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By JIM HOPKINS
Bellmont wrestling coach Brent Faurote probably doesn't need to attend the Al Smith Invitational seeding meeting Wednesday.
"I know what's going to happen. We're going to have one seed, (Brad) Busse. Other than that, nobody. We don't have records, and don't have anybody returning," summed up the coach, who is going through a year to forget.
Well, Brock Braun at 132 or Daniel Gunsett at 113 could get a seed. But in a field of 32 teams ... your reputation has to more than go ahead of you to get on the seeding board at one of the state's toughest individual tourneys.
That's just a sign of the times, like Adams Central knocking off the Braves 41-26 Tuesday, and South Adams, without one of their toughest wrestlers, taking Bellmont to the last match Thursday.
Okay, Adams Central is rated No. 1 going into today's "invitational" state tourney at Westfield. But don't confuse this Adams Central team with some of their best ever. And South Adams ... two years ago went 27-0 and had a rock-solid team.
The Braves have won the Smith Tourney 14 times, more than anyone else, and they place second or third routinely. That's not going to happen this year. "We just want to get as many guys through that first day as we possibly can," said Faurote.
Bellmont has dodged the numbers game in the past as returning jayvee wrestlers have stepped up and filled the void, answering the call. The numbers this year: four seniors, four sophomores and 12 freshmen, then 11 starting jobs to fill.
Another strong freshman class next year will bring needed talent into the room, and the Braves will be better. But a hole like this one isn't going to be easy to escape. There is going to be a great deal of hard work done by a bunch of young men to make this go away.
Bellmont backers have to be pleased with the freshman Gunsett, who clinched the win Thursday, going up a weight class.
"It's the biggest win of his young career, and here's a kid who just did not have much success in youth wrestling, but he stuck to it," praised Faurote.
Kudos to Doug Schultz and Tony Currie digging Adams Central out of an abyss. Finally, the Jets have the numbers and a bunch of solid wrestlers. They may very well win the first annual Class A coaches state tourney even though this is not their best team as far as pure talent. Had a class tourney started years ago, like it should have, Adams Central and South Adams would have some big hardware on the shelves at their schools.
"This was exciting for the kids, something they'll always remember, breaking the streak," said a low-key Schultz Tuesday at Bellmont as the 22-year losing skid to BHS evaporated.
You had to like the way Alex and Isaiah Bollenbacher stepped up for the Jets in the late stages of that meet. Alex needed to rest a separated rib, but instead reported in at 195 against the meanest Bellmont wrestler, Busse, just to keep him from bumping up and taking on his sophomore brother. Isaiah then felled his Bellmont foe to clinch the meet.
"He's got a big heart," praised Alex's teammate, Cody Walburn, after the meet.
"He ends up getting pinned, but I'm proud of him," said coach Schultz, who had ordered Alex to take a knee, and injury default after the whistle. Of course, he ignored that and wrestled.
That kind of championship attitude could be the difference Saturday at Westfield.
Big Time Championship
Billy Baker and Grant Melcher are becoming experts on championships. The former Bellmont All-Staters, who helped the Braves to the 2008 state football title, were at the big match Tuesday and talked about Marian University's national NAIA title they were a part of.
Their coach predicted a title when recruiting several Bellmonters. "I wouldn't say it went according to plan," said Baker. "It was an interesting game to say the least. We had the lead for exactly one minute in that game. It was just crazy. It was an awesome win."
The Knights won on a fieldgoal in overtime, after driving down the field.
Melcher is a back-up fullback, used in power situations. "I came in for one important play, that fourth down and three to go in that drive we scored on at the end of the game. Other than that, I did all my special teams," explained Melcher, who expects to be starting fullback or tight end next year.
Melcher and Baker really like head coach Ted Karras. "Rumor has it he signed a two-year contract, but I think in the near future he's going to be gone," said Baker.
Can Marian, which almost made it to the title game last year, be back in 2013?
"It's going to be tough. The biggest factor is losing our quarterback, and, of course, our kicker. At one time, our quarterback had the best completion percentage in all of college football."
"Our QB was awesome," agreed Baker. "We'll lose a couple of big guys on the O-line. That was probably the difference this year over other years, the outstanding play of our quarterback.
"Of course, we get that label as champs, so we're going to get the recruits," pointed out Baker.