By JEREMY HINES
One and a half points. Thatâ€™s all that separated North Montgomery from winning the Crawfordsville sectional championship last year.
The Chargers were defeated by Southmont, their arch rival by a score of 242-240.5. It was the closest score between the top two teams in all of the state last year in sectional action.
â€œSouthmont is our county and they are our biggest rivals,â€ North Montgomery coach Maurice Swain said. â€œOur kids have been seeing those guys since elementary school. Weâ€™re hoping this year we can turn that score around.â€
North Montgomery is certainly poised to win a sectional title â€“ and possibly more. The Chargers return a senior-laden team led by their 170-pound wrecking ball Tanner Webster. Webster is currently the No. 2 ranked grappler in the weight class, just behind his good friend Burk Van Horn.
â€œTanner is one of those kids that is always on the wrestling mat,â€ Swain said. â€œWhen I first came here he was in fifth grade and would wrestle in the varsity room. He was always working with our high schoolers. He always wants to get better. The goal this year for him is to win a state title.â€
Webster vividly remembers the excitement of advancing to state last year and ultimately placing sixth at 170 pounds. But now that heâ€™s had a taste for the big stage, heâ€™s setting his sights on bringing home top honors.
â€œLast season just going to state was very cool,â€ Webster said. â€œIt relieved a bunch of stress I felt to get there. But this year I want to win it all, and I want to have several of my teammates at state with me as well.â€
The Chargers have eight seniors on the team, and seven of those seniors are in the lineup.
â€œEven the guys that arenâ€™t seniors have been in our program for a long time,â€ Swain said. â€œAt North Montgomery we donâ€™t get move-ins. We have to develop our wrestlers.â€
Sophomore 106-pounder Seth Johnson is the teamâ€™s only other state-ranked wrestler. Johnson is currently No. 5.
Cade Graves, Isaac Fruits and Cole Slavens are all ranked in the New Castle semistate. Graves is No. 7 at 152, Fruits is No. 5 at 182 and Slavens is No. 5 at 195.
â€œI really think this is the best team North Montgomery has ever had,â€ Webster said. â€œCoach Swain has done an awesome job here. We know we can do some damage. From the bottom of our lineup to the top this is the best weâ€™ve ever been.â€
The Chargers have the same goals every year. They want to win their County meet, their conference meet and do well in the state series. Southmont is standing in their way in all three goals.
â€œOur county meet was postponed, but we are excited to see those guys,â€ Webster said. â€œWe feel like we are better than we were and we hope to prove that.â€