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New Castle: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat A long, grinding season has transpired, leading a horde of battle-tested young men into the historic New Castle Chrysler Fieldhouse for what promises to be a very exciting (and stressful) day of competition. Not joining us are some of last year's non-graduated standouts, like Jake Ruberg (#5 pre-season) of Lawrenceburg (injury), Bryant White (#10 pre-season) of Anderson (concentration on football?), Chatard's (pre-season #5) Noah Schrader (top-50 in the country in rugby), Trevor Lonneman (ticket-rounder last year) of Milan (injury) and Matthew Penola (#10 pre-season) of Zionsville (injury)...Not to mention pre-season top-20's Chapman Luster of Franklin Central and Nick Brickens of New Palestine and ticket rounder Garrett Wilson of Perry Meridian. I mention these competitors just to illustrate how difficult it is to make it to the semistate level, much less the ticket round and beyond. Impressively, at least one New Castle competitor is ranked in the top-5 in every weight class. As usual, some weight classes are stronger than others, and some are dominated by standouts operating on a higher level than their opponents. Falling into this latter category are studs like Chad Red, Jr of New Palestine, the two-time reigning state champ, Blake Rypel, last year's runner-up denied a title by an eyelash, returning state champ Tommy Cash of Lawrence North and four-year standout Brandon James of Perry Meridian. Not surprisingly, three of these four forces of nature carry some seriously impressive national rankings. As usual, some truly excellent wrestlers will get clipped by the numbers game, leaving likely State place-winners at home for the State Finals. The team race should come down to Perry Meridian (13 entrants!!), Lawrence North (12), Warren Central (11), Cathedral, Hamilton Southeastern and possibly even New Palestine. 106 Five ranked wrestlers grace the field at 106, led by state #2 Klayton Anderson, a tough move-in from Missouri. Anderson's lone loss this year is up a weight class and he was in firm control during the first two rounds of the postseason. He is very long and is nasty on top. He wrestles with maturity and good mat-sense, although occasionally he can get a little high when riding. While he should be tested here (like a possible ticket match with PM's Sunny Nier), he appears to be at the head of the class. Who will join him is far less clear, as there are a handful of really tough opening round and ticket round matches that go in different directions. Cainan Schaefer has to get by a very dangerous Josh Vaughn to set up a ticket match with the surging Alexander Strueder. Cameron Diep avenged his lone loss of the season with a regional title, getting by Keyuan Murphy. Diep looks pretty well positioned to advance to Bankers Life, and he has a shot to do it as a #1 or #2 seed. If seeds hold, #7 David Bryant and #18 Keyuan Murphy should do battle for a coveted golden ticket. That could be one of the matches of the day. Last year's champ: Breyden Bailey, Cathedral Ranked wrestlers: #2 Klayton Anderson, Hamilton Southeastern #4 Cameron Diep, New Palestine #7 David Bryant, Hamilton Heights #17 Cainan Schaefer, South Dearborn #18 Keyuan Murphy, Warren Central Feature matchups: #7 Bryant vs. #18 Murphy (Ticket round) â€“ Two beastly juniors could meet up in a show-stopper. Bryant has a sterling W/L record and Murphy has wrestled the nightmarish schedule. Looking for an advantage? If it's not Murphy's tougher schedule, it might be Bryant's experience, as he wrestled in the ticket round last season for Pendleton Heights. Another possible edge? Bryant competed up at 113 quite a bit this season and is a healthy sized 106. #17 Schaefer vs. Alexander Strueder, Fishers (Ticket round) â€“ Like Bryant, Schaefer also has ticket round experience, as he lost by decision in his first attempt last year. Strueder isn't ranked and doesn't have a record that jumps out at you, but he passed the eye test at sectionals and regionals, and should be able to give Schaefer a difficult time of it. #2 Anderson vs. Sunny Nier, Perry Meridian (Ticket round) â€“ Anderson is a big favorite on paper, but Perry wrestlers know a thing or two about 'upsets' this time of year. It doesn't hurt that Diep is 31-4 against pretty rugged competition. #2 Anderson vs. #4 Diep (Finals) â€“ If these two favorites meet, it should make for a very interesting match. Both of these youngsters have state championship aspirations, and they should find quite a challenge in each other. 1st round picks: Schaefer over Vaughn Strueder over Young Diep over Markley Grino over Hobson Bryant over Mennen Murphy over Mantor Anderson over Spinale Nier over Deloney Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Anderson, Diep, Murphy, Schaefer The Alpha Dog: Klayton Anderson 113 Five more state-ranked wrestlers will lace 'em up at 113. Three top-7 wrestlers are favorites here to reach the semistate final four. #5 White, #6 Turner and #7 Holmes are all returning state place-winners, and it would be a massive upset if one of those three didn't walk away with the semistate title. If anyone has the ammo to pull it off, it's likely Beech Grove's Ethan Smiley, who has shown that he can hang with the big boys at this weight. Of the Big 3 at this weight, regional champ Holmes might have the roughest path to the semis, as he has #14 