Times Sports Editor
Sectional competition begins on Saturday for area wrestlers seeking a trip to the state finals this year.
The Northview Knights are again the host for the battle that will feature competitors from nine schools including all three Vigo County Schools, Sullivan, Edgewood, West Vigo, Sullivan, Owen Valley and Northview from the Western Indiana Conference as well as powerful Bloomington South and Bloomington North.
The Panthers are the defending team champion after posting a dominant 252 to 196 win over second-place Edgewood last season. Bloomington North was third with 196 points and Northview was back in sixth-place with 138 points.
Bloomington South is again a pretty clear-cut favorite with six No. 1 seeds coming in and a No. 11 ranking as a team. The Panthers went 17-4 in dual matches this season.
Beau Judd was second at the WIC at 285 pounds last weekend and brings the top seed with his 22-10 mark overall this season. Edgewood's Seth Sturgeon and West Vigo's Nick Brownfield have the two best records outside of Judd's mark.
The Knights have Skyler Hall (112), Austin Bell (119), Luke Pingleton (135) and Larry Shaffer (152) are each of the No. 2 seeds for Northview.
Pingleton was the 125-pound champion last year and is looking for his fourth straight trip to the regional after a runner-up placing at 103 as a freshman and a third at 112 as a sophomore.
"He was solid in the finals and (Jack Petry) from OV really tried to stay away and Luke did a nice job of taking the match to him and pushing the pace," Northview coach Dan Mikesell said following the WIC Tourney.
The 135-pound division is stacked this season with Bloomington South's top-ranked Brannigan Barlow unbeaten (30-0) at the top of the bracket and Terre Haute South's Jordan Jensen (21-2) in the way as well as Owen Valley's Jack Petry (27-4).
At 112 pounds, Skyler Hall (24-9) has had a successful year and receives byes in the first two rounds before he would wrestle in the quarterfinals. The Panthers' Jacob Boomsma (25-5) is the top seeded wrestler.
Bell brings a 19-13 mark into Saturday's sectional and has a potential re-match against West Vigo's Levi Edwards (30-3) in the finals if both get that far. Edwards topped Bell in the WIC championship match.
In the 152-pound class, Northview freshman Larry Shaffer (25-8) is the second-seed with West Vigo's Ryan Roach (21-2) the top seed after a WIC title. Roach was second in the sectional at 135 pounds last year.
"Larry Shaffer had a great (WIC) tournament at I think the toughest weight class," Mikesell said of the freshman. "He didn't back down from the number one seed and came through with pins of two tough wrestlers, one of which he lost to earlier in the season."
After winning the conference title at 215 on Saturday, Aaron See (21-9) is the third-seed and will get a re-match with West Vigo's Ryan Childers (11-7) in the first match for both competitors. The winner of that skirmish will likely see top-seeded Bloomington North wrestler, Jake Vandeventer (24-3) ranked 10th in the state.
Two Knights looking to boost their sectional finish are No. 4 seeds, Brady Silvers (21-9) at 160 pounds and Brandon Pleake (17-9) at 189. Silvers placed fourth to advance to the regional last season while Pleake missed out with a sixth-place. Bloomington South's Terry Terrell (24-5) is the top-seed at 160 and is ranked 18th while the Panthers' Darren Eads (23-7) is the top-seed at 189 and is the defending sectional winner in the class.
The Knights will forfeit at 125 pounds and will be represented by unseeded wrestlers at 130 (Zach Mishler -- 4-20), Pat Durcholz (5-9 at 140), Baylor Girton (6-7 at 145) and Nathan Duregger (11-16 at 171 pounds).
The top-four individual wrestlers in each weight class advances to the Bloomington South Regional and the winning team moves on to the Greencastle Team Regional. Sectional weigh-ins are at 8:30 a.m. with competition beginning at 9:30 a.m.