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PREP WRESTLING PREVIEW: Wrestlers enter 2020-21 season facing uncertainty | Sports

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PREP WRESTLING PREVIEW: Wrestlers enter 2020-21 season facing uncertainty | Sports

All aspects of life, including sports, have been affected this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. As positive case numbers continue to rise throughout the country, doubt over whether completing the winter high school sports season increases as well.

The top sport most people are worried about doing during a pandemic is wrestling. In Indiana, the 2019-20 state wrestling tournament ended less than three weeks before the shutdowns began. Now, as the 2020-21 season gets set to start, uncertainty over completing the season hangs over everyone’s heads.

Multiple invitationals have already been canceled this fall, including the Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka from Dec. 29-30. Goshen’s super duals invite scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been canceled as well, citing virus concerns.

If wrestling does happen this year, expect a couple Northern Lakes Conference teams to make some noise. The top team in the conference the last couple of seasons has been Northridge, who won NLC, sectional and regional team championships last season. A disappointing performance at semistate, though, led to only one Raider — Ibrahim Khaoucha — advancing to the state meet.

Khaoucha is back this season for Northridge at the 195-pound weight class. The Raiders had 10 wrestlers advance to semistate a season ago, and six of them — Justin Puckett (120 pounds), Jasper Graber (126), Collin Ruemler (132), Logan Hooley (138), Andrew Lockwood (182) and Khaoucha (195) — are back for this season. This has Northridge coach Eric Highley excited about the upcoming season.

“In spite of all the craziness that is going on right now, we are excited for our opportunity to compete,” Highley said. “We return several upper classmen who will lead us this season.”

Elsewhere in the NLC, Wawasee returns state qualifier Jace Alexander (126 pounds). Alexander advanced out of the East Chicago semistate last year before falling in the first round of the state tournament. This will be Alexander’s final year with the Warriors.

Sophomore Logan Stuckman returns for Wawasee as well. He won the 106-pound NLC championship last season, as well as sectional and regional championships at the weight class. The Warriors won the team sectional championship at Plymouth.

“We feel great about our team both from a varsity lineup, and overall program development perspective,” Wawasee coach Frank Bumgardner said. “With the ever-changing landscape, there are going to be a lot of kids who will get an opportunity to compete in the varsity lineup this year. We have had a great pre-season to this point and are excited to get back and compete.”

Three total wrestlers from the area advanced to the state tournament last year, with Khaoucha being the only returner. NorthWood’s Jake Lone finished second at the 182-pound weight class, while Goshen’s Jose Rosales lost in the first round at 285 pounds. Both NorthWood and Goshen are expected to be competitive in the NLC this season.


CONCORD MINUTEMEN

Head Coach: Brian Woodworth, 4th season (41-31 at school)

Assistant Coaches: Brian Pfeil

Last season’s record: 14-12 (1-6 NLC)

Returning letterwinners: Seniors: Andrew Bondurant, Cameron Galvan; Juniors: Adrian Martinez, Will Odhiambo; Sophomores: Chad Kennedy, Armen Koltookian

Other varsity players: Senior: Erik Yeater; Junior: Jayden Ochoa; Sophomore: Ty Richardson

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “Should be a solid and competitive team. Let’s hope we have a complete season.”

FAIRFIELD FALCONS

Head Coach: Kyle Marsh, 5th season

Assistant Coaches: Gene Willard, Travis Miller, Jake Rupright

Last season’s record: 8-18 (3-7 NECC)

Returning letterwinners: Senior: Ryan Keller; Junior: Hayden Yoder, Jonathan Estep; Sophomores: Brandon Kauffman, Jordan Templeman, Colton Johnson

Other varsity players: Senior: Mike Stout; Junior: Jason Massaro

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “We are going to be pretty young as a varsity unit. Just hoping to stay healthy and improve each week.”

