Bellmont has won the Mishawaka Wrestling Invitational 14 times, more than any other school, and the last Braves' win came in 2003.
That's one winless streak that Bellmont would like to end.
"It's wide open. There are five or six teams with a legitimate chance. Whoever places the most, pops the most into the finals will win the tourney," stated Bellmont coach Brent Faurote.
"It's much more wide open than in past years when everyone was battling for second place."
Host Mishawaka has won the meet the past two years, but losing 10 wrestlers to graduation has taken its toll. Bellmont was fourth last year.
But that does not disqualify the Cavemen from the No. 4 Cavemen from the championship discussion. They have eight seeded wrestlers in the field as does No. 8 Penn, while No. 5 Merrillville, second last year to the hosts, has seven seeds. No. 10 Bellmont and No. 16 Lawrence North both have six seeds and Columbus East has seven.
The 32-team Al Smith Classic begins at about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday and wrestling will continue until four remain in the winner's bracket and four in the wrestlebacks for the 9 a.m. Thursday semi-final session. Mishawaka officials are aiming at a 1:30 p.m. championship round Thursday afternoon.
"We need at least eight guys place to win, and pop a couple in the finals," said Faurote, whose Braves were second to Mishawaka in 2008.
"If our guys wrestle to their seeds, and that means getting Ryley (Hankenson) in the finals at 171, then (top seeds) Thatcher at 215 and Daniel Meyer at heavyweight make it, and Brooks (Faurote, seeded third) is certainly capable, then we have our shot. But we still need four other guys to place," said the 23rd year coach.
The Braves have remained in the hunt since a sixth-place finish in 2004, finishing in the top four every year to date. This will be the 30th year that Bellmont has been in the Mishawaka Tourney.
"Wrestling up to your seed at Mishawaka ... well, there is no guarantee. Every year there are kids who are seeded high and don't make it at all. It's a great tourney, a great test for this time of year," said the BHS coach.
The Braves have six seeds in the field. Senior John Mahlan, 15-2 at 160 pounds, is seeded fifth. Will Busse, 10-4 at 152, is seeded eighth, which means he is in the same quarter-bracket with top seed Cam Matteson of Elkhart Memorial.
Faurote finished third at 135 a year ago, defeating Bradley Wartman of Lake Central, the current top seed at 140 who finished fifth at state last year. Lawrence North's Matt Rattay, seventh at state last year, is seeded second at 140.
Thatcher, the 189-pound Mishawaka champ last year, earned his top seed with his unbeaten record to go with his seventh place finish at state. He's actually rated fourth in the Indianamat.com rankings to the third of second-seeded Taylor Grub of Prairie Heights. Third seed David Reagan of Penn and fourth-seeded Jack Seaman of Munster are rated seventh and eighth in the state respectively. Jayden Clark of Lake Central, rated No. 16 in the state, is the eighth seed.
Meyer is unbeaten and finished fourth last year at Mishawaka as well as at the state finals, earning his top seed. Eric Forrest of Jimtown (10-1) is seeded second. Tenth-rated Eric Thigpen of Lake Central (14-1) is the third seed.
Hannkenson is 18-0 and has been dominant thus far for the Braves at 171. Two-time Mishawaka winner and defeding state champ Stein is the top seed. Also on Ryley's side is 12th-rated Ashton Brierly (19-1) of Columbus East. Unbeaten and 14th-rated Joe Peco of Hobart is seeded fourth.
Chesterton's Anthony Quiroz, the defending Smith champion at 160, is seeded tops despite his 0-0 record. He was a state runner-up in 2009. Alex Stuart of LaPorte (16-1) is rated No. 16 and is the fourth seed. Michael Taylor of Lake Centeral is the third seed and is rated 14th. Second-seeded Sean Mappes of Center Grove is seeded second and is rated No. 9.
Tenth-rated Spencer Hays of Center Grove is the second seed at 152. Busse is set to face 8-13 Skylar Stevens of Goshen and then would llikely meet 14-3 Jeff Koberstein of Princeton.
Kyle Ayersman of Lake Central, the 112-pound state champ last year, was second at Mishawaka but is the top seed this year at 119, as well as the top-rated wrestler. Bobby Keuneke of Bellmont goes against second-seeded and fifth-rated Robert Boston of Lawrence North.
Mishawaka's Layton Binion at 125 is the only top seed for the hosts. Unbeaten Taylor Wisler at 130 is a second seed.
Top-seeded frosh Nathan Boston of Lawrence North is also rated No. 1 in the state at 103 pounds. No. 16 rated Michael Garza of Merrillville is the fifth seed. Secondn-seeded Santao Marciano of Munster is rated No. 14 at 103. Jordan Richards of Bellmont goes against 3-4 Jerome Boyd of South Bend Adams.
Warsaw's Jarred Brooks took the 103-pound Smith title last year and was fifth at state, and he takes the top spot at 112 pounds. He's rated fourth while second-seeded Danny Hamm of Prairie Heights is No. 15. Fifth-seeded Anthony Schoettle of Center Grove is rated No. 13. Aureila Medina of Munster is rated No. 12th and seeded third. Alex Sparks of Lawrence North is seeded sixth and rated 14th. Bellmont's Jacob Girod will meet 3-9 Max Lutz of Michigan City.
At 125, Bellmont's Blake Adams goes against Center Grove's 9-6 Tory Willsey, with the winner likely taking on No. 2 seed (10th-rated) Nick Crume of Jimtown. Binion is rated No. 3 in the state, Princeton's Alex Griesemer No. 13, and Tyler Chapple of Penn No. 14.
Travis Barroquillo (26-0) of Prairie Heights is the top seed (3rd rated) at 130, and will face Bellmont's Willie Mahlan in the opener. Wisler is rated fourth and Zach Reiker of Columbus East 11th. Collen Crume of Jimtown (11-0) is rated eighth and seeded third, and Joran Johnson of Lawrence North is seeded fourth and rated ninth. Al Padilla of Merrillville is seeded fifth and rated 12th in one of the strong classes.
Penn veteran Alex Gregory is the top seed at 135 and is top-ranked at 130. Dewey Melcher of Bellmont will face third-seed Steven Rieker of Columbus East, rated 11th at 130. Chris Katsaforos of Chesterton is seeded fourth and rated 11th at 135. Second-seeded Kenny Hughes of Lowell is rated No. 16 in the state.
Bellmont's Anthony Stebing will meet 0-0 Matt Hill of Jimtown at 145. Also in the bracket is 9-2 Sid Logan of Mishawaka, seeded sixth and rated No. 14. Dantrell Goodman of Elkhart Memorial is the top seed (rated 12th), and Grant Anglemeyer of Penn is seeded second and is rated 13th.
At 189, Bellmont's Brad Busse (1-0) goes against 17-1 Ross Hoover of Warsaw, the fourth seed who is rated No. 16 in the state. Goshen's Brandon Dillonbeck is the top seed (9th rated) while Kourtney Berry of Merrillville is second with the fourth rating in the state. Also in the lower bracket are Lawrennce North's Jeremy Haskett (No. 12) and Alex Skipper of South Bend Adams (No. 15).