Does it get much bigger than this? #2 Perry Meridian vs. #4 Mater Dei. Believe or not, this December 21 dual is the lowest stakes match ever contested between the ‘Cats and the Falcons. Here’s your proof:
PM and MD first met at the 2000 IHSAA Team State, followed by a 2003 date at the same event. The 2006 meeting was a hootenanny. The IHSAA’s unbroken streak of boneheaded decisions to diminish wrestling was laid bare in the first round of the 2006 Team Event as the #1 Wildcats met the #2 Falcons—in the first round! As we all know, it is impossible and unfair to seed a high-stakes event. You may not like the IHSAA. You may find them self-serving and stupid. BUT, at least they are consistent.
In a see-saw affair, Chico Adams and Jimmy Schoettle grabbed victories for Jim Tonte’s team in bouts 12 and 13, earning PM a 23-22 lead. For all the marbles, MD’s Sean Herron claimed a 7-2 victory, resulting in a 25-23 win for the Wildcats. This boosted MD’s record to 3-0 versus the Falcons.
However, in 2012, the Falcons turned the tables on the Wildcats beating them in the last ISHAA-sponsored Team State event. The Wildcats were overwhelmed against Tonte’s loaded line-up, and bowed 40-19 in the semi-final. The Falcons cruised to a second, consecutive Team State title
For Jim Tonte, it was relief and elation. “I have the utmost respect for Mater Dei, because they have been beating us like a drum forever. They bleed team, so we feel really good about beating them.”
On the Red & Gold side of the house, it was agony. Many of the boys on the team attended Team State as a toddler. They grew up watching Mater Dei Wrestling and making the annual trek to Center Grove High School. Most, if not all, had first-hand memories of the great MD teams that delivered so many great victories. This year the trophy would go the Falcons. The dream of a championship was over.
In 2014, the IHSWCA got it right, when #1 Mater Dei met #2 Perry Meridian for the Team Title in Muncie.
Both line-ups were dotted with star power as Mater Dei brought eight ranked wrestlers to the party while Perry countered with six. Nationally-ranked wrestlers, Nick Lee and Brandon James of Perry Meridian, underscored the gravitas of the rosters.
Ashton Forzley opened with an 8-3 win over Garrett Milner. Perry Meridian's Jordan Marion did not read the scouting report on Nick Buedel and paid the price. A few seconds into the match, Marion charged Buedel and was thrown to his back. Ultimately, Buedel prevailed, 19-9. Sam Bassemier, diminished by a flu bug, gutted out a gritty, 8-5 win over Rilee Miller to spot the Wildcats a 10-0 lead. The Falcons got on the scoreboard with a pin at 195 pounds. 220-pound sophomore Kurtis Wilderman scored a hard-fought first period takedown and made it hold up for a crucial, 4-2 victory. Perry scored another fall at 285 pounds to narrow Mater Dei's advantage to a single point.
Nolan Weidner found himself in a deep hole against Sunny Nier until he put Nier on his back during a third period scramble. The Red & Gold roared as Weidner cranked on Nier's head, desperately working for the fall. The clock was the enemy as time ran out and Weidner found himself on the wrong side of a 9-7 decision, giving Perry Meridian its first lead of the evening. Sweet Luigs faced unheralded Jack Servies and found a ready and willing opponent. Luigs finally took control of the match and cut Servies late in the third for a major decision attempt. Luigs quickly popped Servies with a headlock, and took him straight to his back. The bench sprang to its feet as the Mater Dei fans roared. With seven ticks remaining on the clock, the referee slapped the mat with gusto. A normally-stoic Luigs allowed a smile and pointed to the bench as his teammates subsequently mobbed him.
Seventh-ranked Will Egli took the mat against top-ranked Cornelius Elliot. Like Egli, Elliot was a wide-open wrestler. The duo, pummeled, faked and shot before Elliot scored a second period takedown. Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Egli took Elliot from his feet to his back. The referee started a count and reversed himself, awarding Egli no points. Elliot played defense the balance of the stanza and emerged a 3-2 winner.
Fifth-ranked Alex Johnson took the mat against sixth-ranked Ngun Uk, as the 'Cats clung to a one point team advantage. Uk grabbed an early 4-1 lead before Johnson tied the match at the end of the first period. Uk took another lead before Johnson garnered a point for a locked hands call and another point for an escape to nab his first lead of the match. Johnson scored a third period takedown and made it hold up for an emotional, 9-6 win.
Nick Lee jumped on the hapless Jordan Napier, executing a takedown clinic to claim a 28-13 technical fall. Joe Lee faced off against senior Brandon James and his 11th-ranked national status. Lee got busy early, scoring a quick takedown. James righted his ship and eventually scored an 8-2 victory.
