FORT WAYNE — And then there were none. For the first time in recent memory, Whitley County will not be represented at Conseco Fieldhouse for the individual wrestling state championships.
All nine Whitley County wrestlers, five from Whitko and four from Churubusco, fell in the first two rounds with several just missing the trip to Indy, including one in a controversial manner.
Needing two wins to advance to the state finals, two Whitko and two Churubusco grapplers posted opening rounds wins to advance to the “ticket round.”
Whitko senior 125-pounder Jordan Gilbert was trying to return to Indianapolis for the second straight year. Gilbert downed Peru’s Braxton Simpson in the first round by a convincing 18-5 score. Gilbert held leads of 4-1 at the end of the first period and 11-3 at the end of the second before outscoring Simpson 7-2 in the third to take the win.
In the second round, Gilbert took on 43-1 Nick Crume from Jimtown. Crume scored a first-period takedown with Gilbert then posting an escape to close the gap to 2-1 at the end of the first.
Crume, who finished second in the weight class, sealed the win with a three-point near fall in the second period. With neither wrestler being able to score in the third, Gilbert was eliminated by a 5-1 score. Gilbert ends his senior season with a fine 36-6 record.
At 140 pounds, two Whitley county wrestlers both won first round matches. Whitko’s Cody Bays scored a 5-0 win over Manchester’s Payton Sorg in the first round. After a scoreless first period, Bays scored on an escape and then took Sorg down for a 3-0 lead after two periods. Bays scored again in the third to score the 5-0 win.
Bays squared off against Yorktown’s Cole VanHorn in round two. After another scoreless first round Van Horn scored an escape to start the second and then caught the Whitko junior with a throw at the 2:38 mark of their match putting Bays on his back for the pin. Van Horn eventually finished second in the weight class. Bays ends the season at 25-12.
Churubusco senior 140-pounder Zach Armstead won his first match a close 3-2 score over Southwood junior Josh Brainard.
Following a first period in which neither wrestler scored, Armstead scored an escape and a takedown while Brainard managed a single escape, giving Armstead a 3-0 lead going into the final period. Brainard scored an escape in the final period but could get no closer as Armstead advanced with the 3-2 win.
In the second round Armstead faced West Noble junior Kevin Marsh. Armstead built a 5-0 lead through two periods, scoring a takedown in the first and an escape-takedown in the second.
Leading 5-1 in the third, Armstead got caught with a headlock throw and was pinned with just 47 seconds left in the match. Armstead ends his senior season with a 32-5 record.
The most controversial of the matches took place in the second round at 189 pounds between Churubusco’s Braxton Siddons and eventual weight class winner Scott Neff from Yorktown.
In the first round Siddons had scored a 7-3 win over Elkhart Central’s Carson Volheim.
In the second round match with Neff, Siddons battled back from a 2-0 first round deficit, scoring an escape in the second and then closed the gap to 4-3 with a reversal at the end of the second. In the third period, Siddons took a 5-4 lead with a takedown. After the buzzer and almost five minutes of conference between the two officials, Neff was awarded a point for an escape over the protests of Eagle head coach Sam Reisen.
The point tied the score at 5-5. In the first overtime period, Neff scored the takedown to escape with the win. Despite the protests Siddons ends his season with a 33-3 record.
Five other Whitley County wrestlers saw their seasons end in the first round. Whitko 119-pounder Chas Busz fell by a first period pinfall to Bellmont’s Bobby Keuneke, the eventual fourth-place finisher. Busz ends his junior season with a 24-2 record.
Churubusco junior Adam Boggess fell to eventual class runner-up Jimtown’s Collin Crume in a first round pinfall. Boggess finishes the year with a 28-11 record.
At 171 pounds Churubusco sophomore, Brian Richardson, fell to Bellmont’s Ryley Hankenson. Richardson fell by pinfall at the 1:31 mark of his match with the weight classes fourth-place finisher. Richardson posted a 24-12 record this season.
Whitko’s Austin Striggle fell in the second period of his first round match with weight class runner up Brandon Dillenbeck. Striggle was caught and pinned at the 3:08 mark. Striggle ends his illness-shortened season with a 7-4 record.
The final Whitley County wrestler was Whitko’s Ben Hinora. The Whitko junior fell by a first period pinfall to class runner-up Eric Forrest from Jimtown. Hinora ends his season with a 29-14 record.