Saturday's Northeast Hoosier Conference wrestling tournament at DeKalb will likely come down to No. 12-ranked Carroll and No. 13-ranked East Noble. Yes, you read that sentence correctly: inconspicuous by its absence is Bellmont, a program that has either won, or placed second, in every single NHC tournament in the 20-plus year history of the league
The Braves are in rebuilding mode and should be back in contention next year. So it is with even more urgency that Carroll and East Noble grapple for a title this Saturday. The meet begins at 9 a.m.
“It's going to be a great meet. I'm thinking 5 or 10 points either way,” said Carroll coach Scott Raypole last Saturday at the Concordia Invitational. “Until the seedings are out, you never really know. And then, the kids still have to go out there and wrestle.”
How great could it be?
It will be hard to top the teams' dual meet back on December 4. Carroll erased a 30-10 deficit with pins in the final matches to win 34-30.
East Noble has four top seeds and is led by Garrett Pepple (27-0 and ranked No. 7 in the state at 106) and Connor Knapp (also 27-0 and No. 4 at 113). Also gaining top seeds are Sterling Lutter (25-2 at 120) and Drake Demuyt (26-3 at 285).
Carroll has five top seeds, highlighted by Riley Lefever, 30-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state at 170 but is seeded No.1 at 182. Also leading the Chargers are seniors Spencer Malcolm (30-2 at 160) and Steven Cardenas (26-2 at 126). It was Malcolm's pin that started the rally back on December 4.
“We were fourth last year but we have a lot of guys back,” Malcolm said. “We are a year older, stronger, tougher. I like our chances (at a title) if we stay healthy.”
Carroll senior Mitch McClure (seeded No. 3 at 132) says it's not all about the top seeded wrestlers.
“We need every point we can get,” McClure said. “We need pins, especially where we are capable of getting pins. But we also need guys to wrestle their best and if that's getting third, then get third.”
Other top wrestlers in the conference include Bellmont's Brad Busse (21-2 and ranked No. 6 at 182 but is seeded No. 1 at 195) and DeKalb's Zach Krumlauf (28-0, ranked No. 4 at 132) and Connor Brummett (21-2, ranked No. 14 at 152).