From the sound of preseason and early-season coach talk, the 2019-20 wrestling campaign could be one of the most competitive in recent memory.
Here’s a look at how the Vigo County high schools and Northview appear to stack up:
• Terre Haute South — “I think this is probably one of the best teams we’ve had since I’ve been at South,” proclaimed Gabe Cook, beginning his 13th season in charge of the Braves.
Last season, South finished with a 14-1 record in dual meets, second in Conference Indiana and third in a very competitive sectional (with no seniors in its starting lineup).
This season, the Braves appear strong again. Cook said weight-class starters at the beginning of the season should be senior Austin Woolston at 106 pounds (competed at 113 a year ago), freshman Luke May at 106 and 113, sophomore Harrison May (Luke’s brother) at 120 (106 last season), freshman Alex Rose at 126, senior Gabe Recknor at 132, junior Nate Recknor (Gabe’s brother) at 138, senior Clinton Speitel at 145, senior Moses Hamm at 152, sophomore Nate Lommock at 160, junior Nick Casad at 170, senior Brendan McPike at 182, junior Dylan Case at 195, junior Josh Howell at 220 and either freshman Cole Welch or sophomore Malachi Hatfield at heavyweight.
Howell qualified for the state finals in 2019, Gabe Recknor is a two-time semistate qualifier, Lommock and McPike each qualified for the semistate last season.
Hamm qualified for the semistate two years ago as a sophomore, but an injury derailed him last season. Cook said Howell is currently ranked 10th in the state in his class and McPike is ranked 12th in the state.
“Josh [Howell] was really small last year at 220,” Cook noted. “He’s gotten a lot bigger since then. He’s a full-sized 220 now or at least close to it.”
South’s first meet will be the Vincennes Lincoln Invitational this Saturday.
• West Vigo — Scott Rohrbach looks forward to coaching his son, senior Seth Rohrbach, one last season. Seth, a semistate qualifier for the third time a year ago, will either stay in the 126 class or move up to 132 this season.
“He did a lot of off-season wrestling,” Scott Rohrbach said. “Him and [juniors] Johnathan Otte [a two-time semistate qualifier] and Jarrell Sholar [a 2019 semistate qualifier] earned All-American status at the Disney Duals in June.”
Seth Rohrbach, Otte and Sholar are among 11 returning starters for the Vikings this season, so lack of experience should not be a problem. Two of the returnees are females — sophomore Torie Buchanan at 106 or 113 and senior Annalyse Dooley at 113. Buchanan was a girls state champion last season and a Dooley is a two-time girls state runner-up.
Coach Rohrbach said Otte is likely to move up in weight class from 138 to 145, while Sholar probably will bump up from 145 to 152.
In addition to those already mentioned and senior Anthony Rubinacci (160), five juniors are expected to be among West Vigo’s key contributors. They are Keith Holder (126), Lucas Hogue (138), Levi Saude (182), Mekhi Higgins (195) and Payton Bell (220).
“We’ve got nine freshmen on the team,” Scott Rohrbach added, expressing hope for the future. “We’re fairly deep this year. We’d like to be two-deep at every weight class.”
Coming off a 21-6 campaign, the Vikings will have their first meet of the 2019-20 season Dec. 4 at Greencastle.
Coach Rohrbach said one of his wrestlers’ primary goals is to finish in the top four of the team state finals in January at Fort Wayne.
• Terre Haute North — Third-year coach Beau Pingleton has eight returning starters from last season when the Patriots finished 7-9.
Senior Ty Crews was a semistate qualifier in the 120-pound class at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, although he’s climbed up to 132 this season.
“We have a good group of guys who put in a lot of time over the spring and summer,” Pingleton mentioned. “Ty has been with me since my first year here and he’s been consistently in the [wrestling] room with me in the spring and summertime getting extra practices and extra matches. ... I think this will be a good year for him. He’s done all the right things.”
Other key returnees include sophomore Nathan Roberts at 106, senior Gage Cohen-Cook at 126, junior Brandon Greene at 138, sophomore Nicolas Sconce at 145, sophomore Landon Boland at 152, sophomore Sammy Saunders at 160, junior Gabriel Bignell at 182 and senior Francisco Franco at 220.
“We had a lot of involvement over the spring and summer,” Pingleton pointed out. “We have a good core group of young guys with some senior leadership as well.”
Looking around the Valley, Pingleton admits South and West Vigo will be difficult to beat.
“The Wabash Valley hasn’t been this good in a long time,” he added.
North already started its season last Thursday with a 48-28 home victory over Northview. Pingleton’s Patriots will compete in the Decatur Central Super 8 meet Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
• Northview — Third-year coach Tony Sanabria also has high hopes for his team, with only three 2018-19 starters lost to graduation.
Among his leading returnees are sophomore Logan Moore at 113 and senior Noah Minor at 170, both regional qualifiers last season, along with junior 126-pounder Braeden Wharton, who came back to the squad after missing last season. Sanabria also wants a couple seniors — Southmont transfer Zack Brown, a 160-pounder, and 138-pounder JaShawn Allen — to make a significant impact.
The Knights’ coach anticipates big things from freshman 106-pounder Seth Kowden as well.
“We expect to be better than we were last year when it comes to dual wins,” Sanabria assessed. “We expect to compete for [the Western Indiana] conference and go from there. We have goals set for ourselves and hopefully we can hit all of those that we have for the team.”
Edgewood captured the WIC championship last season.
The Knights, who finished 11-15 in dual meets last season and lost to Terre Haute North in this season’s opener last week, will be in action again Dec. 4 at Bloomington South.