Owens lurking in the ticket round. This should be a very competitive class both at New Castle and at State. Last year's champ: Cornelius Elliott, II, Perry Meridian Ranked wrestlers: #5 Alec White, New Palestine #6 Skylour Turner, Cathedral #7 Austin Holmes, Hamilton Southeastern #10 Ethan Smiley, Beech Grove #14 Erik Owens, Warren Central Feature matchups: #10 Smiley vs. Trevor Ragle, New Castle (Ticket round) â€“ Assuming these two can avoid first round upsets, we should have a battle of two super-frosh competing for the all-important state berth. Smiley is ranked, but Ragle comes in as regional champ and Coach Peckinpaugh has produced more than his fair share of state qualifiers. Will the home-mat advantage tilt the edge in Ragle's favor? #7 Holmes vs. #14 Owens (Ticket round) â€“ Holmes was my pick to win the semistate last year and he fell short in the finals, but he made up for it with a strong run at State. Owens presents a formidable challenge, as he's wrestled a 'who's who' at 113 and won't be intimidated by Holmes. #5 White vs. #6 Turner (Semifinal round) â€“ Yikes! I'm sure these two were hoping to avoid each other until the finals, but here we are. Both have wrestled elite level schedules, and yet they have only 5 losses combined. This is close to a pick 'em, with White a very slight favorite. #5 White/#6 Turner vs. #7 Holmes/#10 Smiley (Finals) â€“ Clearly there is a lot of variability here, but let's go by rankings and seeds and say Holmes vs. White. Holmes owns a narrow win over his Dragon rival earlier this year, and this one could go down in OT. On nothing but a hunch, I'm taking Holmes. 1st round picks: White over Unseld Ellis over Black Turner over Servies Jerde over Walton Ragle over Hutson Smiley over Lowe Holmes over Weber Owens over Barrantes Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Holmes, White, Turner, Smiley The Alpha Dog: Austin Holmes 120 Despite having only 4 ranked wrestlers participating, partially due to the unfortunate absence of sectional champ Eugene Starks of New Palestine, this is no weak group at New Castle. Defending semistate champ Breyden Bailey leads a top-heavy field at 120. Bailey has managed to navigate the entire season unscathed, which is pretty remarkable considering Cathedral's schedule. However, the two closest matches for Bailey all season, including one that required OT, were against returning semistate champ Cornelious Elliott. Look for another donnybrook between these two in the finals, as any other outcome would be a monumental upset. Who will join them is a pretty wide-open topic, but Caleb Bocock looks nicely situated to return to Bankers Life, and Alston Jenkinson is a slight favorite to round out the quartet. Highly ranked (and deservedly so) Zach McCoy drew a very unfavorable path to the state Finals, as he must find a way to figure out the riddle that is Bailey in order to wrestle another weekend. Last year's champ: Chad Red, Jr., New Palestine Ranked wrestlers: #1 Breyden Bailey, Cathedral #3 Cornelious Elliott, II, Perry Meridian #12 Zach McCoy, North Montgomery #13 Caleb Bocock, Lebanon Feature matchups: #1 Bailey vs. #12 McCoy (Ticket round) â€“ I don't think either wrestler is wild about this matchup. While Bailey has seamlessly transitioned to 120 from 106, McCoy has had a great season as well, and presents some physical obstacles for his foes with his long frame and tough defense on his feet. While Bailey is the obvious favorite as the state's current #1, McCoy is a senior and will fight tooth and nail to pull the upset. Jack Eiteljorge, Carmel vs. Dameion Rutledge, Southport (Opening round) â€“ While Eiteljorge's record doesn't stand out, a closer look at his results shows that he has gone toe-to-toe with his elite foes all season, and owns a win over McCoy, among others. Rutledge is a tough senior, coming off of an impressive run at regionals, but I wouldn't be astounded if Eiteljorge pulled a couple of upsets on Saturday. The Pendoski-led freshman is a solid darkhorse pick to work his way to Bankers Life. #3 Elliott vs. Isaac Castro, Lawrence North (Ticket round) â€“ Assuming the seeds hold, Elliott has a legitimate hurdle in Castro waiting for him in the ticket round. While they've met already this season, with Elliott winning by fall, Castro has faced some tough competition all year and will be a tough out for the Perry senior. #1 Bailey vs. #3 Elliott (Finals) â€“ If this match takes place, which it should, it should be one of the top 2 or 3 matches of the entire day. While Bailey has come out on top in their prior meetings this season, Elliott has a lengthy resume of big-time wins in pressure situations. When two wrestlers are so closely matched, it's very tough for the same wrestler to win over and over again. That said, I'll go with Bailey in an exciting squeaker, possibly OT. 1st round picks: Bailey over Browning McCoy over Culp Jenkinson over Fetters Eiteljorge over Rutledge Bocock over McMillian Surguy over Manns Elliott over Crum Castro over Plunkett Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Bailey, Elliott, Bocock, Jenkinson The Alpha Dog: Breyden Bailey 126 Like last year, there are 7 ranked wrestlers at this weight class in New Castle, even with #13 Dalton Hair of Franklin Central getting knocked out at regionals. While this is an extraordinarily deep and tough bracket, the #1 126er in the country rules this roost, to the chagrin of the others in the class. Chad Red is well on his way