by Chad Hollenbaugh
A year ago the IHSAA went old school and awarded the team championship the old fashioned way, by tournament scoring. Most would agree that this is not the ideal way to determine the best â€œteam," but it should certainly add some excitement to the weekend. The team race will clearly have much more excitement than last year, when Perry Meridian nearly lapped the field and defeated runner up Yorktown by forty points. No team this year will be that dominant and there may be as many as six to eight squads who will be fighting it out for state hardware.
I projected every match this weekend to get placers and scored the placers: 16,12,9,7,5,3,2,1. I then went back and looked at individual draws and projected a best case scenario for each of the qualifiers. The first number is what my projections have each team scoring and the second number is their best case team score. Remember these are just one person's thoughts on how the weekend will go. Not trying to offend anyone. Note a * is for a qualifier that is not projected to place.
Mishawaka â€“ 39/50
Perry Meridian â€“ 26/52
Mater Dei â€“ 16/52
Mater Dei â€“ The Wildcats are close but they are not quite yet back to the juggernaut of a decade ago. Coach Schaeffer's crew did qualify seven for the Big Show but the combination of tough draws and only two â€œsure thingâ€ placers will make a run for the big trophy highly unlikely this year. Fear not west side whackos, MD is young and on the rise.
Mishawaka â€“ The Cavemen only qualified four to state this year but what a foursome. Three of the four have a legitimate shot at wrestling under the lights. It would probably take all three winning along with some other help to put Mishawaka in serious contention.
Perry Meridian â€“ The three time defending champs will know after Friday night if they will stay in the contenders status or be banished to the pretenders. Eight Falcons will make the effort at the title defense, led by hammers Cody LeCount and Brandon James. For the Perry to make a run, the other six boys in blue must get in the win column on Friday night despite many 50/50 draws. Upon reflection, I probably have PM losing too many of those 50/50 draw in my picks.
Yorktown â€“ Last year's runner up would need to put together a nice weekend to be in contention for a trophy but it is definitely doable. All of the Tiger qualifiers stand a good shot of scoring points and the three headed monster of Chandler Carroll, Rhett Hiestand and Dillon Jackson all could score serious points.
Merrillville â€“ Much like Yorktown, the Pirate's entire crew has a great chance to score points this weekend. Coach Maldonado's club just lacks a couple more studs that could be depended on to score some big points. All three of these teams in the contenders category have a long history of maximizing their opportunities and I would expect to hear all three schools on the PA system.
THE FRONT RUNNERS
Penn â€“ Penn will travel down US 31 with near three quarters of their starting line up in an effort to not only earn medals but also make a run at a team state title that eluded them at the team duals back in January. The difference between them being champs or just contenders will come down to how a couple of their boys perform. The Kingsmen have a chance to pick up some big points at 195 and 220 that would keep them in contention.
Franklin â€“ Veteran Grizzly Cub mentor Bob Hasseman might just have his strongest club ever in 2014. They won the coaches association team dual title in exciting fashion back in January and they currently hold national rankings in some polls. Franklin did themselves no favors by â€œonlyâ€ qualifying five studs to the big show. The blue ring might just come down to a Friday night match between veteran Mike Petrole and Kankakee Valley's Timothy Schoonveld. I would project the winner of this matchup as a favorite to get to the semifinals and if Petrole were to make it, it would mean good things for Franklin.
Cathedral â€“ Will it finally be the Year of the Irish? It appears that the stars might be aligned for Coach McGinley in 2014. Four legitimate title contenders (Bernard, Rypel, Corsaro, Bailey) and another big point producer in Ben Harvey make Indianapolis Cathedral the team to beat. Other squads have qualified more to Indy, but few will have as many standing high on the medal stand. I for one hope that fans of Indiana wrestling will keep it classy and give the Irish their due. In all my years of watching them under Coach McGinley, their kids have been great representatives of the sport and they deserve the appreciation of all the wrestling fans.
HOW IT ALL SHAKES OUT
Photo Finish? To close to call? My projections have Franklin and Cathedral in a dead heat for the crown. Looking deeper, I like Cathedral's â€œsure thingsâ€ better than Franklin's and would give the slight edge to Fighting Irish. The great thing for fans is that an upset here or there might dump the entire apple cart and allows for other teams to make a run. And on a personal note, this will be the first time in four years that I am not helping coach a qualifier so I plan to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. See you Friday!!