Wrestlers Ready For Semi-State

Posted on February 8, 2019 in Winter Sports, Wrestling

By CHUCK LANDIS – clandis@chronicle-tribune.com
CONVERSE — With one of its largest ever delegations, Oak Hill’s wrestling team has an opportunity to make some noise Saturday at the northeast Indiana semistate.

The Golden Eagles send seven wrestlers — half their team — to the meet in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, led by five five regional champions. A high team finish isn’t out of the question if their wrestlers fare well, but it’s not the highest priority.

“It’s an individual tournament at this time,” Oak Hill coach Andrew King said Thursday afternoon. “They still keep team scores, but it’s not something that we’ve talked about. Everyone is striving for their own individual finish, but if we had those five guys qualify for state and we extend on we’d be up there contending for it.”

The meet begins at 8:30 a.m. and admission is $8. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the Feb. 15-16 IHSAA state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.

In all, Grant County will have 15 wrestlers at semistate. Mississinewa advances three led by 2018 state qualifier Kyler Funk; Marion sends two including Victor Lee seeking a second consecutive state finals berth; Madison-Grant also has two, and Eastbrook has one.

Oak Hill has never had a top five team finish at semistate, nor have the Eagles ever advanced more than three wrestlers to the state finals. Both are within reach, according to King, but the brackets present some challenges.

“When you get to the semistate level everyone is tough,” King said. “You got guys who are really tough and you’ve got guys who are tough. There are no easy matches and there are no gimmies. Even if you wrestle a kid who’s really tough it doesn’t mean you are going to get beat because I believe anyone can get a victory on any given day.

“Things can happen and injuries and sickness can happen or things go on where they lose concentration,” he added. “So we have to take care of things on our end of the equation and be ready and be on the top of our game and be focused in and mentally ready to get the win.”

Regional individual champions open against a fourth-place finisher at semistate, but the second round — aka the ‘ticket round’ — holds the key to a wrestler’s state finals quest. Winning in the second round guarantees a top four finish, and then the semifinals and finals that follow determine final places.

Of the Oak Hill contingent, only Gage Kelly has never wrestled at semistate. Stewart Mossholder competes for the third consecutive year and the senior was 195-pound champion at Peru after beating Lee in the finals for the second straight week.

Mossholder (37-2) was paired against Central Noble’s Ben Golden (26-13) in the first round, but a ticket round match would be against Muncie Central’s Andrew Abbott (23-2) or New Haven’s Tristen Martz (36-7). According to indianamat.com semistate rankings, Mossholder is rated fourth, while Abbott is fifth and Martz sixth.

“(At semistate) there is no such thing as an easy wrestler,” Mossholder said. “Everyone’s at the top of their class, but I definitely like my draw and my chances. I’m just going to go out and wrestle.

“It is different being a senior and knowing it’s your last run,” he added. “That’s been my motivation for every match in the sectionals and regionals, and I will take it with me to semistate and hopefully state.”

Lee (24-4) is ranked No. 1 at 195 pounds by indianamat.com — which have not updated their rankings since before sectional — and opens against DeKalb’s Lukaas Roller (25-13). A potential second round opponent would be unbeaten Chandler Chapman (14-0) of Jay County.

Rosman (38-1) went to semistate last year and did not advance out of the first round, but this time the senior will start out against Bellmont’s Carter Siefring (10-9). In the second round the third-ranked Rosman could face No. 7 Brandon Bergman (28-2) of Lakeland.

“I want to wrestle my style and match,” Rosman said. “I’m not going to lose, I’m going to punch my ticket to state. I feel pretty confident in my abilities to go out there and wrestle.”

Advancing to state carries extra meaning for Rosman, who has dedicated his tournament to his late father.

“It’s going to mean everything to me cause it’s something I’ve been dreaming about forever,” Rosman said. “My dad and I had always talked about it and I want to do it for him. I know he would be very happy if I went.”

Bhupesh Chauhan (34-7) is Oak Hill’s third senior competing at semistate and this will be his second appearance. After qualifying for semistate as a sophomore, Chauhan was eliminated from last year’s tournament with a first round regional loss.

“I was really disappointed and told myself that I needed to get better because losing at regional was heartbreaking,” Chauhan said.

Chauhan placed fourth at the Peru Regional and his first-round opponent at semistate is two-time state champion Brayden Curtis (31-0) of Yorktown.

Funk (32-8) has a favorable first round matchup against Norwell’s Cameron Harris (24-13) at 182, but indianamat.com’s fourth-ranked wrestler would likely have to face No. 1 Jake Lone (33-3) of NorthWood in the ticket round. Funk and Rosman are in opposite brackets, so the possibility exists of the two meeting in the finals for a third straight week.

Oak Hill’s three other regional champions — sophomores Harper Dedman (113) and Aiden Hardcastle (120) and junior Fred Durben (220) — are back at semistate for a second consecutive year. In the opening round, ninth-ranked Dedman (35-4) faces No. 6 Ben Miller (30-7) of Lakeland; ninth-rated Hardcastle (37-3) meets Christian Pfeiffer-Laguer (23-10) of Concord, and Durben (31-9) meets Christian Graft (25-11) of Huntington North.

Kelly (31-5) makes his semistate debut at 132 pounds against Jimtown’s unbeaten Matt Grimson (39-0), an eighth-place finisher in last year’s state finals.

Also competing at semistate are Ole Miss’ Courtland Smith (30-8) at 145 pounds and Andruw Cruz (23-8) at 220; Marion’s Troy Smith (28-10) at 126; Madison-Grant’s Dakota Cates (31-7) at 220 and A.J. Jones (31-2) at 285, and Eastbrook’s Ben Smithers (18-15) at 160.

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