With the temperatures dropping outside, it’s warming up inside as wrestlers from across the county prepare to begin their seasons.
Coming off a 2012 season with county, conference, sectional and regional victories, it will be very difficult for Danville to repeat that type of performance in 2013. Along with that team success, Danville seniors Neal Molloy and Brayden Montgomery, along with freshman Brock Hudkins, all made it to the state finals. Molloy brought home his second state title while Montgomery placed sixth and Hudkins finished fifth. Molloy and Montgomery’s production will certainly be missed.
“Not quite sure how we will adjust,” Danville coach Steve Pugliese said. “It’s our job as a coaching staff to find guys to plug into the system. For our program to be successful, we have to be more than one guy or one class. We knew going in that we would only have that class for four years, so now it’s time for other guys to step up and take advantage of the opportunity to compete.”
Hudkins is a good place to start as his deep postseason run gives the Warriors something to build around.
Elliott Molloy lost in semi-state in the ticket-punch round and only lost two matches all season last year. Isaiah Scherrer returns as a semi-state qualifier and Autry Pickens comes back to bolster the lineup.
“These four have experience that should help them in the state tournament series,” Pugliese said.
Looking to take the next step for the Warriors this season are Kyle Smith, Kody Caudle, and Brock Martin.
Despite the loss of 12 seniors, Pugliese still expects his squad to make a run at some hardware this season.
“Our goals don’t change,” Pugliese said. “We lost eight starters, but that doesn’t mean we give up on the team aspect. We are still preparing to compete for the county, conference and sectional championships.
“We’ve been fortunate to get by Avon the last couple of years in the sectional, but they are still the team to beat. We think we can have a group that competes with them for the county and sectional titles, even though we aren’t as experienced as they are.”
Until Danville laid claim to the county title last season, Avon had won eight straight. Avon looks to be the team to beat with the experience it returns this year. While two seniors from last season represented one state place winner and another state qualifier, Avon is down just four former seniors.
Avon brings back 10 lettermen from last season and that should bode well for the Orioles’ chances in county, conference, and postseason action.
Seniors Brian Rassbach and Nick Etienne will lead Avon and each has three semi-state appearances. Classmates T.J. French, Quintin Driskell, Guy Henson and Shane Dillehay will also step into leadership roles.
Evan Elmore made it to opening night of the state finals before bowing out of the postseason and leads a talented group of juniors that include Brendon Helm – a semi-state qualifier – Caleb Loman, Bailey Chatterton, Quinn Harris, Marcus Miranda, and David Frank.
Along with that group, several freshmen and sophomores may break into the lineup.
The 2013-14 Avon wrestling season promises to be an exciting one. The Orioles look to utilize an experienced, maturing roster consisting of 10 returning lettermen to make this a season to remember.
First-year coach Darrick Snyder hopes to change the culture surrounding a team that finished third at county, fourth in sectional and seventh in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference a year ago. Snyder hails from Mishawaka where he was the head coach for eight seasons. During his tenure at Mishawaka, the program produced eight individual state champions and four runners-up along with 38 state placers and 50 state qualifiers.
“Our expectation at Brownsburg is to take steps towards becoming a championship program,” Snyder said. “Everything we do will revolve around working towards competing for titles. We have completely changed our philosophy and style of wrestling.”
With 60 kids coming out at different times and a new offseason program in place, 43 remain on the team, including 24 freshmen.
“We have lost guys along the way because (of) the new philosophy and (our) coaching staff will tailor our program around creating champions and it is not easy,” Snyder said.
To that end, Stone Neese and C.J. Damler are back to anchor the Bulldogs in this transition as both were semi-state qualifiers from a season ago.
While Brownsburg did have its struggles last season, Snyder believes this year will be different as the Bulldogs have initiated a different set of techniques that will prove beneficial.
“We no longer run high risk moves that result in negative points too often,” Snyder said. “We will be a physical and offensive team utilizing a high percentage system.
“They will not look the same this year. I am not saying they are all going to win titles, but they will look like completely different wrestlers, drastically improved.”
Snyder said he’s excited to begin his journey at Brownsburg and looks forward to building a successful program in the years to come.
“I am honored to be a teacher and head wrestling coach at Brownsburg High School,” he said. “The community, wrestling families, and administration have been extremely supportive in our relentless pursuit of becoming a championship program. This truly is a special place where there is no reason we can’t not create a championship program.”
After fourth-place finishes at county, sectional and in the Mid-State Conference in 2012-13, Plainfield would like to improve upon those results this year.
“I’m really hoping to have a solid season,” Plainfield coach Paul Nicodemus. “We have a core group of veterans who should score a lot of points for us. We do have some new guys in the lineup, so we aren’t going to set any world records. However, I think we will surprise some people.”