With a 27-21 advantage and two matches to go, another win would put the Falcons away. Junior Blake Jourdan toed the line across from third-ranked Noah Warren. Jourdan wasted no time, securing double under hooks, bear-hugging Warren and taking him to his back. As Warren could not be held down, the match would be decided by takedowns. Wrestling a heady match, Jourdan stayed under control and won the battle, eventually delivering a 14-5 decision. A stone-faced Jourdan strolled to the bench to be surrounded, hugged and patted by his jubilant teammates as the Mater Dei faithful howled.
"I was a little nervous before the match," conceded Jourdan. "But I knew what I had to do. I just had to go out, wrestle my match and win."
Final Score: Mater Dei- 31, Perry Meridian- 27.
Greg Schaefer, winning his first State Title as a coach and capturing Mater Dei's first since 2007, was at a loss for words.
"I'm just so proud of our guys," said Schaefer. "We did what we had to do to win."
Perhaps no Wildcat had a bigger weekend than Sweet Kyle Luigs. In addition to his key pin against Perry Meridian and win over Erik Owens, Luigs also defeated New Palestine's third-ranked Alec White. But for Luigs, none of these things mattered; redemption was on his mind.
"I lost Team State for us last year (Luigs was decisioned in the final bout against Franklin's State Champion, DJ Smith)," said Luigs. "I had to do something so that we could win."
First year starter, senior Nick Buedel, relished the ride. Throughout the day, Mater Dei fans were entertained by Buedel's exuberance and antics.
"Yeah, I'm having a great time," enthused Buedel. "We're winning and it's awesome! What's not to like?"
Senior Alex Johnson was a freshman on the team that was shellacked by Perry Meridian at the 2012 Team State—Mater Dei's first-ever loss to the Falcons.
"I wanted to meet Perry in the final and I wanted to beat Perry in the final," said Johnson. "This is the best feeling ever."
The Falcons stormed back in 2016, hammering the Wildcats, 45-18.
2017 produced another epic battle. In a see-saw affair that resulted in three lead changes, the Falcons faced dim prospects, late in the match. Down 25-19, another loss to the Wildcats would likely spell doom for PM.
The Falcons were up for the task.
Jack Servies, Aiden Warren and Brooks Davis delivered a hat trick of decisions, before Noah Warren iced the victory with a pin.
The series stands at four wins for Mater Dei and three for Perry Meridian.
Individual match-ups between the two schools go back to the late 70’s when PM and MD were in the same semi-state. Perry Meridian’ Hall of Fame coach Phil Strader is still steaming over Steve Adams’ 1981 overtime loss to MD’s Jeff “Spiderman” Parkinson.
Look no further than the team benches—you will find that the coaches have squared off against one another.
For 25 years, you will be hard pressed to find a state tournament that does not contain at least one match-up between PM and MD.
Here what to expect from meeting number eight:
· Outside of the wrestling semi-state, this will be one of the biggest scholastic match-ups in this school year. Our esteemed newspaper, The Evansville Courier and Depressed, will not be aware of this event. It is highly unlikely there will be any pre or post-match coverage.
· This will be the biggest dual in Evansville, since #1 (Kentucky) Union County wrestled #2 Mater Dei in 2013. 2000 rabid fans showed up for a barn burner.
· Expect a big crowd for this one. MD alums home for Christmas, students, hardcore fans and casual fans will show up in force. Many in attendance will be from other, local programs. While they will not be vocal, emotionally they will throw their support to the Falcons.
· For our friends travelling from Indy, take a little time to get to know the territory. After the meet, drop by the Hilltop Inn. Not only is it the “Manliest Bar in America”, for 68 years it has been THE gathering place after MD wrestling matches. Their fishbowls are not to be missed.
· Expect HUGE match-ups: Cottey/Freeman at 106 and Lee/Warren at 145. Dickens and Fair at 152 could be the match of the night.
Hook’s keys to a win:
· Emotion and a fast start; I expect the draw and/or upsets to come into play. If Mater Dei gets a quick start, or an early upset, the roof will come off the place, creating momentum for the Cats that will be difficult to overcome. If the early scales tip to the Falcons, it will be bad for MD. Since 1976—42 years—Mater Dei has lost only one dual in its home gymnasium.
· Bonus points will likely determine the winner of the dual. Maximizing wins and minimizing losses is crucial.
· Big guns will be big guns; both of the belligerents have plenty of them! But what about the supporting cast? At the end of the day, I believe the non-stars will determine the outcome.
what’s my prediction? I ran the lineups, coaches, injuries and atmospheric conditions through Randy Helfrich’s super-computer...i’m sworn to secrecy. Ask Randy.