"There's going to be a good team race Saturday at the NHC, but it will be East Noble and Carroll. We're going to have to wrestle well to get third," stated Bellmont wrestling coach Brent Faurote, stating the unthinkable in years past.
Bellmont, which has dominated NHC wrestling, and NEIAC wrestling before that, will not have a part of an conference wrestling championship for the first time in 23 years Saturday after the dust settles at DeKalb High School.
"East Noble has a very good team and Carroll is very good. Both have wins over us. It's a very loaded conference," said Faurote, who have one No. 1 seed and one returning champ in senior Brad Busse.
Bellmont last came up short in a conference situation in 1990, when East Noble visited Bellmont for the NHC Tournament and took the crown away from the Braves. Soon after that, the NHC added the dual meet portion of the schedule to the championship formula, and only one time over the following 22 years did Bellmont lose a dual meet, and that to Columbia City. The Braves added the tourney title that year to share the crown. The second and dual meet wrestling losses by the Braves, in the history of the NHC, happened this year.
The Braves, losers of 11 starters through graduation and with only four seniors, have had their first-ever rebuilding year, but it hasn't been all bad. The Braves went 16-8, finished 10th at at the Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka, and took out invited 2A state finalist Muncie South 51-27 in the Bellmont Super Dual. The Braves even garnered a vote in the recent Top 20 (overall) Coaches Wrestling Poll.
And to get Busse, the 182-pound champ last year, a top seed, Faurote shifted the senior up to 195 pounds. Brock Braun is second seed at 132 pounds for BHS. Frosh Danny Baker at 120, junior Trevor Love at 152, and junior Diego Hutker at 126 took No. 3 seeds. Trevor Gray at 106, frosh Daniel Gunsett at 113 and senior Jacob Bergman at 145 pounds were given fourth seeds.
"Going to 195 pounds gives Busse the best chance to win a title. Carroll moved Riley Lefever up to 182 from 170, flipflopped their wrestlers, to give them the best chance at winning the tournament. Busse would've been seeded fourth at that weight, but won enough matches at 195 early in the season to get that top seed," explained Faurote.
Love clipped Logan Neher in a wrestle-off for the 152-pound slot on Thursday. Frosh Jordan Amacker won the 138-pound slot for the NHC tourney.
Bellmont sophomore Brett Baker is unseeded at 160 and drew into the bottom bracket vs. third seed Rashad Jackson-Tatum of New Haven. Faurote decided not to seed Baker and is happy with his draw, going away from top seed Spencer Malcom, 30-2, of Carroll.
The Braves will use frosh Drew Butler at 182, and junior Fletcher Shaneyfelt will go up from 195 to 220, where he wrestled most of the season. Busse and Shaneyfelt will drop back down a weight for the Jan. 26 sectional at Jay County.
Lefever, ranked No. 2 at 170-pounds, is 30-0 and Carroll's lone returning champ. East Noble has two returning champs in Connor Knapp (rated fifth), up one class to 113, and heavyweight Drake DeMuyt.