Veteran Raiders lead grapplers into season

Herald file photo
Jasper’s Cameron Eckstein, bottom, and Heritage Hills’ Sam Scott will be among those returning for their respective teams this wrestling season. The Wildcats open Nov. 30, and the Patriots on Nov. 24.


Scouting this season’s area wrestling teams:


Jasper Wildcats

Last season: Finished third at the Big Eight Conference meet and runner-up at the Southridge Sectional.

First meet: Nov. 30 vs. Boonville.

Key returning wrestlers: Noah Heim (Sr.), Landon Betz (Jr.), Zachary Flynn (Jr.), Cameron Eckstein (Soph.), Chase Mehringer (Soph.), Kole Terwiske (Soph.)

Key newcomers: Zach Rydberg (Jr.), Daniel Gallardo (Soph.), Jonathan McCoy (Soph.), Will Colon (Fr.), Reece Fromme (Fr.), Liam Kibby (Fr.), Cordell Padgett (Fr.), Quade Popp (Fr.), Luke Ruckriegel (Fr.), Luke Schmitt (Fr.), Ethan Trulove (Fr.),  Cameron Weisheit (Fr.)

You could say coach Jace Brescher’s Wildcats are behind the 8-ball to start this season, being down seven graduated varsity starters and two more injured lettermen. But a nine-athlete freshman class is giving Brescher reason for optimism.

“The numbers are coming back up, and I’m looking forward to the future of that,” he said. “The future looks like we’re going to build into a team of maybe 40 wrestlers, potentially.”

In addition to those nine underclassmen, Brescher welcomes in three new sophomores and three new juniors to mix with a crop of six boys who have varsity experience.

The group will need to replace Ethan Wigand, a 145-pound sectional champion and semistate qualifier last season, as well as sectional runners-up Corey Gould (182) and Logan Smith (285).

The Wildcats will also be without the services of senior Logan Niehaus and sophomore Mitch Kaiser, the aforementioned letterwinners who will miss this season with injuries.

None of this has Jasper looking negatively upon the 2017-18 campaign, though.

“The practice room has a really good atmosphere,” Brescher said. “A lot of positivity, a lot of hard work. We’re really pleased with the guys and their work ethic. We’re excited with the team that we’ve got.”

Though he wouldn’t commit any of his grapplers to specific weight classes just yet, Brescher said he is looking to Betz, Flynn and Heim to lead this squad. Betz is a two-year varsity starter, Flynn placed runner-up in conference and sectional action at 170 pounds last season, and Heim was a sophomore regional qualifier at 132 pounds in 2016 before taking a back seat to Wigand in varsity.

Quotable: “I know it’s going to be more challenging than last year with the reorganization, but at the same time we’ve got a lot of potential in our individuals. They’ve just made a lot of improvements over the summer through hard work and weight training, and I think it’s very feasible (for some Wildcats) to make it to the semistate tournament, if not the state tournament.” — Brescher, speaking about the addition of New Albany and Floyd Central to the Southridge Sectional.


Southridge Raiders

Last season: Won both the Pocket Athletic Conference meet and the Southridge Sectional.

First meet: Nov. 22 at Edgewood Invitational.

Key returning wrestlers: Patrick Sander (Jr., 126), Price Painter (Sr., 132), Sam Schroeder (Soph., 138), Chanler Balsmeyer (Soph., 145), Brad Springer (Soph., 152), Tucker Schank (Jr., 160), Austin Cain (Sr., 170), Armand Hopf (Sr., 182), Mitchell Carter (Sr., 195), Wyatt Kramer (Jr., 285)

Key newcomers: Tanner Cain (Fr., 106/113), Gavin Duncan (Fr., 113/120), Matt Springer (Fr., 132/138)

Coach Dave Schank feels the Raiders are “going to field one of the best teams we ever have” this season. The current downside, from a wrestling perspective? A majority of his athletes are still competing for Southridge’s football team, which is vying for a regional championship tonight against Providence.

It’s a good issue to have, Schank says.

“It might be a little weird for a while until we get them back, and we hope we don’t get them back until December,” he said. “I’ve told everybody, we’re a football team that wrestles.”

Among those still on the gridiron are Sander, Schroeder, Balsmeyer, Brad Springer, Tucker Schank, Carter and Kramer. They and the other grapplers will seek to replace graduated 2017 state qualifier Jack Michel (195) and semistate qualifiers Logan Meyerholtz (106) and Drew Dearing (138).

Tucker Schank is at the forefront of this operation, coming off state qualification at 152 pounds as a sophomore. He’ll be backed by fellow defending sectional champions Schroeder (126), Balsmeyer (132) and Kramer (285).

