By KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Despite graduating 10 seniors from last year’s squad that won the Hoosier Hills Conference, the Jeffersonville Sectional and the Jeff Regional, the Floyd Central wrestling team thinks it has a chance to equal that success in the 2013-14 campaign.
According to head coach Brandon Sisson, it just comes down to how dedicated the Highlanders are.
“I think we can be in the hunt for all of them if we work hard and improve,” Sisson said. “I think we are going to have a successful year. We have some guys who are new to the varsity lineup and have a chance to make a name for themselves.”
Four returning seniors are expected to lead the Floyd Central grapplers this season. They are Chase Herron (170 pounds), Cory Troutman (152), Austin Ward (132) and Lance Youtsey (182). Herron, Troutman and Ward each qualified for semistate last year.
The Highlanders welcome back three sophomores with some varsity experience in Franklin Korte (285), Sean Brown (120) and Tyler Crowl (126).
Sisson says some juniors who have primarily wrestled at the junior varsity level the past two years will get a shot to show what they can do in the varsity ranks this season. Two of those juniors are Brayden Hoke (145) and Jon Strobel (160). Sisson also expects contributions right away from 112-pound freshman Jarrod Cunningham.
Only one Highlander — last season’s News and Tribune Area Wrestler of the Year Terrence Kennedy, who has graduated — advanced to the IHSAA State Finals last season. But Sisson believes this year’s team has the potential to send several grapplers to Indianapolis.
“I think we have the ability to send more than one guy to state,” Sisson said. “Individual-wise, we can do better than last year and I think that will shock some people.”
Like always, the Highlanders face a difficult regular-season schedule that should prepare them for the postseason. The slate includes this weekend’s HHC Duals, a duals tournament at Calumet High School in Northern Indiana, the Evansville Mater Dei Holiday Classic and the Old Capital Classic. Floyd Central also will square off against defending Kentucky state champion St. Xavier in a dual meet in early January.
Sisson expects the HHC title to be “up for grabs” this season, as he says Columbus East has the most returning wrestlers among the conference squads this year.
Gavan Jolley-Little expects to lead an inexperienced Red Devils varsity squad that has some potential.
Jolley-Little, a heavyweight, was one of two Jeff wrestlers (the other being Jasi Coureur, who graduated last year) to reach the 2013 state finals. Jolley-Little is a five-time All-American and won the FILA Cadet Greco Roman National Championships this past offseason.
Other seniors Jeff head coach Danny Struck will expect leadership from Tavion Lucas (120), Jo Jo DeLeon (126), Kevin Cain (182) and Geary Gaines (220).
Leading the Red Devil junior class is Stevie Jones (113), who is one of Jeff’s two returning regional qualifiers. The rest of the Red Devil juniors are David Pulliam (132), Josh Sauer (138), Freddie Hudson (145) and Chase Thompson (195).
Also in the starting lineup for Jeff are Alex Keeney (152), Eddie Kaster (160) and Devyn Long (170) and freshman Noah Morrison (106).
“We have 58 kids come out — the youngest team in over 10 years, but the best groups we have ever had in the ninth- and eighth-grade classes. Jeff wrestling will be in the mix and around for a while,” Struck said.
Two past semistate qualifiers highlight the Pirates’ roster this season. Senior Luke Woods (113) reached the semistate last season at 106, while junior Bryant Haynes (126) made semistate in 2011 at 120.
Four other returning letterwinners for Charlestown are junior Hunter Huddelson (120) and sophomores Tanner Smith (106), Zach Higdon (170) and Jeffrey Lopez (195).
Five varsity newcomers for the Pirates were juniors Cameron Hopson and Josh Hurley (220), sophomores Dillon Gray (132) and Jose Gomez (138) and freshman Antonyo Gaddie (152).
“Our numbers are up and we’re working hard. [The Pirates] are just seeing what they fit in right now,” Charlestown head coach Adam Doherty said. “We have a solid team. Everybody is pushing each other hard. Right now, we are getting better each day.
“We’ve got a couple of kids who want to make it to the state finals. We want our kids to wrestle above their seeds in tournaments. I think we can be competitive in the sectional this year. We’re hoping for a top-three finish.”
