Floyd Central wrestling

Floyd Central wrestlers Eric Luckett, foreground, and Jeremiah Faulkenburg work on leg sweeps Monday afternoon during practice at the school. Luckett and Faulkenburg are two Highlanders expecting to go far in the state tournament this season. Floyd is the defending team regional champion.

The Floyd Central wrestling team had one heck of a season last year.

The Highlanders won their third team regional title in four years and standout wrestler Cooper Samuels captured his first state championship in the 160-pound division.

Floyd is looking to accomplish more this season.

The Highlanders have the majority of their starting lineup back, making them a contender to capture the Hoosier Hills Conference, sectional and regional championships in the 2007-08 season.

“We look to be strong again. Our expectations remain the same,” Floyd head coach Rob Willman said. “We only lost three senior starters, so we would like to pick up where we left off last year. Our senior class is very strong, many of whom have been in the lineup for two to three years.”

Leading that core of seniors is Samuels, who will try to win his second straight state title — this time at 171. Samuels, who has verbally committed to wrestle at Indiana University next year, pinned New Prairie’s Phillip Oudhuis at the 1:22 mark to claim last season’s 160 state title.

“His chances are very good and that is still his goal,” Willman said about Samuels’ quest to win again at state. “But right now, he is doing what the rest of the team is doing — attempting to get better each and every time he steps on the mat whether in practice or competition.”

Five of Samuels’ classmates will attempt to make a deep run in the state tournament. They are Eric Luckett (125-130), Jeremiah Faulkenburg (140-145), Tyler Alvey (160), Morton Scott (215) and Clinton Kochert (285).

Juniors Josh Happel (130-135), Garrett Blackman (145), Ian Emerson (152), John McAndrew (189) and Daniel Murphy should see some time in the starting lineup along with sophomore Aaron Witt (119-125).

A challenging schedule should get Floyd ready for the postseason. On Dec. 8, the Highlanders will compete in the Calumet Invitational, which will include Indiana powerhouses Mishawaka, Franklin, Crown Point, Lawrence North and Indianapolis Cathedral.

The following weekend, they will host the Floyd Central Invitational. That tournament will include some of Kentucky’s top squads in St. Xavier, Fern Creek and South Oldham. On Dec. 28, Floyd will travel to Evansville for the always-competitive Mater Dei Classic.

Willman also expects the HHC to be tough this year. The Highlanders will find out how formidable the conference will be when they start their season in the HHC Duals on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The HHC individual meet will be Jan. 12.

“We like to pride ourselves in the strength of our schedule,” Willman said. “The conference is very competitive this year. Most of the teams did not lose that many seniors last year, so the HHC is stacked with seasoned wrestlers.”



JEFFERSONVILLE

The Red Devils have their sights set on doing something no Jeff team has ever done — repeat as sectional champions.

Jeff head coach Danny Struck thinks his squad has a chance to pull off the feat. One of the reasons for that optimism is more than 30 of his wrestlers accomplished a lot during the fall sports season, and he thinks that success can carry over on the mat.

“Soccer won sectionals, football won sectionals and cross country went to regionals. Our kids are coming in winners and together Jeff High is producing champions,” said Struck, who guided the Devils to their first sectional title since 1992 last year. “We are excited about this season as we are for all seasons. Our sectional will be better this year from first to fourth place than it has been since I have been coaching here.”

Struck welcomes back four semistate qualifiers in sophomore Curtis Smith (103) and juniors Alex Bailey (140), Tyler Tatgenhorst (171) and Jon Clark (285). Struck is also expecting major contributions from seniors Austin Copeland (152) and Marc Fridley (171-189) and juniors Jon Reed (112) and Caleb Visser (130).

Jeff will start its season the weekend of Nov. 24 in the Capitol City Classic in Indianapolis, which includes fourth-ranked Perry Meridian and No. 5 Warren Central. The Red Devils have also added several top teams to the annual Jeff Classic, including three-time defending Michigan state champion Holt.

As for the HHC, Struck thinks New Albany and Floyd will be solid this season.

“I told my kids that my challenge to them is to create a schedule where they cannot go undefeated and have them rise to the challenge and say to me, ‘Yes I can, Coach — find another team,’” Struck said.



NEW ALBANY

The Bulldogs will be led by four seniors who had their share of success during the 2007-08 campaign. J.T. Jenkins returns in the 171 class after placing sixth at the state meet last season. Ivan Rodriguez (145) qualified for state last year and competed in the freestyle national tournament last summer.

Nick Oxley (125) claimed titles at the HHC meet, the Mater Dei Classic, the Jeff Classic and the Jeff Sectional, and Kirk Moore (119) earned a conference championship.

Head coach Eric Burres is also expecting big things from sophomores Tim Martin, Kevin Burrell and Larry Rickman and juniors Nestor Rodriguez and Jonathan Gary.

“I think we will have a successful and fun year. We have some individuals that will do very well this year,” Burres said. “Our goal is to get kids to the state tournament and win state titles. We should be competitive as a team as well. We have several kids on our team that have been working hard and will do very well.”

Burres has high hopes about the HHC meet this year as he has four defending conference champions. The Dogs will also compete in the Jeff Classic and the Mater Dei Classic.



CHARLESTOWN

The Pirates have several veteran wrestlers back as they try to win their third consecutive Mid-Southern Conference championship. The grapplers on the Charlestown roster have an approximate total of 380 career wins.

Senior Brandon Balmer will lead the Pirates. The 130-pound wrestler ranks in the top 10 on the school’s career wins list with 87. He has qualified for semistate in each of his three years at Charlestown. Senior teammate Craig Brown (189) is a four-year starter and was a regional qualifier last year.

Junior Eddie Duran (119) has 60 career victories and will attempt to return to semistate this season. Fellow junior Aaron May (140) has 50 career wins and is a two-time MSC champion.

Head coach Tom Kendrick has been happy with senior Iram Polito’s work ethic, and plans on using him at 135. Senior Travis Brown (171) should also see some time in the lineup after sitting out his junior year.

Along with his veterans, Kendrick says possibly seven sophomores could start this season.

“This is the hardest-working team I’ve ever had,” Kendrick said. “We’re young and we were young last year. We’re going to start a lot of juniors and sophomores. But we are much more experienced.”

Kendrick thinks Scottsburg is the Pirates’ main competition in the MSC. Charlestown will also wrestle in the Forest Park and South Putnam invites, the Jeff Classic and Southern Indiana Wrestling Conference meet along with dual meets against Jeff, Floyd and Providence.

“That’s a pretty solid schedule,” Kendrick said.



PROVIDENCE

Five Pioneers will try to get back to semistate this year in Kevin Mooney, Omar Salguero, Alex Ernstberger, Ethan Cook and Eean Huffman. Also returning are Carl Schenck, Shane Sparks and Jacob Golembeski.

“We just plan on going out and competing the best we can,” Providence head coach Phil Cook said. “We don’t care who the opponent is. Our guys will give it everything they have and then some. Most of our guys are three-sport athletes because they love to compete.”

Coach Cook says one meet that will challenge his troops will be at Crown Point on Dec. 15, where there will be several top-ranked wrestlers.

“We wrestle good competition the whole season,” he said.



NEW WASHINGTON

Jeremy Campbell is back as the head coach of the Mustangs after taking a two-year sabbatical. He was New Washington’s boss during the 2004-05 season.

Campbell currently has 10 wrestlers on his squad, and the majority of them are inexperienced on the mat.

The Mustangs’ most talented grappler is sophomore Josh Sampson, who will compete at 145 this year. Campbell also likes what he is seeing from freshman Lane Massingham (135).

The Mustangs have two returning seniors in J.D. Scales (215) and Ben Lanham (285).

“We’re bringing in a lot of kids who do not have a lot of experience. We’re looking for improvement,” Campbell said. “They work really hard. They understand the meaning of commitment.”

New Wash’s toughest invites will be the Jeff Classic and the Scottsburg Invitational.

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