to cementing his status as one of Indiana's best of alltime, and he should be able to control the action again on Saturday. The real suspense is figuring out who will join him on the podium. Almost every match in every round features a pair of dangerous wrestlers, and the bracket could play out in many different ways. In short, your guess is as good as mine, past Red, that is. Last year's champ: Jack Chastain, Hamilton Southeastern Ranked wrestlers: #1 Chad Red, Jr., New Palestine (Nationally, #1 in the USA @126 The Open Mat, #2 AWN, #3 Intermat) #6 Ngun Uk, Perry Meridian #7 Zach Melloh, Cathedral #9 Joel McGhee, Warren Central #14 Boone Welliever, Southmont #15 Taylor Wright, Greenfield-Central #17 Skyler Collins, Frankfort Feature matchups: #14 Welliever vs. #9 McGhee (Opening round) â€“ Ouch! Whoever comes out of the top foursome in this bracket, which includes the tough Southmont soph and the dangerous Warrior junior, will have earned his spot, to say the least. While I don't believe these 2 have met this year, Welliever edged Wright, who edged McGhee....which means almost nothing. Grab yer popcorn. #14 Welliever/#9 McGhee vs. Kylan Seats, North Central (Ticket round) â€“ It just doesn't get any easier for the winner of Welliever and McGhee, as the likely ticket round opponent will be the surging senior Seats. Seats' record isn't flashy, but his postseason performance thus far is very impressive, and it's a pick 'em among these three. Take your favorite here and hold on to your seat. Johnny Loos, Franklin County vs. Dakota Cole, Elwood (Opening round) â€“ While these two don't get the state-wide accolades of some of the others in this group, each of these two competitors were ticket rounders last year. Cole impressively upset a regional champ en route to his ticket match, and Loos has one lone loss all season. The winner of this melee will likely be facing Uk to try to earn a state berth. #15 Wright vs. #17 Collins (Opening round) â€“ Another vicious opening round slobber-knocker here, as ranked opponents Wright and Collins meet up for the privilege of facing Melloh in the ticket round. Both have faced tough competition, with Wright possessing perhaps a couple more quality wins than Collins, but it's close...too close to call. This bracket is ludicrous. #7 Melloh vs. #17 Collins/#15 Wright (Ticket round) â€“ No rest for the weary, as the survivor of the Wright/Collins battle will have to get by the nasty Irish freshman Melloh. While Melloh is the likely favorite, both Collins and Wright have significant experience advantages over the freshman. Will the experience factor matter at all, or does Cathedral's rough schedule even the odds? Tune in. 1st round picks: McGhee over Welliever Seats over Bundy Red over Pruitt O'Neal over Phillips Loos over Cole Uk over Steele Melloh over Handley Wright over Collins Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Red, Uk, Melloh, McGhee The Alpha Dog: Chad Red, Jr. 132 A number of tough wrestlers populate this bracket, and, truthfully, up to a half-dozen wrestlers have a legitimate shot at catching fire and winning the weight. Obviously, this makes prognosticating very difficult, as there are very few obvious favorites in any round at this weight. Jack Chastain, a semistate champ a year ago, will have to get by the highest ranked wrestler in the bunch, Matt McKinney, just to punch his ticket. Fargo All-American Evan Eldred, who was 'gifted' Brandon James in his ticket match last year, has to get by a 2 loss Perry Meridian senior stud, Jordan Napier, again, just to punch his ticket. Top seed Nick Smith must get by seventh ranked Nick Ellis just to make it to the ticket round. This weight is among the most confounding and unpredictable, but no matter what, when the smoke clears, there will be four tough wrestlers advancing on to Bankers Life. Last year's champ: Deondre Wilson, Warren Central Ranked wrestlers: #4 Matthew McKinney, Warren Central #5 Jack Chastain, Hamilton Southeastern #6 Evan Eldred, Westfield #7 Nick Ellis, Roncalli #9 Jordan Napier, Perry Meridian #18 Jordan Vaughn, Franklin Central Feature matchups: #7 Ellis vs. Nick Smith, Lawrence North (Opening round) â€“ Ellis has had a strong year, but he stumbled a bit in his regional, whereas Smith has had a slightly uneven season, missing time with injury and taking a little while to get into full beast mode. Smith made up for lost time by winning his regional, and comes into this bout with a lot of confidence. Smith was a ticket rounder last year, while Ellis dropped his opening semistate match to Chastain. This is one of many, many matches at New Castle that could go either way. #18 Vaughn vs. David Kitko, Noblesville (Opening round) â€“ Vaughn managed a 3rd place showing in a strong regional, while Kitko finished 2nd in a slightly weaker regional. Between the two, they have only 6 losses all year, and while Kitko has missed some time on the mat this year, he appears to be rounding into shape at the right time. Vaughn will be favored, but Kitko could surprise. Both are returning semistate qualifiers. #9 Napier vs. #6 Eldred (Ticket round) â€“ This is great for the fans at New Castle, but a bummer for the semistate in the overall, Bankers Life-scheme of things. These are truly excellent wrestlers who each deserve a crack at the State field. Unfortunately, it's Thunderdome time--two men enter, one man leaves. In recent years, Perry wrestlers have been awfully tough to beat in these 