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Article: 2014 Mater Dei Holiday Classic Preview

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By John Johnson

 

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water....

 

As 2013 was regarded as the toughest field in the 29th year of the event, this season's edition of the Mater Dei Holiday Classic provides a triple threat to fans: High-end talent, top teams and exceptionally deep weight classes.

 

Chad Red of New Palestine, Nick Lee of Mater Dei and Paul Konrath of Mt. Vernon return to the Classic with gold from Fargo. Lee bested the trio, as he earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the North Dakota summer extravaganza.

 

Eight wrestlers enter Mater Dei's gym with a top state ranking, while four more are ranked second. 29 additional grapplers tout a top-ten ranking.

 

Kentucky offers a veritable who's who from the Bluegrass state. Always-tough Union County is ranked #1, while St. Xavier is ranked third, followed by Trinity, who is ranked fourth.

 

The hosts sport Indiana's top ranking, while Franklin is ranked ninth, Avon is tenth and New Palestine is eleventh.

 

Belleville West is the lone representative from Illinois. Ranked 22nd in the 3A (large school) division, do not be fooled by Belleville's won-loss records. Belleville wrestles a brutal December schedule. Their wrestlers consistently place above their seeds and act as spoilers.

 

While Mater Dei is the returning team champion and a favorite to repeat, the race for the top slots will be a wild scramble. Upsets, wrestling to a seed and scoring bonus points will be crucial in the final team standings. Eight teams have a legitimate shot at one of the top two spots.

 

106- Union County's Saul Ervin brings his top Kentucky ranking to the Classic and will look to jump from last years' third place performance to the top of the podium. New Pal's Cameron Diep and St. Xavier's Konner Kraeszig will likely come through the other side of the bracket.

Spoiler Alert! Avon's Mason Miranda.

 

113- Mt. Vernon's Paul Konrath is the returning Classic champion and Indiana runner-up; look for him to repeat. Ranked wrestlers in New Pal's Alec White, Mater Dei's Kyle Luigs, Floyd Central's Tristan Sellmer, St. Xavier's Austin Cook and Union County's Micah Ervin populate this incredibly deep bracket. There will not be a dull moment at 113 pounds. Good luck seeding this one!

 

120- Will Egli and Paul Konrath earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Match award in 2013. Egli and Bryce Scheffer, Union County's returning State Champion, will likely lock horns in the final. Both are dynamic, wide-open wrestlers. One might find the top match of the finals at 120 pounds.

Spoiler Alert! New Pal's Eugene Starks. Starks is strong and physical. Coach Chad Red will have him ready to roll.

 

126- CJ Red owns two Indiana state titles and has yet to lose a high school match. Look for a rematch of the 2013 Holiday Classic final between Red and Mater Dei's Alex Johnson.

Spoiler Alert! Trinity's Danten Rice. Rice is tough and is wrestling very well.

 

132- Mater Dei's Nick Lee is the overwhelming favorite to repeat his 2013 title performance. Trinity's Keegan Duncan and Union County's Chance Oxford will wrestle for the right to meet Lee in the

final on December 30.

 

138- Joe Lee headlines at 138 pounds. Lee will likely earn the number-one seed. As it was in 2013, 138 is very deep. New Palestine's Jared Timberman, St. Xavier's Dallas Miles and Steven Matheny from Trinity are potential semi-finalists. Time your breaks around this weight class; every match should be good.

Potential Spoilers- Mt. Vernon's Austin Bethel is a race car. On any given day, Bethel can beat virtually anyone. Avon's Quinn Harris and New Albany's Hunter Castleberry. Harris is a worker; do not be surprised to see him defeat a higher seed. Castleberry is dangerous. Overlook him at your peril.

 

145- Mater Dei's Blake Jourdan and Trinity's Hudson Heidorf are the prohibitive favorites as finalists. Heidorf is ranked number one in Kentucky, while Jourdan is ranked sixth in Indiana. Both are very exciting. All of the elements exist for a thrilling final. Franklin's veteran Shane Wilkerson and Union County's Tim Pike will also compete for spots on the podium.

