NEW CASTLE – New Castle Fieldhouse, the largest high school gym in the country with a seating capacity of 9,325, was buzzing with spectators from 9 a.m. until nearly 7 p.m. on Saturday as 224 wrestlers competed in the IHSAA Semi-State Wrestling Tournament. Out of this group, 37 Hamilton County wrestlers entered the historic gym with hopes of advancing to the state finals. In the end, seven county wrestlers punched their tickets to the finals by winning at least their first two matches of the day.
From these seven wrestlers, only one went on to become a semi-state champion. Hamilton Southeastern senior Alec Jessop (24-2) brought home the title in the 182 lb. weight class. From a team standpoint, Cathedral finished first in the competition with 140.5 points. Hamilton Southeastern was the highest finishing county team at 11th. Carmel and Westfield also placed in the top 20 at 15th and 17th, respectively.
Noblesville qualified five wrestlers for the semi-state competition: Nick Brady (113), Noah Long (126), David Kitko (152), Ashton Mills (182) and Ryan Leslie (220). Long and Mills made quick exits from the competition as both lost their opening matches.
No. 13 Brady and Leslie both won their opening matches before losing in the second round. Brady lost in a 16-4 major decision to No. 3 Skylour Turner from Warren Central. Leslie was pinned in the second period of his match against Jacob McClaine from Lebanon.
Kitko was the lone Miller to qualify for state placing fourth in his division. He won his first two matches of the day pinning Jake Webster from Shenandoah and avenging a loss from earlier in the season by defeating Sam Gobeyn of Zionsville in a 9-5 decision. In his third match, Kitko was pinned by No. 11 Andrew Negangard from East Central. The third-place match was a rematch from the regional tournament between Kitko and No. 18 Cody Klettheimer from Frankton. Kitko pinned Klettheimer in regionals but was unable to repeat the feat at semi-state. Klettheimer scored five quick points with a takedown and near fall in the first period and eventually won the match with a 5-1 decision. After the competition, Noblesville head coach Tom Knotts explained that Kitko has struggled to stay healthy during his career. This is Kitko’s first trip to the state finals.
“David’s had a lot of bad luck over the years,” Knotts said. “He’s had a bad thumb and had bronchitis during the tournament last year. We were glad to get David through to the next round.”
Westfield brought a team of five wrestlers to New Castle Fieldhouse and saw two of them qualify for the state finals. Seniors Justin Miller (160) and No. 10 Liam Jagow (182) both advanced with Miller placing fourth and Jagow finishing third in their respective classes.
Senior Reid Hutson (113) was pinned in his first and only match of the day. Freshman Carson Eldred (106) won his opening match in a decision over Josh Vaugh of Franklin Central before being bounced from the tournament by Andrew Black from Shenandoah in round two. Senior Austin Dollens also won his first match by decision over Peyton Wuerch of Mount Vernon. Dollens was unable to continue due to injury in his second match.
Miller had a chance to advance to the championship match in his class as he took a first period 2-0 lead over Shenandoah’s Josh Gee in their third-round contest. But Gee produced a reversal in the second period and basically had Miller down on the mat for the rest of the match. Gee won by decision 4-2.
In the 195 lb. class, after winning his first two matches, Jagow ran into a monster in round three. Cathedral’s undefeated No. 2 Ben Stewart relentlessly attacked Jagow, eventually defeating the Shamrock by a major decision 21-7. Jagow went on to dominate in the third-place match against David Delph of Frankton winning by major decision 14-2. The match was tight in the first period, but Jagow broke it open in the second scoring nine points by way of an escape, a reversal and two three-point near falls. Westfield head coach Phil Smith was proud of Miller and Jagow. Both will be making their first trips to state next weekend.
“I’m really pleased with the way those guys wrestled today,” Smith said after the meet. “Justin Miller - really big win for him knocking off (Dru) Berkebile who’s a two-time (state) qualifier and state placer. I was really pleased with how Liam Jagow wrestled, also. He put together some really solid wins.”
Hamilton Heights brought three wrestlers to New Castle: Chris Loy (132), Riley White (138) and Clayton Cowan (145). Loy lost in his opening match to No. 14 Jack Servies of Perry Meridian. No. 6 White and No. 4 Cowan both won their opening round matches before exiting the tournament in the second round. White lost to Ryan Surguy from Shenandoah on a 6-3 decision. Cowan lost to No. 9 Kain Rust from Perry Meridian in a 5-1 decision. The loss leaves Cowan short of his previous season’s success. In 2016, Cowan placed fourth at semi-state and advanced to state. Head coach Gary Myers expressed his disappointment on Sunday.
“We had some heart breaking losses Saturday,” Myers said. “We came prepared, and the three seniors that wrestled there just had a tough day. Their opponents were prepared and ready as well.”
Neither of Guerin’s two semi-state participants were able to advance to the state finals on Saturday. Junior Korbin Lane (145) lost in his opening match to No. 15 Boone Welliever from Southmont on a 4-0 decision. Senior J.T. Lazzara (160) won his opening match beating Drake Tackett of Mount Vernon. But Lazzara lost in the next round to Zionsville’s Matthew Wertz on a 19-6 major decision.
Carmel brought 10 wrestlers to New Castle, including four regional champions: Brendan Mattingly (106), Kyle Holman (113), Adam Jerde (126) and Jack Eiteljorge (152). Out of the 10, only No. 3 Mattingly and No. 9 Jerde qualified for the state finals. Mattingly, only a freshman, placed fourth after losing in the third-place match to Andrew Black of Shenandoah. Jerde finished third in his division after defeating No. 13 Dallas Pugsley, also from Shenandoah, by decision in the third-place match.
Hamilton Southeastern qualified eight wrestlers for the semi-state competition. From this group, two advanced to the state finals including Hamilton County’s lone champion of the day: No. 9 Alec Jessop. Jessop won the 182 division by defeating No. 6 Evan Stambaugh by decision 6-4 in a thrilling championship match. The contest was a rematch from the regional final where Stambaugh edged out Jessop in the first tiebreaker. Joe Mazero (170) also advanced to state by placing third in his weight class.
Fishers brought four wrestlers to New Castle: Alex Strueder (126), Jaren Tunstill (132), Beau Wilbrandt and Spencer Bischoff (152). None were able to advance to the state finals.