Despite the departure of a number of last year’s standouts, the Center Grove wrestling team figures to be a force in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
Several seniors, including two-time state qualifier Tyler Fleener, were lost to graduation. And semistate qualifier Nick Spencer moved to Colorado. But the Trojans still return the bulk of last year’s starters.
“We are looking forward to an exciting year,” veteran coach Cale Hoover said. “We return a large portion of the starters from last year and have a talented freshmen grade class coming in.”
Although the Trojans lost Spencer, they did gain an experienced wrestler in sophomore Logan Coyle, a move-in student from Ohio. He joins a mix of returners that includes seniors Tyler Antal (126 pounds) and Skyler Stits (182); juniors Zak Siddiqui (113), Anthony Williams (132) and Derek Lewis (285); and sophomore Zach Blevins (120).
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Freshmen Ethan Duke (106) and Cory Heinrichs (220) also are expected to contribute immediately.
“We went through a great deal of growing pains last year but gained valuable experience,” Hoover said. “The boys had a very good offseason and are ready to go.”
Franklin loses several key members from last year’s squad that won the Team State Duals and finished runner-up at the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals.
But the Grizzly Cubs, ranked 10th in the preseason coaches poll, return enough talent to still be regarded among the state’s top teams.
Leading the way is senior Jake Stevenson, the defending state champion at 170 pounds. He is joined by sophomore Trevor Reese, Burk Van Horn and junior Shane Wilkerson, who were all semistate qualifiers last season.
Franklin also returns seniors Damon Munn and Joe Stevenson, and juniors Quinn York, Jeff Smith and Austin Burnside.
Greenwood will have a new but locally familiar face in the head coaching position.
Jay Yates, a former standout wrestler at Center Grove who was an assistant coach for the Woodmen last season, takes the reins after Mike Campbell stepped down to take over the Greenwood Middle School program.
Greenwood will miss two-time state-placer Bailey Schober, who graduated last year, and state qualifier Jacob Skaggs, who transferred to Avon. But the Woodmen have nearly a dozen returning wrestlers, plus some newcomers, including sophomore Tyler Futrell, a transfer student from Ben Davis.
“I think that there will be several Greenwood wrestlers with successful seasons this year,” Yates said. “The Johnson County teams are always tough, so it sets the bar pretty high for where we want to be.”
Returning starters for the Woodmen include sophomores Cooper Borgerding (106), Elijah Wiggin (120), and juniors Robert Skirvin (126) and Gavin Fuqua 285).
Seniors include Seamus Sweeney (152) and Justin Myers (195).
Greenwood also has seven freshmen.
“Although our overall numbers are down to start the season, the commitment level from the kids we have training in the room is tremendous,” Yates said. “We may struggle with our team wins at times but definitely look to be improving throughout the year with the intention of having a great state tournament series.”
For one of the few times in program history, numbers are a strength for the Braves.
In recent seasons, Indian Creek rarely, if ever, fielded enough wrestlers to log a full team score. But with 14 wrestlers this season, the Braves — who have no seniors — expect to have enough to complete most meets this year and beyond.
“I’m excited about this. In the past we were forfeiting a lot of weight classes,” coach Pat Dowty said. “While we have a few at the same weight class, and maybe two or three short in weights, I’m confident we can compete and will do well.”
Indian Creek’s numbers include four juniors, a sophomore and nine freshmen.
The top returner is junior Elijah Dunn (145), a semistate qualifier last season. Also back are juniors LaVell Albert and Nick Clevenger, and sophomore Joe Clevenger, Nick’s younger brother.
“(They) all have improved a lot and have gotten stronger,” Dowty said.
Freshmen expected to contend for starting spots are Tyler Weltich (120), Brad Trietich (126), Tony Mosconi (106 or 113) and Christian Thacker (170).
Although the Warriors have struggled in recent seasons, coach Dave Thompson’s team finally has a quality it’s been missing: Experience.
“We only graduated three wrestlers last year, so we have experience at almost every weight class,” Thompson said. “We feel we will be more competitive this season with the experience gained from last year.”
The returners include three regional qualifiers in juniors Jordan Wooten (113), Tommy Copeland (145) and Brandon Perry (220).
“Depth will be better this year with the developing junior-varsity and freshmen from last year,” Thompson said. “We also feel we are adding another group of freshmen that will also help our depth.”