Doherty says the Pirates’ toughest competition to repeat as Mid-Southern Conference champions this season is Corydon Central. As for the Southern Indiana Wrestling Conference, he expects the Pirates to battle with Milan for the conference title. Doherty thinks the two most challenging tournament on Charlestown’s schedule are the Jeff Classic and a duals meet at New Castle.
Bulldogs’ head coach Eric Burres thinks he has several returning wrestlers who can advance to the Jeff Regional and beyond this season.
New Albany has two seniors in Lunden Bradford (106) and Bryce Peavler (132) and six juniors in Romarro Bradford (126), Hunter Castleberry (145), Tre Lynch (152), D Frederick (160), David Harrison (170) and Patrick Landrum (220). Burres also expects contributions from another returning letterwinner in sophomore Derrick Harris (138).
Two freshmen should factor into the Bulldogs’ lineup in Dakota Erickson (113) and Noah Day (120). Other varsity newcomers for New Albany are Cameron Mason (182), Dalton Mowery (195) and Richard Mowery (285).
“I feel we have some returners who could make it far in the IHSAA tournament series,” Burres said. “We should place somewhere in the top four in the sectional as far as the team race is concerned. I don’t know if we have enough depth to win, but we will be in the hunt. Our goal is to get our kids to peak at the right time and get someone to the state tournament plus finish in the top four in the sectional as a team.”
The Bulldogs have a handful of difficult meets on their schedule like the Yorktown Duals, the Hoosier Hills Conference Duals, the Jeff Classic and the Evansville Mater Dei Holiday Classic.
Head coach Patrick Fleming will rely on six returning letterwinners to lead a young Pioneers’ squad during the 2013-14 campaign.
Leading the group of returnees is Matt Hayes. The junior won a Jeff Sectional title last year in the 182-pound division and advanced to semistate.
Senior Josh Murner returns this season after sitting out last year because of an injury. The four other returnees are seniors Robbie Logsdon and Blake Logsdon and juniors Jason Murner and Justin Wheatley.
“We have the largest freshman class that we’ve had in a long time, but we are short on upperclassmen. Our starting lineup will be very young with a lot of freshman filling the lower and middle weight classes,” Fleming said. “We probably have the youngest team in the area, but the wrestlers are working hard and will continue to progress throughout the season. I expect our upperclassmen to have an immediate impact and set the example for the younger wrestlers.”
Senior Jacob Franklin (170) highlights this year’s Mustangs, as he was a semistate qualifier last year. Meanwhile, senior Yancey Crase (145) and sophomore Jimmy Wise (132/138) look to return to the Jeff Regional.
Seniors Dalton Bingham (152), Gabe Nix (160) and Jerry Fox (220) and junior Matthew Mosley (126) are expected to make contributions to New Washington as well in 2013-14 along with freshman Noah Franklin (113), who is Jacob’s brother.
“That’s our goal — to go as far as we can,” Mustangs’ head coach Jeremy Campbell said. “The guys on the team are working extremely hard.”
Campbell says Charlestown and Milan are the favorites to win the SIWC this season.
Three returning Musketeers are looking to continue to persevere this season.
Senior Jordan Gray (106) has his sights on qualifying for regional for the fourth time. Fellow senior Trevor Allen (138) expects to make a return trip to regional, while senior Brayton Brading (152) will try to win his third MSC title and qualified for regional for a third time.
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Caleb Donoho (182) and Nick Lanham (220) and sophomores Trevor Chancey (138), Dustin Jackson (160) and Wade Moulder (195).
Eastern welcomes several varsity newcomers in juniors Mike Hall (145), Daulton Roberts (170) and Zach Brough (220) and freshmen Robbie Stein (106), Brant Stewart (126), Jay Judson (126), Hunter Fleenor (195) and Josh Campbell (220).
Musketeers’ head coach Justin Long says he hopes his team can compete against Charlestown in the MSC Duals and the MSC Championships this season. Eastern also will wrestle several tough tournaments like the Robert Fugate Memorial Invitational in Scottsburg, the Salem Pride Tournament and the SIWC meet.
“I feel that our team can be just as successful as it was last year, if not better. We finished last year with a team record of 16-9 and second place in the MSC,” Long said. “I think that this year, our team record will depend on our senior leadership. If our seniors have big years, our team will be very successful. I do believe that we can push for 20 wins as well as a battle to finish first in the MSC.”
Note: Information on Christian Academy could not be obtained at press time.