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Eagles favored at revamped CIC meet

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Even with a new format, the Oak Hill dominance of the Central Indiana Conference wrestling figures to go unchallenged this weekend at Elwood High School.

The Golden Eagles chase their sixth consecutive conference championship and return all six of last year’s individual champions. This year, the league will conduct a series of seven dual meet rounds Friday and Saturday and scrapped the tournament style format used for many years.

First and second round matches begin at 6 p.m. today and will conclude beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Admission is $6 per round or $10 for both days.

Oak Hill is 19-0 after blanking conference rival Blackford 83-0 Wednesday and has already proven its mettle against Eastbrook, Madison-Grant and Mississinewa in the Grant Four invitational. Returning individual champions are Aiden Hardcastle, Harper Dedmon, Bhupesh Chauhan, Tyler Miller, Max Stefanatos and Stuart Mossholder.

Others may not see an end to Oak Hill’s dominance anytime soon, and even coach Andrew King expressed confidence about its chances Thursday afternoon.

“Sure, I believe there are a couple teams that have the ability,” King said. “If we wrestle up to our ability, no one should come close to us. But we’ve heard of David and Goliath, and there may be somebody on a bad day do it.

“We have to be ready to wrestle and nobody out there that’s going to lay down for us,” he added. “We have to prove it each year, but we are the favorite this year and if our kids come to wrestle we will prevail.”

King said he was in the minority who voted against the new conference format and said the old set up helped get wrestlers ready for the postseason.

“I like the traditional tournament format,” he said. “That’s the way the sectionals ran and usually (CIC) was a week before the sectionals and you become accustomed to the rhythm of the meets. But that was voted on this year, and we’ll try it and maybe next year we’ll have a re-vote and it changes back next year ... or maybe it won’t.”

Mississinewa coach Curt Funk said he’s willing to give the dual meet format a try and said it will boost the number of matches for each wrestler.

“It’s about getting matches and kids get to wrestle seven times,” Funk said. “Previously, if you got to the finals the most guaranteed matches you get to wrestle is three times in one day with the old format. Kids are used to it with super duals where you wrestle five times on a Saturday, but not too many kids get the opportunity to wrestle seven times in two days.”

IHSAA rules limit wrestlers to no more than five matches in a single day (hence, the two-day tournament).

“You get more matches,” King said. “But the state is trying to minimize the matches wrestlers have and minimize the day-long and two-day tournaments and encourage more dual meets during the week.”

Elwood could be Oak Hill’s biggest challenger for meet supremacy. King said Madison-Grant has a complete team, Mississinewa is wrestling well and both teams could challenge for the team title.

Mississinewa’s Courtland Smith is a returning individual champion and has a 19-6 record this season. Kyler Funk was a state finalist this year and currently is 21-4, but the junior must navigate through a stacked 182-pound weight class.

Also competing at 182 is Elwood’s Jalen Morgan, a state qualifier last year and rated fourth in the class by indiana.mat.com. Frankton’s Cody Klettheimer is ranked third in the state at 171 pounds and expected to move up to 182 for the CIC meet.

“No matter what happens, our kids are going to wrestle some of the best kids in the state over the weekend, and that’s the good thing,” Curt Funk said.