Wrestlers Ready For Elite Meet

Posted on January 1, 2016 in Winter Sports, Wrestling

Chuck Landis
MIER – Oak Hill is a well-established local and regional wrestling power, and now the Golden Eagles have an opportunity to mix it up with the state’s elite.
The Eagles compete Saturday in the fourth IHSWCA State Duals Invitational, which features 36 of the state’s best programs, in the Fort Wayne Coliseum. Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. in the Expo II & III and cost is $15 for adults and students (preschoolers admitted free).
Each team invited was evaluated on the success of their returning wrestlers and split into three classes. Oak Hill competes in Class A and is the third-seeded team behind Prairie Heights and Southmont. The Eagles are ranked second in the current coaches association Class A poll behind Prairie Heights.
“We’re excited to be invited and humbled by the No. 3 seed,” Oak Hill coach Andrew King said Thursday morning. “We’re just going to do the best we can and represent the area well.”
After the IHSAA dropped the wrestling team state tournament, the wrestling coaches association decided to sponsor a mid-season dual meet format tournament that would showcase the top teams. Saturday’s field includes many of the state’s traditional powers like Evansville Mater Dei, Indianapolis Cathedral, Perry Meridian, Warren Central and Bellmont.
Oak Hill competes in a pool with Attica and sixth-seeded Monrovia, which has wrestlers who were part of the school’s Class 2A state champion football team. Based on pool play results, the Eagles advance to either the championship or consolation bracket.
“I really appreciate the team concept,” said King, who was a proponent of the state team tournament. “There’s not as much an individual can accomplish as a group of people can. A group is more powerful.”
King said he has always emphasized depth over individual achievement, and the current Eagles team is making good use of their greatest strength. They recently won the Grant Four Invitational for the 40th time in 42 years and add to a lengthy list of recent achievements that include Central Indiana Conference, sectional and regional championships last year.
Travis Davenport is one of four Oak Hill wrestlers who are unbeaten this season and the 126-pounder expects the Eagles to fare well on the biggest stage they have ever performed.
“It will be a new experience,” said Davenport, who is 8-0. “It’s definitely one of the biggest kind of meets they have, and if we wrestle like we should we should be up there at the top.”
J.C. Herring at 106 pounds and Noah King at 170 also have 8-0 records, while heavyweight Owen Perkins is 4-0. Other top wrestlers are Zach Gunter (8-1) at 132, Blaney Harrison (7-1) at 160 and Cole Ridgeway (8-2) at 119.
Besides a state showcase, the state team duals offer the Eagles a sneak preview of the northeastern semistate that also is held in the Fort Wayne Coliseum. Adams Central and Prairie Heights typically send multiple wrestlers to semistate, and Churubusco feeds into Fort Wayne.
“It will let me see some of the competition,” said Davenport, who advanced to semistate last year. “I’m just going into (Saturday) with a clear head and not look at the stats.”
King said the state team duals will be even more hectic than the semistate with up to 12 mats in use at one time and loud, enthusiastic crowd.
“The coliseum is going to be an incredible venue, and it will be exciting,” King said. “I’m sure there is going to be a lot of noise, too. It’s going to be a neat experience.”

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