By JEREMY HINES
Things are quiet in Tell City, the town named after Swiss hero William Tell. Everyone knows everyone else by name. High school sports are one of the main attractions. This year, the town is abuzz about the wrestling team – and for good reason.
The Marksmen will enter team state as the No. 1-seed in the Class A standings. They are currently the No. 2 ranked team in the class behind only their archrival, North Posey. Coach Neal Stahly can’t wait for the tournament to begin.
“Our number one goal is to win team state,” Stahly said. “That has been our goal every since the coaches association came up with team state. We know there will be 12 fantastic teams that will be there with the same goal as we have.”
Outside of team state, Stahly has high hopes for his squad. He wants everyone to make it to regional or semistate in the individual tournament.
“I want the kids to wrestle to the best of their ability,” he said.
The Marksmen are a senior heavy team this season. There are eight seniors on the 18-man roster. Seniors include Tavor DuPont, Shane Braunecker, Corey Braunecker, Nigel Kaiser, Ross Wilgus, Will Kirtley, Chance Bolin and coach Stahly’s son, Alec.
“We are definitely a senior-heavy team this year,” coach Stahly said. “We have a good group of underclassmen as well and our sophomores are really strong. We have quite a few that are wrestling year around now.
“The seniors are really close to my heart, with it being my son’s age group. They are a fun group of kids. They are tight knit. They do Christmas gift exchanges every year, with gag gifts. They just really enjoy each other’s company and they love to get out and wrestle.”
The team has just one junior this season in Gage Meunier. There are six sophomores: Coy Hammack, Kelby Glenn, Brayden Lain, Collin Kessens, Tyce DuPont, Jack Skeen and J.C. Buckendahl.
Currently none of the Marksmen wrestlers are ranked in the state, but coach Stahly believes that will change soon.
“Coy Hammack is a returning state qualifier,” Stahly said. “He wrestles year around and it really shows. He is really becoming a leader on this team. We have been on lock down for a lot of this season so hopefully once he starts getting some matches he’ll climb into those rankings.”
Hammack qualified for state at 106 pounds last season. He will wrestle 113 this year.
Two Marksmen wrestlers are ranked in the always tough Evansville semistate. Shane Braunecker is ranked eighth in the semistate at 145 pounds and Kaiser is ranked sixth at 170.
Shane and Corey Braunecker are twins. Corey is the class President.
“They are both funky wrestlers,” Stahly said. “They’ve had a lot of success with twisting their bodies in ways they shouldn’t be able to do. Off the mat you wouldn’t be able to meet a more modest pair of twins. They are soft spoken, polite and very intelligent.”
Nigel is one of the team’s best all-around athletes.
“He was a cross country runner until his sophomore year when he switched to play football,” Stahly said. “He plays football, wrestles and plays baseball. He runs like a gazelle. Last year he finally started using his length in wrestling and it’s really improved him.”
Stahly considers Kirtley to be the team’s vocal leader this season, but said his squad really handles leadership by majority.
“Not one of them look for any individual accolades,” Stahly said. “They truly are a team. They hold each other accountable, too. They look out for each other and make sure everyone is doing their best on and off the mat.”
This is the 50th year for Tell City High School. The wrestling team has never had a state champion, which is something they would love to change.
“We have actually never had a state champion in any sport,” Stahly said. “We have had medalists in various sports. In wrestling we have had six or seven medalists.”
Tell city has had just two wrestling coaches over the last 20 years – which coach Stahly believes gives the team a sense of consistency.
Stahly is from Michigan. When he came to Tell City he fell in love with the place.
“This place is perfect. We have the Ohio River at our doorstep. We are close to Evansville, Nashville, Louisville and Indianapolis. Our county is about 75 percent National Forest – so we have a lot of hunting, fishing and camping we can do. People come to our town and they get that old-time feeling. We have a main street that is lit up at Christmas time. It’s like a throwback. It’s just a great place to live.”
As for team state, Stahly looks forward to a possible matchup with North Posey.
“They are the No. 2 seed and the No. 1 ranked team in class A,” Stahly said. “They are our biggest rival. They have done a tremendous job of getting their team to be a premier 1A team in the state. They are tough, hard-nosed kids that are hard as hell to pin and they don’t quit. We really look forward to that battle.”