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By JIM HOPKINS
MISHAWAKA — Senior Bellmonters Brooks Faurote and Ben Baker battled to championships Thursday at the Al Smith Classic, helping the Braves to an 8-2 final day and a sixth-place finish in one of the toughest high school wrestling tourneys in the nation.
Merrillville, with one champ and 10 placers, took the Mishawaka crown with 194.5 points, beating Elkhart Memorial by 15 points. Center Grove was third, beating Penn's 10 placers. Jimtown took fifth at 149 points and Bellmont, with just four placers, was sixth at 145.
BHS junior Brad Busse bounced back from a semi-final loss to earn his second third-place medal at Mishawaka, and senior Bobby Keuneke took fourth place after earning the consolation final bid with a fall in the wrestlebacks.
Baker scored his first-ever high school tournament win on one of the biggest stages as he pushed around and outlasted Alex Skipper of Elkhart Memorial for a 2-1 win in the title match. Skipper could not fend off Baker without backing up, and that cost him a stalling point in period two.
TOURNEY NOTES: Sean Mappes of Center Grove had four falls and a major to win the 170-pound title, and he garnered the Outstanding Wrestler Award... Al Smith, who coached Mishawaka to the 1991 state crown, was honored prior to the finals for his contribution to Indiana wrestling. He coached 32 seasons and had 451 wins, including seven state champs. There are over 60 former Mishawaka wrestlers who are now coaches after wrestling for Smith ... Freshman Tom Forte of Mishawaka defeated Evan Loe of Peru 12-6 for the 132-pound title. It was his only straight decision in an impressive tourney debut... Penn Coach Brad Harper noted that he had five of his regulars out of the lineup for the tourney... Bellmont moved up one place to sixth on Thursday, despite having only four wrestlers in the field.