SIAC Preview: "Fun Year" in Store for SIAC Wrestling Fans
By John Johnson
"There are a lot of good teams in the SIAC this year," proclaimed Central's Head Coach, Mike Lapadat. "There are also very good individuals. It should be a fun year."
"Mater Dei is obviously the favorite, but every team has at least one or two kids that can go a long way," concurred Harrison's Mark Mastison.
"A lot of weight classes are wide-open," agreed North's DG Asay. "The league is very competitive."
Mater Dei returns nine starters to its lineup. Three of them, sophomores Nick Lee and Will Egli along with senior Alex Johnson, possess a medal from the 2014 state meet. The trio is complemented by state qualifiers Ashton Forzley and Blake Jourdan. Freshman Joe Lee enters the season ranked fifth while senior Sam Bassemier and junior Seth Orth are both ranked twelfth.
The Wildcats are the top-ranked team in Indiana and ranked 30th in the United States. The football team's playoff run has created a challenge for coach Greg Schaefer.
"We don't yet have a full room," said Schaefer. "But, practices are good and the guys are working hard."
The bottom half of Mater Dei's lineup will have a short turn around, once the football season ends. The Wildcats travel to Peoria, Illinois on December 6 to face Oak Park River Forest (Second, nationally) and Marist (28th, nationally).
"The opportunity came up to wrestle them and it was hard to pass up," said Schaefer. "It's a great chance to learn where you are."
The Wildcats will host the 31st edition of the Holiday Classic, followed by the Team State Duals and a trip to St. Louis for the "Gateway to the Best" before the post-season begins.
Castle returns significant talent to Bob Harmon's club as four semi state qualifiers--seniors, Patrick Schnell, Turner Lockyear and Evan Dowell along with junior Austin Ramsey--anchor the roster. Seniors Jake Lamar and Blake Jeffress will also help the Knights' cause.
"It's still early," said Harmon, in his 31st season as Castle's skipper. "We have not yet had a wrestle-off. I'm looking for my seniors to step up and do a good job. We also have a number of good freshmen on the team. It will be interesting for them to step on the mat and see what they can do."
Castle competes in the Bloomington North Invitational on December 20 and the Mooresville Holiday Tournament the following weekend.
"The Bloomington tournament is really good," said Harmon. "Mooresville has upgraded their tournament and added some very good teams. We will have a better idea of where we are after it."
Memorial returns 14 lettermen to Larry Mattingly's 2014 Castle sectional championship team. Mattingly, in his 28th season with the Tigers, has solid leadership from his upper classmen.
"Chance Williams and Noah Huelsing were selected as the captains," said Mattingly. "Williams and Huelsing both advanced to the semi state. Additionally, we have seniors Johny Wargel, Will Page, Marcus Gahagen and Henri Garcia. (Junior) Chris Voegel will also be in the mix."
Can Memorial repeat as the sectional champions?
"We graduated five really good kids from last year; there are definitely holes to fill. We also have a lot of guys in the middle weights," commented Mattingly. "I have told the kids that our lineup will probably not be the same at the end of the year as it is now.
Memorial will get a stiff early-season test at the 16-team Westfield Duals in Indianapolis, followed by the Mater Dei Holiday Classic and the IHSWCA State Duals.
Central will be led by 2x state qualifier, senior Isaiah Kemper. A 160-pounder, Kemper is currently ranked second.
"Kemper is healthy," said Mike Lapadat, now in his fifth year at the helm of Central. "He should be in the mix."
The Bears' line-up will be bolstered by the eighth-ranked, 126-pound sophomore, Connor Willis. Nine additional lettermen, including seniors Hunter McCormick, Caleb Hart, Kameron Edmonds, James Libby and Gabe Patterson, are also expected to be impact players for Lapadat. Freshman Carson Willis enters his freshman year ranked 16th.
"We are in the Mooresville Holiday Tournament," said Lapadat. "Yorktown, Indianapolis Cathedral, Castle and other top teams will be there. It will be a good test for us."
Reitz's Tyler Ferguson tops the marquee on The Hill. Rolling up 110 wins against three losses in the past two seasons, Ferguson is eager to improve over his 2014 fifth-place showing at the state championship. Ferguson enters the season ranked fourth.
Coach Scott Ferguson will look for leadership from seniors Chris Tuck, Kelsey Smith, Trent Owens, AJ Dixon and Adam Auten.
In his 14th season at the controls, Ferguson has a very busy December planned for his Panthers.
"We host the Hill Classic on December 6," said Ferguson. "The following weekend, we go to Zionsville, then, the Harrison 10-way. Over Christmas break, we are going to a new tournament, Woodford County (Kentucky). They have the Georgia state champions and some other good teams coming."
North's top returners, sophomore Dawson Matherly along with juniors Nick Burke and Josh Elpers, will provide the Huskies a one, two, three punch at 113, 120 and 126 pounds.
"I expect them to compete very well," said DG Asay, in his fifth year at North.
Although Asay graduated five starters from last year's team, seniors Sam Dugan, Ty Winchell, Cody Smith, Buddy Waelde and Kory Hurt will step into the breach.
Asay anticipates that the Huskies will learn its character in the early-going.
"We get our 'defining moments' in the first two weeks of the season," chuckled Asay. "We wrestle Yorktown and New Palestine in the Turkey Classic. Right after that, we get Memorial and Mater Dei. All of them are top twenty teams."
Harrison's returning semi-state qualifier, junior LaTerrance Kyles, will begin the season at heavyweight, but plans to compete in the post season at 220 pounds. Kyles completed the 2013/14 campaign with a 56-10 record and begins this year ranked 11th.
Harrison's lone senior, Billy Procicina, had last year's season cut short by injury. He is expected to start at 145 pounds.
The Warriors graduated six starters, however Harrison has reloaded as twelve freshmen populate this year's roster.
"They come to every practice and are working hard," said Mark Mastison, in his seventh year at Harrison. "We should able to fill out our lineup. Our feeder program is going well; last year, we had four city champs and a folk style national champ."
Bosse returns seven letterman to a team dominated by youth; the Bulldogs have no seniors on the roster.
"We are very excited about this group," said Craig Shoobridge, who acts as the co-head coach along with Matt Happe. "It is a really good group of kids. They are in the room every day working hard."
The Bulldogs were the first SIAC team out of the gate, participating in the November 22 Wood Memorial Open.
"Nigel Buchanan and Raymond Garnett both went 3-0," said Shoobridge. "Nigel had a big win; he beat a kid that beat him twice last year."
Corey Schmitt, Christian Davis, Brandon Fark, Warrick Robinson and Jackson Nunning round out the returning starters.