With four No. 1 seeds, Leo enters Saturday's New Haven Sectional with a legitimate chance at the team title. To anyone outside of the Lions' program, this comes as a huge surprise. But that's not the case in the Lions' Den, or wrestling room, according to coach Josh Dommer.
“I guess we're kind of a surprise,” Dommer said. “But we had a pretty good year last year and had a lot of good wrestlers back. We thought it would be a pretty good year for us but until you get out there and wrestle, you don't know for sure.”
It's safe to say that Dommer, his wrestlers and the rest of the area knows for sure that the Lions' program is legit. Saturday the Lions will be battling traditional powers Snider and New Haven for the championship.
Wrestling begins at 8:30 a.m. The top four placers in each weight class will advance to next Saturday's Carroll Regional. Team scores will be kept in the same manner as in year's previous. But, there will be no team dual tournament next week for sectional team winners. Team scores will be kept throughout the state meet series with state champion crowned in Indianapolis at the IHSAA finals on Feb. 15-16.
Leo not only has outstanding wrestlers (four No. 1 seeds), but also has depth with three No. 2 seeds, one No. 3 and one No. 4 seed. New Haven has four No. 1's, but only one No. 2 and three No. 3s. Snider has two No. 1's, two No. 2's and three No. 3's.
The respect in the seedings appreciated by Dommer, but he says the Lions are not taking it for granted.
“Snider, they are finally healthy,” Dommer said. “You can't really look at their early season results; they are a much better team now. And New Haven? They beat us twice, but it was really close. In a dual, it was 7-7 and they won on bonus points and in a tournament, they beat us by eight.”
But what about Leo?
The Lions, who wrestled out of the Carroll Sectional last year, did advance four wrestlers to the state meet. But, three of them were seniors; only Nolan Wilson (220) returned. Even Dommer wasn't exactly sure what he had.
“We had great leadership last year and I wasn't sure who would step into that role,” Dommer said. “But Aaron (Eicher) has done it. He works really hard, year-round. He's a great presence in the room, competing with everyone we put him against. He wrestles our heavyweight, he challenges Nolan. It doesn't matter who he's against, he competes.”
Eicher, a junior, is 24-4 at 152 and seeded No. 1 Saturday. Wilson is another No. 1 seed and is 27-0 at 220. The other top seeds for Leo are Eddie Loraine (25-3) at 106 and Isaac Eicher (21-6) at 132.
But the Lions' strength doesn't end with their top seeds, said Dommer. A few No. 2 seeds have been crucial to the team's success as well.
“David Neuhouser is a great story,” Dommer said of 160-pounder who is 23-5. “He's wrestled for years but it's his first year on the varsity. He's a senior and once he had the chance to shine, he really took advantage of it. His confidence is off the charts.”
New Haven's top seeds are: Owen Doster (26-7) at 113, Reese Sieger (29-2) at 138, Rashad Jackson-Tatum (21-13) 160 and Luis Chacon (25-8) at 170.
Snider's top seeds are: Bobby Humphrey (18-3) at 126 and Ruben Holcomb (17-3) at 285.
The other top seeds are: Woodlan's Shaun Snyder (21-2) at 120, Huntington North's Kyle Jolas (145), Homestead's David Strzelecki (19-7) at 182 and Bishop Luers' Everett Green (30-3) at 195.