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Corydon Central's Mason Kaufer, kneeling center, is one of the top returning wrestlers for the Panthers. He's likely bound for the 106-pound weight class. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Deeper pool of grapplers for Panthers


November 26, 2013 | 01:11 PM

There is no denying that Bailey LaHue is a special wrestler within the Corydon Central program.

Heading into his junior season, LaHue is coming off a program-best fourth-place finish at last year's state finals in the 120-pound weight class. This year, LaHue is expected to enter the same weight division with his sights set on besting that fourth-place showing.

In preseason IndianaMat.com rankings, LaHue is No. 2, tucked in behind New Palestine's Chad Red, the top finisher in the 106 class in the 2013's finals.

"He's been going since he was 4 years old and at a pretty high level," Corydon Central coach Richard Clipp said of LaHue. "They know who he is and won't surprise anyone."

LaHue had a strong season last year, claiming the top of the podium at sectional, regional and semi-state.

Three additional regional qualifiers return for the Panthers as well: senior Wyler Tyler and sophomores Ezra Paden and Mason Kaufer.

Paden burst on the scene a year ago and wrestled his best at the end of the year. He won the 132 sectional title then qualified for semi-state after pacing third at regional.

"It's going to be strength and quickness; that's Ezra's style," Clipp said. "Aggressiveness is his nature; that's how he goes."

Kaufer was fourth at sectional at 106, although Clipp said he wasn't near that weight then but is now.

"All three of those will likely be the same weight class again this year," Clipp said.

Emerging as the senior lead, Taylor jumped up to place third at sectional last year to qualify for regional.

"Wyler Taylor is a four-year wrestler," Clipp said. "He is an honest, hard-working guy that gets respect from the guys. They say leaders emerge, and he is one that has."

The only other senior on the team is Jamie Lillpop, who looks to wrestle at 285.

Outside of the seniors on the 25-man squad, the team is young. Ten freshmen seek to grab time with the varsity.

"They are talented. There could be three or four make the line-up, maybe five," Clipp said of the freshmen group. "High school experience they don't have, but they wrestled in junior high and ISWA. In high school, they are 14-, 15-year olds about to see 17-, 18-year olds for the first time."

There is a lot of inexperience on the team as far as varsity wrestling experience. Seven of the non-freshmen haven't wrestled at that level.

"It takes a couple of years to catch on," Clipp said. "You can learn the moves, but you have to know instinctively when you are supposed to do them, how you counter what they do."

Clipp said not much attention has been directed to placing wrestlers in specific weight classes yet. One thing the younger wrestlers know, there won't be anyone to challenge the talent levels of the top three returnees.

"There is a lot of promise in those three, then there is a lot of promise in some of the freshmen, too," Clipp said. "We don't know how it will all work out, to find each one a weight class. It isn't like basketball; you can't play four forwards. You get one per weight class."

Competition on the mat in practice has been encouraging, along with the team camaraderie. Clipp said the wrestlers are an optimistic bunch.

"We have a good crop of freshmen, and we expect positive things from a lot of them," he said. "Junior high wrestling is a lot different from high school wrestling. We don't show them as much or wrestle the caliber we do at the high school level."

Scheduling has changed for the Panthers this season. They'll be at the usual events — Mid-Southern Conference Duals, Floyd Central six-way and hosting the Old Capital Classic — but there are newbies on the slate.

After Christmas, the Panthers will head to Connersville for the Spartan Classic, a two-day event, on Dec. 27 and 28. Thirty teams are expected, including heavyweights from Danville and Indianapolis Cathedral. Schools from as far west as Evansville and as north as Fort Wayne will appear.

Another added event is a six-way at Jasper, which will feature Heritage Hills and Gibson Southern.

"We beefed up the schedule," Clipp said. "It'll be good as far as seeing wrestling competition, but maybe not as far as our minds ... Connersville is one of the more impressive events. It ranks as at least a top five tournament in the state."

The annual Old Capital Classic, set for Jan. 11, has eight teams slated to wrestle: Corydon Central, Columbus North, Evansville Central, Floyd Central, Gibson Southern, Lexington Henry Clay (Ky.), Southport and Zionsville.

Wrapping up the regular season is the Mid-Southern Conference Tournament, which the Panthers are slated to host. Charlestown has won conference eight consecutive seasons.

"Who knows what they will have. We finished third last year, so we have two teams to jump to get there," Clipp said. "We'll deal with us first, then go from there."

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