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Five set for semi-state

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LOOKING FOR MORE: Clinton Central's Kolt Keller, right in last week's regional final against Carmel's Jonathan Williams, hopes to continue his success in winning the sectional and regional at 285 lbs. at Saturday's New Castle semi-state and move on to the state finals.
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RANKED FRESHMAN: Frankfort freshman Elijah Anthony, top, waits for the referee's whistle to restart his regional championship match with Carmel's Suhas Chundi at 106 lbs. last Saturday. Anthony, ranked ninth in the state, like other county wrestlers at Saturday's semi-state needs two wins to advance to the state finals.
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GOPHER PRIDE: Clinton Prairie's Caiden Maish, top, at 195 lbs. controlled opponent Sam Medlen of Westfield early in his third-place match before falling to a late second-period pin. He still became the first Gopher to advance to semi-state in eight or nine years.
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FRESH FROSH: Along with teammate Elijah Anthony, Frankfort's Josue Bautista, left, is the school's first freshman to qualify for semi-state since 2001.
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REVENGE WIN: Frankfort's Zeke VanDeventer, left, at 182 lbs. avenged a loss during the conference tournament against Southmont's Riley Woodall to take third-place at the North Montgomery regional.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton County will send a historically high number of wrestlers in recent years to Saturday's New Castle semi-state, with Frankfort's Elijah Anthony receiving respect in state and semi-state polls with Clinton Central regional champion Kolt Keller and others not getting as much.

Anthony, a freshman, is currently ranked ninth in the state by Indiana Mat and 11th by Hoosier Mat at 106 lbs. Hot Dogs head coach Richard Sallee talked about how deep the 106 lb. pool was at the Frankfort sectional and that only becomes more of an issue at New Castle, where three wrestlers ranked above Anthony will compete to reach the state finals.

Those wrestlers include Perry Meridian sophomore Alex Cottey, the state's top-ranked wrestler in the weight class who finished second at state last year and is unbeaten this year; Carmel junior Suhas Chundi, who is ranked fourth in the state and beat Anthony (for his only losses this season) both in the sectional and regional finals; and Warren Central sophomore Carleton Perry, who is ranked seventh in the state.

Anthony would meet none of those wrestlers until the semi-finals, but if he gets to that point the challenge would be significant as Cottey could await there.

“They predicted him to get to the semi-finals based on the rankings,” Frankfort head coach Richard Sallee, but “those first two matches” are the ones he is focused on as Anthony would advance to state with wins in both.

“There are no slouches at the semi-state level and anyone can win on any given day,” he noted, adding that Anthony would likely have to beat Logan Carrender, a Lawrence North junior with a 26-3 record, who is ranked right below Anthony in the state and for the semi-state.

“At any other semi-state, he would probably make it out,” Sallee said. “We still wrestle on Saturdays because nothing is certain. Like Keller, he hasn't even broke into the (state) rankings and he's a regional champion in a tough regional.”

Indiana Mat didn't even mention Keller in its top-eight semi-state favorites, with a silver lining being that the last update to the rankings was done on Jan. 25 just before sectionals began. The second-ranked semi-state wrestler in the weight class by both Indiana and Hoosier Mat, Hamilton Southeastern's Crae Kunkleman, didn't get to the final at either the Frankfort sectional or the North Montgomery regional. Keller beat Carmel's Jonathan Williams, who was ranked sixth among semi-state hopefuls by Indiana Mat and unranked by Hoosier, for the championship in both the sectional and regional.

Like Anthony, the state's top-ranked wrestler at 285 lbs., North Central's Jamichael Watts, is also at the New Castle semi-state. He is ranked first by Indiana Mat and Hoosier Mat for the semi-state, with Keller getting some recognition by Hoosier Mat as the seventh-ranked wrestler in his weight class at 285.

But, the results show that the rankings can be deceiving as Keller beat Kunkleman by 3-2 decisions in the semis at both sectionals and regionals. Central head coach Austin Faulkner didn't think any lack of recognition motivates Keller.

“I try to get in our boys' heads when they are younger that it doesn't matter,” he said. “... It's a battle with yourself. It doesn't matter who steps in front of you. … The media's rankings, that's their opinion. I've got my own opinion that my kid's better than theirs and I think it works out well for us.”

Faulkner noted that those rankings often are coming from people involved with those larger programs.

“I like my kids recognized, no doubt about,” he said, but the only way to gain that recognition is by “going down and beating one of those guys.”

Keller's success has helped the program, he added.

“It's awesome for our program,” Faulkner said. “It will draw attention to our program. There's a lot that comes from the kid as well (in heart and hard work).”

He noted that many young kids get into wrestling at the junior high level or below and don't stay with the sport once they find out how much work is involved, but Keller's success at the sectional and regional displays the payoff.

“They are seeing what hard work can get for you,” Faulkner said. “They see him at practice and how hard he works and they're seeing the results.”

The three other county wrestlers going to semi-state will have a more difficult path to the state finals, but both Frankfort's Zeke VanDeventer at 182 and Clinton Prairie's Caiden Maish at 195 have already exceeded expectations.

“We know that we're the underdog and we just want to give it a good shot,” Clinton Prairie head coach Joey Mitchell said. “We've basically been throwing everything at Maish. Win or lose we want to to give it a good shot and earn some respect.”

Maish, a junior with a 16-6 record, faces Perry Meridian's Austin Lane (32-4) in his first match. Mitchell noted that Lane has a great deal of experience not only in freestyle wrestling, but nationally with Greco-Roman wrestling.

“He's a pretty talented wrestler, so we'll have our hands full,” he said, noting that “we've got four or five kids on the team” helping prepare Maish for the challenge.

After last Saturday's regional, Mitchell noted how Maish had “turned it on at the right time” after starting the season slowly. He added that Maish's achievement in getting to the semi-state was significant for the program, as Prairie hasn't had a semi-state qualifier in eight or nine years.

VanDeventer's ascent to semi-state shows that rankings can be overcome. Three North Montgomery regional wrestlers are ranked in the semi-state rankings by Indiana Mat and four by Hoosier Mat, but one of those didn't make it out of regionals and VanDeventer beat another to take third at regionals.

To get to state, VanDeventer (27-8) will need to overcome the odds again, as he faces P.J. Sterrett, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), (35-5) (ranked fifth at semi-state by Indiana Mat and seventh by Hoosier Mat) in his first match and likely Hagerstown's Jake Combs (35-4) (ranked eighth by both in the second).

Frankfort freshman Josue Bautista (26-8) is the final county wrestler at semi-state at 113. He faces Warren Central's David Pierson (28-2), who is ranked second at semi-state by both Indiana and Hoosier Mat, in his first match. As with VanDeventer, Sallee said advancement will be difficult but nothing is impossible.

“Obviously, we know they're beatable because they have losses on their records,” he noted, adding that a parent recently asked him the last time that Frankfort took a freshman to semi-state.

“I think it's been since Felipe Perez (around 2001) that we took a freshman to the semi-state and now we have two,” Sallee said.

Both Sallee and Faulkner can remember better years in advancing wrestlers to semi-state, with Faulkner believing Central sent four or five itself around 2006 and Sallee remembering times that Frankfort sent that many itself as well although those occurred before or right after realignment to super-sectionals in 2003.

“It's been a long time,” Sallee said. “... I actually warmed up by wrestling with coach Faulkner at state (in 1999), even though he was at 132, when I was a junior (and he was a senior).”