Three champs brighten Patriots’ tough-luck pattern

From Herald Staff Reports

Heritage Hills coach Matt Thompson isn’t one to make excuses, but even he admitted that his wrestling squad was running on fumes heading into Saturday’s sectional at Castle.


Illness and injuries have plagued the Patriots for two weeks. A majority of the wrestlers didn’t even get a full week of practice leading up to the weekend, but Heritage Hills soldiered on, finishing fourth for the second straight year against a talented field in Newburgh.

Evansville Memorial (245) finished well ahead of second-place Castle (189) and Mount Vernon (180) secured third in front of Heritage Hills (157). Last year’s champion, Evansville Reitz, took fifth (136) and Boonville (98), Tell City (80), Evansville Harrison (67), South Spencer (20) and Evansville Bosse (6) rounded out the 10-team field.

Three Patriot seniors snatched sectional titles, including Jake Rickenbaugh (170 pounds) and Gabe Konerding (182), who were both repeat winners. A week after finishing fourth at the Pocket Athletic Conference meet, Ryan Baker bounced back to clip South Spencer’s R.J. Shaw 6-5 in the championship round at heavyweight to earn his first sectional championship.

“I’m really proud of his improvement over the last two years,” Thompson said of Baker. “He is a testament to the concept that time and effort will yield success.”

Rickenbaugh earned his second straight 170-pound sectional championship with a 3-0 decision against Turner Lockyear of Castle, earning praise after battling illness all week.

“He showed a lot of toughness,” Thompson said.

Konerding, fresh off a second-place outing at the PAC meet, raced through the sectional field with first-period pins in every match. The senior notched his third title at 182.

“Gabe Konerding was the most aggressive I have seen him this season,” Thompson said. “If he continues to wrestle with this kind of hostility, he will be a serious threat at the state finals.”

Four other Patriot wrestlers will return to Newburgh this Saturday as regional qualifiers as Levi Schulz (138), Davis Jochim (145), Cordell Miller (152) and Ryan Fisher (195) all finished fourth.

The injury bug, though, followed at least one Patriot into Saturday’s sectional. Sophomore Knowah Rodgers (160) suffered a broken collarbone during the semifinal round, cutting his season short and what Thompson said was a great chance at reaching the semistate.

More on