The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, November 15, 2019 1:00 am

Five to Watch Season Preview: Wrestling

Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

For the first time since 2012, when the IHSAA returned to scoring at the individual state finals to determine team standings, two northeast Indiana squads cracked the top 20 at the state finals.

Wawasee, which placed 12th, and Garrett, which tied Greenfield-Central for 20th, both return a wrestler who finished high on the podium at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last winter.

Individuals

Clayton Fielden, Garrett: The senior, headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to wrestle next year, suits up for the Railroaders for the final time after finishing as the state's runner-up at 170 pounds in 2019.

Jace Alexander, Wawasee: The junior and two-time state qualifier placed sixth at 120 last winter.

Ian Heath, Leo: Another two-time state qualifier, the junior may look for revenge in Indianapolis, having lost to Avon's Raymond Rioux the past two years at state. Heath took fifth at 126 as a sophomore.

Cale Gray, Norwell: The senior amassed 31 wins in 38 matches last season, ultimately finishing sixth in the state at 195 in 2018-19.

Kyle Lawson, Bellmont: After earning a state finals berth as a sophomore, the then-junior saw his season end one match shy of a second trip to Indianapolis at the hands of Jimtown's Matt Gimson, who went on to place fourth in the state at 132.

Teams

Carroll: The Chargers hold the state's third-longest active streak of regional championships, having won their host regional the past seven years. Scottie Saylor will wrestle his final season after earning a state finals berth at 145 a year ago.

Huntington North: The Vikings turned into one of the region's top teams last winter, finishing just half a point behind Jimtown for the semistate team championship. Huntington North returns a pair of state qualifiers (junior Preston Teusch, 42-2 at 113 and senior Cody McCune, 35-9 at 152).

Wawasee: The Warriors graduated two wrestlers that finished in the top three in their respective weight classes, but coach Frank Bumgardner's squad won the 2018 IHSWCA Team State Duals championship before finishing as runner-up last season. Assistant coach Jamie Salazar, a three-time All-American at Manchester University, was inducted to the college's athletic Hall of Fame in October.

Leo: The aforementioned Heath leads the Lions, who will look to defend conference (Northeast 8) and sectional (New Haven) championships.

Adams Central: The Flying Jets enter this season as the returning champs of the ACAC, Jay County Sectional and Jay County Regional.

Storylines

A far-reaching loss: The area wrestling community lost a fixture from the past three decades when Snider assistant coach Mike Ester died unexpectedly in August at age 45.

Strong despite small stature: The 106 and 113 classes presented the area's greatest successes as a whole last season, as both featured three state qualifiers from Northeast Indiana.

New faces in new places: A quintet of area schools hired new coaches for the 2019-20 season, highlighted by Dan Briggs taking over for Tim Sloffer at Carroll. Spencer Richter (Central Noble), Ethan Hirschy (North Side), Ben Watson (Whitko) and Chris Albertin (Woodlan) will also lead their schools for the first time.

Balance throughout the NE8: Six of the eight NE8 schools return at least one state qualifier from last winter: Bellmont (Lawson, sophomore Isaac Ruble at 106 in 2018-19), Huntington North (Teusch, McCune), East Noble (sophomore Aidan Sprague at 106), Columbia City (senior Jackson Pettigrew at 160), Norwell (senior Cale Gray, sixth at 195) and Leo (Heath).

Seeking return to prominence: The SAC saw just one wrestler earn a trip to state at Memorial Coliseum in 2019, Snider's Beau Humphrey, who finished 30-3 at 120.


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