Indiana high school wrestling has been a moving target in recent years with changes in rules and weight divisions and elimination of the annual team tournament after a 17-year run.
Even the rankings are different. Instead of one poll, three exist, with student enrollment factoring into yet another prep sport.
Familiarity does exist, however. One such example is the consistency of the Franklin Community High School program under 27th-year head coach Bob Hasseman. Currently ranked third in Class 3A, the Grizzly Cubs earlier this month had climbed as high as second behind two-time defending state champion Perry Meridian.
Either qualifies as an impressive landing spot for a team that has 12 of its 14 weight classes manned by underclassmen.
“We’ve definitely stepped it up this year as a team and wanted to prove we could do it,” said senior Garrett Fentz, who so far this season has a 28-5 record at 170 pounds. “It’s hard sometimes, but it’s good to have those expectations from coach.”
Hasseman’s previous seasons included groups of young men he simply knew were going to flourish. Others due to youth, varsity inexperience, injuries or other factors were more of the wait-and-see variety.
As it stands, Franklin, which owns a 26-1 mark in dual meets, is expected to make its mark at Saturday’s Mooresville Section-
“I really didn’t know we would be this competitive. We only have two seniors, and we had a few holes in the lineup to fill,” Hasseman said. “I knew we would be OK but didn’t know we would be as good as we probably are. There is good chemistry on this team. They seem to like each other.”
Last year’s Grizzly Cubs produced five individual sectional champions: D.J. Smith (106 pounds), Jacob Stevenson (138), Fentz (145), Luke Kriech (152) and Conner Tolley (195). Franklin edged county rival Center Grove in the team standings 234-227.
All are back. Stevenson (now 152), Fentz (170), Kriech (160) and Tolley (220) find themselves in new weight divisions. Kriech made it all the way to the state championship match at 152 but lost a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to Muncie South’s Isaiah Bradley at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Smith has remained at 106 with a 30-3 record to show for it. Other starters for the Grizzly Cubs in the lower weights are Shane Wilkerson (113 pounds, 20-10), Peyton Reese (120, 21-11), Jacob Kriech (126, 19-11), Skyler Lykins (132, 27-6) and Austin Burnside (138, 18-14). Meanwhile, Matt Wyrick is 17-10 at 145 pounds, followed by Jake Stevenson (152, 31-2), Luke Kriech (160, 30-3), Fentz at 170, Mike Petrole (182, 28-5), Jacob Brownfield (195, 30-4), Tolley (220, 29-2) and heavyweight McBrian Groler (25-9).
Earlier this season, Hasseman was watching his wrestlers practice when it became apparent to him this group, young as it is, might wind up exceeding expectations. He liked the collective work ethic and focus, the way they unselfishly worked to make each other better.
Maybe Franklin can find itself contending for a team title the night of Feb. 16. Hasseman has been around long enough to know some good fortune also must accompany the Grizzly Cubs on their postseason trek for this to be possible.
“I think we would have to get about six kids to (the state finals), and they would have to place pretty high,” he said. “It’s what your draw is, how you match up and how you wrestle that day. A lot of things play into placing in the state tournament.”