ROCHESTER — Survive and advance. That’s the name of the game in the IHSAA wrestling state tournament. The attitude at Saturday’s Rochester Wrestling Regional was no different.
With 17 area wrestlers at Rochester, winning round one was the most important mode of operation in the code of survival. That objective was met by five of the wrestlers, which will all move on to the Merrillville Semi-state next Saturday. Winning round one in each weight class bracket meant a guaranteed spot in the top four, which was required for advancement.
Making the biggest splash of those who made it through the first round was Warsaw senior Luis Munoz. Having to face Culver Academy’s Kayla Miracle in the finals once again, as he did in the Plymouth Sectional’s 120-pound final, Munoz continued to figure out the talented Cadet with an 8-4 decision to win the weight class and advance as a top seed to Merrillville.
“I thought he was going to have a tougher match against Kayla than he did last week,” said Warsaw head coach Justin Smith. “Just because anytime you wrestle someone a second or third time, it’s going to be tougher. Going into next week, a one looks really good. I’m pretty confident in him and his ability to qualify for state.
“He is pretty confident and we’re pretty confident that he will have a good week of practice and at this point anything can happen.”
Tippecanoe Valley sophomore Wyatt Nelson also reached the finals at Rochester, but was defeated soundly by Mishawaka’s Daniel Hesch by tech fall, 20-5, at 4:28.
A trio of Wawasee Warriors made it to semi-state with fourth-place finishes, beginning with freshman Tristan Ponsler, who succumbed to Allen Betts of Culver Community after a 3-0 decision. Senior Nick Rozow lost his final match of the day in the 160-pound class to South Bend Washington’s Michael Betts, 4-3, while classmate Brian Clark also fell by the same score to South Bend St. Joe’s Jake Kazmierczak at 195.
The area also had 12 wrestlers make the Rochester brackets, but fall in their first matchup of the day. Those wrestlers included from Tippecanoe Valley Devin Childers (132), Cody Runyon (145), Arron Heller (152), Garrett Bell (160), Keaton Bell (170), Wes Beck (182) and Jaron Kidd (195). From Triton were Joseph Soriano (106), Gage Weddle (138) and Lane Stevens (220). Wawasee’s Chad Eppley (285) and Warsaw’s Alec Haines (220) also lost their first matches of the day, eliminating them from the tournament.
“I thought we wrestled and practiced pretty good,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Scott Smyth. “We were working hard, the kids were all into it and focused. They were loose and weren’t really nervous. We talked about what was ahead and what was coming and I felt good coming into this morning.”
Wawasee’s head coach Paul Meyer was interviewed after the first round about his team’s past week and expectations following the opening matches.
“The first part of the week was focused on a lot of defensive situations and counter scoring,” Meyer said. “And the last half of the week, Thursday and Friday, was some live wrestling and just having fun. Enjoying the week and enjoying the moment. Because God really blessed us with what we have right in front of us and that’s what I want them to live by ‘You’ve got right now, live for it.’”
Mishawaka produced six individual champions on the day followed by Penn with three. South Bend Clay had a pair of champions, and Culver Community, South Bend Riley and Warsaw all had one champion. The Kingsmen, winners of their sectional a week ago, claimed the regional team title with 211 points, with the Cavemen in second at 160.5.
Up next for the five locals at Merrillville are several huge tests. Ponsler (23-15) will take on top-seed Gaige Torres (30-1) of Portage in the 113-pound bracket. Munoz will advance as the top seed in his half of the 120-pound bracket, drawing Cody Widner (35-6) of Twin Lakes in round one.
Nelson (32-12) will have to deal with Lafayette Jefferson’s Cordaro Armstead (33-14) at 126, Rozow (30-8) will face Caleb Medrano (23-4) of McCutcheon at 160, and Clark (25-10) will meet unbeaten Crown Point stud Morgan Kral (33-0) in round one of the 195-pound card.
Stacey Page Online reporter Nick Goralczyk contributed to this story.