50/50 matchups at semistate, but Coach O'Neill's biggest gun is hungry to return to Bankers Life after missing out last year. This match's outcome could be a big factor in the overall seeding for the entire weight class entering the State meet. #4 McKinney vs. #5 Chastain (Ticket round) â€“ Fate is certainly fickle, as McKinney looked to be on the verge of a regional title. Within the span of a couple of seconds, the Central Indiana wrestling world was turned upside down by an unfortunate spladle, and we are both blessed and cursed with this unreal ticket round match. Chastain is a returning semistate champ and state placer, and very nearly knocked off super-stud Zach Davis at state. McKinney has been snake-bitten a little bit in his first three years, but has all the tools to make a deep run at state, if he can get by Chastain. Both are battle-tested, both are very talented and possess strong defensive abilities. This is as good or better than most of the potential finals matchups we will see at New Castle...but what a bummer for the loser. 1st round picks: Smith over Ellis Buck over Estes Napier over Lazzara Eldred over Pace Chastain over Lane McKinney over Stewart Bowers over Douglass Vaughn over Kitko Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Chastain, Eldred, Smith, Vaughn The Alpha Dog: Jack Chastain 138 While six ranked wrestlers are among the field on Saturday at 138, the spotlight will be on #1 Brandon James and defending semistate and state champion, #2 Tommy Cash. I don't know if there are any other potential #1 vs. #2 matchups at any of the other semistates, but this one is about as good as Indiana high school wrestling gets. In fact, there's a very good shot that we will see the match one more time, under the lights at Bankers Life. James, an Old Dominion recruit, is highly decorated nationally, while Cash has been clutch as clutch can be in-state. A little overshadowed by the massive specter of these two senior standouts is undefeated senior Keegan Stansberry. He has looked as strong as you would expect from someone who is 34-0 while wrestling the difficult Royals' schedule. Joining these three impressive seniors could be Nathan Boggs, who will have to get by either Connor Moore or Zach Simpson to advance and join the illustrious New Castle 138 State Club. Last year's champ: Tommy Cash, Lawrence North Ranked wrestlers: #1 Brandon James, Perry Meridian (Nationally, #9 @138 Intermat, #9 AWN, #11 TOM) #2 Tommy Cash, Lawrence North #6 Keegan Stansberry, Hamilton Southeastern #8 Adam Timberman, New Palestine #15 Nathan Boggs, South Dearborn Feature matchups: #15 Boggs vs. Zach Simpson, Triton Central/Connor Moore, Southmont (Ticket round) â€“ Boggs must first get by a 34-12 Tyler Hoel of Elwood. I'm sure Boggs hasn't forgotten that he was upset by an Elwood wrestler, Dakota Cole, in the opening round last year as a top seed. Assuming he does get by Hoel, he will have a tough ticket match with either the senior Simpson or the junior Moore. Boggs is a slight favorite over either of them, but this quartet could provide one of those 'surprise' state qualifiers. #2 Cash vs. #9 Timberman (Ticket round) â€“ Is it just me, or do the New Castle seeding gods seem especially vicious this year? While every year provides some exciting but painful ticket matches, this is one of what seems like an inordinate number of high-profile, borderline wasteful ticket round matches at New Castle. I know it's a random draw, but it seems like a lot of the very best kids in the semistate are doomed to be spectators at Bankers Life. Ok, I'm done ranting, but I think Cash has a little too much for the very tough Timberman. I will be shocked if anything prevents a Cash/James showdown in the finals. #2 Cash vs. #1 James (Finals) â€“ Fargo All-American and three-time state placer James is looking for gold this year, and it's hard to see anyone at 138 who can stop him....besides Tommy Cash. While James soundly beat Cash earlier this year, there's no doubt that Cash will be ready for the Perry standout in the finals. While each wants to win this weekend, they know that the biggest match is lurking a week later, and it's very possible it will be one of the most anticipated of all the state finals' matches. I give James a slight advantage, but I can see Cash closing the margin significantly. 1st round picks: Boggs over Hoel Moore over Simpson Cash over Hawk Timberman over Smith James over Kern Smith over Marsh Stansberry over Waugh White over Negangard Dingo's picks to advance, in order: James, Cash, Stansberry, Boggs The Alpha Dog: Brandon James 145 Two former state qualifiers, Smiley and Pruitt, lead a solid and deep group at 145. Like 132, there are a number of possible champions, including Pruitt, Smiley, Warren and Bane. Pruitt had a superior performance at last year's semistate: fall, fall, fall, loss to Cash by 1 point. It's that bit of history, plus his impressive regional title, that puts him at the top of the class for me. However, the freshman Warren seems to be peaking, Smiley has wrestled everyone and their mother for 4 years, and Bane and Oyler are wild-cards of a sort in this field. I'm often wrong, but I'll be surprised if the champ doesn't come out of the Perry Meridian regional. Last year's champ: Cody LeCount, Perry Meridian Ranked wrestlers: #4 Evan Smiley, Beech Grove #6 Trent Pruitt, Warren Central #8 Noah Warren, Perry Meridian #12 Adam Oyler, Lawrenceburg #17 Mason Gaines, Fishers #18 Alston Bane, Richmond Feature matchups: #6 Pruitt vs. Clayton Cowan, Hamilton Heights/Matt Kern, Zionsville (Ticket round) â€“ While I expect Kern to be the matchup in this scenario, he's had a bit of an up and down senior year. When he's on, he's dangerous, and Pruitt would be well served not to overlook him in a potential ticket match. #18 Bane vs. Stephen Kitko, Noblesville (Ticket round) â€“ Kitko has to get by 28-6 Collin Strange, but if he pulls that off, he is a very tough out for the sophomore Bane. Kitko has been in this position before. In fact, last year, he was a ticket rounder. He will be desperate to cap his career with a state berth, so this match could provide an upset if Kitko is on his A game. #17 Gaines vs. #8 Warren (Ticket round) â€“ Yet another nasty ticket match, this time featuring a seasoned senior and a hungry freshman. Warren has more big wins this year, but Gaines has looked pretty dominant thus far in the postseason. Derrick Motley, North Central vs. Wayne Highfield, Southmont (Opening round) â€“ Motley appears to have hit the gas in the postseason, while Highfield was not at his best at regionals. Highfield has been in a lot of big matches during his four years, and is more than capable of pulling the 'upset' over Motley. #4 Smiley vs. #12 Oyler (Opening round) â€“ Smiley is a tough nut to crack, and isn't easy pickings for anyone at this weight. Oyler would've really benefitted from winning his regional, as, even if he can somehow get by Smiley, he still has Motley or Highfield waiting in the ticket round. Senior vs. senior, #12 vs. #4. I like Smiley by a close margin. #6 Pruitt vs. #18 Bane (Semifinal round) â€“ Assuming seeds hold, which admittedly is pretty risky, these two studs will meet to decide one finalist. Each youngster enters semistate with just 2 losses and at least 35 wins. Pruitt looked very comfortable here last year, while Bane came up just short of a scarce freshman state qualification in a middle weight. I think Pruitt's experience and superior schedule pays off against the coach's son Bane. #4 Smiley vs. #8 Warren (Semifinal round) â€“ Warren must get by the tough senior Gaines, and Smiley has two really tough obstacles to overcome to make this matchup a reality. Warren really seemed to handle Smiley last weekend, and the senior must bounce back with verve to pay Warren back. #6 Pruitt/#18 Bane vs. #4 Smiley/#8 Warren â€“ Yes, I know this weight class is getting ridiculous, with basically every other match a 'feature matchup'. However, a neutral observer would be forced to admit that this is an intriguing set of competitors and potential matchups. Personally, I think it will be Pruitt vs. Warren for the coveted #1 seed heading into Bankers Life. I think Pruitt finally gets his semistate crown, although it's not tough to envision the super-frosh making a statement and heading to state on a roll. 1st round picks: Pruitt over Burelison Kern over Cowan Bane over Stocker Kitko over Strange Gaines over Shade Warren over Lane Motley over Highfield Smiley over Oyler Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Pruitt, Warren, Smiley, Bane The Alpha Dog: Trent Pruitt 152 Just like last year, this is one of the most wide-open weight classes at New Castle. While there are five ranked wrestlers here (#17 Travis Gibson of Greenfield-Central was upset at regionals), there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut favorite, although in another weird New Castle twist, the two highest rated wrestlers would meet in the semis and not the finals. While the winner of Johnson/VanCamp would appear to be a substantial favorite in the finals, the other two qualification spots are pretty wide-open. Last year's champ: Chance Brown, Southmont Ranked wrestlers: #5 Brett Johnson, Perry Meridian #6 Kellen VanCamp, Lebanon #14 Derek Noon, Noblesville #19 Dominic Herrick, Warren Central #20 Tanner Webster, North Montgomery Feature matchups: #5 Johnson vs. Isaiah Michaels, Centerville (Ticket round) â€“ Obviously, Johnson is the favorite, with his single loss, state qualification experience and overall Perry Meridian pedigree, but Michaels is a very impressive 38-2. It would be understandable for Johnson to be looking ahead to a matchup with #6 VanCamp, but that could be dangerous against the Centerville junior. #19 Herrick vs. #20 Webster (Opening round) â€“ Deja vu, all over again. These two met last season in the opening round, with Webster the 2 seed and Herrick the 3 seed. Herrick came out on top by decision, but fell just short in his subsequent ticket match. It was close last year, and I expect it to be close again this year. The winner isn't through the woods, though, as one-loss Derek Noon awaits in the ticket round. Tarpeh Walker, Pike vs. Corbin Gregg, Hamilton Southeastern (Opening round) â€“ This isn't a match that jumps off the page, like some of the other matches featuring two opponents with gaudy W/L records. However, Walker was very competitive in the first two rounds of the postseason against some pretty tough customers, and Gregg is sneaky-good. The winner of this one could certainly pull a ticket round 'upset'. #14 Noon vs. #19 Herrick/#20 Webster (Ticket round) â€“ Two of these three ranked studs are going home, but in Noon's case, it's his last go-round. Will that senior desperation propel him to the breakthrough ticket win he's been working for? Charlie Hill, Lawrenceburg vs. Walker/Gregg (Ticket round) â€“ These 3 are