The streak goes full circle...
"I haven't got any letters, yet," stated Bellmont wrestling coach Brent Faurote, whose Braves had their 22-year stranglehold on area sectional wrestling stopped by a championship Adams Central squad Saturday at Jay County.
That wasn't the case 23 years ago, when Adams Central won its second straight sectional crown. It was Faurote's second year as the young BHS head coach, and he was 0-for-two in the postseason. Bellmont had 16 sectional championships prior to the pair of losses, and had won two state titles under Denny Hays in '87 and '88.
"I got a few (letters) those first couple of years. Everybody was wondering what happened to the program, what's going on. We had a few questionable years after I took over for Hays, but we kept plugging away," said Faurote.
Bellmont and Faurote answered the critics in 1991, and did it in a big way. The streak of 22 straight sectional crowns began with one of the most dominating wins in the school's history as Bellmont took nine individual championships after a 20-0 regular season, then added the Snider Regional title on top of that, and the Braves were third at semi-state.
"Things started running. It was a very strong senior class," said Faurote.
Sectional champs that year for Bellmont were: Doug Baker, Jake Krider, Cory Williams, Jason Fuhrman, Athen Richard, Brian Ashley, Joe Ruble, Jeremy Friedt and Tim Krueckeberg. That's nine titles out of 13 weight classes!
Ashley, Krider and Ruble all went to state, with Ashley garnering a sixth-place finish.
Krider, Jason Hayes, and Ed Wolpert were freshmen on that squad. "Those three were later a big part of that '94 state championship team," pointed out Faurote.
The next year, in 1992, Tim Myers arrived as a freshman, and he was the catalyst for the state run in 1994.
A lot happened between 1991 and that Adams Central wrestle-back run this past Saturday that dethroned the Braves. "I think how things have changed. My daughter (Kaylee) was two years old then, and now she's ready to graduate from college. That puts things into perspective. Things have gone full circle," philosophized Faurote.
There were years when the Braves needed all of their bullets to ward off some excellent teams. The 1999 BHS squad, which finished second in Team State to Mater Dei, almost didn't make it out of sectional as Norwell put up a huge challenge.
"Think we won that year by 2.5 points. South Adams has had a couple of runner-up teams, and Adams Central challenged us several times," said Faurote, whose Braves had to charge from behind last year to nip Doug Schultz's Jets by six points.
The year before the 1991 run to glory, the Braves went 13-7. This year, a very young, inexperienced and depthless Bellmont team went 16-8.
"The schedule was a heckuva lot different in those days," admitted Faurote, who has made the Bellmont slate one of the meanest in Indiana.
This season marks the first year in 18 that there is no dual-team tourney, and that means no Wednesday night tourney to prepare for.
"Obviously, we wouldn't have been preparing for regional. Adams Central would be. But it does seem weird that we're not preparing for a team regional. It's different," said the coach, who ended practice unusually early Tuesday, by about 4:45. "We had a lot of matches, and we'll probably do that tomorrow," he noted.
The Braves, with four freshmen in the sectional lineup and two moving onto regional, will have some experience returning next year and will have a strong freshman class again. But nothing is guaranteed. "Adams Central loses some good seniors, but they have a lot coming back. They're not going to want to hand it back over," said the BHS coach.
The streak of 22 straight was second to the 36, now 37, of Mater Dei. Perry Meridian is now second at 14 straight sectional wins. Bellmont has 38 overall sectional titles, the third most in state history.
"And that's in 75 tourneys, and I've coached in 25 of them, that's one-third," said Faurote, trying to grasp it.
He thought hard before deciding to return this year as head coach. He didn't want another coach to have to go through what he did when his first year or two was not the best. He has made no decision for next year, but is not exactly leaning towards throwing in the towel.
For a guy who IS Bellmont wrestling, who has guided the program through an incredible string of great team performances and built one of the classiest athletic programs in the state ... it's going to be tough to walk through that wrestling room door and put down the whistle.
"It's tough to see this streak end, but streaks come and go. Maybe we'll start another one next year," said Faurote.