GOSHEN REDHAWKS

Head Coach: Jim Pickard, 28th season (446-147-2 at school, 461-150-2 overall)

Assistant Coaches: Matt Katzer, Travis Pickard, Troy Pickard, Josh Abbs, Carl Creech, Miguel Navarro, Christian Santos

Last season’s record: 16-11 (4-3 NLC)

Returning letterwinners: Vicente Eckman, Eddy Flores, Zander Moles, Juan Collazo, Mitch Daniels, Alberto Sanchez, Armon Hairopoulos

Other varsity players: 50 total wrestlers on the roster

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “We are dealing with the season the best we can. It’s a changing world daily and we don’t know what to expect from day to day. We hope to get in as much of the season as we can. Our biggest hurdle will be keeping kids in school related to contact tracing.”

LAKELAND LAKERS

Head Coach: Kevin Watkins

Assistant Coaches: Todd McCann, Donnie Waldrun

Returning letterwinners: Senior: Kyle Terry, Miguel Delapaz; Junior: Ben Miller; Sophomores: Gabe Miller, Keegan Schlabach

Other varsity players: Senior: Trenton Harker; Sophomores: Brady Schiffli, Ben Martin, Kham Melavon, Jepeth Domingues; Freshmen: Chris Domingues, Jayden Marshall, Jimmy Channey, Noah Owsley

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “We have some veteran grapplers that we expect some big things from this season and some young talent to help them out. Looking forward to the season.”

NORTHRIDGE RAIDERS

Head Coach: Eric Highley, 9th season (138-34 overall)

Assistant Coaches: Jeff Howe, Mike Price, Shawn Puckett, Grant Martsolf, Chad Eppley, Trenton Bixler

Last season’s record: 26-0, 7-0 NLC, Sectional, Regional champions

Returning letterwinners: Jay Chappell, Ethan Baker, Justin Puckett, Jasper Graber, Collin Ruemler, Logan Hooley, Brady Snyder, Jonathan Morales, Andrew Lockwood, Ibrahim Khaoucha, Conner Cripe

Other varsity players: Beau Brabender, JP Hill, Jaiden Medina, Cael Arroyo, Ridge Howard, Ricky Lloyd, Dominic Crowder, Terry Bloss

NORTHWOOD PANTHERS

Head Coach: Nate Andrews, 3rd season

Assistant Coaches: Rod Lone

Last season’s record: 13-5 (4-3 NLC)

Returning letterwinners: Seniors: Alex Walker, Hunter Lechlitner, Blake Herr; Juniors: Sam Schultz, Jesse Mullet, Trey Tobias, Isaac Benjamin; Sophomores: Ryan Miller, Troy Cutter, Kaden Lone

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “This will be interesting to say the least. We hope to have the opportunity to work together for these kids to accomplish their goals.”

WAWASEE WARRIORS

Head Coach: Frank Bumgardner, 6th season

Assistant Coaches: Jamie Salazar, Dillon Whitacre, Kevin Taylor, Trevor Brown, Drew Graber, Garrett Stuckman, Raymon Torres

Last season’s record: 18-6 (5-2 NLC)

Returning letterwinners: Seniors: Jace Alexander, Brenden Dilley; Juniors: Dylan Tom, Tim Shortt; Sophomores: Logan Stuckman, Hunter Miller, Gavin Malone

WEST NOBLE CHARGERS

Head Coach: Tony Marsh, 11th season

Assistant Coaches: Wes Weimer

Returning letterwinners: Seniors: Landon Roy, Jose Mata, Jeramyah James, Gustavo Taylor, Jose Cervantes, Brian Flores; Juniors: PJ Bradley, Gage Wroblewski; Sophomore: Abram Olvera

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “We just want to be healthy and have a good season.”

WESTVIEW WARRIORS

Head Coach: David Schragg, 2nd season

Assistant Coaches: Austin Bontrager

Returning letterwinners: Keegan Kohlheim, Aiden Kohlheim, Doug Calvillo, Anthony Stevens

Other varsity players: Chandler Pushman

Coach’s comments on the upcoming season: “The boys have a good season coming up and we are all looking forward to it. The boys have a great mind set and ready to get the season underway.”