Northview seniors Jessie Miller and Justin Sampson have some unfinished business on the wrestling mat this season as both competitors were less than satisfied by how their year ended in the Bloomington South Regional last year.
Miller came into the regional at far less than 100-percent after suffering from an illness for the early portion of the week. The result was an early exit from the regional and thus, a missed chance at a semi-state berth. Sampson was also unsatisfied as he came out on the short end of a 5-4 loss to Seymour's Adam Wolka at Bloomington South. The difficult first round loss put an end to what might have been for Sampson.
Coach Dan Mikesell enjoys what the tourney has to offer as it is also a bit of a homecoming for the Knights' coach.
"Since I graduated from Mooresville it's always nice to travel back to my hometown over the holidays. I've enjoyed the tournament each season. We have had our share of success finishing second a few years ago and having three individual champions, Greg Stultz, Luke Pingleton and Corey Grigsby," Mikesell said. "It is a tough tournament just like Jeffersonville and maybe a little deeper with talent so we have to set realistic goals, for this year it's finishing in the top half of the field."
Miller and Sampson are a pair of seniors that have provided some invaluable guidance to their younger teammates, which has been especially key to this year's squad.
"We are a young team, but we do have some great seniors," Mikesell said. "They are providing good leadership and I am seeing improvements each day in the room. Mooresville is the halfway point of the season, we should not be at our peak, but we should be competing against good competition."
The Knights took a step forward last weekend at Jeffersonville with Sampson remaining unbeaten at 285 pounds. Sampson's championship, which included wins over a pair of ranked wrestlers, helped bump him up to the seventh spot in the state rankings.
"The Jeffersonville tournament was a real test. He had to beat the No. 5 ranked heavy weight just to get to the finals and then had to upset the No. 1 seed to win," Mikesell said.
"He passed that test. The Mooresville tournament will be a different test. He has to go in as the marked man now at the No. 1 seed and will have the target on him. Adam Wolka from Seymour is who knocked Justin out of the state series last year so we would love a shot at him. The Evansville Central kid (Jesse Hohl, 16-2) is very solid as well so that will be a tough test also."
Miller is in much the same position as he looks to solidify his spot in the upper echelon of 195-pound wrestlers. Two Miller's losses this season have come to Bloomington South state finalist Clayton Fiddler, both in close bouts.
Mikesell was pleased with how his team's seeding came out for the most part in regards to Mooresville as Miller claimed a third seed. The Knights' coach felt that the holiday tourney seeding was determined more on the mat instead of via opinion.
"Jeffersonville seeds with a coaches meeting and sometimes that leads to the good ole buddy system. It was very rewarding to see our kids prove themselves on the mat," Mikesell said. "Mooresville seeds its tournament with a committee. Traditionally they are pretty close but we always want to wrestle above our seed and we have had several kids in the past do just that. So that's the goal.
"I am very happy with Jesse's seed and draw," Mikesell added. "He is very confident right now about his chances to win it. As the No. 3 seed that is a good spot to be in for this weight. Trey (Boor) continues to work hard and I like his draw as well. This could be a break out tournament for him."
Mikesell is especially interested in seeing how Sampson handles the pressure of having the heavyweight field gunning for him as a ranked and top-seeded wrestler.
"Justin has been the most dedicated wrestler among this group. He has really put in the time in the off season to improve his strength and offense," Mikesell said. "I am very pleased with his season so far. It is nice to see his perseverance pay off.
"Justin is a perfect sized heavy weight. He has great height and very long arms. That gives him a nice advantage for defense," Mikesell continued. "His work ethic has got him into great cardio shape and he can really wear down some of his opponents. The difference this year has been his mental attitude and confidence. He has always had a great attitude towards the sport but this season he has an added level of intensity to his desire to win."
While remaining unbeaten is certainly a goal through this weekend's tourney and marching forward, Mikesell is hoping that Sampson saves his best wrestling for the end of the season.
"I am confident that Justin has not hit his peak yet this season and we are going to build on his successes so far this year to hit our stride in late January and February," Mikesell said. "If he continues with the same determination and work ethic he has had during the past three years the sky is the limit for him."