PLYMOUTH — Wawasee wrestling was pretty much in a class of its own at Saturday’s Plymouth Sectional. After rolling through the field with 10 total championship berths and four titles on the way to a dominant 285.5 points, the icing on the cake for the Warriors was, well, cake.
Wawasee easily outpaced host Plymouth’s score of 217 and Culver Military’s 202, and the Warriors celebrated their 21st overall sectional championship and first since 2010 with a little well-deserved Angelfood Cake at The Rock.
“Angelfood Cake, that’s a Wawasee tradition going back years and years and years. Every time a sectional title is won, Angelfood Cake is there. Most of these kids don’t know about that, but that’s something that goes way back when,” explained history-minded Wawasee head coach Frank Bumgardner.
“Obviously we take a lot of good things away from this. It’s a good building block, a stepping stone. But for right now we’re going to enjoy this one because it’s been eight years since Wawasee has done this. So we’re going to enjoy it for now, and come Monday, then we go back to training.”
The Warriors had the team title wrapped up before the finals even began. They marched to finals berths in 10 of 14 weight classes, and none of them finished lower than third place at Plymouth. Even more impressively, as part of that march through the brackets, Wawasee wrestlers scored bonus points in all but one of their bouts as they backed up seedings that saw the Warriors own top two seeds in a total of nine weight classes headed into Saturday’s state series opener.
“Coming from Monday night when we had the seeding meeting, we thought we were the best team here, without a doubt. We saw the seeds; the seeds favored us, without a doubt so we knew we were set to have a great day,” Bumgardner said. “They had a great week training, and, obviously, the difference showed — the kids weren’t wrestling to keep it close. They were wrestling to dominate. Going into the finals, only one match was not won by bonus.”
Wawasee enjoyed a string of uninterrupted championship berths from 106 to 145 pounds on the way to 10 total finals appearances.
The Warriors didn’t have to wait long for their first individual title as freshman Jace Alexander needed just 39 seconds to put Plymouth’s Dominic Smith on his back in the 106-pound championship. Junior Ricardo Romo fell a point short to Triton top seed D’Angelo Shumpert in the 13-pound final before junior Chris Schuller scored another championship pinfall of CMA’s Alexander Coleman at the 1:31 mark of their 120-pound title match. Jace’s older brother, junior Braxton Alexander gave the Warriors a second straight title with his 13-2 major decision over friend and Northern Lakes Conference rival Zane DeVault of Plymouth.
“It was a pretty good match. He’s a great wrestler, and he’s a friend of mine,” said Braxton of his final. “We talk during the match. It’s fun to wrestle him, and it’s always a good match.”
The Alexander family was well-represented in Saturday’s championship run. In addition to Jace’s and Braxton’s individual titles, cousin Geremia Brooks came up a little short of the 32-pound championship opposite Indianamat.com, No. 2-ranked wrestler Manzona Bryant of Culver Academies, and another cousin, Isaiah Faurote collected a runner-up finish behind Plymouth’s Gavin Banks in the championship at 145 pounds.
“It’s jut kind of the lifestyle that they lead. You can tell it’s a competitive bunch, and it translates to their wrestling and everything that they do,” said Bumgardner of the family. “It’s great to have them in the lineup. They feed off one another. They wrestled year round all over the place, so coming into a competitive environment like this is not going to shake them.”
“It shows that you can come here as a family and do great things as a family and as a team,” said Braxton. “We work together really well. It makes us bond and makes us stronger as family to show that we’ve got that kind of bond that not many people have. We push each other to make each other better, and we work hard.
“It’s just great, and it’s fun and it’s special.”
Both Alexanders and Schuller were all expected to win titles with the top seed in their classes, but the Warriors got a surprise at 95, where Damien Rodriguez earned a pair of pinfall wins on the way to the championship versus top seed Isaac Walters of Culver Community. Rodriguez actually trailed the Culver junior by a 5-0 margin headed into the final period, but an escape, a quick shot for a takedown and a couple back points at the midway point of the round left the score knotted at 5-all. Walters pulled ahead again with an escape with under 30 seconds remaining, but with just 9.5 ticks on the clock, Rodriguez countered a shot for a takedown, collecting two more back points in the process for a thrilling, 9-6 win.
“I personally know the kid from Culver from back in our days at Whitko so we knew it was a winnable match. We knew we were one of the best guys here, and we truly believed that we were the best guy here,” said Bumgardner of Rodriguez. “He’s been wrestling great. He just had his grandfather pass away a week and a half ago, so he won the conference for his grandpa, and that kind of carried momentum into this week and you can see in his wrestling. He’s so good at right now being composed and scoring late in the match and things like that.”
While Roridguez’s title was the last of four for the Warriors, six claimed runner-up finishes Saturday. Romo, Brooks and Faurote all finished second in their weight classes, Garrett Stuckman claimed the silver at 138, and Alex Castro and Elisha Tipping were second at 182 and heavyweight, respectively. Four other Warriors — Logan Baugh (152), Fernando Hernandez (160), Xavier Ortiz (170) and Dalton Pearish (220) — won their consolation finals for third place at Plymouth. Wawasee thus advances every one of its wrestlers to next Saturday’s Penn Regional, where another top four finish guarantees advancement to the East Chicago Semi-state Feb. 10.
Although the IHSAA did away with the team state tournament after 2012, you’d better believe coaches and wrestlers still keep score, and Bumgardner and company are gunning for a regional title at next week’s tournament to add to the team’s already considerable hardware.
