If there’s a theme among the four bi-county high school wrestling programs this season, it might be “narrowing the gap.”

Northview, sectional runner-up to Bloomington South the past two seasons, hopes Wednesday night’s dual-meet opener on the Panthers’ mat shows that the Knights have narrowed that gap significantly for the 2007-2008 season.

And the three Vigo County schools would like to think they are also narrowing the gap with the Knights.

If there’s another constant among the four teams, it’s that their freshmen wrestlers are a lot different than they used to be. Coach Dan Mikesell of the Knights hopes that the North Clay Middle School wrestling team still provides him with a slight advantage, but club wrestling throughout Vigo County has also proven to be a huge benefit at Terre Haute North, Terre Haute South and West Vigo; there’s no reason anymore to expect that a freshman wrestler is inexperienced on the mat.

Mikesell, Mark Frisz of North and Scott Rohrbach of West Vigo are returning head coaches. The new kid on the block is Gabe Cook, the former Viking state champion who is in his first season as South’s head coach after assisting at his alma mater for a few years.

Team by team, here’s how the four teams look as the season begins — in the case of North and Northview — or continues.

• Northview — Senior Beau Pingleton, who will be at 145 pounds against Bloomington South, is apparently the only wrestler at the four schools who has a preseason ranking statewide, and is one of two Knights who were one match away from the state finals last year.

The other is sophomore Luke Pingleton, his younger brother, who will be at 119 for the season opener. Regional qualifiers for Northview last year included seniors Zach Stultz (152 this week), Tom Herr-Smith (171) and Jared Staley (215) and juniors Kyle McCoy (135) and Brandon Hathaway (140); Hathaway was a state folkstyle champion in the offseason.

Senior Nathan Disney (189) will return soon from a football injury; seniors Caleb Dutrow (160) and Jacob Sharton (275) have returned to the sport; and freshmen Skyler Hall (103), Brandon Mikesell (130) and Tommy Holifield (189) will also be in the opening lineup.

Northview will forfeit two weight classes against Bloomington South for various reasons, but coach Mikesell says all the spots will eventually be filled. “We’ve had a long preseason, so we’re way ahead of where we’ve ever been [for the first match],” he said.

• Terre Haute North — Another theme for two of the Patriots this season could be “reunited.” Senior Jeff Willis moved back from Mishawaka to join his twin brother Tim, and they’ll join Ian Smith and Andrew Bledsoe as Patriot leaders.

Smith (171) was North’s only semistate qualifier a year ago and led the team with 32 wins, while Tim Willis (119) won 28 times. Bledsoe will be back at 125 and Jeff Willis — whose varsity path at Mishawaka was blocked by an eventual state champion — will be at 130; Frisz likes having the latter three seniors wrestling consecutively.

Others in North’s lineup for tonight’s opener against Cloverdale will be freshman Nate Page at 112, junior Dustin Wallace at 135, freshman Jason Bahrt at 140, junior Josh Loudermilk at 145, junior Brian Grover at 152, junior Ethan Page at 160, junior Daniel Delisle at 189, freshman David Knight at 215 and junior Lance Lloyd at 275.

That lineup could fluctuate near the top, because sophomore Doug Collett — last year’s regular — and junior Zach Edington are also available at 189 and senior Hans Nowak is battling for a spot at 160. Delisle, a much improved wrestler, Frisz said, will be outweighed tonight and will also be moving down a weight class or two.

Frisz is hoping for a breakout season from Lloyd, a two-year regular, but noted the Patriots will be without a 103-pounder all season.

“Northview has a lot of talented guys back,” he said in assessing the Patriots’ competition, “and it looks like South is really strong; West Vigo has some good guys back too. We have some good individuals … but we just don’t have a lot of depth.”

• Terre Haute South — Thanks to two early invitationals, the Braves have already won eight of 10 dual matches so far with four of them off to 10-0 individual starts.

The unbeaten Braves are senior Corey McIntyre at 103, freshman Jordan Jensen at 112 and seniors Nick Anderson — a semistate qualifier last year — and Nick Pullen at 160 and 171 respectively. Anderson, Cook said, has something like nine takedowns and nine pins so far — “He doesn’t stay out there very long,” Cook said — while Pullen may be unscored on in his first 10 matches.

Other senior leaders for the Braves are Cliff Lawson, 5-5 so far at 189, and J.T. Harlan, 8-2 at 275. Other big winners have been junior Paul Bennett, 8-2 at 145, and junior Jacob Hills, 7-3 at 125. Junior Nick Loffredo won six of his first seven matches at 130 but was injured while competing last weekend.

Other South regulars so far are freshman Dakota Case at 119, sophomore Casey Anderson (no relation to Nick) at 135, senior Zach Williams or freshman P.J. Montgomery at 140, juniors Eric Joyal and James Bender at 152 and sophomores Caleb Manley and Chris Cardinal at 215. Also in the mix, Cook said, are freshman David Paden (125), sophomore Patrick Duong (130), sophomore Jordan Chapman (171), first-year senior Lamar Fairrow (152), sophomore Brad Ketala (145), sophomore Austin McClain (140) and junior Robbie Brown (189 or 215).

