With five of the top 10 teams in the state coaches poll, five of 14 No. 1 rated wrestlers and 29 ranked matmen overall ... Bellmont's "Main Event MMXI" set for Saturday will definitely produce previews of next month's state championships to be settled at Canseco Fieldhouse and Center Grove High School.
Number two and 16-0 Perry Meridian, which hasn't been challenged in a dual this season, heads the field, which includes No. 6 Mishawaka, No. 7 Penn, No. 9 Bellmont and No. 14 Bloomington South, which is rated No. 10 in the coaches poll. Castle, a top-four team last year, was rated as high as No. 14 before dropping out of the polls this week.
Small-school stalwarts Whitko and Fairfield will definitely be put to the test. This is Fairfield's first year in the fray.
Host Bellmont will take on the other four ranked teams, plus Castle, which beat the Braves 28-27 last year in the first meeting between the schools.
There will be no place to hide Saturday.
"The one good thing is we know we're going to get better as a team wrestling this competition," stated Bellmont coach Brent Faurote.
"We'll be in the matches. We have too many horses not to," stated Faurote, whose Braves enter at 17-2. "Against Mishawaka and Penn, we need someone to step up and win a match that they are not suppoed to win. Against Perry, we're going to have to come up with a couple of upsets. They are the most solid team coming in."
The Braves are in a tough spot because 140-pound standout Brooks Faurote, rated as high as fifth, is out until sectional with a broken hand he suffered at the Al Smith Classic last week. That could mean a nine-point swing to the opposing teams if the Braves don't win that class. Sophomore Jacob Bergman will be battling at 140 tomorrow.
"I don't remember ever meeting this many ranked teams in one day, and we're not healthy, but at this point in the season most teams are going through the same problems," noted Faurote.
No one realizes that better than Whitko's first-year coach Frank Bumgardner. The coach has only one senior in the lineup, but he has eight juniors on the team. Unfortunately, six are injured. Veteran Chas Busz at 112 has a broken leg, Austin LeTourneau at 125 has a torn mcl (knee), Austin Striggle found out he has a tumor under a knee. Logan Ison at 215 will miss this meet with an injury and frosh Chris Baker has a rotator cuff tear.
"With teams we have to wrestle and the situation we're in, it's going to be tough to compete. We're just hoping to go to Bellmont and perform well. We're hoping for good things," said Bumgardner.
Faurote feels his club will have good matches because of his strength in the upper weights. Ryley Hankenson is rated No. 5 at 171, newcomer Brad Busse has jumped into varsity life at No. 10 at 189, Travis Thatcher is rated third at 215 and Daniel Meyer is the No. 1 rated heavyweight.
The Braves also have seniors at 145 with Anthony Stebing, at 152 with Will Busse and at 160 with John Mahlan.
Perry Meridian has top-ranked Jared McKinley at 125, unbeaten frosh Cody LeCount (No. 5) at 112, and fifth-rated Kirk Johnson at 152. Eight Falcons are rated.
The Falcons defeated Penn 39-15 early in the season, and also downed No. 10 Lawrence North 41-21. The latter was the closest meet of the season for the Marion County champs.
"Our strength is spread out, so it's hard to get on a roll against us," stated coach Jim Tonte.
"We think we have a pretty good team, but we'll find out Saturday."
Defending state champ Mishawaka has suffered a few injuries this year, and the squad lost 10 starters through graduation. Taylor Wisler is rated No. 4 at 135 and Layten Binion is No. 3 at 125.
"We're going to go to Bellmont and try and compete as best we can,," said Cavemen coach Darrick Snyder. "Are we going to be healthy? No, and we're probably going to sit a couple of guys. The only thing people are going to remember at the end of the season is who won the sectional and who is going to state."
Penn coach Brad Harper was very pleased with his team's win at the Al Smith Classic last week. "We're looking forward to battling those good teams," said Harper.
Alex Gregory, the top-rated 130-pounder, has been going at 135 most of the year. Penn has No. 8 rated Devin Reagan at 215 and No. 12 Grant Anglemyer at 145, a Smith champ.
Castle has top-rated brothers Doug (152) and Chad (160) Welch. Little brother Luke Welch is No. 4 at 119 pounds.
Castle coach Bob Harmon feels this trip will toughen up his young group. "There is no question wrestling at Bellmont last year help prepare us for the end of the season. Traveling six hours there, then facing the competition we did last year, and then traveling six hours back home made us a better team and mentally tougher."
Castle won the Bloomington North Bo Henry Classic with six champs, then took third in the Mooresville Holiday Classic, with four champions.
Bloomington South and coach Royce Deckard will bring in unbeaten and second-ranked senior Jacob Boomsma at 103. Senior Ben Farmer is ranked No. 7 at 145 and junior Sam Horrocks is No. 9 at 152.
Whitko has unbeaten and No. 14 Jordan Gilbert at 119 pounds. Fairfield puts in 23-1 Forrest Glogouski, unranked at 103. Senior Jarad Stump is 15-1 at 145. Alex Hostetler is 22-2 at 171.
Fairfield also has a wrestling oddity: triplets, and at three varying weight classes. All are juniors. Dillon Hinen goes at 135, Dustin Hinen at 152 and Dalton Hinen at heavyweight. It's safe to say they are not identical.
Harper notes he has 100 out for wrestling at Penn. One is senior 112-pounder Sarah Hildebrandt. "My girl might get in there. She's challenging and it's close. Look for her because she might just be in the lineup. She's a beast," said the coach.
They'll be a bunch of those crazy wrestling animals all over Bellmont Saturday.