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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, February 8, 2020

Garrett Stuckman has his hand raised after winning the 152-pound title at Saturday’s Penn Regional. (Photos by James Costello)

MISHAWAKA — A championship wasn’t in the cards for Wawasee at Saturday’s Penn Wrestling Regional, but a number of Warriors did make the cut out to next weekend’s semi-state.

Wawasee placed seven of 13 wrestlers in the top four, including three champions, to finish in a tie with South Bend Riley for third place with 117.5 points. Mishawaka ended a 10-year regional championship drought with 186 points, while the host Kingsmen placed second with 127. Warsaw collected five semi-state qualifications on the way to sixth place with 59.5 points, and Tippecanoe Valley got a program-best three through and finished with 29 points in eighth place at the regional tournament.

“When we came into this looking at a team aspect, we knew that it was Mishawaka, then us, then a couple other teams so we knew that we had an opportunity to challenge as a team. It was going to be a little uphill, but it was going to be the first time in 20-some years that we won a regional title,” said Wawasee coach Frank Bumgardner. “Obviously it didn’t happen today, but overall we wrestled pretty dang well as a team.”

The Warriors earned East Chicago Semi-state berths in each of the first four weight classes, then collected three more in the middle weight categories.

Logan Stuckman went 3-0 at 106 pounds, getting off to a slow start opposite MIshawaka’s Xavier Chavez in the finals ad falling behind 9-1 in the first period. A late escape and takedown just ahead of the buzzer cut the freshman’s deficit to 9-4, a reversal midway through the second brought him to within three points at 9-6, and after starting neutral in the third period, Stuckman secured a takedown and a pinfall at the match’s 4:52 mark for Wawasee’s first championship of the day.

Hunter Miller and Dylan Tom finished fourth and second, respectively, at 113 and 120, and Jace Alexander cruised into the 126-pound finals with a pair of first-period pinfalls before he secured his team a second title with a 9-6 decision over Mishawaka’s Brendon Mark. Alexander actually used a pair of takedowns, a near fall and an escape to move out to an 8-0 cushion before a late flurry of action by Mark brought the score to its final margin in a match that was never as close as the final score made it seem.

“Jace, he’s wrestling outstanding right now. The position that Mark put him in was a very good technical position for Mark, but with that being said we were the aggressor in that situation. If we continue to be aggressive and score there, that match isn’t close. The score was a little closer than the action, but give him credit, they kept wrestling through,” Bumgardner said.

Like Tom, Gavin Malone also reached the finals at 138 but came up short in the Warriors’ second runner-up finish of the day. Garrett Stuckman survived a 5-4 final with South Bend Riley’s Jessiah Marsh for the team’s final championship at 152.

Garrett actually trailed Marsh 4-2 through two periods, but after Marsh cut him in the third, the Wawasee senior began taking the action to him and simply wore him out. After an injury timeout in which Marsh used his inhaler, Garrett continued to push him, eventually completing a takedown and riding out the remaining 1:13 remaining for the title, nearly pinning Marsh in the final seconds.

“We had some match-ups against (Riley) earlier in the day, and we saw a trend when it came to conditioning, that we were just in better shape,” Bumgardner said. “We knew ahead of time that this was going to be a good match. Garrett worded it very well last week and that was when he got injured earlier in the year that we had a plan, and we’re just going to stick to the plan. He did a very good job staying persistent after scores, being patient and just attacking and being relentless. No matter if the kid was on injury time, no matter if he was down, up, whatever, we were going to wrestled as hard as we possibly can, and that’s what happens — you break people.”

The Warriors got one more wrestler through at 170, where Logan Baugh placed fourth.

Jacob Linky works for a takedown against Penn’s A.J. Steenbeke in the 160-pound championship.

Warsaw got just one into the championship round, where the Tigers went 1-0 at Penn. Jacob Linky pinned his way to the finals at 160 pounds, where he topped Penn’s A.J. Steenbeke, 8-4.