Sophomore Isaac Gomez, a semi-state qualifier and county champion last year, should provide the Quakers with a good amount of points. Corin McKee returns as a three-year captain and four-year varsity wrestler. Holding down a two-year captain spot is Cameron Lusk, who advanced to regional last season.
“(Isaac) has worked hard in the off season… I can’t wait to watch him compete this year,” Nicodemus said. “(Corin) has had an outstanding career and I think this year will be his best year yet. (Cameron) is providing excellent leadership so far this year.”
Freshman Bryce Briddle will step into the heavyweight role for the Quakers after a successful middle school career and should make an immediate impact. Sophomore Keegan Sweeney moves up from the junior varsity level and Nicodemus said he looks forward to seeing what he can accomplish.
Filling out the Quakers’ lineup will be Peyton Jones, Tyler Summers, Triston Pantone, Dayton Clements, and Tristan Southwood.
With a mix of both seasoned and unseasoned wrestlers, Plainfield will build throughout a season filled with quality competition.
“Our conference is so tough with Franklin being the perennial favorite,” Nicodemus said. “Avon and Danville will be the class of the county this year. I think we can advance several individuals deep into the postseason and be near the top of the county, conference, sectional, and regional.”
Helping Plainfield achieve its goals will be new staff members and a large managerial contingent.
“I’m really excited to have Adam Ferguson (former head coach at Northwestern High School) and Jason Catellier (former head coach at Brownsburg High School),” Nicodemus said. “They, in addition to my returning staff of Chris Duffer, Conrad Slaughter, Matt Kallai, and Tim Ratliff are doing an excellent job preparing the kids for this season.
“I’ve also been blessed to have 15 managers this year! Their help is really invaluable to the team.”
Like Brownsburg, Cascade welcomes a first-year coach into its fold. Former Cascade assistant wrestling coach Travis Hutchison, who has three sons that wrestle, takes over for former coach Josh Hagenow.
“I’m looking forward to the future of Cascade wrestling and building a foundation for a strong program for years to come,” Hutchison said. “My expectations this year are to compete every time we hit the mat. My philosophy is based on hard work and relentless attack, to be able to keep your opponent on their heels for six minutes.”
Cascade returns a large senior class of nine grapplers that took home the West Central Conference championship last season and should be a force this year. However, having that experience back does not guarantee a repeat title.
“It will take growth,” Hutchison said about taking a second conference title. “You have to go into it expecting our competition to get better, so we have to continue to get better and move forward. If we can do this, we have a chance to get a back-to-back WCC titles.”
Zach Batts, last season’s county, conference and sectional champion, returns after falling in semi-state and should push to be a state finalist.
“He was disappointed getting knocked out of the ticket round in a tough match at semi-state last year and has set his goals high for his senior season,” Hutchison said.
Casey Fox and Hunter Fox each won conference titles last year and return for the Cadets. Hunter has already been to the state finals once in his prep career and Hutchison said he’s “highly motivated” to get there again.
Freshman Sean Fox comes in at the 106-pound class and should provide immediate help.
“(Sean) is a hard worker and talented wrestler,” Hutchison said. “His long frame is going to work to his advantage.”
Nine of Cascade’s 14 wrestlers are seniors, adding a bit of incentive to accomplish as much as possible this season.
“Our goals are to win conference, compete at county, and advance as many wrestlers as deep into the tournament as possible,” Hutchison said.
After filling 6 of 14 weight classes for much of last season, the bright side for Tri-West is it has a team of 20 grapplers this year, the most Bruins coach Nick Sullivan has had in his four-year tenure. The downside for the Bruins is they are short of experience as 15 of 20 are freshmen.
“Our team is still very, very young,” Sullivan said. “The leadership that we do have though is outstanding. I look for the team to make great strides from day one to the state tournament.”
That leadership consists of seniors Rick Perry and Carlos Branson.
Perry returns from a semi-state run last year and is focused on making a state run this year.
“He is extremely focused on and off the mat,” Sullivan said. “He does a tremendous job in the room with the younger wrestlers and I think this will pay off for both the younger guys and for Rick as well.”
Branson makes his return to the mat for the first time since his sophomore season.
“(Carlos’) work ethic is second to none,” Sullivan said. “He still came to nearly all the practices last year and seems to have retained a vast amount of knowledge and this along with his leadership; I expect a very quality season from him.”
DaVaughn Anderson and Austin Staton, bookended at 106- and 285-pounds, respectively, have shown early promise in the wrestling room along with Tony Kahl.
“We are young, but I feel that we will be fun to watch,” Sullivan said. “The room is full of competitors.”
— Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports editor Jake Thompson on Twitter @JacobEThompson.