressure of winning, but having the confidence to win. We're counting on those five (No. 1 seeds) to come through, they've already beaten everybody once."
Both Caleb Nicoson (103) and Luke Pingleton (125) were champions last season and Nicoson returns to defend his crown, bringing a 21-8 record in as the top seed. Edgewood's Mike Mest (23-12) and South Vermillion's Troy Price (21-9) should be his top challenges at accomplishing that goal.
Pingleton will be at 135 pounds this time and is also a top-seed and brings a 17-1 mark into the tourney, which also features Owen Valley's Jack Petry (24-3), the runner-up at 130 pounds at the WIC meet. The Vikings' Jacob Creasey also has wrestled well his freshman season and brings a 21-8 mark to the table.
At 112 pounds, Skyler Hall is the top seed for the Knights and his 21-8 mark as a junior is a testament to a strong return to the mat after missing last year. Hall receives a forfeit into the second round where he will see Brown County sophomore Aaron Bullock (14-12). Owen Valley's Kaelan Shouse has a 20-7 mark with second-seed, Spencer Bishop of South Vermillion (23-6) in the hunt as well.
In the 119-pound class, Austin Bell is the second-seed for the Knights and was third at 112 last season. He brings a 17-12 record in as a sophomore and has top-seed Levi Edwards (26-3) of West Vigo at the opposite end of the bracket as well as Edgewood freshman, Cody Cowden in the way of a top finish.
South Vermillion's Dalton Millikan was the runner-up at 119 last year and comes in as the top-seed at 125 with a sterling 29-1 mark his senior season. The Knights will forfeit at that weight due to injury. Edgewood standout, AJ Kerr (32-5) is the second-seed.
Sullivan's John Walker (16-4) is the number one seed in the 130-pound class with Anthony Thompson (20-6) of Edgewood close behind along with Owen Valley's Robert Stewart (19-6). Zach Mishler (4-17) represents the Knights as a freshman.
The 140-pound class should be a good one with Edgewood's Jeremy Salyers (35-2) coming off a runner-up finish last year at 135. South Vermillion's Alex Thomas (23-7) has had a solid sophomore year along with Dyman Lewellyn (18-7) of West Vigo and the Knights' Pat Durcholz (3-7) taking on Brown County's Jacob Ruckle (7-14) in the first round.
At 152 pounds, Northview freshman Larry Shaffer could be a force as he brings a 22-7 mark into his first round bout with Owen Valley's Evan White (15-8). However, a potential second round battle with Brown County's Quincy Richey (20-0) looms. Wes Adams (28-8) of Edgewood will be a stout competitor along with the Vikings' Ryan Roach (18-1).
Northview's Brady Silvers (19-8) has made the most of his season thus far and could add to his senior season's accomplishments this weekend. Silvers is the second-seed at 160 and will see Brown County's Cody Wilcox (8-8) in the opener. Sullivan's Holden Fudurich (23-1) is the number one seed. The Golden Arrow senior was the champion at 152 last year.
Ben Bird (24-5) is at the top of the bracket at 171 pounds for West Vigo and a possible second round bout with Northview's Nathan Duregger (9-14) is in the cards if the Knight junior can take care of South Vermillion freshman Michael Novak (12-14). Jeff Spicer of Edgewood (26-11) has a strong wrestling lineage and will be looking to make some noise.
The upper weight classes should be pivotal to crowning a champion and strong efforts from Northview's competitors could go a long way in bringing home a title for the Knights.
"We can definitely earn some bonus points there because we can get some pins," Mikesell said. "Each time you get a pin you earn two bonus (team) points, so if Beau (Judd) and Aaron (See) can pin their way through the tournament that would be great."
Brandon Pleake has compiled a 14-9 mark at 189 pounds this year and has a first round bye and a likely bout with West Vigo's Blake Ray (22-7) in the second round. Owen Valley's Chase Behrman (25-3) is the top-seed for the Patriots and he should see South Vermillion's Lucas Kelsheimer (19-9) in round two.
"The 189-pound (class) was interesting in the seeding," Mikesell said. "No one seems to give (Brandon) Pleake any credit. I'd like to see him come through and have a chance to win it."
Northview sophomore Aaron See (19-9) has had a strong season thus far, which has earned him the number one seed at 215 and a first round bye. He'll be gunning for a title in a class that has just one competitor with a winning record.
In the heavyweight class, Northview's Beau Judd is hoping to top his fourth-place finish from last season and he brings a 20-9 mark in as the number one seed this season. South Vermillion's Trent Wallace (26-4) and Seth Sturgeon (26-9) each have good marks along with West Vigo's Nick Brownfield (21-9) in what should be an intriguing weight class.
Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at South Vermillion and Mikesell is focused on having his team ready to claim a title.
"It definitely gave me some more motivation," Mikesell commented on improving on last year's finish. "I think when the high school kids get a year removed from it they forget about it a little bit. We can try and remind them a little bit about it, but the bottom line is we just want to focus on this year and win it."