The first round of the state wrestling tournament gets under way Saturday with action at eight area sectional sites. Franklin Community — which beat three of the four teams ranked directly below it during the regular season — enters the tournament ranked No. 1 in the state. Perry Meridian, winner of the past three team state titles, is ranked fourth, while Warren Central rounds out the state’s top five teams.
Five things to watch Saturday:
Which is the best sectional? Shelbyville, where No. 5 Warren Central and No. 9 New Palestine are expected to battle for the title in a deep field that also includes a Franklin Central squad receiving votes in the poll, and 19 ranked wrestlers — two No. 1s and 11 ranked in the top 10 of their weight class. “I believe we have the toughest and deepest sectional in the state,” Warren Central coach Dan Williams said. “It’s always a fun tournament when there is not a clear-cut champ.” New Palestine coach Chad Red said it will take a complete team effort to win. “(We have to) stay focused, and everyone has to carry their load,” he said.
If Shelbyville is the best sectional, which is the second-best? Zionsville, which actually has more ranked wrestlers (22), two ranked teams (No. 15 Carmel, No. 18 Westfield) and two teams (Hamilton Southeastern and Zionsville) receiving votes in the state poll. Carmel, Zionsville and Lebanon each have three No. 1 seeds; Carmel and Zionsville lead the field with nine wrestlers seeded fourth or higher. The field also includes the No. 1 wrestler in the state at 170 pounds, Western Boone’s Austin McCloskey. Second in the state at 160 pounds last year, McCloskey has battled injuries this season but enters the tournament 10-0. “I don’t know if he would say he’s a 100 percent, but he’s a competitor and is going to wrestle,” Western Boone coach Kyler Kearby said.
Has Franklin Community lost any of its focus after winning a team state title in January? It doesn’t appear so. The Cubs jumped to No. 1 in the state after winning the IHSWCA Team State Duals in early January and enter the Mooresville Sectional with nine No. 1 seeds and seven wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the state in their weight classes. But Coach Bob Hasseman isn’t letting his team suffer from overconfidence. “We need to stay very focused as … all teams competing in our sectional have outstanding wrestlers. I think this will be a great challenge for my team,” he said.
Does one of the more impressive consecutive sectional streaks come to an end Saturday? Unlikely. Perry Meridian has won 14 straight sectional titles — second only to Evansville Mater Dei’s current streak of 37 straight — and is an overwhelming favorite to make it 15 in a row at Tech. The No. 4 Falcons have 10 wrestlers seeded No. 1 in their weight class; no other team has more than one. “We are as healthy and prepared as we have been all year,” Perry Meridian coach Jim Tonte said. “I think (we) are very focused right now.”
How many undefeated area wrestlers will still be undefeated by Saturday night? Most, if not all. Looking at the matchups, it would take an upset to knock off one of the 12 undefeated area wrestlers with 15 or more decisions. Those wrestlers are Perry Meridian’s Cody Lecount (145 ppunds), Ritter’s Dylan Faulkenberg (220), New Palestine’s Chad Red (120), Warren Central’s Deondre Wilson ((132), Franklin Central’s Seth Vaughn (220), Franklin’s Jacob Stevenson (170) and Connor Tolley (220), Ben Davis’ Norman Oglesby (285), Chatard’s Noah Schrader (195), and Cathedral’s Breyden Bailey (106), Vinny Corsaro (160) and Wesley Bernard (285).
Lecount is one of three defending state champs of the bunch, joining Red and Wilson. “The goal is the same as last year, and it takes a lot of hard work to get there,” Lecount said.