Linky’s reversal with 41 seconds remaining in the first period evened the score up at 2-2, and when Steenbeke cut him early in the second, he quickly capitalized with another takedown to take a 5-2 lead into the final. A Steenbeke takedown early in the final period cut Linky’s lead to just 5-4 but a quick escape and his third takedown of the match brought the score to its final margin, although the Warsaw junior did have to survive some tense final moments when it looked like him might get stuck on his back in a scramble.

“A few weeks ago it felt like we were butting heads on some things just because it felt like he wasn’t quite grasping what we were after. He was kind of frustrated because what we were seeing as coaching, he was seeing as criticism,” recalled Warsaw coach Kris Hueber. “Over the last two weeks we’ve seen a whole lot of progress in him. He kind of flipped the switch a little bit as far as his preparation. He still does some things that frustrate you, but he’s also made a really big point of trying to get better and asking questions and being coached hard. So that’s starting to pay off for him. He’s starting to do some really good things.”

Brock Hogenson and Brandon Estepp both managed third-place finishes at 132 and 182, respectively, Hogenson collected two pinfalls, and Estepp a tech fall and a pin. Andrew Ross also advanced in fourth-place at 126, while Brock Hueber finished fourth in a 195-pound class stacked with talent — all four semi-state qualifiers at Penn are ranked inside’s top 20, including a number two ranking by regional champion Jacob LaPlace and a sixth-place ranking by runner-up Eli Pack.

“A lot of us coaches were talking, and we think it’s very within the realm of possibility that we can get all four of our regional guys through (to state),” said Kris Hueber of the 195-pound class. “It’s going to take a couple of good breaks and it’s going to take some really good wrestling, but we have a really tough class at ’95.”

Valley finished Saturday without a championship but did advance three to East Chicago — a program high mark that head coach Kyler Kearby couldn’t complain about.

“The most we’ve ever had in our school history, so it’s a credit to the guys,” Kearby said.

“In the past we’ve had a hard time getting over the mental block of beating some of these bigger schools. Our guys weren’t intimidated or anything by that. They competed, did their thing, and it’s nice to have three going, especially knowing that they’re three underclassmen. It feels good.”

While the Vikings did fall short of a regional championship, Drake Montelongo reached the finals at 113 pounds. The sophomore opened the day with a first-period fall of Riley’s Darius Dickerson and earned a 9-1 major decision over Mishawaka’s Christopher Peacock in the semifinals but suffered a 5-1 loss to Penn’s Ryan Purvis in the title match as both finished true to their seed.

Drake Montelongo tries to get position against Penn’s Ryan Purvis in the 113-pound finals at Penn.

“Obviously he would’ve liked to win, but still only losing 5-1 — both those kids have a chance to get out and go to state. That’s one of those matches,” Kearby said.

Brandon Hammer and Branson McBriar both advanced at 138 and 160 and will get the chance to wrestle in East Chicago next Saturday. Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. CT, and the top four will advance once more to the final stage of the IHSAA state series in Indianapolis the following Friday and Saturday.

“I thought we wrestled well for most of the day. It was a big improvement, I thought, from how I felt last week to this week. I thought we overall represented ourselves the right way,” summed up Kris Hueber of Saturday’s regional. “Happy to see the growth. We’re continuing to get closer to where we want to be. One champ, two thirds and two fourths isn’t a bad day. We would’ve liked to have been a little bit better slots, but it was a solid day.”

“We thought that just with draws, match-ups that we had an opportunity to get a couple more out. The guys that didn’t get out still wrestled pretty well so we’re not disappointed in their performances. We wrestled well today. We’re pretty happy with how we competed,” Bumgardner said.

NorthWood advanced seven wrestlers to semi-state on the way to a runner-up finish at the Goshen Regional Saturday. Northridge followed up its sectional title with just the program’s second-ever regional title. The Raiders finished with 160 points to ‘Wood’s 108 at the tourney.

Lone brothers Kaden and Jake won the Panthers respective championships at 145 and 182. Jaden Miller and Blake Herr reached the finals at 195 and 220, respectively, but ended up settling for second place. Cameron Jones (132), Tyler Becker (152) and Isaac Benjamin (220) all won their consolation finals to finish third for NorthWood.

The Panthers will travel to the New Haven Semi-state at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum next Saturday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Top four finishers advance to the state finals in Indianapolis Feb. 21-22.

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