#MondayMatness: Central Noble making presence known as small-school mat program
By STEVE KRAH
Mighty in achievement if not mighty in size.
That describes Central Noble High Schoolâ€™s wrestling program. The Cougars went 15-8 in 2016-17 dual meets and earned the schoolâ€™s first sectional runner-up finish, trailing perennial powerhouse Prairie Heights at Westview while sending 10 to the Goshen Regional, where the squad finished 10th and advanced two to the Feb. 11 Fort Wayne Semistate.
In December, Central Noble placed eighth in the Indiana High School Wrestling Association Team State Duals. The school was there for the second time in three seasons. If not for a disappointing day at the 2015 sectional, the Cougars might have gone three straight years.
â€œ(Team State Duals) gives us a chance as smaller schools to showcase ourselves. Getting 10 underclassmen to regional (in 2016-17), weâ€™re in pretty good shape to go back again,â€ says Central Noble head coach Chuck Fleshman, the 1989 CNHS graduate who has served in various capacities in the program for 27 years (among those heâ€™s coached are current Center Grove head coach Cale Hoover). â€œWe talk about that. Iâ€™m an honest coach. We donâ€™t have a state champion on our team. Weâ€™re not at that level. But Iâ€™ve got a couple who might medal (at the State Finals) if they put that work in.â€
Watching his wrestlers at the high school and junior high at the past few years, Fleshman knew the Cougars could be pretty good.
â€œWeâ€™ve been seeing this coming,â€ says Fleshman. â€œIâ€™ve got a lot of kids that put in the time in the off-season.
â€œThatâ€™s a positive.â€
Instead of just one or two, about a half dozen wrestlers spent last summer at tournaments and in training. This at a small school where eight of 21 wrestlers are three-sport athletes.
â€œItâ€™s hard to focus on wrestling like some of the bigger schools,â€ says Fleshman, who counts Josh Dull, Randy Handshoe, Jonathan Pearson, Andrew Pyle and Tyler Rimmel as assistant coaches. â€œIâ€™ve got a good group. Theyâ€™re buying into what weâ€™re coaching and teaching.â€
Itâ€™s all about the discipline to make weight through Thanksgiving and Christmas and beyond and all the grueling workouts in Central Nobleâ€™s three-tiered converted cafeteria of a wrestling room that make the Cougars a success inside the circle.
When you are among the smaller schools on the scene, depth is a rarity.
Even schools with a considerably higher enrollment than the just over 400 of Central Noble struggles to fill all 14 weight classes.
While the Cougars did not have a 106-pounder for most of the season, there was plenty of competition in the wrestling room for many other varsity spots.
â€œThis is first year Iâ€™ve ever had 21 kids,â€ says Fleshman. â€œSome of these older kids better watch out, theyâ€™ve got freshmen there to push them.
â€œWeâ€™ve got a group of kids who have worked and want to work.â€
Those grapplers include:
â€¢ Sophomore Tanner Schoeff (sectional champion, third at regional and a semistate qualifier at 113).
â€¢ Junior Ray Clay (third in sectional and regional qualifier at 120).
â€¢ Junior Austin Moore (sectional and regional champion and a semistate qualifier at 132).
â€¢ Sophomore Jadon Crisp (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 138).
â€¢ Junior Tadd Owen (third in sectional and regional qualifier at 152).
â€¢ Junior Connor Mooney (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 160).
â€¢ Freshman Austin McCullough (fourth in sectional and regional qualifier at 170).
â€¢ Junior Jordan Winebrenner (fourth in sectional regional qualifier at 195).
â€¢ Sophomore Levi Leffers (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 220).
â€¢ Junior Jesse Sade (fourth in sectional and regional qualifier at 285).
Sophomore Giran Kunkel might well have been in the mix after going 33-4 as a freshman, but he suffered an ACL injury before the season and did not get to compete.