Bellefontaine Examiner

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Hitting the mat

aaron hittingmat

Beefed up Jimmy Mac Duals highlight opening weekend

Make no mistake, the second annual Jimmy Mac Duals at Bellefontaine High School on Saturday will not be your average wrestling tournament.

After a long fall season, I am more than ready to get this year’s wrestling campaign under way. With the exception of Ironman, the best prep tournament in the nation, I can’t think of a better way to hit the mats.

At the Jimmy Mac, teams will compete in two pools of four and have five different dual meets. Wrestling begins Saturday at 10 a.m. with more rounds to follow at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Bellefontaine head coach Rick Reed has done plenty of leg work to beef up the Chieftains’ home tournament. Not afraid of tough competition, he brought in several quality teams and I’m impressed with the lineup he has prepared for Saturday.

Making up this year’s tournament field are Bellefontaine, Mechanicsburg, Kenton Ridge, Urbana, Miami Trace, Cincinnati Oak Hills, Northmont and Hamilton Badin.

“We’re excited to bring some quality wrestling teams to Bellefontaine,” said Reed. “Our goal is to eventually make this a high-level tournament and I think we are well on our way in year two.”

The biggest addition is Miami Trace, a Division II program I have followed closely since I was in high school. The Panthers return four state qualifiers, including a state placer in junior Trent Duffy.

Kenton Ridge won the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail division last year and is headlined by junior two-time state placer Preston Bowshier. The Cougars also have five other district qualifiers returning. They are heavily favored to win the CBC KT again this season.

Mechanicsburg finished 14th at the Division III state meet a year ago and features some of the top contenders in Division III in several weight classes. The Indians went 2-0 at last year’s Jimmy Mac Duals and are led by junior Austin Reese, who was second in the state last season. They also return another state qualifier and two district qualifiers.

With a talented field, there will be plenty of key matchups to watch for on Saturday.

At 182 pounds, Miami Trace senior state qualifier Josh Teasely may have to face highly touted Urbana freshman Jack Harris, who is projected to place sixth in the state.

At 138 pounds, Reese may see Bowshier bump up a weight class, from 132 pounds, to wrestle him. That would pit a Division III returning state runner-up against at Division II fifth-place state finisher. I hope that happens.

Bellefontaine is taking the same approach it did at last year’s tournament and that is to compete well against the tough competition ahead of them.

“We lack the credentials of some of the competition, so we are looking to see how our kids compete,” said Reed. “We know that we are a team that will get better as the season moves on, but competing is something we can control right now.”

Lakers should have a bigger year

I was extremely impressed, but not completely surprised, by Indian Lake’s performance at the Division II district tournament last season.

You can always talk about a team’s potential, but watching them reach it is a different story. The Division II Marion district was statistically the toughest district in Ohio last year, regardless of division. Six of the top 10 ranked teams in Division II were at Marion and the Lakers came away with a ninth-place finish. Like I said, it was very impressive.

With a lineup that is solid from top to bottom, Indian Lake could be in store for an even bigger year. The Lakers could have as many as four state qualifiers and a large number of district qualifiers.

I have high expectations for returning state placer Heath Lange. He is technical, tenacious, smart and mat savvy. High placement at state is a very real possibility. I also expect L.J. Henderson and Reyse Wallbrown to do big things as well.

Big changes this season

There were plenty of changes made during the offseason and some will have a big impact. I’ll address these in more detail as they begin to happen later in the season.

The two main ones to know about are the new state dual tournament and the sectional tournament draw.

I made clear my displeasure with the movement of the Tippecanoe sectional into Northwest District last season. There was an unfair competitive balance. The Marion district was loaded and left the Southwest District meet at Goshen much weaker.

A lot of coaches did not like it, either. To rectify this, there will now be a sectional draw between two of the Southwest sectionals. A total of 24 teams from the Milton-Union sectional and Tippecanoe sectional will be seeded and then choose which district they want to go to.

The other biggest change is that the new state dual meet tournament begins this season. Teams are divided up by region and will compete on a weekly basis near the end of the year. Every team will have a chance to compete in the tournament.

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