'They're all tough' at wrestling semistates

Feb. 8—High school wrestlers headed for semistate competition on Saturday can be assured of one thing: their opponent will be pretty good.

"They're all tough [at this level]," summarized coach Gabe Cook of Terre Haute South, who will be sending 10 of his wrestlers to Evansville's Ford Center.

Joining William Rader, Nathan Bryan, Josiah Dedeaux, Noah Fields, Luke Forsythe, Jesus Lopez, Coy Bender, Cooper McCloy, Collin Casad and Sean Murphy of South for Saturday's competition will be Ayden Muncie and James Hastings of Terre Haute North and Devyn Orman and Brandon Brewer of Northview.

Aden Rangel and Aidan Hinchee of North Vermillion and Jerrid Graves of Parke Heritage will compete at the New Castle Semistate.

Probably the most grueling of the postseason wrestling weekends, the semistate tournaments consist of four brackets of four wrestlers each, each of those brackets containing a champion, a runner-up and third- and fourth-place finishers from last week's regional competition. To earn a trip to the state finals next week — also at Evansville, by the way — a wrestler has to win twice.

In other words, to get to the state finals a wrestler has to win his four-person bracket.

And to do that, for all the wrestlers listed except Dedeaux, those wrestlers will probably have to beat a regional champion to do so.

"That's just the way this tournament is," Cook said this week. "But everybody's optimistic. This feels like an opportunity."

At least a couple of the Braves have already beaten wrestlers seeded ahead of them in other matches — last week's Bloomington South Regional, boosted by a strong contingent from South's new rival Floyd Central, was monstrous — and, as their coach indicated, confident.

And for four South seniors, this weekend will be a dream come true — or the end of their prep careers.

"I'll make it out, I'll tell you that," said Dedeaux this week. "I want to be farther, at the top of the podium.

"It feels great," the 132-pounder added. "It shows how hard I've worked ... I just have to practice hard, like this is the last practice I ever have."

"At this point of the season, there are no bad wrestlers," said Forsythe, "so if I'm there, I must not be too bad.

"I believe in myself and I thank the Lord who has my back. I have to wrestle the way I've been wrestling."

McCloy has just four losses this season and hopes to get revenge for three of them this week. He could see Hastings (he's 4-1 against the Patriot) in the semifinals if both get there, meaning both would be already qualified for the state finals, and might meet Floyd Central's Bray Emerline (two of the losses) if both reach the finals.

"I'm just ready to go," said McCloy this week. "I believe in my training."

McCloy is the only one of the Valley wrestlers who have reached the state finals, although not in Indiana. He was a finalist last winter in Kansas before returning to the team and coaches he worked with before moving after his eighth-grade year.

"I'm pretty confident," said the 190-pound Casad, "and very motivated after my loss [in the regional championship match last week].

"There's a lot of excitement throughout the whole team. I think everything's there. We just need to keep a strong work ethic."

"Right now we try to focus on what [the wrestlers] have done to get to this point," Cook said. "Watch a little film, get as familiar as you can with your opponent.

"This could be our biggest [state-finals representation] ever."

First-round matches

At Evansville

120 — William Rader (THS), 23-13, vs. Ty Henderson (Evansville Mater Dei), 30-0

126 — Nathan Bryan (THS), 30-3, vs. Dominic Brown (Center Grove), 25-8

132 — Josiah Dedeaux (THS), 32-2, vs. Eli Theobald (Providence), 13-6

138 — Noah Fields (THS), 28-7, vs. William Vander Luitgaren (Center Grove), 32-8; Ayden Muncie (THN), 27-12, vs. Brady Ison (Brownsburg), 24-6

150 — Luke Forsythe (THS), 23-9, vs. Alex Smith (Heritage Hills), 42-3

157 — Jesus Lopez (THS), 27-7, vs. Peyton Bell (Evansville North), 28-7

165 — Coy Bender (THS), 31-6, vs. Evan Saevre (Columbus North), 23-10

175 — Cooper McCloy (THS), 32-4, vs. Austin Bell (Evansville North), 29-3; James Hastings (THN), 33-6), vs. Braxton Schaefer (Heritage Hills), 37-11

190 — Collin Casad (THS), 35-2, vs. Kameron Biven (Pike), 28-8

215 — Devyn Orman (Nv), 27-5), vs. Zachary Martin (Evansville Reitz) 35-13

285 — Sean Murphy (THS), 32-3, vs. Brayden Jones (Eastern Pekin), 23-4; Brandon Brewer (Nv), 24-7, vs. Brody Stephens (Franklin), 23-17

At New Castle

126 — Aden Rangel (NV), 35-1, vs. Zane Badgley (Eastern Hancock), 39-5

175 — Jerrid Graves (PH), 35-3, vs. Bronson Adkins (Tipton), 17-5

215 — Aidan Hinchee (NV), 33-3, vs. Shaun Glass (New Palestine), 28-3