The Center Grove High School wrestling team hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention.
Trojans coach Cale Hoover understands why.
“This team has no one on it who has ever wrestled at semistate. So if you go through the individual rankings, you are not going to find any of our kids,” Hoover said.
“I’m not sure how much people outside expected of us. Flying under the radar is probably the best way to put it. Not many people are familiar with the kids we have.”
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The Trojans were briefly ranked No. 20 in Indiana Mat poll but dropped out and were replaced by Franklin.
The Trojans edged Franklin 35-31 to win the Johnson County Tournament championship last month. The Trojans are the top team in receiving votes in the Indiana Wrestling Coaches Association poll.
Hoover is a bit surprised with the 14-6 Trojans’ progression.
“The improvement since the beginning of the season has been probably even better than we might have expected,” Hoover said.
“If you asked me two months ago if we’d be where we are today, I think it would be optimistic of us to say we were going to improve that much. But they really have. We are trying to challenge them and really get them to shoot for the moon and stars.”
The team has four seniors, with three in the starting lineup: Zach Blevins (113 pounds), Skyler Stits (182) and Trevor Johnson (195).
Blevins, who decided to return to the team after sitting out his junior year, is 23-7. Stits is 13-10.
Junior Connor Noble said this team is a more-rounded one than last season.
“We had some good individuals last year,” Noble said. “But overall we’re more of a hardworking team. In the next couple of years we should be one of the top teams.”
Noble has an 18-11 record in the 138-pound division.
“I’ve been working hard in the practice room, and I’ve been trying different things,” Noble said. “In the past, I’ve always stuck to one style, and I’ve tried to branch out a little bit. I’ve really expanded my technique and my conditioning has really improved since last year.”
Hoover said Noble and Rhett Mappes have made huge strides.
“Connor had a great start (last year) and kind of faded,” Hoover said. “The big thing for him is build on the lessons he learned last year. Rhett has more wins now than he had all of last season.”
Mappes, a junior, has a 21-9 mark at 170 pounds. Mappes’ younger brother Gleason, a freshman, is 14-12 at 152 pounds.
“This year we’ve all kind of started to put it together,” Mappes said. “This year we got that tight-knit group that wants to work hard and wrestle well. Our conditioning has gotten better, and we’ve started to do the techniques that will help us win.”
Other Trojans wrestlers with winning records include Zak Siddiqui, 20-7 at 106 pounds; Ethan Duke, 18-11 at 120; Nick Summers, 21-7 at 132; Logan Coyle (a move-in from Ohio), 21-8 at 145; Jonah Hays, 17-4 at 160 and Cory Heinrichs, 23-8 at 220.
Noble said the team is aiming for the program’s first sectional title since 2007. The toughest competition will come from Franklin, now ranked No. 13 by the IWCA and No. 18 by Indiana Mat.
“If the team really shows up and we perform how we’re capable of, that should be no problem,” Noble said. “We just want to keep it rolling and take it each step of the way.”
Noble said he isn’t concerned about his team only briefly being ranked.
“Really, the rankings don’t matter. It’s all about what you do in the postseason,” Noble said.
Mappes said if everything falls into place, perhaps Center Grove can advance several wrestlers to the state finals.
“Right now, we’re focused in on the sectional and what we can do there,” Mappes said. “We getting better and better as the season goes on and trying to keep improving on what we’ve done.”
This is Hoover’s ninth season as Trojans coach.
“We do not have the star power that we’ve had in the past at the point,” Hoover said. “This has been the enjoyable teams we’ve had. They’re fun to be around.”