By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
It has been a few years since the Floyd Central wrestling team has had a season full of achievements.
The 2007-08 campaign was the last time the Highlanders won the Hoosier Hills Conference meet, a sectional championship and a regional crown.
With 11 regional qualifiers and eight semi-state qualifiers returning this season, the Highlanders have an excellent chance to get those championship trophies back in 2012-13.
But Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson has stressed to his wrestlers that they must be completely dedicated if they are to win the HHC and the Jeffersonville Sectional.
“Obviously, we should have some success,” Sisson said. “But I told the guys that we are going to have to work hard in the [wrestling] room and dedicate themselves, and let the rest take care of itself. We can have some guys go to [the IHSAA State Finals] if they stay focused.”
Mental toughness is a subject the Highlanders talk about constantly in practice, and they will need to be mentally sharp if they are going to bring home some hardware this season.
“We talk about the mental game as much as the physical game,” Sisson said. “We talk about mental battles all the time. You have to face mental battles every day. We talk about when times get hard, then how do you react?”
Leading the Highlanders this season are three wrestlers who each won sectional and regional titles last season in seniors Terrence Kennedy (113 pounds), Tre Marler (132) and Jackson Randall (182). Seniors Chris Whitley (120), George Emily (145) and Nick Ottersbach (220) and junior Cory Troutman (138) each return to the Highlander fray after winning sectional crowns last year.
Also back for Floyd Central this season are seniors Kolton Popp (132), John Meldrum (152) and Ian Bagwell (170) and junior Chase Herron (160).
Popp was a semi-state qualifier a year ago, while Meldrum and Bagwell both advanced to regional. Herron suffered a torn ACL in practice two days before the sectional last season, ending his postseason hopes.
Sisson expects junior newcomer Austin Ward (126) to make big contributions this year.
“This team obviously has some talent,” Sisson said. “But we need to stay focused and work hard in the room. Some of the kids have higher goals than [just winning sectional], and obviously they need to work hard to achieve those.”
Sisson thinks his returning starters will be tested in practice each day because the talent pool within his program is very deep right now.
“We’re going to have some good matches in the room. Those starters know they have to be on their games,” Sisson said.
The Highlanders will compete in several formidable tournaments in preparing for the postseason. Those tournaments include the HHC Duals, the Calumet Duals, the Floyd Central Invitational and the Evansville Mater Dei Classic.
Sisson expects Jeff, Jennings County and New Albany to be the Highlanders’ toughest competition in the HHC meet this season.
• COACH: Danny Struck
• KEY RETURNEES: Stevie Jones (So., 106); Jasi Coureur (Sr., 113-126); Xavier Weekley (Sr., 113-126); Trent Lowe (Sr., 132-138); Oscar DeLeon (Sr., 132-138); Tyler Fridley (Sr., 145-160); David Fridley (Sr., 145-160); Daniel Thompson (Sr., 170-195); Brandon Spangler (Jr., 170-195); Amill Haleem (Jr., 170-195); Gavan Jolley-Little (Jr., 285).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: JoJo Deleon (Jr., 113-126); Leo Rodriguez (Jr., 145-160); Devon Long (Jr., 145-160); Gary Gaines (Jr., 220).
• TOUGH OPPONENTS/MEETS: Perry Meridian, Warren Central, Franklin Central, Beech Grove, Columbus North, Evansville Mater Dei, Bloomington South, Louisville Trinity, Louisville St. Xavier, Evansville Reitz, Franklin, Yorktown; Capitol City Classic, Hoosier Hills Conference Duals, Jeff Classic, HHC meet.
• OUTLOOK: The Red Devils graduated 18 seniors, including two state qualifiers from a season ago in Alonzo Shepherd and Elijah Curtley. But Jeff does have some successful grapplers back. David Fridley qualified for semi-state last year, while Oscar DeLeon was a semi-state qualifier in 2011. Jolley-Little won the heavyweight sectional title last season. DeLeon, Jones, Weekley, Thompson and Spangler all advanced to regional in 2011-12. The Red Devils expect to improve as the season progresses and contend once again for the HHC and Jeff Sectional championships. Jeff has won four sectional titles in a row and the last three HHC championships.
• STRUCK SAYS: “When you graduate a third of your team, that happens. But don’t make the mistake that we are rolling over. People think we will be down, and maybe we have the most inexperienced state-tourney team that we have had in years. But as far as the drive and willingness to carry on our tradition, the kids have the want. We measure success each year not in terms of wins and losses, but in where we are and where we finish.”
• COACH: Eric Burres.
• KEY RETURNEES: Bryce Peavler (Jr., 120); Austin Jamison (Sr., 126); Keenan Ward (Sr., 132-138); Tre Lynch (So., 132-138); Hunter Castleberry (So., 138-145); Ethan Lee (Sr., 170); Nick Lynch (Sr., 195).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: The Bulldogs welcome several newcomers who should make them a deeper squad in the 2012-13 campaign.