“We’re looking to win a regional as a team,” said Wawasee’s head coach. “We fully believe we’re capable of doing that against Penn, Mishawaka. They were really close in the other sectional. But then we’ve got quite a few guys that we think are capable of qualifying for the state tournament and that are capable of making very deep runs. It starts with having that bigger picture back in August and having the training start to progress. They buy in really well, and they’re having fun right now. When you’re having fun you can progress pretty easily, and you can tell they’re getting better.”
Triton proved that big things can come in small packages at Plymouth, as the Trojans — despite being one of only three Class A schools at the nine-team sectional — managed to collect 146 points and fourth place in the final team standings. On the way to that tally, the Trojans advanced a full six wrestlers to next weekend’s Penn Regional with top four finishes Saturday.
“It’s always an eye-opener to come here and see. Until you start looking at the numbers, you don’t realize how much bigger all these other schools are,” Triton head coach Ron Brown said. “We’re a school of 260 kids, and I feel very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last few years.”
Triton earned titles in both of its two finals appearances at the IHSAA tournament opener.
Trailing 3-2 late in the third period, sophomore D’Angelo Shumpert scored a takedown of Wawasee’s Ricardo Romo in the 113-pound final and rode out the remaining 32 seconds for a narrow 4-3 victory. At 170 pounds, junior Bo Snyder scored takedowns in the first two periods for a 4-1 cushion over CMA’s Jacob Trefren en route to a 4-2 championship win.
“They did a great job,” said Brown of his two champions. “Our coaches prepared them well this week. Coach (Jason) Thompson and Coach (Matt) Arvesen, they really repped a lot of different move sets to prepare them for the people that they were going to see. We were able to scout the guys that they were going to face in the finals so we had a good idea of what they were going to do. They just executed the game plan and wrestled with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm and came out on top. It was great for them.”
Also scoring big points for Triton were sophomore Connor Pitney and junior Nate Riggins, who finished third at 120 and 132 pounds, respectively. Pitney edged Plymouth’s Cei Bowen, 5-4, in his consolation finals, while Riggins needed just 1:33 to pin Rockie sophomore Jordan Howard in their console. Junior Billy Smith placed fourth at heavyweight to earn the right to advance to regional, and senior Vincent Helton moved on in his final tournament with a fourth-place result at 160 pounds.
“At this time last year we were talking about Vincent Helton falling short, and he advances to regional after putting in all the work that he did in the summer and in the offseason. That’s great. I’m really, really proud of that kid,” said Brown.
“He’s got his record to right about .500 and started advancing. A lot of that had to do with the great competition that he saw early on. He took some losses, but it may end up helping him here in the tournament series.”
Warsaw’s inexperienced lineup has taken some lumps this season, but six Tigers survived to the regional round of the state tournament with top four finishes at Plymouth.
“To think about what we’ve been though this season, especially in a lot of the dual meets, getting six through today was big for us. At least a couple of those guys had to upset some high seed wrestlers, and they wrestled really well. I thought we had one of our better days,” said Warsaw coach Kris Hueber.
“We have a lot of guys that are going to get an extra week of wrestling, and that’s huge for the program because it keeps people invested and involved.”
Sophomore Isaiah Owens collected two pinfall wins in a combined 30 seconds in the consolation bracket for third place at 106 pounds, while freshman Jose Martinez finished third at 113 in his first sectional, battling from a 4-0 deficit versus Plymouth’s Max Howard to force overtime in their console final, where his takedown gave him the sudden victory. Senior Dillion Estepp showed growth within the span of the day, edging Triton’s Billy Smith 2-1 in his quarterfinal and then pinning him in the first period in their third-place heavyweight match later in the day.
Juniors Jose Grimmett and Grayson Drudge both finished fourth at 145 and 182, respectively, and sophomore Brock Hueber was fourth at 195 in Warsaw’s other three regional-qualifying finishes for the Tigers, who finished sixth in the team standings with a score of 113, just a point and a half behind fifth-place LaVille.
“We talk about small victories. When we know where we had people in the beginning of the season and seeing that progress, for some of these guys, getting to regional, that’s a successful season. I’m really excited with that,” said Kris Hueber.
“In general I really thought this was one of our better days as a team. We’re going to have our work cut out for us next week because everybody advancing is a three or a four so we’re getting a champ or a runner-up from Mishawaka, but you never know what’s going to happen and that’s going to be a tough one. But you never know what’s going to happen, and if we can just knock off some people — you’ve got to win a match so everyone has got a chance.”
TIPPECANOE VALLEY VIKINGS
Tippy Valley earned a trio of regional berths, and the Vikings accumulated 95 points for a seventh-place team finish at the Plymouth Sectional.
Freshman Luis Castillo earned a 10-5 decision over Triton’s Bryce Coppes in a high-scoring quarterfinal at 126 pounds but fell to eventual champion Braxton Alexander in the semis. He pinned CMA’s Karl Kubica in his wrestle back before falling in the second period to LaVille’s Dawson Leed in the consolation finals.
Sophomore Jacob Ehernman pinned Triton’s Alejandro Antonio-Cabrera late in the second period in the 138-pound quarters but lost to eventual champion Adam Davis of CMA via early pinfall. He finished off Plymouth’s Tyler Richey just two seconds into the third period but lost a first-period pinfall to LaVille’s Nick Felke in their third-place match.
Junior Jonathan Humes also finished fourth at 152 pounds, pinning Bremen’s Skyler Aukerman midway through the second period of their quarterfinal but losing via quick fall to sectional runner-up Aaron Brooke of CMA in the semis. In the consolation bracket, Humes pinned Triton’s Ryan Snyder but lost via early second-period fall to Wawasee’s Logan Baugh in the consolation finals.