BOURBON – It’s become a time of no excuses, as one wrestling coach put it. When the chips were on the table, Triton threw down three aces and plenty of winning hands in a championship showing Saturday at the Hoosier North Athletic Conference wrestling championships at Triton.
Triton put eight wrestlers into the championship round and 13 of 14 were within the top four as the Trojans repeated as team champions in the second year of the conference tournament.
Triton’s championships at 120 by Bryce Swihart, at 126 by Malachi Greene and 170 by Bo Snyder capped a day where there was very little doubt as to whether the Trojans would hoist the team hardware again.
In a sport where smiles aren’t the norm among the focused and aggressive, Swihart’s grin was ear to ear most of the afternoon. Pinning Caston’s James Keil with 10 seconds left in the semi-final, the Trojan senior would dance with LaVille’s Dawson Leed for much of the first two minutes. Finding a window of opportunity on Leed in the second period, Swihart got a roll-up on Leed and held it at 2:58 to earn his first conference title.
“I just stuck to my basics and what I was most comfortable with,” Swihart said, holding the HNAC trophy. “I knew in the final match that I could attack and use the game plan I have had for years. Once I got the first takedown, I saw him shut down a little bit. I used that to my advantage and kept grinding it out on him, and then got my pin.”
On the other end of the emotional spectrum, Malachi Greene was very robotic and mechanical in his journey to a title at 126. Pins of Luis Henderson of Caston and Camron Neeley of West Central set up an anticipated matchup with LaVille’s Nick Felke in the final. The masked one built a 5-0 lead on Felke into the third period, then found his gap and stuck Felke for a fall at 5:27 for his second HNAC title.
“My warmup with my partner was really what helped me the most,” Greene said, noting his work with Marcus Brown. “That’s what really got me to the conference championship. My team being behind me, that really boosted my confidence. But getting down to it, this all goes to my coaches. They are the ones who coach me through every match, when to get what takedown, keep attacking. They built this program to what it is.
“I got some momentum attacking and got it up to 5-0. Then it was go to work, keep focused, and by then it just was stay in line, drive and get the pin.”
Snyder gave Triton its third podium pose, going the distance with Winamac’s Braden Tankersley in a 6-2 championship decision. Snyder picked up a takedown in the first period, and scored two points in each of the last two periods to hold off Tankersley for his first conference title.
The Trojans, which scored 251.5 points to beat Winamac’s runner-up total by 40, had Nate Riggins at 113, Marcus Brown at 132, Lee Mullet at 152, Vince Helton at 182 and Cam Scarberry at 195 all reach the championship round. Riggins had quite a run, beating the favored Damian Owens of Winamac in the semis in a 3:52 fall, and after a lengthy scorekeeping delay in the championship against top seed Kade Wagner of Knox, finally bowed out in a 21-11 major decision. Mullet and Scarberry both lost by first-round pins to Dalton Sizemore of West Central and Keenan Day of Winamac while Brown and Helton were beaten by decisions, Brown 5-0 by Zander Henderson of Caston and Helton 6-2 by Kyle Chumley of Winamac.
Connor Pitney (106), Wyatt Stephan (170) and Bryson Seitner (220) all were third place while Ryan Snyder (145) and Billy Smith (285) were fourth place.
Greene and West Central 145-pounder Kirkland Bushong were named HNAC Wrestlers of the Year. Bushong’s matchup with LaVille’s Anthony Felke was the most epic of the tournament, going three overtimes before Bushong was able to pull off a takedown of Felke to score a 7-5 championship decision.
“Never would we imagine that 13 of our 14 kids would place in the top four,” said a delighted Triton head coach Ron Brown. “That’s just a great day and a testament to how hard these kids are working and how hard the coaches are working. We’ve had a lot of people in the room working with our guys all year long. They’ve done a great job preparing for days like today and shows how capable these students are able to perform.”
Triton will take its momentum into next week’s Plymouth Wrestling Sectional as one of the teams to watch along with the likes of Plymouth, Culver Academy, Rochester and Wawasee. Brown is hoping for a top-two spot, but knows better than to predict greatness in the state tournament.
“There were a multitude of matches we could point at today and say that was the best one, but then go to another and say the same,” Brown said. “We also know that if we take off any match next week, it could be over for someone. Today was a good showing for us, but we have to make it count next week.”