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"They are all one match away from being a state placer. It's a neat thing to experience the parade of champions and wrestle Friday night, but they are all one match away from wrestling all day on Saturday, and we want that experience for as many as we can," stated Bellmont coach Brent Faurote at the BHS wrestling room Tuesday afternoon.
It looked like a typical day of practice with over 30 kids drilling. The upset win over Yorktown last Wednesday kept the doors open for all the BHS wrestlers. "It's fun to have a full room today, with these guys still training hard and the jayvees still around. It's a good team effort in the room and it's nice to have a full room at this point of the season," said the coach.
A few of the Bellmont wrestlers, such as 160-pound senior John Mahlan, have returning state placers from a year ago. Mahlan's foe is a runner-up from 2010.
"Anything can happen. I told the kids that returning placers loose every year on Friday night. There's no reason a few of our kids can't be one of those kids who takes out a placer.
"Brooks has a returning placer, but I told him, 'Brooks, you could have been a state placer with a different draw at semistate.' We have to wrestle with confidence," said Faurote.
Bobby Keuneke at 119 also has a big challenge, but he came through it last week with two huge wins to put himself in this position.
Travis Thatcher was seventh last year and Daniel Meyer fourth. "They have to be ready Friday. We don't want to overlook anybody. If they get in on Saturday, I think both have a shot to make it under the lights" for the finals, said the coach.
Adams Central has three wrestlers also, and they have tough draws. However, they had to win big matches to get through to that point, and could certainly do it again.
South Adams' junior Todd Batt made it out as a fourth placer, but appears to have a decent draw with a kid that has lost six matches.
Mahlan has a game plan. "I've been working on some funky moves. I'll have to hit a throw, a Myers' roll or something because I'm going against a strong kid," explained Mahlan, who is determined to get his name on that back wall at Bellmont.
Ben Baker comes in as a fourth-placer at 189. However, he came into semistate as a fourth-placer from regional. "I expect to win," stated Baker, who looked good in all four matches last weekend.
"The tough part of this season is this wrestling room, taking on (Brad) Busse, and (Isaac) Birch all the time, and wrestling with Thatcher and Meyer. This is brutal," said Baker.
Ryley Hankenson has lost only two one-point matches this year. "It tells me I can compete with anyone in the state," said Hankenson, who will face a strong challenge in the quarter-finals if he wins Friday.
"There are four really tough guys in that class, so he'd have to beat one of them some time," said Faurote. Jackson Bratcher and returning state champ Drake Stein are in the other bracket.
"I want to wrestle under the lights," said Thatcher.
"It's a whole different group of kids," notes Meyer on his challenge.
"I've learned these last two years to wrestle the big and strong kids, and get leverage on them," said Meyer, who felt he had a shot to go unbeaten going into the tourney, then made it happen.
He wants to be in that last match. "Under the lights, going to the title. That's my ultimate goal."