Although area wrestling teams split a healthy dose of individual achievement, Jennings County will have to look at the 2014 sectional as the one that got away.
After 14 weight classes were complete with 11 high schools doing battle, the Panthers came one point short of a championship.
Greensburg won the title with 179.5 points, while Jennings County finished at 178.5. Columbus North finished fourth with 165, and Columbus East was fifth at 155.
Brown County, which had three champions, was sixth at 118, a spot ahead of Seymour, which finished with 67.
North and East both advanced their powerhouse wrestlers into the regional, which will be conducted Saturday
The Olympians’ 132-pounder, Dalton Noblitt, continued his reputation as the area’s top wrestler with his second consecutive sectional title. He handled Brown County’s Cody Leeper 18-6 and pretty much turned off the jets in the final period.
“My goal was to win as a team and, we didn’t get that done,” said Noblitt, who has a 35-4 record. “And I wish I could have had a technical fall (a win by 15 points), but a win is a win.”
North’s Andrew Jones pinned Jennings County’s Colton Pifer at the 5:25 mark to win the 152-pound title. It was an odd match where Jones was called twice for locking hands along with a time when he stopped wrestling because someone had blown a whistle alongside the mat.
Pifer also paused, but bounded away from Jones for an escape and a point. It was tied 4-4 going into the third period, which Jones dominated.
“I had been getting a lot of good shots on him, so I was confident,” said Jones, who is a senior with a 30-6 record. “I had to get that pin at the end. It was there and I had to take it. He was a tough kid.”
It was the first individual tournament title of Jones’ high school career.
Senior Jimmy Fisher added another title for East at 170 pounds as he cruised past
Madison’s Tanner Young 8-1.
“Every round, I was never in trouble,” said Fisher, who won a sectional title a year ago and now is 31-7. “This is the first step toward going to state.”
At 182, North’s Luke Teague pulled away from Jennings County’s Peyton Shepherd 11-6 to claim his second consecutive sectional crown.
The Bull Dogs senior scored three takedowns during the match using a beautiful “shrug” move in which he tossed Shepherd past him and got position behind before taking him to the mat.
Teague raised raised his record to 25-8 and seems to be peaking.
“I think it is like football,” he said. “You are feeling it out, then toward the end, you just let it go. I want to wrestle all out. Oh yeah, the taste of this was sweet.”
Brown County crowned champs at 106 (Evan Bullock), 113 (Austin Ely) and 120 (Austin Walsh).
Walsh’s pin of Greensburg’s Brandon Butz was the shocker of the tournament. He was trailing 7-2 with 30 seconds remaining, but got a takedown, then locked up a three-quarter Nelson on Butz, ripping his head and shoulders to the mat and pinning him with seven seconds left.
“That’s my favorite submission move,” Walsh said. “I’ve worked it all season when I’ve needed it. When I heard the ref say there were 30 seconds remaining, I knew I had to kick it into gear.”
Bullock decisioned East’s Will Conner 6-2 to raise his record to 29-2.
“He really uses his muscles well,” Bullock said of Conner. “But I feel confident going into the regional.”
Ely, a senior with a 25-1 record, downed North’s Evan Speaker 8-1.
“Today really hit me that there is only a limited amount of matches left,” Ely said. “But I think I have a shot to win the regional.”
It was a fine effort by Speaker, who just couldn’t keep Ely from getting in deep on his legs.
“It was a closer match in our dual meet,” said Speaker, a senior whose record fell to 32-12. “I need to move my feet more.”
Speaker said his opportunities are running out.
“It hit me when one of our seniors was eliminated. I thought, ‘If I lose now, I’m out.’”
Wrestlers had a cushion on Saturday as the top four in each weight class move to the regional.
North’s Cody Speaker was working through a tight match against Madison’s Chayce Young when he was caught with a move and pinned at the 3:03 mark.
Jennings County’s Ethan Herrin scored a pin at the 5:30 mark over Madison’s Chris Tingle and dominated every step of the way, never allowing Tingle to score a point. Herrin’s performance was one of the meet’s top highlights.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” he said. “Especially wrestling as a sophomore.”
Herrin raised his record to 36-2.
Seymour made the most of its only wrestler in the finals as Matthew Ruddick won the 145-pound title with an 8-1 decision over Dustin Spray of Southwestern.
Ruddick finished second in both the sectional and regional last year.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been on a wrestling mat,” he said.
Madison’s Jordan Partee raised his record to 46-0 with a 23-8 technical fall over Greensburg’s Joe Buening at 160.
Madison’s Mitchell Sandlin pinned Jennings County’s Christian Redmond in 41 seconds in the 195-pound title bout.
At 220, Jennings County’s Colton Castetter edged Greensburg’s Drew Neisius 4-2 in overtime. Scottsburg’s Kolby Mount remained unbeaten at 31-0 with a pin at the 1:54 mark over Greensburg’s Nathan Hayes.