Grapplers prep for tourney

COLUMBIA CITY — With high school wrestling’s regular season meets drawing to a close this week, all teams, including the three Whitley County squads (Columbia City, Churubusco and Whitko) are all preparing for their “second season” of conference tournaments and the month-long Indiana High School Athletic Association Individual State Tournament series.All three Whitley County teams will be traveling this Saturday for their conference tournaments. Each enters the tournament with differing, yet similar, goals.Columbia City travels to DeKalb for the Northeast Hoosier Conference tournament with some questions marks. In the past, the NHC tournament has been almost exclusively the property of perennial power Bellmont, but this year the Braves are vulnerable, having suffered a couple of defeats this year within the conference.Eagle head coach Blane Culp handicaps the conference leaders as Carroll, East Noble and Bellmont, with the Eagles and New Haven looking to break into the top half of the conference standings.For Churubusco, the Northeast Corner Conference Tournament is Saturday at West Noble High School, where the Eagles expect to challenge for the title. The competition looks to be led by a Fairfield Falcon squad that is strong in the lower weight classes and a Freemont team that finished second to the Eagles at Woodlan with a strong showing in the middle weight classes, while Churubusco’s strength is in the upper weight classes. This sets up a situation where seconds and third places become increasingly important. The Eagles come into this final week of the regular season fresh off a first place finish at the Woodlan Invitational, where the Eagles had three weight class champions and four second place finishers.The Whitko team comes into Saturday’s Three Rivers Conference Tournament at North Miami with some gaps in their line-up and a fairly young team.“Our conference has numerous teams that have started to build good programs,” said Wildcat Head Coach Frank Bumgardner. “So competing as a team this year while we are rebuilding is going to be tougher. With our individuals, we need to go win conference titles especially in those weight classes where we are favored and not just win matches but truly dominate matches. As a team we need be placing in the top three or four of our conference. We want to wrestle well all day and put together a solid performance.”For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Jan. 17 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.