The IHSAA winter sports playoff season is upon us, beginning with wrestling sectionals Saturday and the draw for girls basketball sectionals Sunday. With that in mind, here are postseason primers for each sport, complete with my fearless predictions.
Sectional: Saturday (sectional draw was Monday).
Shenandoah Sectional (9 a.m.): Eastern Hancock, Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, New Castle, Northeastern, Richmond, Tri.Defending team champion: New Castle.
Warren Central Sectional (8:30 a.m.): Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Palestine, Beech Grove, Franklin Central, Marshall, Roncalli, Shelbyville and Triton Central at Warren Central, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. Defending team champion: Warren Central.
Returning individual champions at WC: Taylor Fee, NP, 113 pounds last year/126 now; Sam Locke; G-C, 126/132; Josh Farrell, G-C, 138/152.
Regional: Top four in each weight class at sectional advance to regional meet. Eastern Hancock at Richmond Regional, Feb. 2, 8 a.m.; Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine at Perry Meridian Regional, Feb. 2 at 9 a.m.
Semistate: Top four in each weight class at Richmond, Perry Meridian regionals advance to New Castle Semistate, Feb. 9 at 9 a.m
State finals: Top four in each weight class at semistate advance to state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. First round is on Feb. 15 at 6p.m. Quarterfinals Feb. 16 begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by semifinals. Consolation finals at 5 p.m., then spotlight finals at 7:30 p.m.
Fearless predictions: First, a newsworthy note: New Palestine’s Tommy Cash, the reigning 106-pound sectional champ and current No. 2 ranked grappler at 120, is out for the season. That will strike a blow to the Dragons’ chances at the team title. … Hancock County’s pair of undefeated wrestlers — NP’s C.J. Red (106) and G-C’s Josh Farrell (152) — will cruise to the regional round. … Other sectional winners will be G-C’s Sam Locke (132), NP’s Gordon Wagner (138), G-C’s Austin Rose (170) and NP’s Brian Wagner (182). … Keep an eye on MV’s Dustin Tackett in the 160-pound weight class, a division that is wide-open. … Eastern Hancock moved into a new sectional this winter, stepping into a tourney with more similarly-sized schools as opposed to its previous Warren Central Sectional. Last year the Royals had two wrestlers seeded at sectional. Now, EH has four wrestlers seeded in the top five alone, and the rest of the squad is seeded no lower than eighth. Hunter Knopp (170), the top seed at 170, will bring home an individual sectional title for the Royals.
Girls swimming & diving
Sectional, Jan. 31 (prelims), Feb. 2 (swimming and diving finals): New Palestine hosts Centerville, Connersville, Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central, Hagerstown, Mt. Vernon, New Castle, Richmond, Rushville, Shenandoah. Defending team champion: Mt. Vernon.
Returning event champions: 200 medley relay, MV; 200 individual medley, Carly Fernandes, G-C; 100 butterfly, Taylor Johnson, G-C; 100 backstroke, Carly Fernandes, G-C; 100 breaststroke, Emily Trimpe, NP.
Diving regional: First-place sectional finishers qualify for Plainfield Regional, Feb. 5.
State finals: First-place sectional finishers and any contestant who equals or betters the state time standard at sectional qualifies for state meet. Places one through eight at diving regional advance to state meet. State finals held at Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI. Swimming prelims at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8, with swimming and diving finals beginning at 1 p.m. on Feb. 9.
Fearless predictions: Fernandes and Johnson will be repeat individual winners. … Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine placed in the top six last year; all three will be in the top five this go-around. … The Marauders, winners of three of the past four sectional meets, always seem to swim well in this meet, so they’ll make it four championships in five years. … Eastern Hancock’s Sarah Henderson will qualify for an individual event final, a program first. The Royals will also advance two relay teams to the final round.