FLOYDS KNOBS — Coaching his team to its third straight Hoosier Hills Conference wrestling championships team title, by the slim margin of seven points, Jennings County’s Howard Jones couldn’t pinpoint one individual win that propelled the Panthers to another title.
Instead, he emphasized his team’s attitude.
“Enthusiasm,” Howard listed as a key to the successes. “I tell them all the time that enthusiasm is worth six points. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a dual meet or tournament atmosphere.”
“It’s a big confidence booster in the regard that they’ve been through some adversity. They have come together. On Thursday of this past week was the first time that we were full strength. These kids are great. If I die tomorrow, in all seriousness, I know that I had a positive impact on these kids. Even more so, they’ve had a positive impact on me.”
Story continues below gallery
The Panthers topped the eight-team field with 229.5 points, Columbus East had 22.5 and Floyd Central was third at 210.0.
In more cases than not, it was the Olympians and Panthers in the championship matches at the end of the day.
East coach Chris Cooper felt his team didn’t perform to its fullest capabilities despite the silver finish.
“I feel like we didn’t handle adversity as well as we could have,” he said. “There are a lot of positioning things, things we work on, that we didn’t do well. At the same time, even not wrestling our best, we competed. We were down near 30 points and battled back. The guys didn’t quit, we just came up a little short.”
Wrestlers had to win their first two matches to advance to the finals, or they got bumped to the consolation brackets.
For the 106-pound final, East freshman Cayden Rooks (27-1) defeated the Panthers’ Victor Antunez on a tecnical fall at 5:57.
Jennings sophomore Dalton Craig bested East’s Jake Schoenegge on a 6-5 decision in the 113.
The Olympians’ Graham Rooks pinned Seymour’s Brandan Penegar, at 3:08, to garner top honors in the 120-pound competition.
Another victory went to East in the 126, as Dawson Combest edged the Panthers’ Nick South on a 5-1 decision.
East sophomore Corban Pollit picked up a big victory against Floyd Central’s Tristan Sellmer in a 10-9 decision.
“Corban Pollitt is a champ today at the 132,” Cooper said. “He is a kid who is very good in the wrestling room, and has wrestled a long time. For him to come out and have success today — it’s him wrestling to what he’s capable of. I think that confidence will move a long way.”
Jennings took the 138-pound battle, as Brooks Wathen topped New Albany’s Tristin Dowell 6-4 on decision and Zane Beineke placed third in the 145 by pinning Seymour’s Cheaney Reichenbacker.
Jennings’ Andrew Herrin won by fall against Floyd Central’s Max Hauser in the 152, and East’s Ben Wilkerson won on a 7-1 decision over Bedford North Lawrence’s Caleb Higgins.
In the 160-pounds contest, Cole Chandler won by fall in 2:43 in a matchup with Jeff’s Donovan Smith.
Coy Park claimed third for the Olympians in the 170 by a 1-0 decision.
Bradley Philpott, of Floyd Central, bested the Panthers’ Christian Redmond on a pin in 5:39 for the 195.
Panthers junior Brendan Sutton was injured in the heavyweight championship, so East’s Sean Galligar took first.
“I feel like we can wrestle a lot better, honestly,” Cooper said. “Don’t get me wrong, it is second place in a tough conference. But we didn’t come here to get second — we came here to win. All our kids understand that.
“There are some individual performances that I’m proud of, but there are some things we need to fix by sectionals if we’re going to compete with Jennings County. I believe that my team has the ability to win sectionals, but we need to put in some work.”