By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Based on the seeds, the Floyd Central wrestling team is the favorite to repeat as Jeffersonville Sectional champions on Saturday at Johnson Arena.
But if the Highlanders are to win consecutive sectional championships for the first time since they won 10 sectional titles in a row from 1997-2006, they will need some wrestlers to step up their respective games.
Floyd Central lost nine starters from last year’s sectional championship team, including 106-pound state qualifier from a season ago in Terrence Kennedy.
Plus they will enter the sectional without two of their top wrestlers from this season in junior Brayden Hoke (145 pounds) and sophomore Tyler Crowl (126). Hoke and Crowl are both out with elbow injuries.
Filling in for both ailing Highlanders at sectional will be freshman Wayne Nicholas at 126 and sophomore Nick Burkland at 145. Nicholas (5-3) is a No. 5 seed, while Burkland (7-9) has a No. 6 seed.
“I hope a couple of kids step in and do well,” Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said about being without Hoke and Crowl.
The Highlanders have the most No. 1 seeds in the sectional with five. Freshman Jarrod Cunningham (18-5) is the top seed at 113, while senior Austin Ward (24-3) leads the way at 132. Senior Cory Troutman (21-6) is the No. 1 seed at 152, and senior Chase Herron (25-2) has the top seed at 170. Senior Lance Youtsey (14-10) is the top wrestler at 182.
Sophomore Sean Brown (21-8) is the lone No. 2 seed for the Highlanders, as he will compete at 120. Floyd Central has a trio of three seeds in John Strobel (11-11) at 160, Tobin Smith (15-15) at 220 and Franklin Korte (18-11) at 285.
Sisson expects this season’s sectional to be very competitive, with each team having a shot to take home an individual sectional championship.
“It’s going to be a tight team race. Everybody is supposed to have a couple of champions,” Sisson said. “We have a good chance, but we have to have some kids step up.”
Jeffersonville is projected to finish second. But the Red Devil wrestlers have their sights set on capturing their first sectional championship since 2012.
So they took it upon themselves to ask Jeff coach Danny Struck to make some lineup changes.
Therefore, some Red Devils have moved down a weight class to hopefully improve their chances of winning sectional.
A few of these wrestlers who are dropping a division are junior Chase Thompson (29-9) from 195 to 182, senior Jo Jo Deleon (126) from 132 to 126 and senior Kevin Cain (16-21) from 182 to 170.
“The kids got together and said these are the best 14 guys and then they asked how do we put them in there,” Struck said. “I’m just happy that the kids want to try something new.”
The Red Devils have two No. 1 seeds in senior heavyweight Gavan Jolley-Little (35-1) and sophomore Darion Newbolt (8-3) at 195. Earning two seeds for Jeff are Deleon, junior Stevie Jones (24-15) at 113 and senior Taivon Lucas (24-16) at 120.
The No. 3 seeds for Jeff are freshman Jack Ferraro (12-5) at 132 and junior Josh Sauer (20-15) at 138. Thompson is seeded fourth along with junior teammate Freddie Hudson (15-19) at 145 and senior Geary Gaines (15-22) at 220.
Struck thinks his team’s tough schedule will help his wrestlers persevere on Saturday and advance to the Jeff Regional on Feb. 8. The top four grapplers in each division will earn regional berths at sectional.
“This year we were 15-16, but we feel like we are one of the top teams at sectional,” Struck said. “We hope the tougher competition will help us prevail this weekend.”
Charlestown has two top seeds in junior Bryant Haynes (26-5) at 126 and junior Josh Hurley (19-3) at 220. The Pirates have a pair of two seeds in Zach Higdon (26-7) at 170 and Christian Davenport (14-4) at 285.
Senior Luke Woods (16-4) is Charlestown’s lone three seed at 113. Seeded fourth for the Pirates are sophomore Dillon Gray (12-7) at 138, freshman Antonyo Gaddie (7-3) at 152 and sophomore Jeffrey Lopez (11-13) at 195.
“A lot of matches can go either way. But if we wrestle well, we’ll have a good day,” Charlestown coach Adam Doherty said. “[Woods] actually stepped up and advanced to the semistate from the same seed last year. Besides Jolley-Little, all of the other heavyweights are close. I think [Davenport] will have a good day.”
Junior Hunter Castleberry (30-4) is New Albany’s only No. 1 seed at 145. The Bulldogs have four No. 2 seeds, who are Tre Lynch (22-8) at 152, D Frederick (18-14) at 160, Dalton Mowery (23-12) at 195 and Patrick Landrum (19-12) at 220.
New Albany’s three seeds are junior Romarro Bradford (19-14) at 126 and Bryce Peavler (22-11) at 132. The Bulldogs have two No. 4 seeds in Dakota Erickson (17-13) at 106 and David Harrison (12-22) at 170.
“Hunter Castleberry is the only No. 1 seed we have this year and we expect him to win,” New Albany coach Eric Burres said. “But we have a few other kids that are capable of winning as well. Some of our kids need to wrestle above their seed and surprise some people. They just simply need to show up on Saturday and compete.
“The sectional should be a tight team race. I think Jeff and Floyd Central are the favorites to win, but it is wide open. The key to winning the team race will come down to bonus points and third- and fourth-place finishes.”
Senior Jacob Franklin (29-2) will lead New Washington as its lone top seed at 160.
Franklin’s younger brother, freshman Noah Franklin (29-2), is seeded second at 106. Other two seeds for the Mustangs are sophomore James Wise (28-3) at 132 and senior Yancey Crase (24-6) at 138.
Senior Brayton Brading (22-6) is Eastern’s lowest-seeded wrestler at 145, as he is a No. 2 seed. The Musketeers have three No. 3 seeds in Jordan Gray (23-5) at 106, Caleb Donoho (22-6) at 182 and Nick Lanham (16-13) at 195.
Providence junior Matt Hayes (34-6) is seeded second at 182. He is the defending 182-pound sectional champion. Teammate Blake Logsdon (8-5) is the No. 4 seed at 285.
Senior Daniel Doty (14-6) has Christian Academy’s best seed, which is fifth at 132.
JEFF SECTIONAL TOP SEEDS
• 106: Mason Kaufer, Corydon Central, 20-3
• 113: Jarrod Cunningham, Floyd Central, 18-5
• 120: Bailey LaHue, Corydon Central, 15-0
• 126: Bryant Haynes, Charlestown, 26-5
• 132: Austin Ward, Floyd Central, 24-3
• 138: Ezra Paden, Corydon Central, 17-1
• 145: Hunter Castleberry, New Albany, 30-4
• 152: Cory Troutman, Floyd Central, 21-6
• 160: Jacob Franklin, New Washington, 29-2
• 170: Chase Herron, Floyd Central, 25-2
• 182: Lance Youtsey, Floyd Central, 14-10
• 195: Darion Newbolt, Jeffersonville, 8-3
• 220: Josh Hurley, Charlestown, 19-3
• 285: Gavan Jolley-Little, Jeffersonville, 35-1
• RESULTS: Jeff 51, New Albany 18.
• JEFF WINNERS: Stevie Jones (113), Taivon Lucas (120), Jo Jo Deleon (126), Josh Sauer (138), Devyn Long (160), Kevin Cain (170), Chase Thompson (182), Darion Newbolt (195), Geary Gaines (220), Gavan Jolley-Little (285).