INDIANAPOLIS — The goal was a sectional title. As a team, the New Palestine wrestlers fell short Saturday at Warren Central.
As a collection of individuals, however, the Dragons couldn’t have been happier.
New Palestine advanced eight wrestlers into the championship round Saturday and claimed four individual titles. Along with the runner-ups and third- and- fourth-place finishers, the Dragons will send 12 wrestlers to this weekend’s regional at Perry Meridian, qualifying in all but two of 14 weight classes.
“I would have liked to have won,” NP coach Chad Red said of the team competition. “But the team portion’s over now. I’m more focused on getting as a lot of individuals downtown (for the state finals) now, that’s our focus.”
When the final team standings were announced over the WC public address system, in reverse order, the Dragons let out a den-wide groan as the, “And in second place, with 219 points, New Palestine,” portion was read.
Warren Central won the title with 241 points, with Franklin Central (175) in third, followed by Greenfield-Central (161), Roncalli (161), Triton Central (97), Beech Grove (70), Shelbyville (47), Mt. Vernon (39) and Marshall (0).
Considering the Dragons were missing Tommy Cash, their 120-pound, second-ranked wrestler, a second-place finish to the powerhouse Warriors was probably the best result New Palestine could expect. Cash’s weight class, which a Warren Central wrestler won, and 195 pounds were the only weight classes the Dragons didn’t claim a top-four, regional-qualifying result.
“I knew we’d do well,” Red said. “I’ve just been seeing it in the room that we’ve been making progress. The sky’s the limit for these guys. We’ve got a good number through and we’ve got a chance to keep advancing more through next week.
“Way I told them was, I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted to keep coaching. I love every one of them. Let’s just keep trying to go a little bit longer. I thought we wrestled pretty good today — really good.”
The top four regional finishers will advance to the New Castle Semistate, and the top four at New Castle move on to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the State Finals.
The Dragons are ahead of last season’s pace, when nine Dragons (and three champions) advanced out of the sectional, with three of the wrestlers making their way to Indy.
Greenfield-Central took four wrestlers to the state finals last year, and the Cougars have nine combatants still in the ring heading to regional, including two sectional champs.
Mt. Vernon will be represented by a lone wrestler Saturday; and Eastern Hancock advanced one of its largest groups in years, with three Royals headed to the Richmond Regional (EH competed at Shenandoah Saturday, separate from their county brethren).
Here’s a look at the six New Palestine and Greenfield-Central sectional champions, as well as the rest of the local boys still alive in the tourney:
>> CJ Red (37-0), New Palestine. The 106-pound freshman continued his perfect season, drawing a first-round bye, pinning his second foe in six seconds (not a misprint — six seconds) and earning another pin in just under five minutes to reach the final, where he scored a 12-2 decision over previously unbeaten Matthew McKinney (now 28-1) of Warren Central.
Red is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 7 in the nation in his weight class, and he continues to display moves that seem advanced, not only for a freshman, but for any wrestler. Red contorted McKinney in all manner of seemingly painful moves, at one point placing his foot on McKinney’s head (which is legal).
“Having a dad like coach Red, as good as he is, it’s not really a surprise that he’s putting all these moves together, because coach Red knows so many, and it shows,” said CJ Red’s teammate, senior Robbie Elsea. “I was kind of older, but I knew him when he was younger. I started out at Red Cobra when I was in second or third grade and he was there wrestling, too. So, it doesn’t surprise me much that’s he’s dominated everybody.”
>> Rylan McCarty (32-5), New Palestine. 113-pound top seed Vance Ellis of Roncalli suffered a 6-5 loss to Beech Grove’s Taz Young in the second round, then McCarty topped Young 4-1 in the semifinal and Warren Central’s Joel McGhee 5-2 to claim his first sectional championship.
“Ellis beat me earlier this year, 3-2, so I wanted a chance to face him,” McCarty said. “I wasn’t really happy when he lost.”
Ellis dropped all the way to sixth place on the day, losing in wrestle-backs to Mt. Vernon’s Colin McAtee, who finished fifth. The non-regional qualifying finish was a bit of a disappointment for McAtee, who finished second at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet Jan. 12, ahead of McCarty.
“We were kind of expecting him to get out,” MV coach Jason Stewart said. “Weight class was just stacked, it was tough. He had been out the last couple weeks with a shoulder injury, and that kind of hurt him I think.
