CULVER — Although they’d won the first two Hoosier North Athletic Conference Wrestling Tournaments, the Trojans didn’t talk a whole lot about the possibility of a three-peat early this season. That’s because, with only three seniors in this year’s varsity lineup, Triton co-head coaches Matt Arvesen and Ron Brown couldn’t be sure of how the team might look come tournament time. It turns out, the Trojans look pretty good.
Triton wrestlers earned championship berths in a total of seven weight classes, claiming titles in three of them, the Trojans salvaged a ton of points with only two losses in the consolations, and the defending champs secured an HNAC three-peat with 242 points ahead of runner-up LaVille’s 219 score at Saturday’s Hoosier North finale at Culver Community High School. Winamac placed third with 173 followed by Knox’s 130 and North Judson-San Pierre’s 114, Pioneer placed seventh with 48 points, and host Culver rounded out the conference standings with 45 points.
“We joked about it earlier this year, that it would be kind of cool to have a three-peat for the kids, but we were never really sure just because we were a young team this year,” said Arvesen. “You just never know, tournaments and stuff like that, what your kids are going to do, if they’re still going to be with it mentally this time of the year when you’re getting close to the end. So there wasn’t a whole lot of talk about it until really this week.
“I love these kids. They responded. They were focused all day. I can’t say enough. This is probably our best performance overall this year, and this is a good time to have it.”
The Trojans made seven finals, but so did runner-up LaVille. Four of those finals were head-to-heads between the conference rivals, which the two teams split evenly.
The Lancers took the prize at 126, where Dawson Leed claimed an 11-0 Major Decision over Triton sophomore Bryce Coppes, and at heavyweight, where 23-0 Alex Cartwright pinned Triton junior Billy Smith in 50 seconds. The Trojans trumped LaVille at 132, as junior Nate Riggins pinned LaVille’s Ethan Roberts at the 2:44 mark, and at 170, where junior Bo Snyder put Devin Kaser on his back in 1:48.
“Those are the two on the team that I almost have to coach the least, it’s just because they have their own style of wrestling, and I’m just sitting back guiding them,” said Arvesen of Riggins and Snyder.
“Those are the ones I just get to sit back and just watch them wrestle, and then I can kind of help them here and there.”
In the first of the two head-to-heads, Riggins led by a tentative 2-1 margin headed into the second period after an early takedown and a Kaser escape. Starting on the bottom, Riggins wasted little time getting to his feet, then reached back to scoop the leg of a stunned Kaser and finished him back-to-chest in a win he dedicated to classmate Cameron Scarberry, a Triton wrestler and football player who lost his life in a car accident last September.
“He catches him in some crazy stuff. They had a scramble going on, and Nate was able to catch Ethan and stick him straight to his back,” said Brown of the match. “I think he did it in a way that the LaVille wrestler was in a little disbelief. It’s always great to see when someone takes ahold of someone and finishes them off in dominating fashion.”
“It feels pretty good. After that accident with our brother, Cameron, it feels kind of great to bring home the win for him,” said Riggins.
“I wanted to do it for my brother, and I did it.”
Snyder’s pinfall of Kaser looked much more traditional, meanwhile. He dropped into a fireman’s carry after an early tie-in in the first period, then transitioned into a high crotch for a takedown around a half a minute in. Snyder maintained control for the remainder, finally finishing the pinfall with 12 seconds left in the opening period.
“He was pretty stiff so I just grabbed his arms and took my high crotch, dumped him and tried to go for the pin. I wanted to go for the fall as fast as I could. It took a little longer than I wanted it to,” explained Snyder.
Outside of the two losses to the Trojans, LaVille wrestlers won all of their finals Saturday.
Cartwright reigned supreme at heavyweight, Anthony Hatter was tops at 220, Nick Felke was the 138-pound champ, Leed topped the podium at 126, and Matthew Hominuik went unchallenged as the only entrant at 106 pounds. By contrast, the Trojans got only one more title at 160 pounds, where senior Vincent Helton earned his first HNAC championship with a narrow 7-6 decision over Caston’s Kaleb Conrad.
Two takedowns in the first period gave Helton a 4-1 advantage at the buzzer, but an escape and takedown by Conrad in the second tied the match at 4-4 going into the third. Helton countered a shot for a takedown early in the final round but was reversed with a little over a minute to go to tie the bout once more at 6-6. Conrad narrowly avoided a reversal at the 40 second mark, and after locking hands with just 13 seconds to go, was deducted a point in the difference-maker.
“I love it that Vincent Helton was finally able to secure a conference championship. He works so hard. A great kid,” said Brown.
Triton’s other four finalists all had to settle for runner-up honors, meanwhile.
Sophomore D’Angelo Shumpert was pinned by Winamac junior Jake Armstrong in 1:08 of the 113 final, Coppes lost his Major Decision to a dominant Leed, senior Ryan Snyder lost by 40-second fall to Winamac’s Harley Pugh in the 52-pound championship after a gutsy performance wrestling with a persistent leg injury throughout the tournament, and Smith battled but was ultimately overmatched by tournament MVP Cartwright at 285. The Trojans did more damage in the consolation brackets, however, as Connor Pitney collected third place at 120 pounds, Alejandro Antonio-Cabrera placed fourth at 38, Riley Chickering finished third at 45, Tony Stevens wrestled back to fifth place at 182, Ethan Berry finished fourth at 95, and Sheldon Rolston took third at 220. Those points in the consoles are what made the difference versus LaVille Saturday, said the Trojans head coaches.
“All day we thought it was close. We knew it was going to be close going in just because they have individual horses that can win an individual tournament like this,” said Arvesen of the Lancers. “We don’t have all the horses. From top to bottom we’re a strong team in a dual sense, but when it comes to individual tournaments, we’ve struggled this year in the couple that we’ve had. But we had a lot of talk about that this week with the kids, and we told them that every single match today — it didn’t matter if it was in the consolation going for fifth place — that every single point was going to matter, every pin was going to matter.”
“The consolation round, that round was the round that determined if we could even win it or not. You had younger kids just pinning people all over the place in that consolation round,” said Brown. “I think that we wrestled the best that we possibly could today.”
With Saturday’s conference championship in tow, the Trojans now look ahead to the 10-team Plymouth Sectional next weekend, where Triton wrestlers will vie for one of the top four places that earn them the right to advance to the following weekend’s Penn Regional.
“We’re going to focus on getting back to basics, probably feed the kids some juice boxes and fruit snacks, and after they get their fill of that, we’ll focus in on the task next weekend,” said Brown. “Hopefully we can wrestle up to our abilities and pull off some upsets here or there in a sectional that is just packed full of some really great wrestlers.”