State qualifier Owens is RTC wrestler of year
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Tippecanoe Valley sophomore wrestler Bazle Owens was already having a great year. Then, in a span of two matches on Feb. 13, his great year turned into a historic year.
In those two matches at the East Chicago semistate, Owens defeated Justin Sawyer of Hobart and Daeveon Cheeks of Lafayette Jeff by decision to qualify for the IHSAA state finals.
And by becoming the third wrestler in Valley history to qualify for state and the only wrestler in our area to qualify for state, he is our pick as RTC Wrestler of the Year.
The season did not always go smoothly for Owens. He lost 11 times, including to Rochester’s Brady Beck in a dual meet, to Manchester’s Preston Duffy at the conference meet and to Culver Academy’s Eli Pack twice during the state tournament.
But the state tournament rewards persistence, a short memory and toughness when the odds might be against you.
Owens finished fourth at the Penn regional. It’s extremely rare to finish fourth at your regional and then make state. Yet Owens did that. The odds were against him, but he pulled through.
Owens joins Isaac Yoder (2011) and Devin Childers (2014) as Valley wrestlers to qualify for state.
The other theme of the season was completing a season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
There were spotty quarantines, which hit schools like Pioneer hard and also ended the season of Owens’ Valley teammate Branson McBrier.
But in a sport in which persevering through adversity is part of the deal, the wrestlers plowed through it.
The following is the all-RTC wrestling team. We chose a wrestler for the first team and honorable mention in each weight class.
While we thank the area coaches for keeping us informed and educated about their wrestlers, this list is ours and ours alone, and we take full responsibility.
We place extra emphasis in how wrestlers did in their conference tournaments and the state tournament series.
RTC Area Wrestler of the year
106 – Galvin Shambaugh (Tippecanoe Valley) – Shambaugh is scrappy and tough who lasted six minutes with even the best wrestlers. A semistate qualifier, it took the eventual state champion from LaPorte to finally eliminate him.
113 – Ethan Holloway (Rochester) – Holloway is a thoughtful technician who added more brute strength to the mat this year and made it to semistate.
120 – Drake Montelongo (Tippecanoe Valley) – Montelongo was the TRC champ and the sectional runner-up before his season ended at regional. He made the move up from 113 and looked comfortable.
126 – Tyler Tankersley (Winamac) – Tankersley was the Hoosier North champ and a regional qualifier. He’s part of a strong group of lower weight kids at Winamac.
132 – Talan Braun (Winamac) – Braun was a regional qualifier who was wrestling his best at the end of the season. A freshman, Braun was holding his own with juniors and seniors.
138 – Jacob Manns (Tippecanoe Valley) – Manns, a sophomore, is a sign of the pipeline of talent being built at Valley. He survived the Plymouth sectional to make his first regional.
145 – Greyson Gard (Rochester) – Gard shot up from 126 to 145 in the span of a year and clearly had spent his time in the pandemic getting stronger and honing his hard-nosed style, which culminated in a semistate berth.
152 – Wade Shafer (Rochester) – This is a tough call, but our pick is Shafer over Branson McBrier. Shafer was a great athlete and strong technical wrestler who faced a tough slate of opponents.
160 – Noah Swango (Rochester) – Swango, a senior, had never made it to regional prior to this year, but this year, he made it to semistate. The key was his conditioning. He often just outlasted his opponents.
170 – Isaiah Wilson (Winamac) – Wilson got hot to close out his career, just tearing through the competition to win conference and sectional titles. He rarely even saw the second period in many of his matches. He eventually finished his career at semistate.
182 – Brandon Hammer (Tippecanoe Valley) – A tough, crafty wrestler, Hammer returned to semistate for the second straight year. His overtime win over Rochester’s Alex Deming at the TRC tournament was the most engrossing match we saw all year. The following week, he beat undefeated Paul DeWitt from LaVille in the sectional final.
195 – Bazle Owens (Tippecanoe Valley) – He honed his raw talent and became a superb overall wrestler as a sophomore. The quality of opponents he faced during his state tournament run will only help him in the future.
220 – Brady Beck (Rochester) – Freshmen at the heavier weights typically take awhile to come into their own, but Beck’s instincts and technique make him unlike the typical freshman, and he came within one win of making state. Beck is also a superb bottom position wrestler.
HWT – Marshall Fishback (Rochester) – Fishback transformed his body during the pandemic, and he just outworked his opponents on the year by pushing the tempo until they gave out. He is likely the most improved wrestler we’ve ever seen at this level.
106 – Tyler Wolfe (Rochester)
113 – Barrett Heller (Tippecanoe Valley)
120 – Shaun Pratt (Winamac)
126 – Aaron Swango (Rochester)
132 – Mitchell Shafer (Rochester)
138 – Ethan Amezquita (Caston)
145 – Phillip Crippin (Winamac)
152 – Branson McBrier (Tippecanoe Valley)
160 – Logan Smith (Pioneer)
170 – Kaleb Shaffer (Rochester)
182 – Alex Deming (Rochester)
195 – Dakota Smith (Winamac)
220 – Dalton Alber (Tippecanoe Valley)
HWT – Mason Schnurpel (Pioneer)
Ethan Holloway Wade Shafer