Jennings County’s wrestling team led after the first and third rounds of Saturday’s Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament at Bedford North Lawrence and fell back to third after the second round.
Five Panthers reached the championship, and four of them won. They then had to wait until the final match of the day was done to see if they won the title.
Jennings was able to celebrate after Jeffersonville beat Floyd Central in the 285-pound title match because that gave the Panthers 205 points, while Floyd Central was a close second with 202½. Columbus East wound up third with 109½.
It was Jennings’ first HHC crown since winning it three straight years from 2002-04.
“The biggest thing is that it was a team effort all the way up and down,” Panthers coach Howard Jones said. “You take any one win away, we don’t win it. That’s what I was telling the kids: ‘It’s a team effort.’ It’s an individual sport, but they keep team scores.
“I didn’t expect us to be in it,” he said. “But my kids came through, and obviously, we had some help from other teams. Just like right there (in the 285 match), Floyd Central was in the finals, and if they win that, we lose. But Jeffersonville came through and won it.”
Panthers reaching the finals were Kyle Lewis (106), Ethan Herrin (138), Colton Pifer (152), Peyton Shepherd (182) and Colton Castetter (220).
Lewis won a decision 5-4, Herrin won by pin in 5:04, Pifer lost a major decision 15-3, and Shepherd and Castetter each won 5-0. Herrin and Castetter, who are captains of the team, were familiar with their championship opponents.
“I wrestled (Madison’s Chris Tingle) in basically every tournament that we have Madison and Jennings County together, so I always face him, and I’ve never lost to him so far,” Herrin said as he knocked on the wooden bleachers.
“Last year, I placed third, and I was pretty disappointed in myself,” the sophomore said. “So I decided to step it up in practices and work harder, and now, I’ve achieved my goal of getting it this year.”
Castetter, a senior, said he had faced Bedford North Lawrence’s Nick Joyner in offseason freestyle matches. He was glad to come out on top after placing second last year.
“I just made him work, get to the third period and wear him out,” Castetter said. “I was trying to work (his opponents) in the first two periods and get into the third period when they were wore out and try to pin them.”
East also had five wrestlers reach the finals, but only one came out victorious.
That was 132-pounder Dalton Noblitt, who defeated Floyd Central’s Austin Ward by decision 3-1 in the championship.
“Last time, I beat him 9-4, and we’ve wrestled before last year, too, so we kind of knew how each other was going to wrestle,” Noblitt said. “We just got used to each other’s wrestling style, so that’s why it was closer this time.”
Noblitt said the key to victory was getting the first takedown in the first period.
“It’s just getting that first takedown right off the bat and then riding him out,” he said. “As long as you can get a first takedown every match, you usually will win.”
Noblitt, who is a senior, last won an HHC title when he was a freshman. He missed the tournament his sophomore year because of shoulder surgery and then got runner-up last year.
“It’s good to finish up with a title like I started with,” Noblitt said.
Olympians coach Chris Cooper was happy with Noblitt’s victory, and he thought his team put forth a good effort.
“Overall, we had five in the finals, which is pretty good,” Cooper said. “We beat a lot of kids that we had lost to previously in the year, so that’s an improvement. We were here to win, though, and just a little bit short.”
With other Olympians in the finals, Will Conner lost to the Panthers’ Lewis 5-4 at 106, Maurice Dantzler lost 9-5 at 160, Jimmy Fisher lost 5-3 at 170, and Coy Park lost 5-0 at 182.
“We lost a couple of those real close,” Cooper said. “Hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity to get those back.”
Seymour placed seventh with 94 points. Senior 145-pounder Matthew Ruddick won his first HHC title with a pin and two decisions, including 8-6 against New Albany’s Hunter Castleberry in the championship.