Cats sweat out route to latest crown

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Above: Jasper’s Dillon Hurst, second from left, yelled in celebration while clutching the sectional trophy after the Wildcats survived Southridge’s challenge to win their fifth straight team title Saturday at Huntingburg Memorial Gym. Jasper edged Southridge by 31⁄2 points as Hurst was one of four Wildcats to claim individual crowns, too. Below: Southridge’s Bryce Harter raised his arm after grabbing the sectional crown in the 170-pound class. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — After nearly six hours of wrestling, a gang of Jasper athletes were still grappling around the mats at Huntingburg Memorial Gym on Saturday.

They weren’t ready to leave just yet.

And who could blame them? They were still reveling in the afterglow of a familiar feeling: a sectional championship — the Cats’ fifth straight and 32nd overall, which ties them with Logansport for sixth-most in the state. It wasn’t the dominant performance from a year ago. But it was the same all-hands-on-deck approach that has directed the Cats for a half-decade, and in the end, Jasper squeaked by a hungry Southridge team and a pair of Wildcats earned individual titles for the fourth straight time.

Jasper (250 1⁄2 points) edged Southridge (247) by 3 1⁄2 points, the closest the Raiders have come to a team title since winning in 2009. Washington (155) slid in at third, and the nine-man squad from Forest Park (134 1⁄2) took fourth for the Rangers’ highest sectional finish in five years.

But it was Jasper again that commanded the field, with four individual sectional champions and 11 wrestlers advancing to this Saturday’s regional at Bloomington South.

“We knew with Southridge it was going to be a straight battle,” first-year Jasper coach Jace Brescher said. “We knew it was going to come down to who got more pins and who won the big matches.”

“We fought through some injuries the entire season,” he added. “We knew we had a shot at it and it was just going to come down to what it did — down to the wire.”

Nathan Schitter (126 pounds) and Ruger Kerstiens (152) each bagged a sectional title for the fourth straight season, both via first-period pins. In fact, no opponents lasted an entire match Saturday against the senior pair.

“It’s very rewarding,” Schitter said. “I feel pretty blessed and lucky to have four.”

Jasper’s Dillon Hurst (106) kicked off the championship round with a 13-0 major decision for his first title, and Geordon Terwiske quickly followed suit with a 9-0 major decision at 113.

Terwiske, a freshman who wasn’t penciled into the lineup until midway through the season, spent the last week picking up some tips from Schitter as Terwiske hung around after practice with the Schitter. The extra work seemed to have paid off and signified the kind of work Brescher said Terwiske has exhibited all season.

“In the beginning of the season, he struggled a little bit, but he continued to make progress,” Brescher explained. “He stayed focused, he kept working hard and he just continued improving. ... He managed to come out on top, and that was a huge victory for him and the team.”

“I just worked for it all season,” Terwiske added. “It just feels that much better when you worked that hard to get there.”

For Southridge, the Raiders sensed the same progress but couldn’t deny the sting of coming so close.

While disappointed, Raider coach Dave Schank was pleased with overall effort. He stressed that for 12 Raider wrestlers who moved on to regional, the season continues — and with it, a chance to correct any feelings of regret. Four Raiders earned sectional titles, three against Jasper opponents that were individual champions a year ago.

Mitchell Mundy sealed his first championship with a second-period pin at 145. Andy Fischer (182) continued his undefeated season with a 9-3 decision over Jasper’s Ian Songer, and Ethan Schwoeppe continued his dominant season at heavyweight with a pin over Jasper’s Moises Valenciano, who again was giving up almost 80 pounds to the undefeated Schwoeppe.

But if those three wins were expected, it was Bryce Harter who highlighted Southridge’s day and ignited the Raider crowd with an emphatic 12-9 win at 170 over Cole Kreilein of Jasper. Kreilein fought back from four points down in the final period and knotted the score at 9-all with a takedown with 18 seconds remaining. But Harter was able to stand and break Kreilein’s grip and escape for a point and a 10-9 advantage. He turned Kreilein’s last-ditch attack into a takedown a moment later and stood up screaming with the rest of the Southridge contingent as the buzzer sounded.

“If it would have been a terrible day, watching (Harter) and seeing what he was able to do, made my day,” Schank said. “That was worth going in and being there all day. ... One of the feel-good moments of the year.”

For Harter, who lost by major decision to Kreilein two weeks prior, it was the payoff from a simple work ethic that has driven him all season.

“People can move weights and get the easier route, but I kind of just took it as, ”˜This is what I need to do. Here’s your goals, it’s clear cut, you got to beat these kids to be a champion,’” Harter said.

Seniors Jacob Mundy (160), Aidan Michel (195) and Alex Merkel (220) notched second-place finishes for Southridge, and teammates Logan Meyerholtz (106), Drew Dearing (113), David Rogier (120), Michael Boyd (138) and Brandon Oxley (152) joined them as regional qualifiers.

For Forest Park, one individual champion highlighted the Rangers’ highest sectional finish since 2009. Winston Glenn, who made the decision to drop weight to 132 pounds the week prior, earned a 10-5 decision over Washington’s Edgardo Meza for his first sectional title.

Forest Park’s lone individual sectional title Saturday came from Winston Glenn, as the senior prevailed at 132 pounds after finishing runner-up a year ago at 126. All nine Ranger wrestlers advanced to this  Saturday’s regional at Bloomington South, including Luke Fleck, who earned runner-up at 106.

“I was in disbelief,” Glenn said. “I couldn’t believe it really happened and then once I got my hand raised (by the referee after the match), it was just all a blur.”

All nine Ranger wrestlers advanced to regional. Freshman Luke Fleck grabbed a second-place finish at 106 and seniors Cody Flamion (126) and Leighton Fleck (152) grabbed third-place finishes. Zach Brosmer (113), Joshua Thomas (120), Landon Fleck (138), Phillip Rogier (145) and Tyler Recker (160) rounded out the Ranger regional qualifiers.

“It shows how much dedication everyone on our team has,” Glenn said about the Rangers’ fourth-place finish despite forfeiting five weight classes. “It shows how hard we’ve worked this year; all the blood, sweat and tears we put into it.”

As the mats were rolled up, the Jasper crowd lingered, exchanging hugs and snapping pictures with the championship trophy. Much of the team will remain intact for this weekend’s regional as second-place finishers Eric Gehlhausen (138) and Tommy Brock (120) and third-place finishers Brandon Hernadez (145) and Carson Popp (220) fill out the remaining qualifiers. The Wildcat upperclassmen haven’t exited a sectional without a team title in their careers, but the excitement and appreciation still existed — especially in a season where injuries dotted Jasper’s outlook with question marks.

“It means the world,” Schitter said. “To come out for a victory, it shows a lot of character from our JV and all of our guys that stepped up and helped get us this sectional title.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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