pretty evenly matched, but Hill is a slight favorite with his past postseason success and his regional championship. #5 Johnson vs. #6 VanCamp (Semifinal round) â€“ This is clearly the biggest match of the entire bracket, and it's unfortunate that it should take place in the semis. Let's look at the numerous similarities: both have one loss, both are ranked in the top-6, both have been to Bankers Life, both have wrestled a tough schedule. As I see it, the one difference is Johnson has a few more high quality wins. The winner of this match should be the top seed heading into the State meet. 1st round picks: VanCamp over Johnson Carrender over Espedilla Johnson over Frazee Michaels over Bagwell Noon over Doherty Herrick over Webster Hill over Steele Gregg over Walker Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Johnson, Noon, VanCamp, Hill The Alpha Dog: Brett Johnson 160 Another weight class, another 5 ranked competitors. While there are a number of toss-up matches in other weight classes, there is a real sense of the unknown at this weight class, outside of the rock-steady Colton Gonzalez. 3 of the ranked wrestlers in this group lost their regionals to unranked opponents, with Briggeman and Archer finishing 3rd, and Young finishing a disappointing 4th. However, year in and out, we see wrestlers 'soil the proverbial bed' at regionals, and come back with a vengeance at semistate. While Gonzalez is as close to a lock as there is at this weight, the other 3 spots are very much up for grabs. Last year's champ: Vinny Corsaro, Cathedral Ranked wrestlers: #4 Colton Gonzalez, Connersville #8 Ethan Briggeman, Ritter #14 Jesse Archer, North Montgomery #16 Travis Gooding, Pendleton Heights #19 DeRon Young, Franklin Central Feature matchups: #16 Gooding vs. #19 Young (Opening round) â€“ The result of this match may depend on whether we see the sectional version of Young or the regional version of Young. That's not a knock on Gooding, who has impressed all season, and especially at regionals. This is a pick 'em. #16 Gooding/#19 Young vs. #14 Archer/Jarrod Waterman, Eastern Hancock (Ticket round) â€“ These 4 comprise a very tough, very competitive quadrant of the bracket. All but Waterman are seniors, all have at least 33 wins and no more than 5 losses. It's a question of who wants it the most and who is 'working their stuff' at the highest level on Saturday. Dezmen Goddard, Warren Central/Mason Jones, Lawrence Central vs. Brandon Manning, South Dearborn/Nick Fox, Carmel (Ticket round) â€“ This is another tough, very evenly matched foursome. Goddard is the hottest of the four, coming in with a hard-earned regional title, but each of the other three has the ability to win two matches on Saturday. Fox and Manning should be a dogfight, as Manning was ranked in the preseason and Fox is better than his record indicates. Evan Stambaugh, Lebanon/Billy Decker, New Castle vs. Isaac Ray, Hamilton Heights/Garrett Milner, Perry Meridian (Ticket round) â€“ There simply are no 'easy outs' in this bracket, as evidenced by this additional brutal group of four. Stambaugh looked great en route to his regional title, but he's been up and down at times this season. Milner beat the ranked Young at regionals, and finished above the ranked Briggeman. Decker comes from strong wrestling bloodlines and will have the home crowd in his favor. Isaac Ray has the best record of the four. #4 Gonzalez vs. #8 Briggeman (Ticket round) â€“ The unfortunate reality here is that a very highly ranked senior will go home. Briggeman has had a great career, but has been shut out of Bankers Life. Gonzalez, impressively a semistate runner-up and state placer last season at 170, might be too much for the Ritter standout to break that trend. 1st round picks: Gooding over Young Archer over Waterman Goddard over Jones Fox over Manning Stambaugh over Decker Milner over Ray Gonzalez over Banks Briggeman over Turner Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Gonzalez, Goddard, Archer, Milner The Alpha Dog: Colton Gonzalez 170 Ben Harvey and Cameron Jones appear to be the two to beat at 170. Three additional ranked wrestlers will attempt to do just that, including regional champs Cameron Nuckols and Zach Worm. While Harvey and Jones have state title pedigrees, it remains to be seen what the rest of the field is really capable of. Last year's champ: Jeffery Scott, Clinton Central Ranked wrestlers: #2 Ben Harvey, Cathedral #6 Cameron Jones, Lawrence North #8 Cameron Nuckols, Greenfield-Central #18 Alex Ragains, Frankfort #19 Spencer Irick, Hamilton Southeastern Feature matchups: #8 Nuckols vs. #18 Ragains (Opening round) â€“ Nuckols made the move down from 182 last season, which ended at semistate, and it seems to have paid off handsomely for him. The 8th-ranked senior has a tough opener against a fellow ranked 170 in Ragains. Nuckols is the favorite, but he'd better not overlook the Hot Dog junior, who has wins this season over Worm, Irick and Wray, among other notables. #8 Nuckols/#18 Ragains vs. #6 Jones (Ticket round) â€“ For whatever reason, this type of rough ticket match is the norm this year at New Castle. Assuming seeds play out, Nuckols and Jones will go toe-to-toe for the elusive Golden Ticket. For a meaningless bit of 'comparison', Jones beat Dillon Jackson and Jackson edged Nuckols earlier this year. This is essentially a pick 'em, and an unfortunate end to the season for two of these three. #19 Irick vs. Anthony Bear, Triton