Three veterans and one very precocious rookie will represent Vigo County on Friday at the girls state wrestling championships at Hamilton Heights High School.
West Vigo's Torie Buchanan and Annalyse Dooley won regional championships at Maconaquah High School last Friday — the Vikings were allowed to compete at the North regional because the West Vigo boys were in the Class 2A state finals at Fort Wayne the next day — while Terre Haute South's Jaryn Strong was second and Terre Haute North's Virginia Graf third in the southern regional at Franklin.
It's the third trip to the state finals for both Dooley and Strong and the second for Graf, all of whom are juniors. Buchanan is just a freshman but her record this season is 23-6, and almost all of those matches were against boys. "Beating the boys," in fact, is one of the things Buchanan — who has been wrestling for 11 years — likes best, she said.
Graf, who will wrestle at 98 pounds, was second in the state at 88 pounds as a freshman and was prevented from wrestling in the state finals last year because of a family emergency.
"I'm pretty excited," she said. "It's a really good experience for girls in wrestling.
"I was more nervous when I was a freshman," Graf added, "but I kept practicing [and wrestled some matches for the Patriot varsity at 106 this season]."
Buchanan will compete at 106 pounds, which is where she is in the Vikings' varsity lineup too. Dooley, a 113-pounder on Friday and also for the West Vigo varsity — where she is 16-10 so far — was third as a freshman and second a year ago, and at last week's regional pinned the girl who had beaten her for the state championship last year.
"It felt good [to do that]," Dooley said. "I wish I'd done it last year."
Third to second to ... it's a progression that coach Scott Rohrbach of the Vikings is hoping will continue.
"We're very optimistic," he said. "Both [Buchanan and Dooley] should be on the podium."
Strong was seventh in the state at 113 as a freshman and placed third last year at the same weight. This year she's moved up to 120.
"We'll have to change some things this week in training," said South coach Gabe Cook, who saw Strong lose to a shorter, stockier girl at the regional.
"I'm looking forward to the competition," Strong said. "There's going to be some tough competition [at the state finals], but I shouldn't have to worry as long as I keep my head in it."
North had a second girl on its team this winter, first-year senior wrestler Mariah Thompson, and she finished fifth at the regional at 113 pounds — an awfully good showing considering she broke her hand very early in the season and was competing in her first matches of the year.
Thompson was also matched up with Bloomington South's Ciera Broukal — another veteran of boys varsity wrestling who will probably face Dooley sometime this week — in her very first match before splitting her last two and coming up one place short of the state finals.
"I'm really proud of [Graf and Thompson]," said North coach Beau Pingleton. "Mariah got her first win of the season."
If there's one thing this week's competitors have in common, it's probably the opinion that more girls should be joining them on the mats.
"Definitely [more girls should wrestle]," Dooley said. "I love the sport and I like having my teammates to talk to."
"It's really fun and you learn a lot of new stuff," said Graf. "It's good exercise, and there's a lot of conditioning and hard work, but it pays off."
"I'm hoping to go out and win it [this week]," Buchanan said. "I want to surprise people on what girls should do."
• Falcons fall short — North Vermillion's Hannah Pugh and Mikayla Thomas also competed at the regional meet but neither advanced to the finals. Thomas placed fifth on Friday — and also was fifth a day later for the Falcon boys at the South Vermillion Invitational.