Perry Meridian High School has won back-to-back team state wrestling titles and would be the heavy favorites to make it three in a row -- under the former system that included individual and team state tournaments.
But after the Indiana High School Athletic Association eliminated the dual-meet portion -- opting instead to score the regional, semistate and state levels of the tournament like an invitational for the first time since 1995 -- Falcons coach Jim Tonte believes Friday's and Saturday's state meet is wide open.
"They're not scoring the first round (Friday), which makes no sense to me and really penalizes teams that have a lot of wrestlers who win their first match," said Tonte, who qualified eight wrestlers . "Under this format, it's not about who is the better team or the better program. It's about the luck of the draw or someone getting hot at the right time. I just don't understand why you wouldn't score the first round."
First-round results in the sectional didn't count toward team scoring because of forfeits and byes creating an unfair advantage. All three rounds were scored in the regional, while the final three were scored in the semistate .
"The first round is not scored because we score from the round of eight at each level of the tournament," said Robert Faulkens, the IHSAA commissioner for wrestling. "There is no disadvantage (for teams)."
The Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association has given a Coaches Trophy to the team at the individual state tournament that would have finished first under the old -- and current -- format. Four times in the past five seasons, the team that won the Coaches Trophy went on to win the team state title. The exception was two years ago, when Perry Meridian won the team title and Crown Point rode the strength of two state champs, and a second- and a third-place finisher to the trophy.
That same year, Indian Creek had two state champs and a second to finish second to Crown Point for the Coaches Trophy.
Tonte said the new format -- where major decisions, technical falls and pins count extra in team scoring -- causes coaches to face a dilemma.
"Do you tell your kid to let the other kid go so you can get a major or a tech fall and then see your kid get caught in a headlock and gets pinned?" he said. "Then you look like the dumbest coach in the world. Basically, we're just telling our kids, 'If we do what we're capable of doing, we'll win this thing.' "
Molloy bounces back
Danville's Neal Molloy won a state title as a sophomore and entered the state meet undefeated a year ago. But his dreams of a second-consecutive state title ended with an upset loss in the quarterfinals -- a loss that has driven Molloy to a 39-0 record and No. 1 ranking at 145 pounds.
"It was rough, but live and learn," Molloy said of 2012. "But it's motivated me a lot. I had a stellar summer, and this season has been pretty good so far."
Molloy, who will wrestle for Indiana University next year, said he isn't taking anything for granted tonight. "You can go out, have a bad day and be done," he said. "If I don't go out and wrestle the way I need to, I could go out and lose (tonight). You have to always wrestle your best."
From second to first?
Five area wrestlers took second in the 2012 state tournament: Greenfield-Central's Josh Farrell, Cathedral's Vinny Corsaro, Cody Lecount and Jake Masengale of Perry Meridian, and Franklin 's Luke Kriech. All five qualified for this year's state meet and will attempt to take that next step.
All have legitimate shots, though it will have to be either Farrell or Corsaro, since both are at 152 pounds. Lecount is ranked No. 1 at 132 pounds, Farrell is second, Masengale (182 pounds) and Corsaro third, and Kriech (160) ninth.
Farrell, now 44-0, said last year's finals loss is something he doesn't want to repeat. "I don't ever want to feel that way again," he said. "I know if it happens again, it's going to feel a lot worse."
No one will be surprised if Perry Meridian's top-ranked Donte Winfield and No. 2 Wesley Bernard of Cathedral face off in the 285-pound finals. Winfield is 37-2, with both losses coming to Bernard in overtime. The one loss among Bernard's 46 matches came courtesy of Winfield. "I'm expecting to see him again," Bernard said of his rival. "It's definitely a good and close rivalry."
New Palestine freshman Chad Red is 44-0 and ranked No. 1 at 106. He also admits he may be dealing with some butterflies Friday. "I'll probably be a little nervous," Red said. "But no matter what, I want to win (a state title). I feel like if I lose that, I won't have accomplished my goal." ... Defending 195-pound state champ Mitch Sliga of Fishers takes a 95-match win streak into Friday.
A pair of upset losses in the semistate has created a state-title caliber matchup tonight. At 160 pounds, No. 1 Austin McCloskey of Western Boone -- who was upset in the semistate final -- takes on No. 2 Kennith Hughes of Lowell, a third-place finisher in the semistate. The two are a combined 81-2. ... Lake Central's Galen Robinson, son of Purdue great Glenn Robinson Jr. and brother of Michigan basketball standout Glenn Robinson III, is 45-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state at 220 pounds. He faces Zionsville's 12th-ranked Jacob Aven tonight.
Five area wrestlers are ranked nationally in their weight classes, according to the website Amateur Wrestling News: Red (No. 6), Lecount (No. 13), Molloy (No. 7), Sliga (No. 5 at 195) and Winfield (No. 8).