Coach Bob Hasseman is confident the Franklin wrestling team has the muscle to successfully defend its regional championship.
But he knows there are no guarantees.
That lesson was learned at last week’s sectional, where the 16th-ranked Grizzly Cubs settled for second place behind unranked Center Grove.
As the 175-172 final reflects, there is no margin for error at this stage — or any stage — of the state tournament.
“I kind of like our draws, but there are no guarantees in life,” said Hasseman, whose team is bidding for a second straight regional title. “If I had won one more match in the sectional, I would have won the sectional again. We didn’t do that.
“You’ve got to be ready to wrestle every day.”
Round 2 of the tournament is today at Mooresville, where the Cubs will again encounter Center Grove, along with ranked challengers in No. 8 Avon and No. 11 Brownsburg.
Greenwood, Indian Creek and Whiteland also are represented with multiple wrestlers each.
Center Grove coach Cale Hoover, whose team is coming off its first sectional championship since 2007, regards this particular regional field among the state’s toughest.
“The depth of this regional is as good as I can remember, and it has always been a very strong regional,” Hoover said. “Avon has continued to be strong, but the development of Brownsburg’s program has been a game-changer.”
Although team championships are coveted, the objective is to advance as many wrestlers to the next round as possible. The top four place-winners in each weight class qualify for the Feb. 21 Evansville Reitz Semistate.
Franklin, which is also the defending semistate champion, has six regional qualifiers, including sectional champions in senior Jake Stevenson (170 pounds), junior Shane Wilkerson (138) and junior Quinn York (285).
Center Grove, which had no sectional champions, has nine regional participants. Whiteland, which has a sectional champion in freshman Ryan Hammond (182), has five. Indian Creek, which has sectional champions in junior Elijah Dunn (152) and freshman Tony Mosconi (106), has four. Greenwood has three.
Of Franklin’s regional contingent, three have impressive postseason pedigrees. Stevenson is the defending state champion at 170 pounds. Wilkerson and sophomore Burk Van Horn were semistate qualifiers last season.
“Experience is huge,” Hasseman said. “They’ve been in the game a little bit, and they understand it. So like I said, you’ve go to wrestle really well.
“The six guys that went on (to regional) I thought wrestled really well at the sectional.”
Despite having no individual sectional champions, the Trojans are confident the regional isn’t the end of the line for their top season performers.
“We are wrestling pretty well,” Hoover said. “The challenge for us is that many of our most talented kids are underclassmen and at middle and upper weights are usually dominated by older kids. We have some challenging draws, but this team has practiced hard and wrestled a difficult schedule in preparation for the tournament series.
“I am looking forward to see how it all shakes out at the end of the day.”
So is Hasseman.
“We had five guys in the (sectional) finals, and we had three champions, so those guys obviously have a good chance of getting out,” Hasseman said. “We’ll have to wrestle well in the first round. If you don’t wrestle well in the first round, you’re gone, so there’s a lot riding on it.
“You start feeling the pressure about now. You hope the kids handle the pressure right and stay loose, wrestle hard and have fun and get out of there.”
Johnson County Regional Qualifiers
Center Grove (9): Zach Blevins, Ethan Duke, Connor Noble, Logan Coyle, Gleason Mappes, Jonah Hays, Rhett Mappes, Skyler Stits, Cory Heinrichs.
Franklin (6): Trevor Reese, Shane Wilkerson, Burk VanHorn, Jacob Stevenson, Damon Munn, Quinn York.
Whiteland (5): Austin Schmoll, Jordan Wooten, Matthias Ebeyer, Tommy Copeland, Ryan Hammond.
Indian Creek (4): Tony Mosconi, Brad Trietsch, Elijah Dunn, Nick Clevenger.
Greenwood (3): Keegan Overton, Tyler Futrell, Gavin Fuqua.
What: IHSAA wrestling regional
Where: Mooresville High School
When: 9 a.m. today
Feeder sectionals: Avon and Mooresville
Advancement: The top four place-winners in each weight class advance to the Feb. 14 Evansville Reitz Semistate.