Think about it. You’re going to put on an Indiana “state” wrestling tournament, and 24 teams in three classes will get invited. I wouldn’t have to know anything about the rosters - which state placers are coming back, how many starters return, etc. ‑ to come up with a pretty fine tourney.
And, about the second or third team on my mind, after Evansville Mater Dei and Perry Meridian, would be Bellmont, right!
Okay, I live in Decatur, which just happens to be home for some of the most –informed, dedicated and spoiled mat fans in the state. I could be prejudiced … but I’m not.
That’s because I’m a smart guy, at least when it comes to wrestling (and maybe baseball). I know that in 15 of the last 17 years, Bellmont in a one-class dual-team wrestling format, made the final eight in state. The Braves advanced to the final four several times and Bellmont has been state runner-up three times.
NO team did better at getting to the Center Grove Tourney.
In fact, if one scours the IHSAA wrestling website, right at the top of about every worthwhile list … are Mater Dei and Bellmont. BHS has 38 sectional crowns, including 22 straight under 1982 state champ Brent (B.J.) Faurote. Only one team tops those numbers.
Bellmont has 30 regional titles, to the 32 of Mater Dei. Bellmont actually won 16 of 17 Team State Regional tourneys, going 32-1 over that span. Bellmont has won 18 semistate titles, third to Mater Dei and Mishawaka.
Okay, Bellmont did not win a Team State meet after having won three IHSAA State Mat Tourneys in the individual format, one class. This Team Dual Tourney happened to be in an age where coaches were able to manipulate their lineups, using wrestling clubs to attract wrestlers from a large region, sometimes getting kids from out of state, or across the state, to move in and help lead that team to a state crown.
Faurote, and his incredible staff, used only home grown kids, with an occasional son of a former BHS wrestler jumping across county lines. The BHS staff, including the late John Friedt (who will be inducted into the ISWCA Hall of Fame) worked hard to fill every weight class with savvy, tough and well-prepared wrestlers. The state “upset specials” happened too frequently to point out only one.
Faurote could have opened up the Decatur Wrestling Club and recruited state championship teams, but he steadfastly refused. Ironically, one of his best recruits came out of the hallways at Bellmont, hockey-football-baseball standout Brian Hakes in 2012.
Faurote, Bellmont and Decatur did it the right way, year after year after year. Yorktown, which one year had a pair of state placers from Georgia appear for their senior years, did everything it could, including grab a wrestler from another team in January one season, but it could only beat Bellmont one time at regional. The Tigers were heavily favored at least a half-dozen times. One year, the Braves lost by 32 points in November to the Tigers, and made it all up in February.
So, forget Bellmont, and send in invite to Danville, Southmont, Culver Academies, and Muncie South!?!
Really? It must be a joke, right? Muncie South??? Culver? Huh?
“Bellmont not getting invited and Muncie South being there shows some holes in the (new) system of this team state thing,” stated South Adams Coach Eric Myers, whose Starfires, along with Doug Schultz’s Flying Jets, are included in the Class A Field for the Dec. 22 meet at Westfield.
“I like the idea of the tourney being classed. I do not like the idea that everyone doesn’t really get a chance to participate,” he added.
“When we decide state champions in all sports, there’s a sectional and everyone has a shot at it. Because the new tourney goes on invitations, it’ll never have the credibility of the old Team State Tourney. Teams like Merrillville and Crown Point turned down invitations because they’re in the Calumet Super Dual, which has a tougher field than this first coaches team state tourney,” said Faurote, who said a lot of other things as well.
“Our Main Event will be a better tourney than this state invitational,” he added.
“They (the coaches association) had a certain criteria, based on the quality of wrestlers returning to a team. But how many Mater Dei teams lost 7 or 8 wrestlers, then came right back, reloaded and won state. Look how many times we lost 8 or 9 starters, then came right back and went to state, “ pointed out the BHS coach.
“Yeah, we’re down, and we’ll be very young. Talented, but young,” admitted Faurote, who has to replace 612 career wins and 10 starters.
“But what if we had 11 juniors ready to step in and fill those slots? We wouldn’t miss a beat. We really aren’t in that situation, but I’d have liked to have been the one to say, ‘I appreciate the invitation right now, but we’re probably not going to be ready for that situation (in December).’ I would have preferred it to be my choice,” said Faurote.
“Sure, I’m disappointed.”
So, the coaches are going to have a state tourney, and Bellmont is not good enough for consideration!
Don’t send me directions on how to get to Westfield.