BY DEAN HOCKNEY
CONVERSE – It had been a long time coming, and when the final score was announced last Saturday afternoon, the Red and Blue-clad Wildkat wrestling team let out a holler to let everyone know the monkey was gone. For the first time since 2006, the Kokomo Wildkats hoisted the IHSAA Oak Hill Wrestling Sectional team championship trophy as seven Kats claimed individual honors.
“This is special since it is my first one as the head coach,” said Kokomo coach Ryan Wells. “This is a special group since they were freshmen when I came on. We had seven guys in the finals and seven champions – you can’t do much more than that.”
Kokomo won the team title with 232.5 points. Oak Hill was second with 209, followed by Western (202.5), Marion (166), Mississinewa (86), Eastern (84), Northwestern (72), Eastbrook (67), Taylor (63.5) and Madison-Grant (49.5).
“Everything happened about exactly the way we thought it would,” said Wells, whose Kats finished second to Eastern in the previous two sectionals. “Western and Oak Hill both had really good days and I was nervous coming into the finals, but our guys did what they were supposed to do.”
As has been the case all season, a quartet of Kat wrestlers dominated the mats. With a combined record of 169-3, sophomore Fletcher Miller, and seniors Jesse Goodnight, Bo Butler and Cameron Colby entered as favorites and didn’t disappoint. Goodnight (42-2) claimed his third consecutive sectional title with a pin of Marion’s Tanner Williams at 160-pounds. Fletcher (43-1) won a tough 3-1 decision over Western’s Jake Wiechmann at 182. Butler (44-0) captured his first sectional title with a pin of Northwestern’s Raymond Monroe at 195, and Colby (40-0) kept his perfect record alive as he defended his 215-pound title with a pin of Western’s Dante Graham. The top four wrestlers at each weight advance to the regional competition.
“This feels great, but the big step was winning last year,” said Colby, a state qualifier a year ago. “A goal all year was to get better, and this is the first step.”
But Colby and Wells both said this was a team victory, with the entire team contributing. Andrew Ledford pinned Marion’s Salvador Puente at 113-pounds, Chad Gaddis won an 11-4 decision over Western’s Dustin Hinkle at 138 and Keair Ross won a 4-2 decision over Western’s Logan Shepherd at 170. In addition, A.J. Nelson finished third at 106-pounds to advance to the regionals, Scotty Barbary was third at 120, Christian Hall was third at 126 and Tony Benedict was fourth at 132.
Howard County put on a great show as three wrestlers joined the Kat Seven to win sectional crowns. Caleb Maddox of Western started the championship round with a 12-3 decision over Marion’s Seth Lloyd at 106-pounds, Eastern’s Zach Alexander pinned Oak Hill’s Jared Wallace at 132, and Western’s Corey Hinkle won a 9-1 decision over Northwestern’s Luke Akers.
Other county wrestlers advancing to the regional are Eastern’s Tyler Smith and Taylor’s Stephen Sholty at 120, Northwestern’s Drew Miller at 126, Taylor’s Logan Sarber and Western’s Skylar Braden at 145, Western’s Cody Cyr at 160, Western’s Russell McDorman at 195, Taylor’s Parker Vanmeter at 220 and Western’s Brad Penning at 285.
But the day belonged to the Kats, and Butler was all smiles after the trophy presentation.
“Our plan all week was to go in and give it our all,” said the undefeated senior. “We had to take care of business, as you can tell. My game plan was to take the first takedown, and that is what I got. That is all I wanted to do – and get the most points for my team.”
It is rare for teams to have an undefeated wrestler, and Kokomo knows it has something special with two perfectionists.
“I knew those two, and Jesse, were going to be hard to beat,” said Wells. “To come in undefeated at sectionals, well, you don’t get that very often. But I can’t say I was surprised. They are very high caliber wrestlers and to be undefeated is special – it is really neat.”
Kokomo has no time to rest as it will wrestle in the IHSAA Logansport Team Regional on Wednesday, then the IHSAA Peru Individual Regional on Saturday.