Bracketology 101 just got a whole lot more interesting.
A wild semi-state Saturday in all four locations, with plenty of upsets, made for some very interesting early matchups between top wrestlers. The most talked about is, of course, the battle between two time state champion, Colton Cummings of Lowell, and two time placer from New Palestine, Alec White. Cummings has signed to wrestle for Army this year and White will don the black and gold for the Purdue Boilers next year. Have two division one signees ever met up on a Friday night?
As you go through the brackets, it seems like nearly every weight class has some tougher than usual first round fights.
First Round Fights
You might want to â€œget sickâ€ at work Friday afternoon so you can get to Bankerâ€™s Life on time for this match up on Mat 3. It will begin right at 6pm. Have your popcorn and soda pop read and buckle up for the battle between:
#1 Brayden Curtis of Yorktown vs. #3 Brendan Mattingly of Carmel
The New Castle semi-state was obviously brutal to put the freshman Mattingly in this spot on Friday night. That semi-state contained the second, third, fourth and fifth ranked flyweights in the state. Mattingly drew the short straw and got hooked up with the stateâ€™s top ranked wrestler in the sophomore Curtis. The Fieldhouse should be rocking early with this one.
The top Friday night tilt will pit seventh ranked Gavin Rose of Greenfield Central versus ninth ranked Seth Horty of Evansville Memorial. Horty is in his last go round as he is a senior, whereas Rose navigated a bracket with the #2 and #3 ranked kids in the state. This should make for a nice Friday night battle to see who gets to wrestle for hardware on Saturday morning.
This weight class is extremely deep and features several grapplers with loads of state level experience. Two veteran, highly ranked studs, facing off on Friday night attest to talent in this bracket.
#5 Colin Poynter of Portage vs. #6 Jabin Wright of Kokomo
Wright is a two time state streeter looking for his first state medal. He will be matched up with Poynter, who came on strong last year to qualify for state and made another big step this year to put himself among the stateâ€™s elite. Wright comes at you from angles with speed whereas Poynter has an in your face, grinding style. Should make for an interesting style contrast
Wow! Wow!! WOW!!! Three, count â€˜em three, awesome Friday night fights will leave the fans with sore necks if they all happen to be simultaneously contested. Leading off this trio at the top of the bracket is Fort Wayne semi-state champ Matt Gimson of Jimtown versus Evansville Mater Deiâ€™s super frosh Matt Lee. The sophomore Gimson is a bona fide stud who made huge gains between his first and second seasons. However, most would not be surprised if the 12th ranked Jimmie was toppled by the 4th place finisher from Evansville. The 7th ranked Lee finishing fourth behind Graham Rooks, Blake Mulkey, and Noah Hunt is nothing to be ashamed of.
The second nasty battle pits Indy Cathedralâ€™s 6th ranked Jordan Slivka against Valparaisoâ€™s underappreciated and 11th ranked Ian Dembowski. Slivka was a third place finisher last year at 113. Dembowski has been on the verge of breaking out statewide and a win over the established Slivka would do just that.
Finally, the match up that has been getting the most notice is the Friday night tussle between two time state champion and 3rd ranked Colton Cummings of Lowell versus two time medal winner and three time state finalist Alec White of New Palestine. Two seniors with stellar resumes and one will be without a state medal after this weekend. The downside of not having wrestle backs has never been so evident. The one positive is that both young men seem to have their future well planned.
Fifteen of sixteen wrestlers in the 132 pound bracket are state ranked so the probability of some nasty first round scuffles was going to be high. Amazingly, the same two schools involved in one of the 126 first round rumbles are also involved here.
#3 Kyle Luigs â€“ Mater Dei vs. #6 Conner Gimson â€“ Jimtown
Even though these two schools are over 300 miles apart, they do have a common opponent in Columbus Eastâ€™s Dalton Combest. Gimson beat Combest at the Al Smith meet in late December and Luigs just suffered his first lost of the season to Combest in the semifinals at semi-state. Gimson has lost each of the last two weeks to Central Nobleâ€™s Austin Moore and Yorktownâ€™s Christian Hunt. Both will be on point trying to scratch and claw to get to Saturday.
The best first rounder in this weight class matches up two blue blood programs and two wrestlers with something to prove.
#3 Kris Rumph â€“ Portage vs. #11 Grant Gutierrez â€“ Bellmont
Rumph has had a great junior season highlighted by an Al Smith championship and one of the stateâ€™s best rivalries with #1 Brendan Black of Hobart. The rivalry had a little hiccup in the semi state finals where Black put it on Rumph, 17-1. Most believe that Rumph wasnâ€™t â€œrightâ€ but no one is making excuses. Whatever the case may be, Rumph can erase the bad memories with a Friday night win.
Gutierrez struggled somewhat early but has had a nice run late in the season where he avenged many of his earlier losses. The senior Brave will look to win on Friday night for himself and to become the first Bellmont state placer in a four years.
The middleweights always give us some of the best action overall and the 145 class should provide some great early round action this Friday. Three first round battles between highly ranked wrestlers should provide some fireworks.
