Ranked No. 1 heading into the postseason, the Franklin Community High School wrestling team took a bold first step in its bid for the IHSAA state championship.
The Grizzly Cubs, ranked 30th nationally, did so by dominating Saturday’s Mooresville Sectional.
Franklin sent 13 of 14 wrestlers to next week’s Mooresville Regional and crowned eight champions in successfully defending their its sectional title.
The Cubs tallied 284 points, nearly doubling second-place Martinsville’s effort of 145.5 points. Center Grove was third (143.5) followed by Mooresville (136.5), Greenwood (120), Monrovia (84.7), Whiteland (80.5), Plainfield (68), Decatur Central (59) and Indian Creek (56).
Center Grove had eight regional qualifiers, and Greenwood — which featured the 145-pound champion in senior Bailey Schober — had five. Whiteland had four qualifiers, and Indian Creek had three.
Senior wrestler Michael Petrole, Franklin’s champion at 182 pounds, said the year — in which the Cubs won the Team State Duals championship in December — keeps getting better, and the team grows more close-knit each day.
“It’s been incredible, but to me we’re all brothers and not teammates,” Petrole said. “That’s what it’s like, and we’re all there for each other. We kill each other in practice, and we cheer each other on during the matches.”
Veteran Franklin coach Bob Hasseman chuckled at Petrole’s remark and commended his team’s effort, insisting the Cubs will have to continue to perform at an elevated level to have a chance at winning the regional.
“They are the brothers, and I’m the dad,” Hasseman said. “Really, I’m pleased with our efforts. If someone fails then someone else picks it up.
“We’re close like a family, and that’s just great.”
Besides Petrole’s title, Franklin’s other champions were senior D.J. Smith, the top-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds; sophomore Shane Wilkerson at 120; senior Skyler Lykins at 138; senior Matt Wyrick at 160; unbeaten junior Jacob Stevenson at 170; unbeaten senior Connor Tolley at 220; and sophomore Quinn York at 285.
Schober’s title win for Greenwood was the most entertaining of the day, as he had to come from behind to beat the surprise of the tournament, Indian Creek’s Elijah Dunn, 5-4 in overtime. Schober appeared to have the match won, 1-0 with 20 seconds left. But then Dunn came alive and reversed Schober to take a 2-1 lead.
Schober managed an escape at the buzzer to send the match into overtime.
From there, the two traded leads, with Dunn getting a takedown and Schober reversing it, and ultimately getting an escape to take the win. Earlier, Schober (34-1) avenged his only defeat of the year when he beat Franklin’s Burk VanHorn in the semifinals, 5-2.
“That felt good to beat (VanHorn), but I didn’t know a thing about Dunn,” Schober said. “Nothing. I knew nothing of his game plan, how he wrestled or who he was. He was good, and now I know who he is, and I’ll be more motivated than ever if we wrestle again down the line.”
Dunn didn’t wrestle at the Johnson County Tournament and didn’t start competing until later in the season, which is why he wasn’t ranked higher and might have been overlooked. Indian Creek coach Pat Dowty said the sophomore will only get better.
“I expected him to be a champion (today),” Dowty said. “Elijah’s young, and if he had wrestled his match instead of Bailey’s, he wins. He will learn from this. It’s nice that he went under the radar, but now people will know who he is.”
Although the Cubs are favored heading into the regional, hey won’t take anything for granted, especially after last year when Danville came into the regional unheralded and took the championship from the Cubs, who were favorites at the time.
“We’re going to be ready for this,” Hasseman said. “It’s going to get tougher up to state and we have to be prepared. As I said, we’re a family, I’m the dad, they are the brothers and come Monday I’m going to whip them in practice.”