“But, he’s a sophomore, and he’ll come back stronger for the experience.”
G-C’s Taylor Wright (29-12), who won the HHC title, finished fourth at 113.
>> Gordon Wagner (35-4), New Palestine. Saturday served as redemption for the 138-pound senior, who was unable to make weight for sectionals last year because of a health issue.
As a freshman and sophomore, Wagner qualified for semistate, but this marked his first sectional title.
“First two years I had to wrestle somebody by the name of Josh Kieffer (former Roncalli standout and state runner-up) in the sectional,” Wagner said. “He beat me pretty soundly, but now that I’m a senior, I don’t know, it’s just an awesome feeling being able to win sectionals this time around.
“I’m hoping to join Red, Robbie, Rylan, and hopefully a bunch of us who are going to make it to state.”
Shawn Fogle (26-14) of Greenfield-Central placed fourth at 138.
>> Elsea (34-3). The New Palestine 145-pound senior claimed the second sectional title of his career, pinning two opponents, and beating two others by a combined score of 11-2.
Top seed Shabaka Johns (30-2) of Warren Central suffered only his second loss of the season at the hands of Beech Grove’s Tre’von Sevion (27-7) by a 5-3 decision Saturday. Elsea defeated Sevion 6-2 in the championship.
Shelbyville’s Kyle Uhls (28-7) placed fourth.
Elsea, with a first-round regional win, will face either Johns or Pike’s Eric Dobbins (25-6) in the second round.
“I think honestly the top four here could be the top four at regionals, so it just depends on matches and whatnot,” Elsea said. “Although, Dobbins, I could see him being the other one to look out for going into regionals.”
>> Josh Farrell (37-0), Greenfield-Central. Four seasons, four sectional titles for the Cougars’ all-time winningest wrestler.
Farrell cruised to the 152-pound championship with two pins in matches totaling less than four minutes and a 25-10 technical fall over Triton Central’s Trey Miller (36-6) in the title match.
With three state finals appearances under his belt, but no championships, Farrell is leaving it all out on the mat.
“I’m 100 percent confident (heading to regional),” Farrell said. “There’s not room for caution this year.
“Sometimes being cautious gets you in trouble, and I don’t have room to make errors this postseason.”
New Palestine’s Logan Hunt (24-5) finished fourth at 152.
>> Austin Rose (27-7), Greenfield-Central. The 170-pound senior was as dominant as his teammate, Farrell. Following a bye, Rose earned a 75-second pin, then scored two decisions (17-0 and 4-0) to improve on last season’s third-place sectional finish at 152 pounds.
For wrestlers, the postseason is all about earning the best seed possible. A sectional title equals a No. 1 seed at the regional and a first-round matchup against a grappler that placed fourth at another sectional, and the same goes for the regional-semistate seeding.
A No. 4 seed at the sectional or regional means facing a sectional or regional winner at the next stop, and those wrestlers are usually among the best in the state.
“Regionals, that’s a big step considering we have one of the toughest regionals in the state of Indiana,” Rose said. “If you don’t do well in regionals, it’s not going to set you up well for semistate and state, so you have to place well in regionals to better your chances.”
Rose is well-positioned to advance further than last season, when he finished third at regional and came up short at semistate.
“This is definitely the best I’ve wrestled in my career, for sure,” he said. “Just the time I put in during the offseason, the weight room, and doing club all season long just takes me to another level.”
Rose will be joined at Perry Meridian by New Palestine’s Ian Pomfret (19-18), who grabbed third place Saturday.
Along with the champions and other wrestlers listed above, New Palestine’s Taylor Fee (29-8 on the year at 126 pounds), Nick Brickens (13-8 at 160), Brian Wagner (33-3 at 182) and Gabe Estes (6-2 at 220) battled their way to second-place sectional finishes.
Jared Timberman (28-12), fourth at 132; and Willie Bryan (29-9), fourth at 285 rounded out the Dragons’ regional-qualifying contingent.
For the Cougars, Farrell, Rose, Wright and Fogle will be joined by third-place finishers Sam Locke (33-7 at 132), Joe Hoskins (23-9 at 160) and Tyler Beeson (30-8 at 285); and fourth-place wrestler Garrett Mullins (22-15 at 126).
