[Nameplate] Fog/Mist ~ 59°F  
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
Sunday, May 1, 2016

South Putnam wrestlers prepare for challenges of semi-state

Thursday, February 7, 2013

South Putnam junior wrestler Jacob Williams competes at the regional meet last week at Mooresville. Williams and two other Eagles' wrestlers, Rudy Harris and Tanner Thompson, qualified for Semi-State.
(Banner Graphic/TRENT SCOTT) [Order this photo]
Saturday's Indiana High School Athletic Association Semi-State wrestling meet at the Ford Center in Evansville is the last hurdle for wrestlers to make it to the IHSAA State Finals at Banker's Life Fieldhouse.

Among the 224 entrants, three will be there for certain from Putnam County as the South Putnam Eagles will be represented by Tanner Thompson, Rudy Harris and Jacob Williams.

Making their way out of the Avon sectional and Mooresville regional was no small task for any of the trio, but since then, the squad has been focused in on the new task at hand.

South Putnam head coach Josh Hendrickson said that with the quality of wrestlers still practicing, preparations are going smoothly for the weekend.

"So far, things have gone great," Hendrickson said. "We have three guys within the same weight class range and there is a lot of great competition. We can't ask for a better practice room right now.

"The guys won't be over-awed by the setting. Rudy was there last year. Tanner didn't wrestle there but, as team captain, he went with us on the trip. Jacob has wrestled in freestyle meets where the meets have been pretty large.

"It might be a little bit of surprise to see how many wrestlers will be there for the weigh-ins," Hendrickson mentioned. "It's a different schedule leaving Friday night and not being at home the night before.

"They're upperclassmen, though, and they're mature guys who will handle the changes well."

The challenges of Mooresville's regional are compounded by the addition of several more top-20 wrestling squads but, as Hendrickson noted, wrestling at events like the State Duals has meant the Eagles aren't virtual unknowns.

"We're going to be competing against guys from schools like Evansville Mater Dei, Bloomington South and Jasper; a lot of the powerhouses from the southern part of the state," Hendrickson said. Most of these guys aren't going to know a whole lot about us. We don't attend the giant tournaments so it's a little bit harder to find information about us than it is them.

"We were at the team state, so some people will at least know that we have a good squad, but we will be underdogs in a lot of matches."

Thompson will begin his day against Sam Bassemier of Mater Dei. Likely to be well backed in his home city, Hendrickson said that it would be a very good opening match.

"Wrestling anyone from a team like the Mater Dei program is going to be tough because they will be a sound wrestler," Hendrickson said. "Regardless of seeding, there are no easy matches at this point.

"Mater Dei is a school that likes to work in legs if they have the advantage. That's something we've worked on this year. Tanner's worked hard and I think he matches up nicely."

"He beat No. 13 Hunter Cullison and No. 15 Connor Ludwig and went toe-to-toe with the No. 4 Jonah Zorniger at 182 pounds in the regional finals," Hendrickson mentioned. "I'd put Tanner against anybody.

"If he wins the opener, he more than likely would face Damian Chambers of Edgewood. Tanner lost to Chambers early in the year in a close match. At this point in the year, it's a match I think Tanner can come out on top of."

Harris, sectional and regional winner, was eliminated in the opening round at last year's semi-state and will open his quest for the state tournament against Vincennes Lincoln's Rashawn Jefferson.

Hendrickson said that the 195-pound wrestler was determined to do better this year.

"The first thing Rudy said as soon as he lost was, 'Next year, I'm going further,'" Hendrickson said. "It was great motivation and this weekend he has a chance to prove that.

"Winning the regional and wrestling a four seed is better than being second and wrestling a three seed. He's not worried too much about what the other wrestlers are thinking.

"Rudy's worried about his own goals and how to achieve those goals," Hendrickson added. "He's working hard every day and I think he'll go out to wrestle his style of match.

"If he wins the opener, he likely would face Moises Valenciano of Jasper. He's a solid wrestler and we've gotten a look at both on film, so we know what to expect if we advance that far.

"Rudy has a good record and so do several guys in his side of the bracket. He's wrestled a lot of kids who have been ranked with the way our schedule has been this year. It's prepared him, along with the other three, to be ready for the big schools."

Williams might have had the most difficult road to make it to the semi-state, having gone up against a 220-pound weight class at regionals that featured four of the top 11 wrestlers in the state.

Hendrickson said that the quality of opponents so far bodes well as Williams faces Boyd Haley of Bloomington South in his opening match.

"There were five guys in the 220-pound class from the regional at Mooresville that could be state qualifiers," Hendrickson said. "220-pound No. 10 Damien Stone got fifth place, which shows the competition level Jacob's been wrestling against.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the four guys from the Mooresville regional advanced to the state finals. They are tough wrestlers and they've been wrestling each other for two weeks now.

"For being a one seed, Haley got a tough draw," Hendrickson said. "Wrestling a fourth-place finisher is different than the fourth-place finisher from Mooresville."

With a long two-week stretch filled with high level matches, Hendrickson believes that Williams is still ready for the challenge ahead.

"Jacob's worked hard all season," he said. "He's been a bit sick, knocked out and conditioning for him is a bit more difficult. He's a guy that does get tired in the third period.

"By that point, though, it's the guy that wants it more that is going to win," Hendrickson added. "We're trying something new from the top position, so hopefully he's picked it up and it will be effective this weekend.

"If it gets to that third period, and it's a question about who wants it more, I would back Jacob to be the guy that lays it all on the line, to leave it out there at the end of the day."

With only a week to find out everything about 45 separate wrestlers in three weight classes, Hendrickson said that the work would be worth the effort if one, two or even all three wrestlers made the state tournament.

"We've scrambled for what information we could get on the opponents this week," Hendrickson said. "I definitely don't mind coming back in and would love to do it for another week.

"We've had guys that have been eliminated come back and work with the three guys, which has been a big help to even out some numbers.

"We're looking at it the same way we have for the last two weeks. We're getting ourselves pumped up so when Saturday comes, the guys are wrestling their best matches."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: