Wrestling is a first-year varsity sport at two Clark County high schools and athletes at Silver Creek and Borden are reveling in the chance to compete against their peers.
Borden had a trio of wrestlers reach the finals of the Falls City Classic last weekend at Providence, including 113-pounder Carlos Huerta, who summed up the appeal of the sport.
"I like how the teams are competitive but they like each other. The camaraderie is special. It's a fun sport, it's tough but it's fun," Huerta said.
Many of those stepping on the mat for the Braves and Dragons — who will compete against one another in dual meet tonight — did it for the first time this winter.
Silver Creek's Gavin Clark said he got some wrestling experience during his elementary and middle school years but is thrilled to compete at the varsity level as a junior.
"I've stuck with it since about first grade and just enjoy doing it. I'm happy with how my season is going," said Clark, who took second place at 126 pounds Saturday.
The Dragons also got fourth-place finishes from Cole Bagshaw and Nick Losey. There are a lot of learning experiences for first-time varsity wrestlers when they get up against guys who have battled dozens, if not hundreds of opponents, during their wrestling careers.
"They had a pretty decent day today. They just ran up against kids with several years more experience," said Silver Creek coach Mike Brown, a former Jeffersonville wrestler. "We're doing as well as we expected for a first-year team. The kids are getting better every week and that's all we can ask for right now."
Borden's Lody Cheatham was one of the Braves' runner-up finishers, competing in the 145-pound weight class.
"I wish I could have done better but I had some good shots, had some good matches. I just kept going back as hard as I could but at the end it wasn't enough," he said
He hopes to move down to 138 soon. The process of the attention to detail and discipline required to shed weight was foreign to the wrestlers, Borden coach Jake Freeman said.
"They're finally realizing what it's like to have weight management and what it's like to get down to their ideal weight to compete," Freeman said.
Cheatham described the discipline as part of the appeal of the sport.
"Just the toughness. Whoever can gut it out the most, I really like it. Hard work and being disciplined, that's something I can really appreciate," Cheatham said.
Jacob Knollenberg, with a 13-1 record at 195 pounds, and senior Noah Voyles are two more Braves having some success. Voyles is 12-2 at 152 pounds.
Voyles just loves the head-to-head competition.
"It's my first year and somehow I've managed to do well," he said. "I think it's always something I liked to do growing up with my friends. It's something I could turn into a sport and something I'm good at. I've played a lot of sports before, but was never good at any of them. Wrestling's my sport I guess. I don't really know the names of things, I just go out and wrestle."
Freeman just wants to see continued progress.
"They're working really hard. I think they'll be a lot better come sectional time. I think we'll get a couple wins," Freeman said.