By Dave Pearce
Posey County will be well-represented at the Evansville Regional in wrestling this weekend, thanks mostly to an incredible performance by the Mount Vernon Wildcats at the Castle Sectional on Saturday. Posey County will have a dozen wrestlers on the mat in Saturday’s action. Mount Vernon will send 11 and North Posey will be represented by Shane Martin.
North Posey struggled with numbers (or lack thereof) all season long, It was not a surprise for the Vikings to have only one regional qualifier. And it was not unexpected who that qualifier would be, either, as senior Shane Martin has wrestled his way to a 28-6 record and finished third at the Evansville Central sectional on Saturday.
With perennial area wrestling power Mater Dei in the Evansville Central tournament, it helped open things up for Mount Vernon Coach Tim Alcorn’s Wildcats and they took full advantage.
And there was one Wildcat in the finals that no one expected to see. Fourth-seeded senior Dane Wilson was forced to face a 37-1 Heritage Hills opponent in the first round. If he were going to earn a trip to the next level, he would have to get past the Patriot. Wilson was up to the challenge.
After falling behind by a score of 5-2 mid-way through the match, it appeared that Wilson might bow out. But the gangly senior had other plans.
He came up with an escape in the second period and entered the final period facing a 5-3 deficit.
With about a minute remaining in the match, Wilson was able to score a take-down to tie the score and then maintain the remainder of the third and final period of regulation.
In a sudden-death overtime, Wilson appeared to have his opponent on the verge of a take-down but the action was ruled to be out of bounds. But Wilson was not to be denied. Another take-down ensued just seconds later and Wilson moved on. The senior finished second and earned himself a good seed in the Evansville Regional.
Despite the loss in the title match, Alcorn was proud of his senior and indicated that a call, that he believed could have gone either way in the title match, cast Wilson a legitimate shot at the title. He fell by a 4-0 score.
“We had the points and then one official talked it over with another official and took the points away from him,” Alcorn said. “Two points is a big swing when you are talking about a match that ends up 4-0. But it was a heck of an accomplishment for him to get to the title match and I certainly didn’t want him to feel bad about losing that match because he wasn’t even supposed to be there. We still would like to have gotten first.”
The other two sectional finalist have a lot in common. Both are freshmen at Mount Vernon and their crown was not unexpected.
Paul Conrath and Austin Bethel, already two of the area’s best, were never seriously threatened on their way to sectional titles. Bethel, who has missed a portion of the season with a concussion, can back to take his weight class while Conrath was pretty much a shoe-in.
But by placing so many wrestlers in the Regional, particularly underclassmen, the Wildcats have set themselves up well to be included in a non-state sanctioned tournament at the beginning of next season.
“It’s called the Coach’s Association State Final and it is not sanctioned by the IHSAA,” Alcorn explained. “It’s a little like the BCS…that’s the easiest way I can explain it. You score points as your kids advance. They give you more points for underclassmen advancing. And since nine of the 11 who advanced are underclassmen, that should score a lot of points for us right now for next year. Right now we have a very good chance of being in the mix of qualifyi8ng for that tournament. That’s a goal of ours, as well.”
Alcorn could not have been happier with his team’s performance on Saturday. Memorial was expected to win the sectional and the Tigers came through as expected. But the Wildcats, who trailed homestanding Castle by as many as 79 points at one point, wrestled their way back to within single digits on the team scoreboard before settling for third place.
“We finished nine points out of second,” Alcorn said. “We closed that gap to nine and in wrestling terms, that’s just the difference between one match, winning or losing or just one or two things going differently.”
Alcorn said he knew his team could finish in the top three but was uncertain about the particular order.
“We got some great draws and I had a lot of faith in our kids,” Alcorn said. “We wrestle a tough schedule and we are tested a lot. Some of the teams come in with a few more of what we call ‘fluff’ records. We just outperformed them today.”
Memorial won the team title with little trouble.
Bethel’s championship was probably the toughest of the two freshmen. He came in as a No. 2 seed and therefore had to face the No. 3 seed to advance.
“He had to go through a really strong Memorial kid, a kid who is just freaky strong,” Alcorn said. “We beat him and then he had to come back and face the no. 1 seed. He beat him, as well. Austin stepped up big time and answered the bell. I believe his opponents were both seniors.”
The number of 11 wrestlers moving on was a surprise, even to an optimistic coach. Alcorn said that the team had said a goal of somewhere between eight and 10.
“This has been a great day,” Alcorn said with enthusiasm in his voice. “The most we have ever had was my first year as an assistant when we had 13. I really didn’t expect us to get that close to that.”
Another wrestler, Adam Hoehn, who has been plagued by injuries all season long, was unable to wrestle so 11 of the 13 wrestlers advanced and one was knocked out by an injury default. Julian Saur did not wrestle at full strength due to an overnight illness.
“One kid that didn’t get out, Kyle Lang, lost in overtime and he could just as easily have gotten out as well,” Alcorn concluded.
Advancing besides the three aforementioned wrestlers from Mount Vernon are Harley Gorman, Noah Keller, Julian Suaer, Payton Whoberry, Ethan Harms, Tyler Dekemper, Tristin Choate, and Austin Stallings.
By Dave Pearce