Inexperienced Panthers eye run at MSC title
George Browning, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The high school wrestling season in Harrison County is the tale of two schools dealing with two kinds of inexperience.
For Corydon Central, there is wrestling experience, but not necessarily at the high school level. North Harrison doesn’t have a junior high program, so there is a lack of overall experience.
Despite the lack of seasoning, both programs continue to show improvement.
The two schools took to the mat Dec. 19 at Corydon Central in a three-team match with Tell City.
Tell City beat both North Harrison, 72-12, and Corydon Central, 53-24. In the battle of Harrison County, the Panthers won this go-round against the Cougars 63-15.
Against North Harrison, Corydon Central’s Bryce Gentry beat the Cougars’ Parker Rhodes in the 152-pound class by decision 8-3.
At 160 pounds, North Harrison’s Garrett Schroeder pinned Owen Stanley.
Corydon Central’s Joe Gohl won his 170-pound match against the Cougars’ Michael Lone by fall.
North Harrison picked up a win at 182 pounds, thanks to Noah Phelps defeating the Panthers’ Isaac Gordon.
At 195 pounds, Landon King beat Corydon Central’s Dalton Jenkins with a 5-2 decision.
Corydon Central was able to sweep the remaining weight classes: Chase Straub won at 220 over Seth Kendall by fall; Clayton Crawford beat Carter Whitaker by fall at 285 pounds; at 106 pounds, Bryson Rowley defeated Eli Edlin by pin fall; at 113 pounds, Zane Schreck won by forfeit; at 120, Hunter Pitts beat Ashton McGinnis by fall; Caleb Dreschel won at 126 against Landon Jones by fall; Roman Camp defeated Jack Lawson at 132 pounds by fall; Kaeden Owen won at 138 pounds against Pearce Hubbart; and Avery Epperson won at 145 pounds by forfeit.
Against Tell City, Corydon Central got a win at 220 when Straub won by fall. At 138, Owen won his match by fall, as well. The Panthers also picked up two wins by forfeit; one by Jenkins at 195 pounds and one in the 160-pound class by Stanley.
With each match, Regan Gusler, Corydon Central’s coach, said those inexperienced wrestlers on his team become more seasoned.
“We have a very young team,” he said. “We have one senior, three juniors and the rest are freshmen and sophomores, but they are a talented group.”
The Panthers’ lone senior is Gohl, who currently wrestles at 170 pounds, but Gusler said he may drop to the 160-pound class for the state wrestling tournament.
At the time of the North Harrison and Tell City match, Gohl was undefeated.
The junior class has been together since their freshman year. Straub was also undefeated heading into the Dec. 19 match.
Epperson is a first-year junior who is still learning the sport, according to Gusler.
“We had struggled the last couple of years, but we knew we had a good group coming in from junior high that was going to help us,” Gusler said. “We got 12 freshmen out, and they’ve all wrestled for a couple of years. And, our junior high coach, Jeff Schreck, has done a wonderful job with them. We are finally getting to a point where the junior high program is paying off for us. We got a good crop of underclassmen, and that should be the case for the next couple of years, as well. As young as we are this year, the next couple of years we should be able to step up even more. We have worked really hard to get to this point.”
North Harrison’s inexperience is on a whole different level than Corydon Central’s because of the lack of a junior high program, but that doesn’t discourage first-year coach Ryan Hutchinson.
“Our most experienced guy has two years of wrestling,” Hutchinson said. “This is a new program, and these kids are the founders of it. It’s a new team and new experience. It’s going well. Our kids have progressed from having nothing as far as mat time, to where they are now. They’re starting to learn moves and timing, and we are starting to compete with good seasoned teams.”
Gusler, who worked as an assistant at Corydon Central for 17 seasons and is in his third year as head coach of the Panthers, has seen his team compete against North Harrison twice in a matter of just a week and agrees that Hutchinson has the Cougars headed in the right direction.
“We saw them last week and just in that short amount of time they are better,” he said. “It was a similar outcome the last time we faced them, but you can see their improvement in just a short amount of time.”
In the Dec. 19 match, North Harrison didn’t come away with many individual wins, but several of the losses were competitive.
“A lot of times when we get in matches with more seasoned teams, we are either right there and we lose by just a couple of points or we lose by a lot,” Hutchinson said. “Our guys are young, and sometimes when they get sloppy. They will get turned easy, especially against more experienced wrestlers. With that said, we have some fighters, so, when they get on the mat, they put it all on the line. What most of our wrestlers lack in experience, they make up for with heart.”
Hutchinson said Kelby McGinnis, who wrestles at 170 pounds, is one of the team’s seniors, and it’s only his second year of wrestling in the NH program. Nate Berryman is a junior; Hutchinson said he is a good leader for this team.
The Cougars only have one freshman, and the other 20 kids on the team are sophomores.
Another wrestler who has had a good showing to this point is Noah Phelps, who has a winning record on the season.
“A lot of times his matches don’t go out of the first round, whether they are wins or losses,” Hutchinson said.
This is Hutchinson’s first year as head coach after serving as an assistant at North Harrison last season.
Heading into the final month of the season with tournaments looming, both coaches take a different approach with expectations for their teams.
Hutchinson said he finds out from his wrestlers what they’d like to accomplish and then that determines his own expectations for them.
“I am transparent with the kids,” he said. “I am trying to create young men. I am giving them the tools to be a champion, but my expectations of them are their own expectations they set for themselves. I want them to become better men. I want them to learn life lessons and to enjoy the sport. It’s a martial art. At the end of the day, they are learning a discipline. And when they get on the mat, they get to gauge how they are doing and how they progress. They are all positive about it.”
As for Gusler, he has the Panthers aiming for a shot at a Mid-Southern Conference championship. He said he thinks that will come down to his team, Charlestown or Eastern, which has won conference four years in a row.
“We did beat Eastern at a dual match earlier this year, and we narrowly lost to Charlestown,” he said. “It’s probably going to come down to the three of us. That’s still a little ways down the road, and a lot can happen.”
Corydon Central followed up the match against North Harrison and Tell City by competing in the Jeff Classic on Dec. 21. When the Panthers competed in the classic last season, they didn’t have any place winners; however, this year they had eight. As a team, the Panthers finished eighth. The following is a list of the top wrestlers at the event for Corydon Central: Rowley, third at 106 pounds; Schreck, runner up at 113; Pitts, sixth at 120; Owen, sixth at 138; Goehl, third at 170; Jenkins, eighth at 182; Straub, fifth at 220; and Crawford was eighth in the heavyweight division.