Carroll loaded for regional wrestling championship repeat New Haven, Garrett, Homestead, Dwenger in contention.

Carroll is once again flexing its postseason wrestling muscles.

That’s bad news for the rest of the competition entering Saturday’s Carroll Regional.

The Chargers are the defending regional champs and, with all 14 wrestlers in the field thanks to a dominant sectional-winning effort, looking to sustain that success.

“It was nice to win the sectional and it was exciting to get 14 guys through,” coach Tim Sloffer said. “As far as the regional, we want to win as many matches in that first round as possible. It’s an elimination round. Win and you move on to semistate. Lose and you’re done. Our guys are aware of that.

“We’re trying to fine tune some things and make sure we’re ready to go.”

Carroll comes in with six sectional champions, led by 145-pound Joel Arney (40-2) and heavyweight Jessie Lawson (39-3). Both reached 100 career victories last Saturday,

The other Carroll sectional winners are 113 Joe Just (27-7), 120 Owen Krider (30-13), 195 Zach Thomas (22-4) and 220 Tyler McKeever (33-7).

It’s been four years since the Chargers last advanced all 14 wrestlers to the regional level. They’ve never advanced everybody to the semistate, and given the caliber of the regional competition, that borders on a mission-impossible goal.

Still …

“We’d love to get all 14 through again,” Sloffer said. “Every step is tougher and tougher. Our guys are hungry. We don’t want this run to be over. We want to take it as far as we can.

“Our sport is the toughest sport there is. We tell our guys that nothing is given. You have to battle that guy one on one. He wants it just as bad as you do.”

Carroll has won seven straight sectional titles, and it isn’t from luck. A strong feeder program makes the Chargers consistently one of northeastern Indiana’s top programs.

“Our middle schools get a ton of participation,” Sloffer said. “Every year we’re reloading with kids who have a strong base. We’re getting kids we can work with. It’s been nice.

“Even the middle schools are getting kids from the youth levels. We’re getting parents and coaches at all those levels who have really made a difference. It makes our job a lot easier getting those kids with that experience.”

Carroll will face strong competition Saturday from New Haven, which won its own sectional title by 50.5 points over Homestead. New Haven had five champions – 160 Nick Potter, 170 Jonyvan Johnson, 182 Jaxson Savieo, 220 Austin Amstutz and heavyweight Luke Watson.

Homestead had three champions – 106 Jordan George, 120 Blaigh Rushing and 145 Brady Wyro.

Garrett and Bishop Dwenger, which finished second and third behind Carroll in the sectional, also figure to be in the team title hunt. Garrett’s Brayden Sheaer was a sectional champion at 106.

“New Haven has a tough team,” Sloffer said. “Homestead is good. Garrett and Bishop Dwenger are strong teams. Bishop Dwenger had quite a few champions and beat us a couple of times in the championship round.

“We’re aware there are a lot of good wrestlers and teams out there.”

The ultimate goal is to make the state meet, set for Feb. 17-18 at Indianapolis Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“I just want to get through that first (regional) round,” Sloffer said. “Elimination rounds are intense. After that, the next step is to place yourself in the best position you can. Give yourself the best chance to advance in the semistate and punch that ticket to state meet.

“After (Saturday’s) first round, you don’t want a letdown. It’s really exciting wrestling from here on out. Our guys are ready to go. We let them know we’ve prepared them to be successful.”

Top individual wrestlers include Columbia City’s Hunter Reed, who is 34-1 and ranked No. 15 at 152, Bishop Dwenger’s Stephen Nix, who is 37-3 at 182, and Churubusco 138-pound Joe Leazier (33-3).

Also, perennial power Bellmont, which won the Jay County sectional crown, is a strong contender for the Jay County regional title. <br>

<i> Follow Pete DiPrimio on Twitter at pdiprimio. </i><br>

<center> Up next</center> <br>

IHSAA Wrestling Regional at Carroll

First match: 10 a.m. Saturday