Leading off is a match that looks like it should be in the semis between #2 ranked Kasper McIntosh of Portage and #5 Joel Arney of Fort Wayne Carroll. Both had minor stumbles last week and they will pay for that mistake by having to meet up in a sudden death situation on Friday night. Good for the fans but bad for the loser who will be a fan for the rest of the weekend.
Next up on the Friday night list is a match up between schools that are less then 15 miles from each other but as far as I know, they donâ€™t face each other during the regular season and go in different directions once the season begins. Center Grove senior, #8 ranked Logan Coyle has only lost to #1 Brayton Lee at 145. He will do battle with #9 ranked senior Kain Rust of Perry Meridian. Rust has been around the block and is making his first trip to state. Both southsiders will be intense Friday night.
The final Friday flap will pit Crown Point junior #10 Mario Traficanti against Jay Countyâ€™s #7 Mason Winner. Winner was having an outstanding freshman campaign that most thought would end last Saturday. He then shocked most of northeast Indiana by taking out the third and fifth ranked kids in the state on the way to an improbable semi-state title. Donâ€™t be fooled by Traficantiâ€™s fourth place finish. He can and has wrestled the stateâ€™s best very tough. These two have similar styles. The might not light up the scoreboard but it should still be an exciting show.
This bracket has some of the stateâ€™s most exciting wrestlers. The type of guys that will throw caution to the wind and let the fur fly. I see two Friday night fur flying possibilities. The first involves seniors Kassius Breathitt from South Bend Riley and Jacob Clark of Avon. The 6th ranked Clark has a state medal on his resume and a fine 29-5 record. Breathitt has been on the state radar but this is his first Indy trip. The 8th ranked Wildcat will be looking for a fowl meal on Friday night.
The second intriguing opening round tilt is at the bottom of the bracket where giant slayer Austin Bethel of Mount Vernon will put his #4 ranking on the line against Crown Pointâ€™s #12th ranked Noah Lamore. Bethel looks to finish matches early while Lamore likes to take his prey into the deep water.
The best candidate to provide excitement in the 160 class on Friday night is probably the tilt between Princetonâ€™s 11th ranked junior, Chase Wilson and Bellmontâ€™s 12th ranked senior, Tony Busse. Both of these proud programs have not had a state medalist in some time and Busse will be looking to avenge his loss to Wilson at the Al Smith.
At 170 the last match on the bracket looks to be the best match up for Friday night. Senior Jake Ruberg of Lawrenceburg qualified as a freshman and has yet to be back. The 9th ranked Tiger will be hungry for state hardware. Another Tiger, Jordan Rader will be his foe. Rader is from Peru, is a state qualifier from last season and is ranked 15th in the state. Should be some fireworks to see who will be on the podium.
As we enter the land of the big boys, the great first round matches continue. Donâ€™t leave early, you might regret the decision. At 182, a battle between two grapplers ranked in the top 8 should peak your interest. Prairie Heightsâ€™ program has received some state wide attention the past couple of years. Most of us have heard of the Rasler and Levitz families. However, 8th ranked senior, Joey Blakely, is a important to their program as any kid. He already has state hardware and would be very disappointed if he were to go home empty handed. Trying to do just that is, Lebanonâ€™s senior stud, Evan Stambaugh. Stambaugh is ranked 6th and is rolling this year. Both kids have confidence and are willing to brawl.
A Friday night fight that is seemingly under the radar is a clash between two football studs as well as top five ranked wrestlers. Cathedralâ€™s Ben Stewart is a beast on the football field (Boston College recruit) as well as on the mat. He is ranked 2nd in the state and was third in this weight class a year ago. He will be match up against Evansville Mater Deiâ€™s Kurtis Wilderman. Wilderman was the QB for the always tough Wildcat football team and that toughness carries over to the mat where he finished 6th a year ago and is ranked 5th this year. This has the making for an instant classic.
The featured matchup at 220 might not be that close on the scoreboard but it needs be talked about regardless. Third ranked Clayton Scroggs of Martinsville is a three time state finalist who placed fifth a year ago. By the luck of the draw, Scroggs got paired with Mason Parris, maybe the most dominant upper weight Indiana has produced since Mitch Sliga. Some will say he should have done better at semi-state to avoid the bad draw and they have a point but that will still not prevent me from feeling bad for kids who are clearly deserving of top 8 recognition but are denied by tournament system virtually no one else in the world uses.
Two BIG BIG men with a history will be the Friday night feature at heavyweight. Brownsburg will be looking to capture a team state title and they need a placer at 285 to bolster their score. Slick Rick Clark is a load and ranked 7th in the state. He will be paired with the massive Jessie Lawson of Fort Wayne Carroll. Lawson has taken a couple of losses from Clark but Iâ€™m pretty sure he has also slayed the Purple big man at least once. Clark is ranked #14th and put together a phenomenal run to get an Al Smith crown back in December. Itâ€™s the last match of Friday night, I will be watchingâ€¦..will you??