BRYCE CRUNCHâ€”Bellmont freshman Bryce Baumgartner (left) uses a headlock and leverage to subdue his foe, Landon Hodges of Columbia City, in the 160-pounnd NHC championship match Wednesday at New Haven. Baumgartner scored a 10-8 win. The Braves finished second to Carroll. (Photo by Jim Hopkins)
The often-quoted life lesson, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," is a nice philosophy, but it's a creed that's a bear to put into practice.
View more articles in:
For Bellmont wrestling, it's a way of life. The Braves were physically humbled by a talent-reeking state championship Perry Meridian team, 69-3, three weeks ago, and on their home mat. That same day they knocked off state-ranked, and state-invited Bloomington South, 45-29.
The success and failures are just learning tools. The next match is the important one.
If there is a program in the state that has a tougher challenge, year after year ... well, there isn't. They take some brutal beatings, and their wrestlers face some of the best-trained and physically gifted athletes in Indiana.
"It's not a lot of fun," stated Bellmont's undersized heavyweight Drew Butler, who yields 50-80 pounds, strength and maturity in most every match out. But he has 10 victories this year.
That kind of fierce, competitive crush has helped Bellmont build one of the top winning legacies in the state. The Braves will go after sectional championship No. 39 Saturday at Jay County, just one year after a very tough Adams Central squad put an end to a 22-year title streak with a perfect 6-0 wrestle-back round. The Jets won by 40, adding that tourney title to its Class A state championship.
It took that kind of team to stop the Bellmont train.
"All streaks come to an end. Adams Central deserved it," stated Bellmont coach Brent Faurote, in the chair for those 22-straight titles.
Adams Central has five top seeds Saturday, including returning champs Derek Ellinger at 138 and Kaine Luginbill, who jumps a class just for the post-season, to 170 pounds. Sophomore Hunter Bates at 132, junior Luke Liter at 145 (down from 152 last year), and senior Joe Fuelling at 220 are the other No. 1 seeds.
"We were pretty happy with the way the seeds worked out," stated Adams Central assistant coach Tony Currie.
"Now we have to get to work and put ourselves in position to win some tough matches."
Bellmont has one returning champ in junior Trevor Gray, up three classes to 126 this year, where he is seeded No. 1. Sophomore Mason Mendez at 106 and senior Brock Braun at 152 are the other top Bellmont seeds.
But the Braves, who dominated both Adams Central and South Adams in dual meets this year, have seven No. 2 seeds, including NHC champs Diego Hutker at 132, and frosh sensation and NHC titlest Bryce Baumgartner at 160. Both seemed to adjust well to championship status Wednesday night at New Haven.
Also seeded second for the Braves are: Daniel Gunsett at 120, Jon Becker at 113, sophomore Carter Friedt at 195, senior Logan Neher at 145, and senior Fletcher Shaneyfelt at 220 pounds. Neher had to default after a tooth was loosened in his semi-final bout Wednesday. He's expected to be ready Saturday.
South Adams has returning champs Sawyer Miller, a two-time state placer seeking his third sectional title in three attempts, and senior Klayton Hinshaw, who bumps up a weight to 182 this season.
What the Starfires don't have is three runners-up from last year who failed to answer the bell for first year coach Barry Humble. The veteran coach complained a bit, but then got down to work, finished fifth at the Class A coaches duals, and now has filled four empty spots to bring a solid club to the Jay meet.
Senior Andrew Beachey, still getting strength back in a broken thumb, is seeded second at heavyweight for the Stars. Matt Nussbaum at 138, ACAC champ Boaz Marbach at 145, and senior Kyle Kilsby at 220 are all seeded third. At 170, Gage Conner is seeded fourth.