Central (Ticket round) â€“ Though not currently ranked, Bear has spent time on that list, and is a returning semistate qualifier. Irick has been a bit up and down, but has also been competing against some pretty tough competition the last few weeks. If Irick is on, he should win. If not, Bear may 'maul' him. Deep analysis, I know. #2 Harvey vs. #6 Jones (Final round) â€“ These two are thinking big picture--namely, seeding at Bankers Life the following weekend. Harvey is as consistent and well-rounded as they come. Only an upset loss on Friday night last year kept him from being on the brink of becoming a four-time state placer. Jones, on the other hand, has more peaks and valleys than Harvey. He is exceedingly dangerous, as Dillon Jackson can attest. He also lost a 2-1 match to top-ranked Dylan Lydy. Harvey has to be the favorite, but Jones is lurking and capable. 1st round picks: Nuckols over Ragains Jones over Grubb Worm over Marion Simmons over Bowling Orcutt over Hertenstein Irick over Bear Harvey over Roach Wray over Wilson Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Harvey, Jones, Irick, Worm The Alpha Dog: Ben Harvey 182 This, to me, is one of the most intriguing weight classes at New Castle. There are 3 undefeated wrestlers here (all regional champs, obviously), and the other regional champ is returning state placer Jonathan Morales. At the very least, 2 'O's' must go, and it could be 3 if Morales, Stewart or Manns catches fire. By another metric, this semistate features the #4, #5, #6, #7 and #8 wrestlers in the state. In case you're counting, that's 5 of the top-8. There are four spots open. Sigh, there are no easy roads to Bankers Life. Last year's champ: Blake Rypel, Cathedral Ranked wrestlers: #4 Conner James, Roncalli #5 Mason Parris, Lawrenceburg #6 Jonathan Morales, Western Boone #7 Robert Manns, Crawfordsville #8 Spencer McCool, Pendleton Heights #12 Ben Stewart, Cathedral Feature matchups: #8 McCool vs. #7 Manns (Opening round) â€“ Last year at New Castle, McCool dropped a one point ticket round match and Manns a two point ticket round match. This year, only one will even get the opportunity to get to the ticket round, as they meet in another agonizing early round New Castle matchup. It's unfortunate that they're both seniors, but it is what it is, and I'm sure they will both come out guns blazing. The winner has a nice shot to advance to state. #4 James vs. Griffin Steffy, Lebanon/Ricky Samuels, Lawrence North (Ticket round) â€“ James was my top pick at New Castle's 152 last year and was upended in the ticket round in a big upset. I'm sure he's agonized over that loss all year, and will be trying to take care of business this year. He's been pretty dominant this season, even more so than last year, en route to a spotless 41-0 record. Moving up 30 pounds should allow him to be a little less impacted by weight cutting, which should improve his gastank compared with last season. Steffy is no pushover; despite a fair number of losses, he's a goer and a battler and is fully capable of giving James his first loss if he's not on his toes. The exact same is true of Samuels. #5 Parris vs. #12 Stewart/Tanner Smith, South Vermillion (Ticket round) â€“ Parris has been a revelation this year as a freshman, not only going undefeated thus far, but winning with bonus points and falls. The scary thing for the rest of the semistate is that he's only going to get better. He will have a large task waiting for him in the ticket round in the form of the Irish's Stewart, a ticket rounder last year or Smith, a semistate qualifier last season. Stewart especially will give a heat check for Parris. If he can win impressively over Stewart, he might take the title on Saturday. #6 Morales/#8 McCool-#7 Manns vs. #4 James/#5 Parris-#12 Stewart (Finals) â€“ This unique weight class, with literally half of the best 12 in the state, should provide some high quality matches in the semis and finals. It's really impossible to predict who comes out between McCool/Morales/Manns/Parris/James/Stewart, and all I've done is taken a wild stab at it. 1st round picks: Morales over Trammell Knox-Abbott over Orschell McCool over Manns Hoots over Clark James over Bugni Steffy over Samuels Parris over Kaiser Stewart over Smith Dingo's picks to advance, in order: James, McCool, Morales, Parris The Alpha Dog: Conner James 195 Junior Blake Rypel has been so successful thus far in his career, it seems like he's been around for 4 or 5 years. Unfortunately for his opponents, he has one more year to go after this one. A strong favorite to win it all at 195, Rypel should be in control at semistate. Rypel is very slick for a person his size, and he's been pinning his foes at a high rate this year. The race for 2nd is led by returning state qualifier Tristen Tonte, and the battles for spots 3 and 4 should be vicious and unpredictable. Last year's champ: Brian Wagner, New Palestine Ranked wrestlers: #1 Blake Rypel, Cathedral (Nationally #10 @ 195 Intermat, #11 AWN) #4 Tristen Tonte, Perry Meridian #6 Jake Cavins, Milan #10 Scott Fuller, Zionsville #11 Sam Hipple, Carmel #13 Justin Stone, Lawrence Central Feature matchups: #11 Hipple vs. #6 Cavins (Ticket round) â€“ Both big men were semistate qualifiers a year ago, but fell just short of nabbing a ticket. Hipple, Ed Pendoski's big gun, is rock-solid with positioning and defense and will not beat himself. He has a solid gastank and has faced a tougher level of competition