SHELBYVILLE — Greenfield-Central head coach Josh Holden, like many after the conclusion of the Shelbyville Wrestling Sectional on Saturday, was left perplexed.
Hoping his group might contend for the team title — the program’s potential first since 1997-98 — the Cougars, and the others, instead struggled to keep pace as No. 7 Warren Central outdistanced the field by triple figures.
Scoring 283 team points behind 11 weight-class champions and 14 regional qualifiers, the Warren Central Warriors fended off the Cougars, who were second with 183 points. New Palestine was third with 165.5 points. Eastern Hancock placed seventh as a team with 95 points.
The Cougars tried to catch coach Jim Tonte’s Warriors by advancing eight wrestlers into the finals, earning three individual sectional titles in the process, but they lost more ground after dropping four head-to-head meetings with Warren Central.
Despite the team setback, the Cougars’ eight will all push onto the Perry Meridian Regional this coming weekend with 22 Hancock County wrestlers — five as sectional champions — moving on overall.
“I thought we wrestled well, but it wasn’t enough to win a sectional title. Kudos to Warren (Central). They wrestled great, but next week, we better wrestle better or we’re going to be sending a lot of guys home,” Holden said.
The Greenfield-Central trio of junior Gavin Rose (29-2) at 120 pounds, senior Carter Noehre (24-0) at 132 and senior Brad Lowe (35-2) at 170 each won their respective weight class — marking the program’s 123rd sectional champion in history — to put themselves in a favorable position for regional.
Championship placement loomed large on Saturday with sectional sites redrawn for 2017-18 by the IHSAA. Reassigning the likes of Roncalli and Beech Grove out of the Cougars’ sectional, they will reconvene at the regional with Greenfield-Central, which ups the ante for a possible semistate berth.
“You’re never satisfied and we have a lot of work to do because our regional is tough, and that’s what everybody was saying today as they were going through the tournament,” Holden said. “We’re happy with how we wrestled. I thought some guys really wrestled their best tournament of the year today and some of those guys didn’t even make it out.”
Sectional newcomer Eastern Hancock, which previously competed at the Shenandoah tournament, had five wrestlers qualify for regional, led by first-time champion Clayton Cochard (31-7), a senior, at 195.
Cochard earned his first Mid-Eastern Conference title earlier this month and seized his second season-long goal with a two decisive matches and one clutch performance at sectional.
“This is huge for me just because of the journey. I started my freshman year. That was my first year wrestling, and I was absolutely awful,” Cochard reminisced. “Last year, I placed fifth at sectional, so it’s a big jump to first.”
Cochard opened the tournament with a pin in 1 minute, 22 seconds during the quarterfinals over Shelbyville’s Trevor File before winning in an ultimate tiebreaker 3-2 over Warren Central’s Nathan Bishop in the semifinals. He cruised to a 14-7 decision in the finals against Franklin Central’s DeShawn Young.
“My wrestling approach is to conserve energy. So I let my opponents wear themselves out and then go in for the kill if I can,” Cochard said.
Eastern Hancock’s Avery Wills (21-17) placed fourth at 145 to advance, while Garret Friesen (26-12) was fourth at 160. Alexander Burton (28-13) was fourth at 220.
Jordyn Wills (30-10) was runner-up at 152, falling to Warren Central’s Marcus Scott by decision 6-2 in their second meeting of the year.
“The first time we wrestled (this season), he tech falled me, pretty decently. It was 17-2 or something like that, so this time I really came out with the mind set that I wanted to win or at the least do better than I did the last time. I wanted to improve,” Wills said. “This (sectional) is way tougher. To be able to come out of here with second place, I feel good about it.”
New Palestine’s Landan Burton (37-1) secured the county’s fifth individual sectional championship with back-to-back pins to win the 220 title.
Burton received a pair of forfeits to move into the semifinals. In his first match, he pinned Triton Central’s Gavin Cook in 1:30. in the finals, he pinned Greenfield-Central’s Hunter Gulden (30-9) in 2:45.
New Palestine freshman Christian White (31-7) reached the finals along with Burton, but he lost by fall to Warren Central’s David Pierson in the 106 championship. Logan Robinson (27-9) was a sectional runner-up at 160. The Dragons advanced eight wrestlers to the regional round.
The sectional title is Burton’s third in four years and second straight, joining Greenfield-Central’s Noehre and Lowe as a repeat champion.
“I’m just putting everything out there. I’m not holding back at practice. I’m going as hard as I can at practice and it’s reflecting on the mat,” Burton said. “I’m just going out on the mat and doing what I know I can do.”
Lowe had a similar plan of attack, though unlike most, he had to win four matches to secure the title at 170. The senior racked up three pins — his fastest at 0:30 in the first round — before scoring a 16-0 technical fall in 3:13 against Warren Central’s Aaron Taylor in the finals.
“I’ve just been working on my mental game, trying to focus and increase the intensity,” said Lowe, a state qualifier with Rose and Noehre last February. “I don’t mind getting extra matches. It’s just another opportunity to go out there and get a little extra work in.”
Rose, a two-time state qualifier, strung together three consecutive pins to win his first-career sectional title. A runner-up last year and third as a freshman, Rose was dominant in his run at the crown, pinning his first opponent in 0:26.
He pinned Eastern Hancock’s Keagan Kendall in 2:42 during the semifinals. His final fall came against Franklin Central’s Nick Morton in 4:38.
Noehre, who remains unbeaten on the season, posted a 10-2 major decision in the quarterfinals followed by two pins to win his second straight sectional.
In the semifinals, Noehre went 5:08 before defeating Shelbyville’s Jordan Vinson and only needed 1:36 in the finals against Warren Central’s Jarred Rowlett.
Dylan Dorman (25-13) at 113, Larry Evans (23-10) at 126, Kenny Thompson (20-16) at 138 and Cooper Noehre (28-8) at 145 joined Gulden as sectional runner-ups.
“Going into it, you look and think, can we compete with Warren and try to win a sectional? We thought we could, going in, and then you lose it by 100,” Holden said. “You’re happy with the eight, but you obviously want to get there and win because the next round at regional is going to be a bear. And the way they redrew it, taking some of the hammers out of here and putting them in the other one, you’re likelihood of drawing a good kid if you don’t win your sectional now is high.”