By Nick Gonnella Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
Greensburg — The Greensburg wrestling team expects to take on a tough sectional field well-equipped to make this season historical for the program.
The Pirate grapplers’ schedule will feature more common opponents from the Jennings County Sectional than in recent seasons.
According to fourth-year Greensburg head coach Matt Cochran, it will benefit the wrestlers by establishing more accurate seeding for the sectional.
Cochran likes the chances his team has to contend for a conference championship, noting that Greensburg finished in the top half of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference “for the first time in quite a while.” The Pirates last won the conference in 1986.
“This team is looking to break that streak,” said Cochran. “We’re working hard every day to reach that goal.”
The high expectations the coaches have for the Pirates is a result of a strong turnout of wrestlers and several who have returned with state tournament success. Going into Friday’s Madison Tri Meet, Cochran likes the composition of the team’s lineup as several wrestlers return from Semi-State and regional appearances.
The season will begin with a treat for wrestlers – opening on a Friday night.
“A Friday night event can be a special night,” said Cochran. “It’s not normal for us to get that spotlight. We’re looking forward to that event.”
Lost to graduation are three seniors, including regional qualifier Justin Dance. John Cook and Chaz Smiley also graduated.
Not including a few who recently joined, 29 wrestlers will compete for Greensburg – the most the team has had in quite a while.
In total, seven seniors will lead the team this season. There are three juniors, five sophomores and 14 freshmen before last week’s additions to the team.
“It seems to be a very freshman/senior heavy team,” said Cochran. “Most of the seniors are seasoned and experienced kids. With that group of experience, we’re pretty excited about this year, with the addition of new guys as well – which will make us stronger. We have a handful of wrestlers who are new to us who look to step up and contribute.”
Senior Blake Wood, who transferred from Rushville, wrestled for Greensburg as a freshman. Wood a sectional championship at 138 pounds last winter.
“He will be a huge addition as far as leadership, and he is a great wrestler,” said Cochran of Wood. “We are happy to have him with us.”
Senior Joel Chase, a two-time EIAC champion, also looks to make a deep run in the tournament.
“He hasn’t made it out of the sectional, but he’s worked hard in the offseason and looks to make it out,” said Cochran. “He will work to be a three-time EIAC champ, which will be a strong feat.”
Junior Drew Neisius competed in the Evansville Reitz Semi-State at 195 pounds, placing sixth as the highest Semi-State placing for Greensburg in five years. Neisius competed in Greco-Roman wrestling in the Junior National Tournament in Fargo in the offseason.
“He wants to work hard to get to state this year,” said Cochran.
As a freshman, Brandon Butz tallied a 24-12 record and competed in the Semi-State. Butz will compete at 120 pounds.
“He’s looking really good in practice,” said Cochran.
Senior Colten Black, who will wrestle between 170 and 182 pound classes, struggled through injuries last year and wants to bounce back.
“He’s looking solid and confident and wants to get to that level again,” said Cochran.
Senior Joe Buening, who wrestles at 160 and 170 pounds, rebounded as a junior.
“He has a strong bounceback season last year,” said Cochran. “He looks to build on that this year.”
Junior Nathan Hayes is a returning EIAC champion at heavyweight, as well as a regional contender.
“We have big expectations for him,” said Cochran of Hayes.
Senior Matt Scheumann hopes to return to the mats by the end of the season. Scheumann, who is recovering from an injury during the football season, competed in the Jefferson Regional at 220 pounds as a junior.
“I hope that for him as a senior,” said Cochran of Scheumann’s possible return.
Junior Jordan Smiley (132 pounds) qualified for the regional after coming on strong toward the end of the season.
“It really boosted his confidence,” said Cochran. “We’re looking to see that grow even more this year.”
Greensburg will travel to Jennings County Dec. 12 for a dual, which Cochran said will be “a good measuring stick” for the team.
“Jennings County is traditionally a power in our sectional,” he said. “That is something the kids will circle and hone in on performing. That will be a good early test to see where our team is.”
Greensburg will host East Central for a dual on Dec. 17, and Senior Night is Jan. 14.
Another team goal is defending the Tri-High Superduals Championship, but Cochran believes more championships are possible.
Cochran said he and the coaching staff, which includes Terry Dance, Derek Cornn and Curtis Nieman, are looking forward to coaching this group of wrestlers.
“They come to practice willing to work hard, but also want to enjoy each other,” said Cochran. “That’s a key to their success.”
Cochran applauded Josh Teague for being instrumental in helping build the elementary program, which consists of 70 wrestlers.
“That’s one of the reasons our numbers are higher, as well,” said Cochran. “Coach Teague and Coach Cornn deserve a lot of credit for that,” he said. “They have done a really good job of getting kids interested in wrestling. The growth of the elementary program is starting to pay off at the high school level. They deserve a lot of credit for the improvements the high schoolers make.”
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.