“It’s an adjustment,” Cook said of his first head coaching experience. “It was hard leaving West, because I grew up there, and me and Coach Rohrbach are in contact every week talking about our programs. But everyone at South has really welcomed me and helped me out; [former South] coach [Henry] Villegas helped me considerably during the summer.”

• West Vigo — A quartet of seniors with a combined 19 years as varsity regulars will lead the way for the Vikings, Rohrbach predicted.

The three four-year Vikings are 112-pounder Eli Hendricks; Andy Jackson, the coach’s nephew, who will settle in at 140 or 145; and Dirk Keller, recovering from a football injury, who will eventually be at 160 or 171. Trey Budd, starting his third varsity season at 171, may be hard to displace from that spot, however.

“We expect big things from them,” Rohrbach said.

Other veterans in the West Vigo lineup include sophomore Levi Edwards at 119, sophomore Dyman Lewellyn at 130, junior Cody Little at 145, junior Jeff Jones at 215 (or perhaps 189) and junior Ian Bolin at 275.

Either of two freshmen, Stevie Sharrer or Ted Fagg, will be at 103, and another ninth-grader is Ryan Roach at 125. Roach might be the best example of the kind of freshmen entering the programs of the four schools now; “He started [wrestling] when he was 7 [years old],” Rohrbach noted.

West Vigo opened with a 48-42 win over Cloverdale last week and will be at Greencastle on Thursday.

“We only had four [wrestlers] qualify for the regional last year,” Rohrbach said, “but these guys have put in a lot of time in the offseason and at camps. We have high hopes for the season.”

Prep wrestling schedules


Wednesday — At Bloomington South, 7 p.m.

Saturday — At Westfield, 8 a.m.

Dec. 5 — Owen Valley, 6 p.m.

Dec. 8 — Northview Invitational with Brown County, Plainfield, South Vermillion, Terre Haute North and West Vigo, 8 a.m.

Dec. 11 — Edgewood, 6 p.m.

Dec. 15 — Bo Henry Classic at Bloomington North, 9 a.m.

Dec. 27-28 — At Mooresville Invitational, 10 a.m.

Jan. 5 — At Columbus East 6-way, 9 a.m.

Jan. 8 — At Terre Haute South, vs. Sullivan at Terre Haute South, 6 p.m.

Jan. 12 — At Sullivan Winter Duals, 9 a.m.

Jan. 19 — At Western Indiana Conference tournament at South Vermillion, 10 a.m.

Jan. 26 — Sectional, 10 a.m.

Terre Haute North

Today — Cloverdale, 6:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday — Hill Classic at Evansville Reitz, TBA

Dec. 5 — At West Vigo, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 8 — At Northview Invitational, 8 a.m.

Dec. 11 — Sullivan, 6 p.m.

Dec. 15 — Bo Henry Classic at Bloomington North, 9 a.m.

Dec. 27 — At Zionsville Invitational, 8:30 a.m.

Jan. 8 — At Owen Valley, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 10 — Bloomington South, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 12 — At Indianapolis North Central Invitational, 9 a.m.

Jan. 16 — At Terre Haute South, 6 p.m.

Jan. 19 — Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference tournament at Lawrence North, 8 a.m.

Jan. 26 — Sectional at Northview, TBA

Terre Haute South

Nov. 17 — At Princeton Invitational (beat Bedford North Lawrence, beat Paoli, beat North Knox, beat Wood Memorial, lost to Princeton)

Nov. 24 — At Vincennes Lincoln Tourney (beat North Knox, beat Vincennes Lincoln, beat Washington, beat Lawrenceville (Ill.), lost to South Vermillion on criteria)

Wednesday — At Edgewood, 6 p.m.

Saturday — At North Knox Invitational, 8:30 a.m.

Dec. 6 — At Cloverdale, 6 p.m.

Dec. 11 — West Vigo, 6 p.m.

Dec. 27-28 — At Mooresville Invitational, 10 a.m.

Jan. 8 — Northview, Sullivan, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 12 — At Indianapolis North Central Invitational, 9 a.m.

Jan. 16 — Terre Haute North, 6 p.m.

Jan. 19 — Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference tournament at Lawrence North, 8 a.m.

Jan. 22 — At Owen Valley, 5:45 p.m.

Jan. 26 — Sectional at Northview, TBA

West Vigo

Nov. 20 — defeated Cloverdale

Thursday — At Greencastle, 6 p.m.

Dec. 1 — At Covington Invitational, 9 a.m.

Dec. 5 — Terre Haute North, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 8 — At Northview Invitational, 8 a.m.

Dec. 11 — At Terre Haute South, 6 p.m.

Dec. 13 — Sullivan, 6 p.m.

Dec. 22 — West Vigo Invitational with Heritage Hills, North Vermillion and Seymour, 10 a.m.

Jan. 5 — At South Vermillion Invitational, 9 a.m.

Jan. 12 — At Edgewood Invitational, 9 a.m.

Jan. 16 — At North Knox, 6 p.m.

Jan. 19 — Western Indiana Conference tournament at South Vermillion, 10 a.m.

Jan. 26 — Sectional at Northview, TBA

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