Potential Spoilers- Watch for Belleville's Nate Smalling. If you are planning your breaks, lump 145 in with 138There are too many physical, quick and risk-taking wrestlers in this weight for upsets not to happen. Don't blink or you might miss it.

 

152- Out of staters write the script at 152 pounds. Belleville West's Nick Foster sports a three-ranking in Illinois, while Trinity's Ben Barton and Union County's Jackson Oxford are ranked second and third, respectively. New Albany's Tre Lynch will be also reaching for a high medal placement.

Spoiler Alert! Look for a break out performance by Franklin sophomore Burk Van Horn.

 

160- Mater Dei's Ashton Forzley beat New Pal's Nick Brickens in the consolation semifinal in 2013. Look for a 2014 rematch for the gold. Depending upon the seeding, one of the two will have to get past St. Xavier's very tough Nathan Haddad.

 

170- Returning State Champion, Jacob Stevenson of Franklin sees his primary competitor as Kentucky's returning State Champ, St. Xavier's Dominic Lampe. Avon's Brendon Helm is no underdog; he lost to Stevenson in the 2013 final 8-6 and will look for revenge.

Spoiler Alert! Evansville Memorial's Noah Huelsing. Huelsing has a big motor will never say "die."

 

182- Trinity's Tyler Frankrone is the returning State Champion. The seeding is crucial as Avon's Evan Elmore, Mater Dei's Sam Bassemier and St. Xavier's Elijah Allgeir will compete for the other slot in the final.

 

195- Lucas Miozza of Trinity and Cole Sherman of Union County headline this group. 195 has the lightest credentials of any of the weight classes. A solid wrestler that puts together a couple of good days of wrestling should find himself wearing the gold.

 

220- Gunnar Larson of Avon finished second at the 2013 Classic to eventual State Champion, Conner Tolley of Franklin. Tolley has graduated and Larson is the next man up. Joseph Green of St. Xavier and Connor Sherman of Union County look to be factors.

Spoiler Alert! Tristan Choate of Mt. Vernon. Choate is wrestling well; it will be no surprise for him to perform.

 

285- The weight class formerly known as "heavyweight" should be...big. Franklin's Quinn York beat Union County's Raynel "Ray-Ray" Brown for the title last year; the two could also dance for the top spot in 2014.

Potential Spoilers- Who wants to bet against Avon's Brett Henson, Trinity's Landon Carolla, Mater Dei's Adrian Butler or Belleville West's Rickey Nelson? I didn't think so.

 

Hook's Predictions for the Big Winners:

The Coaches- The Holiday Classic's hospitality room has the reputation of some of the best food available in southern Indiana. Burgoo (ask any Evansville resident what it is), bar-b-q and Frank Schaefer's home-grown buffalo bratwursts headline the menu. Be jealous.

Fans Not Married to Chain Hotels- Le Merigot is a boutique hotel on the Tropicana property. Shop around and you can get a deal. You will not be disappointed.

Fans Not Married to Chain Restaurants- A strong arm can hit the Hilltop Inn with a rock from Mater Dei's parking lot. Frosty beverages and brain sandwiches led the Hilltop to be voted the "Manliest Restaurant in America." For carryout, Marx's Bar-B-Q is next door to the Hilltop; Tony Marx is the man. If you want pizza, Turoni's is a don't-miss. Go to Dilegge's for Italian and the Gerst Haus for authentic German cuisine. If you are an early riser, visit Hagedorn's Tavern on Franklin Street for a great breakfast and a fishbowl of beer. Trust me, everybody does it.

People That Do Not Like to Drive a Lot When They are in Evansville- All of these recommendations are within ten minutes of Mater Dei.

Hook's Predictions for the Big Losers:

People who Stay/Shop/Visit the East Side- The Lloyd "Expressway" is under construction. You have been warned. If you ignore this advice, expect to be late and in a bad mood.

Those Who do not Bring a Stadium Bleacher Chair- Have you ever been to Mater Dei's gym?

Last Tidbit for 2014- The bathrooms are at the top corners of the gym, above the bleachers.

 

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