MISHAWAKA - 22 of 34 area wrestlers who battled in the Penn Regional Saturday will advance to the East Chicago Semistate this coming weekend. The Wawasee Warriors led the way among area teams with a third-place team finish (106.5 points) and 8 semistate qualifiers. Backyard rivals Penn (214.5 points), and 2022 Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) champion Mishawaka (176.5 points) finished first and second respectively.

Penn’s (6 champions among 9 finalists), and Mishawaka’s (5 champions among 8 finals) 1-2 team finish was no surprise to folks in attendance at Penn’s Palace Saturday.

Warsaw finished fifth in team standings (73 points), edging Tippecanoe Valley (72 points). Triton scored 8 points with David Cox’s 170-lb. weight class opening round win. Cox is the lone Trojan headed to East Chicago this weekend.

Wawasee had four finalists, but Kaleb Salazar (106 lbs.) was the Warriors’ lone regional champ. He opened the first two rounds with a forfeit, and a 3-0 decision before decisioning Mishawaka’s Xavier Chavez 7-1.

“He didn’t score a lot, but he was in control of all his matches,” Wawasee head coach Frank Bumgardner said. “If you go by rankings, it was 7, 8, and 9 in our cluster… that was a pretty good day for him.”

The Warriors’ runners-up were Hunter Miller (138), Ethan Rodriguez (145), and Cam Zimmerman (170). Zimmerman lost 10-7 to a familiar foe, NLC champion Isaac Valdez of Mishawaka.

“The eleven guys who wrestled in the first round today were 9-2,” Bumgardner noted “Our confidence level is pretty high. How do we match up (for semistate)? We’re wrestling well. We’re in a really good space right now.”

Dylan Tom (126) was among the nine Warriors wrestling in the fruitful first round. An excessive force call in the late third period, however, resulted in his disqualification from the tournament. The alternate who will spell him in the semistate is Tippecanoe Valley’s Barrett Heller.

Warsaw’s lone finalist, Andrew Ross (152) lost by fall (2:33) to Mishawaka’s Keagen Mabie. The match was a NLC title rematch from three weeks ago.

The Tigers won seven opening round matches, and for various reasons, hit a wall in most of their semifinal matches. The Warsaw “youth movement” is showing up on the radar, and opponents are preparing for them, as opposed to having the kids at Warsaw sneak up on their opponents,

Warsaw advanced seven grapplers to East Chicago. Head coach Kris Hueber was – for the most part – pleased with the team’s performance, but he noted some challenges facing his young wrestlers as they begin to frequent deeper postseason appearances.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for learning and growth regardless of the outcome,” Hueber mentioned regarding the upcoming semistate meet. “It also created new pressure. It’s one thing to sneak up on (your opponents). It’s different when you start showing up on people’s radar and they’re preparing for you.

“We have some kids right now who have far exceeded what (goals) they wrote on paper. Sometimes that empowers a kid, and they’re playing with house money… and sometimes it creates pressure, and they don’t know how to handle that.”

Tippecanoe Valley head coach Kyler Kearby is confident in the experience levels most of his six semistate qualifiers have under their belts.

“The guys wrestled pretty well today,” Kearby sad. “We’re not sending guys who are shell-shocked. They’ve been there.”

The Vikings boast the only other area regional wrestling champ in the meet, Brandon Hammer (182). The third regional champion in the wrestling program’s history, Hammer decisioned Plymouth’s Matt McCrum in a rematch of last week’s sectional title bout.

Bazle Owens (195) was major decisioned 11-2 in the Vikings’ other finals match appearance.

Many third place matches matched area wrestlers mano-a-mano. Each wrestler noted will advance to semistate:

Galvin Shambaugh (Valley, 120) decisioned Elias Garza (Warsaw) 4-0. Isaiah Martinez (Warsaw, 126) won by forfeit over Tom. Drake Montelongo (Valley, 132) decisioned Wawasee’s Logan Stuckman 10-4. The Tigers’ Jaxson Cooper Walters (170) pinned Cox in 2:25. Dalton Alber (Valley, 220) pinned Isaac Beam (Warsaw) in 2:36.

Other area semistate qualifiers include Bryce McNees (Noah Wolf (Wawasee, 113, third place), and Gideon Castro (Warsaw, 285, fourth place).