• TOUGH OPPONENTS/MEETS: Yorktown, Bellmont, Jeff, Jennings County, Floyd Central; Yorktown Duals, HHC Duals, Jeff Classic, Mater Dei Classic, HHC meet.
• OUTLOOK: Jamison is the unquestioned leader of the Bulldogs. He won the 126-pound title at the Jeff Regional last year after finishing runner-up at the Jeff Sectional the week before. He led the team in takedowns, pins and victories during the 2011-12 campaign. Jamison and Peavler were both semi-state qualifiers last season. Castleberry, Lee, Tre Lynch and Nick Lynch each qualified for regional last year. Burres says this weekend’s Yorktown Duals will be a good measuring stick to see where his team is at this point in the season.
• BURRES SAYS: “I have some pretty high expectations for some individuals. I want our kids to grow and get better. They are a group of young, inexperienced kids who listen and that’s good to see.”
• COACH: Patrick Fleming.
• KEY RETURNEES: Devin Evanczyk (Sr., 220); Dorian Noel (Jr., 182); Josh Murner (Jr., 138); Matt Hayes (So., 195); Brett Kempf (So., 145).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Fleming says he has several newcomers on his varsity roster, and he is currently trying to decide where these wrestlers will factor into the mix this season.
• TOUGH OPPONENTS/MEETS: Floyd Central, Charlestown, Milan; Evansville Memorial Tournament, Scottsburg Tournament, Southern Indiana Wrestling Conference Tournament.
• OUTLOOK: Even though he has an inexperienced team this season, Fleming likes the talent within his squad. Kempf and Hayes both qualified for regional as freshmen last season. Evanczyk is the only senior starter for the Pioneers. One of Providence’s goals is to win the SIWC, but Fleming says the Pioneers will need to go through Milan and Charlestown to accomplish that feat.
• FLEMING SAYS: “We have a young squad this year that doesn’t have all that much experience. However, the guys have been working hard and will steadily improve throughout the season. I’m expecting several of our returning wrestlers to make a run in the state tournament, and hopefully we will be surprised by some of the newcomers.”
• COACH: Jeremy Campbell.
• KEY RETURNEES: Brady Meenach (Sr., 138); Jacob Franklin (Jr., 160); Yancey Crase (Jr. 132).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Jimmy Wise (Fr., 126); Jacob Blackwell (Fr., 126).
• TOUGH OPPONENTS/MEETS: Madison, Charlestown, Providence, Jennings County; SIWC Tournament, Jeff Classic.
• OUTLOOK: Meenach and Franklin each qualified for semi-state last season. Wrestling at 126 pounds, Meenach finished third at sectional and second at regional. Franklin competed at 152 pounds, placing second at sectional and third at regional. The Mustangs’ main focus is to improve every day so they will be prepared for the postseason.
• CAMPBELL SAYS: “Our outlook is the same thing every year — learn and grow and get ready by sectional. We are focusing on fundamentals.”
• COACH: Brett O’Loughlin.
• KEY RETURNEES: Daniel Doty (Jr., 126); Trey Sturdy (Jr., 138).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Of the five wrestlers on the Warriors’ roster, three are freshmen.
• TOUGH OPPONENTS/MEETS: Jeff, Jennings County; Scottsburg Tournament, SIWC Tournament.
• OUTLOOK: Doty has qualified for regional the past two seasons and has a great shot of repeating that feat again this season. O’Loughlin thinks Sturdy has a great chance of qualifying for regional as well. With only five grapplers, O’Loughlin says each meet will be a challenge for his small squad.
• O’LOUGHLIN SAYS: “I would be surprised if we didn’t have at least one if not two regional qualifiers. Doty has had some decent success and Sturdy has worked hard in the offseason to improve and isn’t afraid to try new things on the mat to help ensure success. Overall, it will be tough, but we are fortunate to have tough kids.”
• COACH: Adam Doherty.
• KEY EXPECTED RETURNEES: Luke Woods (Jr.); T.J. Jackson (So.); Bryant Haynes (So.); Artemio Gomez (Jr.); Cameron Stuart (Sr.); Seth McCutchen (Sr.); Adam Hoff (Jr.).
• TOUGH OPPONENTS/MEETS: Floyd Central, Jeff; Evansville Reitz Invitational, Mid-Southern Conference Duals, Jeff Classic, SIWC Tournament, MSC Championships.
• OUTLOOK: Haynes, Stuart and McCutchen were all semi-state qualifiers last year. Hoff advanced to regional at 195 pounds. The Pirates have dominated the MSC the last several years. They have won the conference meet seven years in a row and nine times in the last 10 seasons. Charlestown also has won the MSC Duals eight consecutive times.
• NOTE: Doherty could not be reached for comment.