Times Sports Editor
The Northview wrestling team returns to its home mats on Saturday to begin the chase for the IHSAA State Finals with sectional action beginning at 10 a.m.
"At this point it's all about individual advancement. There are no team regionals anymore so I would expect that my three senior leaders will wrestle their best," Northview coach Dan Mikesell said. "It's why they have been training so hard. All three of them have the potential to win and make a good run to the State finals."
Sampson comes in as the defending 285-pound sectional champ and brings a 33-0 mark into Saturday's action and could potentially meet Bloomington South's Guss Dajani (24-8) in the championship match. Sampson knocked off the Panther in last year's title bout.
"Dejani is who I anticipate seeing in the finals. However, we will keep a close eye on North Knox and Terre Haute South during the day. We have to keep Justin focused on his bracket and not look too far down the road that he hits a bump right in front of him," Mikesell said. "At this point we take the approach that everyone is unbeaten. Everyone is 0-0 and it's a new season. The pressure is on those guys to prove they are better than us and we have to continue to wrestle to win, stay aggressive and offensive and let our conditioning carry us in the final period."
Much like Sampson did in last year's sectional, winning a title in his first year of varsity action, Williams (22-10) is hoping to duplicate that feat as the No. 2 seed at 220. Williams opens against Sullivan's Zachary Chastain (10-16) with the Panthers' Boyd Haley (30-6) claiming the top seed.
Miller (30-5) fell a few points short of a title at 195 last year and returns as a No. 3 seed seeking some redemption after losing to No. 2 seed Ben Patton (29-5) of Edgewood in a dual meet this year. Miller is coming off a WIC title on Saturday as Patton placed third.
"Jesse is really focused on beating Patton. We wanted a chance at conference but that didn't happen so we will just be patient and wait and see how it shakes out this Saturday," Mikesell said. "He is confident and ready. We have a good game plan so we'll just have to let it play out."
This has been a breakout season for a couple Northview wrestlers with Trey Boor (20-14) capturing a WIC title at 152 last weekend and Shane Ryan reaching the 113-pound pound final.
Trey has been on the brink of breaking out all season and it finally happened last weekend. He works really hard, has a great attitude and is coachable," Mikesell said of the junior. "I would love to see him get a birth to semi-state so as to be a springboard to next season."
Boor opens against Bloomington North's Hunter Dalton (14-19) with a potential bout with Terre Haute South's top-seeded Cody Helms (32-4) in the semifinals. Ryan (15-16) faces Sullivan's Nathan Barney (16-11), who bumps up after competing at 106 in the WIC tourney.
"He is going to be one of our senior leaders next year and postseason success goes a long way with that role," Mikesell said of Boor. "The same is true of Shane, he has a great opportunity in front of him to advance to semi-state and some valuable experience to set up a good senior year.
A pair of freshmen also earned seeds for the Knights as Stephen Gibson (17-13) is a No. 4 seed at 120-pounds with Cale McCoy (25-6) owning a No. 3 seed at 106-pounds.
"I am really looking forward to Cale and Shane wrestling well this weekend. Cale has put in a lot of time and is one of the hardest workers in the room," Mikesell noted of the freshman. "I would say that it will pay off this weekend. He has a tough semi-final against a senior from Terre Haute South, but one thing I can count on with Cale is we will get his best effort."
McCoy could get another crack at the Braves' Ryan Uppal (28-5) in the semifinals with Bloomington South's 12th-ranked Griffin Schermer (31-3) looming as the top-seed. Gibson gets Terre Haute North's Royce Low (11-9) in the opener with Zack Runyon (27-8) of the Panthers a potential semifinal match-up for Gibson.
Mikesell credited the work that his middle school coaches have done in getting wrestlers ready to compete at a high level even in their first year of high school.
"Our middle school does a great job getting kids ready for high school wrestling. I have been very happy with how Beau, Zach and Tony Sanabria have coached our middle schoolers the past several seasons."
The future looks pretty bright for the high school program as the participation numbers at North Clay continue to rise to new heights each year.
"We have also added Luke Pingleton, Chris Walker and Jeff Walker as middle school coaches this year as our numbers have reached in the 50 plus for participation. Stephen Gibson's success is a direct result of the middle school program as that has been where most of his technique and coaching has come from," Mikesell said. "Cale also, but he complimented his middle school with summer camps and the Wabash Valley Wrestling Club. That is really the formula for success, Middle school plus club wrestling, combined with summer camps equals 25 plus wins as a freshman. So no, I am not surprised that Cale has seen success, what surprises me is when kids don't take advantage of the opportunities to improve themselves."
Action gets underway at Northview High School on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. with the top-four place winners advancing to the regional.