Dave Schank said winning the PAC meet is a goal he believes the Raiders can achieve. But he admitted “the price of poker has changed” with Floyd Central and New Albany, the champion and third-place teams, respectively, at last season’s Jeffersonville Sectional, inserted into Southridge’s sectional.

“I think if the sectional had stayed the same, with this group we have, we looked to win sectional by a large margin,” Schank said. “I think this is the kind of team that we could go up to regional and compete, get that top-three kind of thing and send more kids to semistate.”

One important factor for the Raiders will be whether or not senior Jose Chavez decided to lace up his boots. Schank said Chavez, a football defensive captain, is on the fence but could serve as Southridge’s 220-pounder.

Beyond that, Schank is looking to immediate varsity contributions from underclassmen Tanner Cain, Matt Springer and Duncan, as well as from promoted senior Hopf.

Quotable: “Right now I have 10 kids in the wrestling room, and a lot of them are inexperienced freshmen kids. You’ve got to push them. Their wrestling season started, and they’ve got to get after it. … Once (the football players) see their buddies and trade helmets for headgear, they start to get into the groove.” — Dave Schank


Forest Park Rangers

Last season: 10th at the Pocket Athletic Conference meet and ninth at the Southridge Sectional.

First meet: Nov. 18 at Bedford North Lawrence Invitational.

Key returning wrestlers: Isaac Brosmer (Soph., 106), Cole Mohr (Soph., 126)

Key newcomers: Dylan Niehaus (Fr., 113), Travis Haug (Fr., 120), Isaac Suhrman (Fr., 120/126), Evan Steinmetz (Fr., 132), Trevor Horning (Fr., 138), Blake Nellis (Fr., 220/285), Anderson Peters (Fr., 220/285)

Coach Craig Recker will field a team led by two sophomore co-captains, which would indicate a group with a steep learning curve. But that isn’t necessarily the case in Ferdinand.

“All the (freshmen) wrestled in junior high, so that’s a great thing,” Recker said. “We have quite a bit of experience coming in.”

Recker’s Rangers experienced multiple defections last season, followed by the graduation of 145-pound semistate qualifier Luke Fleck. That leaves him with a team he said will round out at nine or 10 athletes.

Recker said that while he expects his crew to “take some lumps” in 2017-18, his main goal is for the youngsters to win their more competitive matches.

“It’s pretty hard to get out there and get 20 wins as a freshman,” he said. “I think you can go out and say you won the matches you should’ve won. Maybe by the year end, we can talk about being competitive enough to fight for a sectional (win).”

But it’s the future that has Recker especially excited. He expects the current eighth-grade crop to fill out his high school weight classes next season, giving him a few seasons with a squad that can grow as one.

Quotable: “If you can move on to a regional as a freshman, you’ve accomplished something, and that’s where we want to go with it. We’ve had a kid wrestling at semistate every year I’ve coached. Maybe we’ll get lucky enough one of them will step up and keep the tradition on. It’d be really neat to have that.” — Recker


Heritage Hills Patriots

Last season: Fifth at the Pocket Athletic Conference meet and fifth at the Castle Sectional.

First meet: Nov. 24-25 at the Mount Vernon Invitational.

Key returning wrestlers: Sam Scott (Soph., 106/113), Beau Heeke (Soph., 120), Josh Bell (Sr., 126), Mason Ayer (Jr., 145), Phoenix Rogers (Soph., 170), George Green (Jr., 182), Wyatt Keller (Jr., 220), Aidian Rea (Jr., 285)

Key newcomer: Nathan Lamar (Jr., 152)

For Heritage Hills coach Troy Bell, a new season meant an opportunity to make some changes to the Patriots’ schedule.

This actually is more meaningful than one might believe, as it means Heritage Hills is closer to fielding a full team.

“This year, finally, I did put a lot of emphasis on dual meets,” Bell said. “Last year we had four forfeits, (and) this year we’re only going to have one. I believe we can be competitive now instead of going into a match down 24-0.”

Any improvement by the Patriots this season will ride on the back of seven returning regional qualifiers — Scott (106), Heeke (113), Bell (120), Ayer (138), Rogers (160), Keller (220) and Rea (285).

The team also will be bolstered by Lamar, who was injured last season and whom Bell called “one of the better athletes on the team.”

While Bell is hopeful his team can improve upon a 13-17 dual-meet record from last season, the group’s final record isn’t his ultimate concern.

“My big thing is I can’t put a major stake on wins and losses,” he said. “That’s our big goal this year … we need to take ownership and responsibility for each other.”

Quotable: “There’s no reason why this team can’t win 20 duals. Mostly, my goals are to get the kids where they want to be. Those regional qualifiers need to be turned into semistate guys, and those semistate guys need to be turned into state guys.” — Bell

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