Times Sports Editor
The beginning of posteason wrestling begins this weekend as the Northview Knights head into Saturday's Western Indiana Conference Tourney with designs on defending its championship earned at South Vermillion High School last year.
Northview has nine seeded wrestlers in the 14 weight classes, including four competitors that have earned No. 1 seeds.
Caleb Nicosin (27-6) has a special goal this year as one of those top seeds. He'll be chasing a fourth straight WIC championship and will be competing at 106 pounds after winning the 112-pound title last year.
"I am not 100-percent sure, but I think there has been only two other four-time champions, Mitchell Richey of Brown County and Jade McCammon of Sullivan," Mikesell said. "It would be very special for someone to put together four years of dominating our conference. I know Caleb made this his goal after his sophomore year, its in reach so he just has to finish the deal Saturday. I am looking forward to it."
Nicosin won't be alone in his quest to repeat as an individual champion as Aaron See (31-3) won the 215-pound title last year and will battle at 220-pounds on Saturday.
The upper weight classes are where the Knights hope to score some major team points WIC Tourney newcomers, Jesse Miller (No. 2 seed and 25-8 at 195 pounds) and Justin Sampson (No. 1 seed and 27-6 at 285 pounds) are each favored to reach the championship match.
"Aaron is looking pretty strong, he knows what to expect at the meet. Jesse has a pretty balanced weight class, he needs to show up with the most intensity and focus to win his match," Mikesell said of the junior. "He has a good kid from South Vermillion in the semifinals and then a rubber match in the finals against a really strong opponent from West Vigo. I am confident he is ready to go. Justin gained so much experience this summer that I anticipate him being mentally ready for the day. If he continues to wrestle smart push the pace and wear his opponents down for opportunities to score I like his chances."
In the 152 and 160-pound weight classes, Baylor Girton (No. 2 seed and 17-6 at 152) and brother Brody Girton (No. 1 seed and 17-8 at 160) are looking to finish off their senior season in style and that begins with a run through the WIC bracket. Both wrestlers were runner-ups in the tourney last season and Mikesell is looking for a big performance from the brothers.
"Baylor and Brody are seniors. I will say how they go, the team goes on Saturday," Mikesell said. "That is the way it is with seniors. It's time for them to rise to the occasion. They have had a good week of practice, worked on some issues from last weekend and are ready to go. I am hoping they can wrestle with intensity and humility this week to secure the championship for the team race."
The Knights will be counting on some of their younger wrestlers as well this weekend with freshman 126-pounder Trance Kelley (14-19) coming in as the No. 3 seed in that class. Sophomore Trey Boor (10-20) was fifth at 125 last season and is the No. 3 seed at 138 pounds. Freshman Levi Brown is unseeded at 170 pounds and junior Mike Miller is also unseeded in the 182-pound class. Freshman London Perdue is unseeded in the 113-pound class and Jackson Copper is the No. 4 seed at 132 pounds. Cole Watts is unseeded at 145 pounds. At 120 pounds, sophomore Shane Ryan was a runner-up at 103 pounds last season and is unseeded this year.
"I expect our freshman to wrestle like sophomores at this point in the season. They have an entire year of practice under their belts so it is time to grow up a little and put all that hard work to use in competition," Mikesell said. "I don't expect them to carry the team or lead the team, but they do need to do their job and beat the people they should beat to secure as many team points as possible.
In tournament competition, it isn't always the weight class winners that carry a team to a championship, but the wrestlers that win the third and fifth-place bouts, which Mikesell believes his team understands fully.
"We have talked and preached the importance of wrestlers in the consolation brackets getting pins and placement points. The year we won sectionals we had three kids in consolations win by fall," Mikesell commented. "That was six points and we won by two. So they understand the importance they have to the team. For us to repeat, we have to worry about ourselves first and foremost. We have to wrestle to our seeds or higher and get bonus points."
While Sullivan (four No. 1 seeds) and Brown County (three No. seeds) are looked at as co-favorites along with the Knights, Mikesell was quick to mention how close the competition should be on Saturday.
"It should be an exciting day, coming down to a pin here or a major decision there. Of course it will also help if some other teams can upset high seeded wrestlers from Sullivan or Brown County," Mikesell said. "But it needs to be a balance, it could be one of those years where a team comes out of the middle of the pack depending on performance. Really, I think this is the most balanced the conference has been in several years so our attitude is its anyone's to win and we need to do our part to make sure it is us. I would like to be in charge of our own destiny."
The WIC Tourney is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday at South Vermillion High School.