this year than Cavins. That said, Cavins is the higher ranked wrestler and is, therefore, technically favored. Cavins must first deal with returning semistate qualifier Josh Torres of Franklin Central. Will Amberger, Batesville vs. #10 Fuller (Ticket round) â€“ Amberger was a semistate qualifier last year, losing to Tonte in his opening match. Fuller is another in a very long line of studly Zionsville upperweights. Fuller looked better at sectional than he did at regional, but he may be due for a bounce-back effort against Amberger. #4 Tonte vs. #13 Stone/Nick Schaeffer, Westfield (Ticket round) â€“ Tonte was impressive as a freshman, making it all the way to Bankers Life. He's clearly taken a step forward this season, as evidenced by his near-spotless 37-1 record. Schaeffer has been a little bit up and down, but clearly has it within him to spring an upset over Stone, a returning semistate qualifier. Tonte should have enough for either eventuality. 1st round picks: Rypel over Slavens Burton over Guintini Hipple over Mayfield Cavins over Torres Amberger over Smith Fuller over Haire Tonte over Mosley Stone over Schaeffer Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Rypel, Tonte, Hipple, Fuller The Alpha Dog: Blake Rypel 220 Five of the top-20 are represented by this year's New Castle field at 220 (could've been six if not for the late-season injury to #11 Matthew Penola), led by #3 Courvoisie Morrow, who has wrestled a murderer's row at 220. There's some real parity after Morrow and Erik Hart, led by Grable, Cooper, Stephens and Guhl. As in past seasons, this is not among the very strongest weight classes at New Castle, although it is still plenty formidable. Last year's champ: Dylan Faulkenburg, Ritter Ranked wrestlers: #3 Courvoisie Morrow, Warren Central #13 Erik Hart, Lebanon #15 Ryan Guhl, Cathedral #17 Noah Grable, New Palestine #19 Jacob Cooper, Triton Central Feature matchups: #19 Cooper vs. Josh Stephens, Pendleton Heights (Opening round) â€“ This is a really tough match to handicap, as they have roughly similar records against roughly similar competition. Cooper came into New Castle last year as a 4 seed and upset a top seed, ultimately dropping a very close ticket match. The winner gets an even bigger test in the one-loss Hart. #15 Guhl vs. Blake Schjoll, Perry Meridian (Opening round) â€“ It's a little unusual to see a Perry wrestler with a 25-4 record and still unranked, but Schjoll was 4th best in his regional, whereas Guhl was regional champ. While Guhl is favored, Perry's staff is likely devising a plan to neutralize the Irish wrestler as we speak. #13 Hart vs. #19 Cooper/Stephens (Ticket round) â€“ Hart has been nearly flawless all season, save for one match against the now-injured Penola. While Hart will be favored against either senior wrestler, he will certainly have his work cut out for him. #13 Hart vs. #3 Morrow (Finals) â€“ Morrow has faced elite level competition all season long, and has managed to come out on top in all but two matches. Hart has a golden record, but he can't say he's faced the same sort of challenges. Hart will find out where he stands in the overall state picture after this match, if it takes place. 1st round picks: Hart over Clouse Cooper over Stephens Miller over Reynolds Grable over Ogorek Guhl over Schjoll Martin over Dishman Morrow over Lucas Ford over Neff Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Morrow, Hart, Guhl, Grable The Alpha Dog: Courvoisie Morrow 285 Returning state qualifier Nate Trawick is a solid favorite over the other 4 ranked wrestlers and the rest of the field at 285. The Richmond football standout has had a pretty dominating season thus far, dropping only one match and avenging that loss. He should win this weight, although he will be tested in the ticket round by IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open champion Chris Ridle of Perry Meridian. Jasion Brogan looks like a solid bet for 2nd, and the 3rd and 4th slots are pretty wide open. Last year's champ: Wesley Bernard, Cathedral Ranked wrestlers: #3 Nate Trawick, Richmond #8 Jasion Brogan, Warren Central #11 Anthony Jackson, Pike #14 Michael Smith, Lebanon #19 Chris Ridle, Perry Meridian Feature matchups: #8 Brogan vs. Clark Minges, Union County/Zach Saylor, Anderson (Ticket round) â€“ While Brogan has had the superior regular season, Minges was one win away from state last year as a freshman. He upset a favored, higher seeded opponent from Indianapolis. Hmm...Probably not this year. If it's Saylor, also a semistate qualifier last year as a sophomore, the chances are a little more remote of pulling the upset. #19 Ridle vs. #3 Trawick (Ticket round) â€“ This is a very intriguing ticket bout, but Trawick is just so physically dominant. He'll have to make a big mistake that Ridle capitalizes on in order to drop this one. #11 Jackson vs. #14 Smith (Opening round) â€“ Smith has had a fine season, but seems to have a matchup problem with Hobick. Jackson has also had a fine season, but has had the misfortune of facing Stormin' Norman Oglesby more than once. Smith is a very nimble heavy, and if he can avoid being put on his back, he could pull this one out with a superior gastank. 1st round picks: Hobick over Ewers Phifer over Smith Brogan over Bean Minges over Saylor Trawick over Kessler Ridle over Williams Samuels over Selm Smith over Jackson Dingo's picks to advance, in order: Trawick, Brogan, Hobick, Smith The Alpha Dog: Nate Trawick