Times Sports Editor
This weekend's Western Indiana Conference wrestling tourney is shaping up to be one of the closest in recent years as at least four different schools have designs on claiming the championship on Saturday afternoon.
Tournament time is an exciting one and Saturday's action should provide plenty of thrills and top-notch competition for the podium.
The Knights would love nothing more than to regain the title that it held until last year when the Golden Arrows garnered enough points in consolation brackets to capture the team championship. Northview comes in with several highly seeded wrestlers lead by unbeaten (30-0) 285-pound senior Justin Sampson.
The state's fifth-ranked heavyweight should have plenty of confidence coming into the tourney and knows what it is like to have the target on his back. Sampson is the defending conference champion in the 285-pound class, but he'll face an entirely new field of competitors from last year. However, he already owns victories over most of this year's group of heavyweights as well. He'll take on South Vermillion's Eric Davis (3-2) in the opener as the top-seed.
One of the tournament's top battles could boil down to a 195-pound rematch between Northview senior Jesse Miller (27-5) and Edgewood's Ben Patton (26-3).
Patton certainly caught Miller's attention earlier this year when the Mustang senior pinned him in a dual match at Edgewood. Patton won't have the element of surprise on his side this time around so this could be one of the tourney highlights if the two square off in the title bout. Miller is the defending champion in the class while Patton was the 182-pound runner-up last season.
Northview senior Zach Williams (19-10) comes in as the top-seed at 220 pounds in his first conference tourney. He draws Jacob Riley (4-4) of West Vigo in the opening round. Owen Valley's Sean Huss (16-8) is the No. 2 seed and Williams owns a 6-1 decision over the Patriot grappler earlier in the year.
In the lighter weight classes, Northview freshman Cale McCoy (22-6) would like to get another crack at South Vermillion junior Tanner Bishop (27-3). The Wildcat's 106-pounder was second in the conference last year and is looking to climb another step on the podium. McCoy and Bishop locked up in the Northview Invite where Bishop came away with a 6-5 decision. McCoy gets a forfeit win in the opening round and takes on Brown County's Jacob Mickley (9-15) in the semifinals.
At 113 pounds, Shane Ryan drops down after placing fourth at 120 last season. Brown County's Austin Ely comes in as the top-seed and owns a decision over No. 2 seed, Seth Clawson (19-5) of Edgewood. Ryan (14-14) gets a forfeit win in the opening round and will likely see Clawson in the second round.
At 120 pounds, Northview freshman Stephen Gibson (16-12) has been wrestling well later in the season and is the No. 2 seed behind Brown County's Austin Walsh. Gibson gets an opening round bye into a match against either Seth Hancock (7-8) of Sullivan or Bryce Magee (11-15) of South Vermillion.
Freshman Terry McGuffin will get his first varsity action of the season when he takes to the mat at 126 pounds for the Knights. Though he'll face a tall task, his points on the day could potentially be a difference maker in the final standings.
Sophomore Trance Kelley (12-7) placed fourth at 126 last season and moves into the 130-pound class this year where he'll likely take on Sullivan's Nick Bird (16-4). Edgewood's Dillon Deckard (22-4) is the second seed.
In the 138-pound class, Sullivan's Colt Thompson was the runner-up last year and comes in as the top-seed for Saturday with a 16-3 record. The Knights' Jackson Copper (10-17) moves up from a third-place at 132 last year and will take on West Vigo's Zac Otte (14-8) in the opener. Copper boasts a pin of Otte in a Jan. 9 dual.
At 145 pounds, Coan Williams (11-20) takes on Edgewood's Cody Cowden (19-12) the runner-up at 132 in 2012. Owen Valley's William Newforth (18-2) is the top-seed with West Vigo junior Jacob Creasey (11-2) the second-seed. The Viking won the title at 138 last year.
Northview junior Trey Boor (17-14) could make a valuable run at 152 as he opens the tourney against Sullivan's Mason O'Neal (3-10) and could see South Vermillion's Tyler Smith (17-10) in the second round. Scotty McGuffin (5-12) and West Vigo's Casey Noblitt (15-10) will get a rematch at 160 pounds after the Knights' sophomore knocked the Viking off via pin two weeks ago. Edgewood's Gabe Koontz (29-1) is the No. 1 seed after placing third at 145 a year ago.
Former Northview wrestler Larry Shaffer (21-1) has bided his time after sitting out last year at Owen Valley. The current Patriot is the top-seed at 170 with the Knights' Levi Brown (12-16) taking on South Vermillion's second-seeded Tanner Smith (20-8). Mustang junior Damien Chambers (28-2) is the defending champ at 170 and is the No. 1 seed at 182 for Saturday. The Knights' Michael Miller (6-14) faces off with the Patriots' Ty Robinson (15-8).
Northview crowned a conference-high, five champions last year and matched Sullivan with eight top-three finishers. With such a balanced field, consolation rounds may once again play a pivotal role in the team standings, which puts emphasis on every match contested on Saturday. Action gets underway at West Vigo High School beginning at 10 a.m.