For lower seeds, it's not mission impossible

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Southridge’s Andy Fischer is in his first year of high school wrestling, and the junior has posted immediate success by amassing a 30-7 record this season at 182 pounds. Fischer is among four Raiders and 18 wrestlers overall from local programs who will compete in Saturday’s semistate at the Ford Center in Evansville. Action is slated to begin at 10 a.m. EST.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

Don’t bet on it to happen. But it could. And for the local wrestlers in Saturday’s wrestling semistate who are supposed to be opening-round fodder, they optimistically cling to the idea: So you’re saying there’s a chance.

Fourth-seeded wrestlers at the semistate tend to be the steak in the lion’s cage, sometimes powerless to the feeding frenzy of the top-seeded standouts sharpening their claws for a longer tournament run. Come Saturday, guys like Jasper’s Grant Brescher and Nathan Schitter and Heritage Hills’ trio of Jared Boehm, Jake Rickenbaugh and Gabe Konerding — all top seeds for semistate after claiming regional titles last weekend — are the favorites. Guys like Jasper’s Ian Songer, Forest Park’s Keith Hurst and Winston Glenn and Heritage Hills’ Nick Myers — who all slithered to the next round via fourth-place finishes — are the believers.

Kerstiens

If Songer or third-seeded semistate qualifying teammates Dillon Hurst, Edgar Chevez, Cole Kreilein and Moises Valenciano need proof it can happen, all they need to do is look up. The faces in the framed photos in the Jasper wrestling room exist as proof. Jace Brescher reached the state finals in 2001 after placing third at regional, and Jacob Rohleder accomplished the same in 1987.

“There’s always upsets,” Southridge coach Dave Schank said. “Even though we all don’t have the greatest of draws ... headlock, kid does something stupid, you cradle a kid up, he could get hurt.

There’s a lot of things that could happen in a match that can allow you to win it. We’re going to train like we’re going to win it.”

“You probably see it every year, third and fourths pull through there,” Jasper coach Rick Stenftenagel added.

Songer has designs on being one of them. With conviction and without hesitation, Stenftenagel said he fully expects Songer (28-8) to win his initial 182-pound match at the Ford Center in Evansville against Columbus North’s Luke Teague, who sports a spartan 29-16 mark as the No. 1 seed.

Songer admits he hasn’t been wrestling like himself lately. Now he sees a juicy opportunity with the aid of what he called a “miracle draw.”

“I’m really hoping to try to make the most out of it,” Songer said. “I screwed up a couple times at regional ... so I’m really trying to bring a little honor back.

“The last few weeks, with the exception of conference, I’ve been kind of wrestling, frankly, like crap. I’ve been moving and explosive, but if I’m supposed to be reacting A, I react B and then think A. Just bad timing. I’m trying to really get it back in order and keep on with (how) I usually wrestle — shots, explosive and wear the guy out. That’s always worked pretty well.”

Songer’s outing at the regional was soured partly by the progress of Andy Fischer, the Southridge junior who didn’t know he’d be wrestling until two days before practice started last fall.

Fischer, who comes from a family of swimmers and competed on the swim team his first two years of high school, couldn’t decide on swimming again or revisiting wrestling for the first time since middle school. So one day in math class while sitting in the back of the room with fellow semistate qualifier Jacob Mundy, they flipped a coin.

“Heads, I wrestle. Tails, I swim,” Fischer said.

Heads made for a stellar winter.

Fischer avenged two losses to Songer with his triumph at the regional. Even as Fischer admits “I don’t know a lot of moves yet,” he’s accrued a 30-7 record. Young and improving, long limbs and the ability to fasten a vice grip on opponents with a nasty cradle maneuver if he gets the chance: Fischer has all the ingredients to be a semistate spoiler, Schank said. With a favorable draw, to boot.

“Most people are going to be probably better than me, so I’ll try to block off the first round, just make it to the third period and see if I can’t get lucky,” said Fischer, a third seed for semistate along with teammates Ethan Schwoeppe and Juan Ramirez while Mundy is seeded first. “(You can get a ) cradle or a headlock or something, catch him in something or try to make the other guy mad because he can’t do what he wants to do, and catch him in something when he makes a mistake.”

Hurst

A take-charge approach: That’s what wrestlers agree is most conducive to interrupting the swagger of a top seed.

That’ll be the approach Forest Park’s Hurst adopts when he tangles with once-beaten Tyler Hupp of Indian Creek.

“Basically what I’m going to have to do is be more more aggressive than what I normally am. I normally kind of wrestle a little bit laid-back and watch how the other person wrestles,” said Hurst, calling the semistate berth a “sweet relief after he qualified for regional as a freshman but didn’t advance beyond sectional as a sophomore and junior while competing up at higher weights.

“With these first and second seeds, (wrestling defensively) doesn’t really work, because they are more aggressive and they get what they want. You need to come out of the offensive; you can’t just sit back and wait to see what they do.”

Even the second seeds can have an underdog feel. Jasper’s Ruger Kerstiens has designs of a second-round clash with Floyd Central’s Cory Troutman, who edged him in the freestyle state finals last year.

“Hopefully this can be my match to come back and go to state. That’s what I’m hoping for,” Kerstiens said. “I lost a big match there, so if I could win this next big match to go to state in high school, this would be a big one for me.”

Anyone’s capable of reeling in the big one, coaches know.

Schank recalls the ultimate semistate surprise about five years ago, when a fourth-seeded Princeton wrestler trailed 14-1. The top-seeded wrestler went to throw his opponent to complete the technical fall — and broke his arm. The Princeton wrestler won by injury default, then staged another upset the next round to qualify for state.

Hey, anything’s possible.

“Wrestling is an individual sport, it is what you make it and it really doesn’t matter what anybody else has done,” Songer said. “If you want it, go get it.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com