SEVEN Jennings County wrestlers concluded their seasons by competing in the semi-state meet at the Ford Center in Evansville.
Seniors Gary Engelking and Marshall Holwager, juniors John Flynn, Gabe Wilson and Colton Castetter, sophomore Dakota Bott and freshman Ethan Herrin represented the Panthers.
“It was the youngest group I’d taken to semi-state,” Jennings County coach Howard Jones said. “It was a positive experience for everyone, and it will have a lasting impact because it’s great preparation for state. The Ford Center is a great venue to prepare them for state also. Prior to regionals, I thought we’d have four or five qualify, so seven was great.”
Those who didn’t advance continued to practice.
“Our extra kids were ready and willing to help with the preparation,” Jones said. “They went above and beyond what was expected of them. They were there to help their teammates.”
The extra effort was appreciated since the wrestlers knew they would face tough opposition. Once they arrived in Evansville, it was a short day of competition as all seven Panthers were defeated in the opening round.
“It was a positive experience for me,” Bott said. “I improved a lot this year with my technique. Engelking showed me a lot of ways I could improve. He really helped me improve my shot.”
Bott won 33 matches, some with the help of a tough cross-face move he used on a regular basis.
“Dakota’s done what he’s needed to do to win,” Jones said. “He improved as the season progressed. He finished second in the sectional and the regional and was a force to be reckoned with.”
Another rising Panthers star is freshman Ethan Herrin. His 34 wins set a new record for Panthers freshmen. He plans to attend four wrestling camps over the summer because he wants to keep improving.
“He might be the best freshman wrestler I’ve ever had,” Jones said. “He has worked harder and put in more time and effort than almost anyone.”
Next year’s team is already a hard-working group.
“When we were sitting in the stands on Saturday, I was pretty down because everyone had lost,” Jones said. “That didn’t last long because a couple guys asked about having practice on Monday to get an early start on next season. As the day went on, more and more kids said they were coming to practice.”
Jones only expected four or five wrestlers, but 12 practiced Monday and 19 showed up Tuesday.
“Talk about a pick-me-up,” Jones said. “I have never had this happen.”
Determination and work ethic are why Herrin and his teammates attended the postseason workouts.
“We were mad about losing our semi-state matches,” he said. “We want to continue to get better and replace our three seniors as best we can. If we work harder than our opponents next year, it shouldn’t matter how good they are.”