Shocked? No. Determined? Absolutely!
Just a year ago, Bellmont walked out of the Memorial Coliseum with four semistate champions. After the first round Saturday at Jay County's Regional, Bellmont had just three wrestlers remaining in the tourney.
Though the Braves were in the midst of a sub-standard year, there were signs and flashes throughout the season, such as the win over Muncie South and the scare that the Braves put into highly-ranked Mishawaka, that this was indeed a Bellmont team that was making progress.
Then, inexplicably, the Braves go 3-6 in the first round of regional.
"Honestly, coming in I thought we could advance anywhere from four to six. That's just the way we are this year. In other years, I wouldn't say that. But this was disappointing," said Bellmont coach Brent Faurote after the long day.
There were highlights, such as Brad Busse's regional title defense, and the performance of the Braves' other two placers, Daniel Gunsett and Trevor Gray.
But, overall, the Braves looked much like teams they had sent reeling in tournaments of the past. It just seemed that some of the wrestlers were ready for the season to be over.
"Am I shocked? No, not with this group. That's where we are right now. We've got several mountains to climb for next year and they know it. Either the kids in the room now are going to do it, or we've got young kids that are going to come in and go around them," said a stern Faurote.
"There's going to be a group of 14 kids that are going to come out and wrestle strong next year."
Of that, there is no doubt.
There were many impressive showings at Jay, with Starfire LJ Moser's 120-pound title win over Yorktown's top-rated Schuyler Phillips leading the way. Adams Central's Cody Walburn continued his domination with a 10-0 win in the 126-pound title match. Another aggressive start by Busse meant another win over Central's ailing Ben Pfister at 182. SA's Sawyer Miller just kept on marching.
Yorktown took five titles and it definitely looks like Coach McCormick has enough quality to finish in the top five or better in the state tourney. Perry Meridian, however, looks to have too much quality to be challenged. Of course, the field sometimes makes it tough on favorites.
Moser's win over Phillips, a state runner-up last year, was impressive. He took the match to Phillips, who really showed little offense, but a solid defense, playing the boundary line to get out of trouble time and again. Moser, still unbeaten, finally got his takedown and won the match.
"It was by far my biggest win," said Moser, who now feels he has the formula to stop Phillips after losing to him in three previous regionals. "Hopefully, I can win semistate and get a good draw at state."
Walburn knows that things will get tougher from here. "There are no more slouches this week," said Walburn.
"I'd like to get to the finals and see what I can do with Nick Krume (Jimtown). Not that I can't beat him, but he'll be my strongest opponent."
Gunsett's had a solid freshman year and was in a strong class this year, led by Miller.
"I figured I'd go to semistate," stated Gunsett.
Where did he get that? "My dad," he answered, referring to Paul Gunsett, the former BHS state champ and Faurote's right hand man.
Busse wants another semistate title. "I want to set myself up for state, so I can win those first two matches and finish in the top four," said Busse.
Who can stop him? "There's no one I can't handle. Pfister is one of the tougher kids," said Busse.
Confidence can't hurt!
Adams Central will take seven wrestlers to semistate and South Adams six in a continuation of their solid campaigns.
Semistate is the real test.