Wildcats to wrestle at home for semi-stateFebruary 10, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all sorts of hardships and changes, and it's been no different for Jasper wrestling.
All athletics at Jasper High School got shut down to begin with, and it was one of three times the Wildcats have been kept off the mat during this pandemic. They only had one scheduled dual meet at home this year, a Senior Night against Southridge in January that was cancelled.
"This year was definitely hard because you have to bring your own energy," junior Ashton Schuetter said. "You can't really feed off the crowd's energy or anything like that. So, you just kind of get yourself mentally prepared for your matches."
Yet, Schuetter and some of his teammates will indeed get to wrestle in their home gym after all this year, as semi-state has moved from the Ford Center in Evansville to Jasper this season. Schuetter will be competing in the 195-pound class, along with senior Jainier Milanes in the 113, sophomore Jeb Prechtel in the 152 and senior Quade Popp in the 285.
Being able to wrestle at home on semi-state means a lot to them, and also to coach Jace Brescher, a former Jasper wrestler who graduated in 2001.
"Hopefully, the little bit of home crowd that can attend will help give them that extra motivation they need to step it up and - one match at a time - win their first match and then their second match to qualify for the state finals," Brescher said.
The qualifiers are putting in various things to get ready for Saturday's meet. Milanes is focusing on trying to wrestle smart, while Prechtel is aiming to be aggressive, keep up with the pace of his opponents and get to their strength level.
Schuetter sees the need to fine tune his conditioning and also get his own attacks in. Meanwhile, Popp wants to work on his shots and his takedown, then focus on his top and bottom, because he's anticipating close score matches.
Yet, some of them did make those jumps this postseason from the Jan. 30 sectional meet to the Feb. 6 regional. Milanes and Prechtel both came in second place at the sectional, and both saw the person they lost to at their sectional again at the regional.
Milanes has gone from a 106-pound wrestler to 113 this year, and he had a rematch with Tell City's Coy Hammack at the Bloomington South Regional.
"He's a fantastic wrestler, Coy Hammack is, and he's long and lanky, which gives him some leverage," Brescher said. "It also adds to his defense. So, he is good defensively, which kind of shut down some of our typical offense that Jainier takes on the match, but he's also very offensive.
"What do we need to do to get to him?" Brescher continued. "I think we need to let him be the aggressor, and we need to kind of capitalize on some reattacks. It's going to be our best way to be able to get in deep on his legs and finish them, rather than getting caught underneath."
The same thing has happened with Prechtel in the 152, as Floyd Central's J. Conway has been a road block to him standing atop of the podium. Conway got the better of Prechtel both in the sectional and regional championship matches.
"I need to get lower and just be able to keep up with his pace, and just getting better against him," Prechtel said. "I feel like I improved from the first match, and then the match I wrestled last Saturday, I just need to keep improving him."
Prechtel felt like he kept with pacing more against Conway in the second match, and keeping that pace with the lower stance would help if he sees him again.
It's been a successful postseason career through Schuetter's first three years of high school, having made it to semi-state in as many years, and he's gotten more decorated this past year. Schuetter won the sectional and regional championships in the 195 as a sophomore, and successfully defended his sectional title his junior year.
"We got to be offensive, and we talked about that at the regional," Brescher said. "He kind of regressed a little bit, and he was a little more selective with offense. And we want him to attack more frequently, more viciously, like he has previous to the regional tournament. I think if he gets his offense going, and he can be the attack, that's going to definitely give him a benefit in his matches."
Popp has been one of Jasper's more reliable wrestlers, but he's made strides these last couple of weeks by winning a sectional championship in his class, and advancing to semi-state in his home gym as a regional runner-up.
“One match after another, he just continues to build his confidence,” Brescher said. “He took (Owen Valley sophomore Logan McGraw) down in the finals — had the lead, and we feel like he has the ability to beat anybody. He just needs to bring his best match into the semi-state.”
For the likes of Popp and Milanes, it’ll be their last chance to get to state with them graduating this year. It’s the third time Milanes is making it to semistate — but he hasn’t been able to get over the hump.
“I know I can beat these guys, but it’s not going to be easy,” Milanes said. “I have to work really hard in the wrestling room with my partners, and I think with their help, I will be able to make it.”
Popp, meanwhile, is the only one of the four who has never wrestled at semi-state, but an appearance at state could be earned this weekend.
“It’s definitely a big thing on my mind,” Popp said. “That’s one of my goals from as soon as I started wrestling was to eventually make it to state. Obviously, this time is not going to be easy to go, like always, but I think we can do it, and it’d be a really cool experience to go — especially my senior year.”
For any of them to make it to state, they’d have to finish in the top four this Saturday, and it could be the second time in three years the Wildcats sent someone to state, with Zachary Flynn going in 2019. They all would love to advance to state in their home gym.
“If we all make it to state, it kind of sets the standard that we’ve trying to build here ever since all of us got in here, and just keep improving to meet that standard, and be the best that we can possibly be,” Schuetter said.
“I know we can all do it,” Popp said. “It’s not going to be an easy route, but if we wrestle our matches, and we do what we know we can do, then we can compete with anybody.”
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