Times Sports Editor
Northview senior wrestler Luke Pingleton is looking to conclude his high school career in style at the IHSAA State Finals in a week at Conseco Fieldhouse, but up first is the Evansville Reitz Semi-State on Saturday, a battle that isn't for the feint of heart.
Pingleton has accomplished plenty during his prep career and this weekend will be his second consecutive trip to the semi-state.
Pingleton brings a 24-3 mark into Saturday's first round match-up with Mt. Vernon's Andrew Konrath who has rolled to a 36-6 mark his junior season.
In the regional at Bloomington South last week, Pingleton won his first match before falling to eventual champion, Brannigan Barlow of Bloomington South. The Knight then came back to finish third after winning his final match of the day against Caden McGaha of Columbus North.
Despite a loss to Barlow, Northview head coach feels Pingleton is wrestling well heading into the weekend.
"He is looking really good," Mikesell said of Pingleton. "He has battled mono all of the season and seems to be back to 100-percent. He wrestled well at regionals.
"This is his third trip to Roberts stadium, so I am sure he won't be in awe of the facility or size of the meet," Mikesell added. "I think that should help him not be so nervous."
Mikesell also has his competitor prepared for that always important first match of the semi-state.
"His first opponent has six losses, but also 36 wins. We know he likes to do the short fireman's carry so we have been working on that defense a little more this week," Mikesell said. "We anticipate seeing Rassbach from Avon in the to go round. He is a methodical wrestler who doesn't make a lot of mistakes.We will have to be patient on our offense and be prepared to win a close match."
The level of talent can't be denied at this level as competitors from fifth-ranked Castle, sixth-ranked Evansville Reitz, 11th-ranked Bloomington South and No. 15 Jeffersonville will all be on hand, which Mikesell said makes for some stiff competition to advance.
"Our semi-state is a real meat-grinder," Mikesell said. "But we train to wrestle this type of competition so we welcome the challenge."
And those challenges are what makes the sport worth it for most of the top competitors and Pingleton has overcome plenty of worth opponents during a career that Mikesell has enjoyed under his tutelage.
"I have really enjoyed coaching Luke. He is a great kid with a great family," Mikesell said. "I will miss him next year. He is an exciting wrestler to watch with his explosive offense. He has had a great career and if we didn't have our meet cancelled at Columbus he would have the career wins record already. I know he is close. I know he is ready to wrestle his best Saturday and that is all I can ask."
Competition is slated to begin at 9 a.m. CDT at Roberts Stadium at Evansville Reitz.