The Marauders’ lone top-four finisher was Chance Albrand. The junior improved one spot on his fifth-seed designation and is 27-8 on the year heading to regional.
Royals show improvement at Shenandoah
Unlike the past several seasons, Eastern Hancock was not aligned Saturday with the mostly big-school teams that make up the Warren Central Sectional. The Royals were slotted into the Shenandoah Sectional, and they more than held their own.
Six Royals finished in the top six in their respective weight classes, with Hunter Knopp (second at 170), Josh Ramage (third at 195) and Nathan Kell (fourth at 138) punching their tickets for the Richmond Regional.
“Coach (Marty) Rohrman and I are very happy with the results,” EH assistant coach Jason Faucett said. “Since we have started, this is the first time we have kids advancing from sectionals, which shows improvement in the program and the kids in our three years at the school.”
Knopp improved to 29-8 on the season, while Ramage is 23-14 and Kell is an impressive 30-8.
At the regional, if a wrestler wins his first-round match, he’s guaranteed a top-four, semistate-qualifying finish. If a wrestler stumbles in the first round of regional, he can’t finish any higher than fifth.
Faucett believes the Eastern Hancock trio is cautiously optimistic.
“I think the kids have a quiet excitement about going to regionals,” he said. “It is the first time for all of them, so there is a little bit of ‘awe,’ but all three are very hard workers. And they also realize that the competition there will be stronger, so they are starting to focus on what they need to do to be successful at Richmond.”
Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine wrestlers competed at the Warren Central Sectional Saturday; Eastern Hancock, at Shenandoah. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advanced to regional (GC, MV, NP at Perry Meridian; EH at Richmond) this Saturday. Top four regional wrestlers in each weight class advance to semistate. Local wrestlers advancing to regional, listed with weight, sectional finish, name (record), school and first-round regional opponent:
Warren Central Sectional
106 — 1. CJ Red (37-0) NP, vs. Johnson (19-16) Indianapolis Ritter.
113 — 1. Rylan McCarty (32-5) NP, vs. Hilcz (13-13) Scecina; 4. Taylor Wright (29-12) GC, vs. Cottey (30-1) Perry Meridian.
126 — 2. Taylor Fee (29-8) NP, vs. Leamon (18-9) Southport; 4. Garrett Mullins (22-15) GC, vs. James (27-0) Perry Meridian.
132 — 3. Sam Locke (33-7) GC, vs. Sears (29-8) Speedway; 4. Jared Timberman (28-12) NP, vs. Lecount (29-0) Perry Meridian.
138 — 1. Gordon Wagner (35-4) NP, vs. Wilson (23-9) Ritter; 4. Shawn Fogle (26-14) GC, vs. Bova (30-1) Perry Meridian.
145 — 1. Robbie Elsea (34-3) NP, vs. Akintomide (22-11), Northwest.
152 — 1. Josh Farrell (37-0) GC, vs. Beyer (21-15) Speedway; 4. Logan Hunt (27-12) NP, vs. Cooper (24-5) Perry Meridian.
160 — 2. Nick Brickens (13-8) NP, vs. Tucker (10-7) Scecina; 3. Joe Hoskins (23-9) GC, vs. Hubbard (28-8) Arsenal Tech.
170 — 1. Austin Rose (27-7) GC, vs. Patterson (10-10) Pike; 3. Pomfret (19-18) NP, vs. Johnson (35-2) Arsenal Tech.
182 — 2. Brian Wagner (33-3) NP, vs. Mills (30-5) Arsenal Tech; 4. Cameron Nuckols (28-11) GC, vs. Massengale (31-1) Perry Meridian.
195 — 4. Chance Albrand (27-8) MV, vs. Koehring (27-8) Perry Meridian.
220 — 2. Gabe Estes (6-2) NP, vs. Richardson (19-5) Scecina.
285 — 3. Tyler Beeson (30-8) GC, vs. Clay (22-3) Brebeuf; 4. Willie Bryan (29-9) NP, vs. Winfield (31-1) Perry Meridian.
138 — 4. Nathan Kell (30-8) EH, vs. Wood (26-8) Rushville.
170 — 2. Hunter Knopp (29-8) EH, vs. Hittle (29-3) Rushville.
195 — 3. Josh Ramage (23-14) EH, vs. Hooten (31-4) Batesville.