Jets favored to halt Bravesâ€™ 22-year sectional streak
A TANGLED WEB WEAVEDâ€”ACâ€™s Cody Walburn (left) tries to maneuver around SAâ€™s Eric Pimentel. Walburn is favored at 126 but Pimentel and Bellmontâ€™s Diego Hutker will look to play spoiler on Saturday. (Photo by Jim Hopkins)
Though Bellmont has a long history—22 years long—of winning the area wrestling sectional, the Braves will need some upsets and a generally great day to challenge favorite Adams Central Saturday at the Jay County Wrestling Sectional.
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Central is fresh off yet another clutch performance as the Jets tucked away the ACAC wrestling tourney crown Saturday, holding off Leo and South Adams. The Jets won the first-ever Class A Coaches Team State Tourney back in December, then ended a 22-year losing skein to the Braves with a convincing dual-meet win at Bellmont.
The Jets come into the tourney with four top seeds to three for South Adams, while Bellmont has only one top seed, 106-pounder Trevor Gray.
"It's been all good so far. The team hasn't let me down yet," stated Adams Central coach Doug Schultz. "I suspect it won't be any different this weekend."
While the Jets have had a highlight reel season, Bellmont has struggled and has hit some low water marks. The Braves finished fourth in last week's NHC meet, and for the first time in 23 years Bellmont did not get a piece of the NHC mat crown.
South Adams has had depth problems this year, but still had a strong campaign and coach Eric Myers has two of his five champions from a year ago back in Sawyer Miller at 113 and LJ Moser at 120. The Starfires should make it a three-team race Saturday.
The Braves came in as solid favorites last year, but very nearly had their streak ended by the Jets, who led by 24 points going into the wrestleback round. The Braves rallied back, survived six lead changes and a storming South Adams squad to win the meet with 228 points to the 222 of AC and 212 of South Adams.
"Adams Central beat us in the dual and they are favored to win. but I don't think we're too far beind them, and South Adams is right there," said BHS coach Brent Faurote.
"One thing is certain, we have to wrestle better than we did Saturday at DeKalb, or it will be a two-team race, and we'll be watching again from the sidelines. We watched a pretty good team race last week but it was Carroll and East Noble."
The Jets have returning champs Cody Walburn at 126 and Ben Pfister at 182. Those two are top seeds, as are Derek Ellinger at 138 and Zac Yoder at 145. Klayton Hinshaw at 170 is a No. 1 for South Adams, joining Miller and Moser.
Defending sectional champ Eric Himmelgarn returns at heavyweight for Jay County and is top seed, along with Kyle Garringer at 195. He won two years ago. Union City has two top seeds in Connor Wyatt at 152, and Kyle Anguiano at 160.
Bellmont's Brad Busse, who lost to Pfister in an overtime battle in last year's sectional, is seeded No. 2 to Pfister this year while 35-1 James Antonoglou of UC is the third seed. Busse defeated Pfister in last year's regional and went on to place seventh in the state.
Schultz feels the pairings help his squad. "Bellmont and SA square off with each other several times early, and that could help us," said Schultz.
Bellmont and South Adams wrestlers will meet five times in the quarter-final round. One team is likely going to have to win most of those matches to stay in the hunt, though there is a true wrestle-back for third place.
South Adams and Central clash only two times early in the meet. Central and Bellmont have a big match in the quarters as third seed Joe Fuelling of AC will meet Cody Fields of Bellmont. Fuelling defeated Fields in the dual meet, but the Bellmont freshman improved and finished second in last week's NHC meet.
The top four wrestlers in each class will advance to the Jay County Regional. The top six will place.