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County wrestlers look for ticket to state finals

A FINAL STEP: Eight Miami County wrestlers, including Maconaquah’s Blake Kinney (L) will look to make it to the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals next week if they can navigate through the IHSAA New Haven Semi-State held at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum this Saturday. Wrestling begins at 8:30 a.m.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

For eight Miami County wrestlers, Saturday represents the chance to make the final leap to the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals if they can navigate their way through the IHSAA New Have Wrestling Semi-State.

Those that can win their first two matches at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum will punch their ticket to the state finals and then can focus on the fight for seeding and a semistate title.

The first man to enter the stage is Maconaquah’s Blake Kinney (31-4), who won the Peru Sectional and finished runner-up at last weekend’s Peru Regional at 106 pounds, both times facing No. 13 Jared Brooks of Wabash.

Kinney will be facing fellow junior Emmanuel Ellis (27-8) of Fort Wayne Snyder in the opening round while on the other side of the bracket, No. 11 Isaac Ruble (33-5) of Bellmont and Nick Olson (30-6) of Goshen meet in a battle of freshmen.

Coming in off a lopsided loss to Brooks last week, Maconaquah head coach Bob Freije said Kinney was determined to show that the result in the sectional against Brooks, which allowed Kinney to win the Peru Sectional, was a better indicator of who he was as a wrestler.

“Blake has competed at some big events but if his mind is set like it was for sectionals, look out world,” Freije said. “He’s a man on a mission and I feel his mindset is correct this week.”

Peru’s Cole Sailors (20-12) will be the next county wrestler out on the mats, facing off for a second time with No. 16 Jett Boots (34-5) of Angola at 113 pounds.

Sailors finished as runner-up in the TRC and won the Peru Sectional but finished fourth at the Peru Regional last weekend.

Boots made quick work of Sailors at the Peru Super Six, recording a fall in just over a minute, a result Sailors will be looking to reverse.

The other side of the quarter bracket pits freshman Eli Johnson (24-10) of Norwell against sophomore Jacob Veach (23-7) of Leo.

Up at 138 pounds, two seniors will try for a spot at the state finals as Zack Bullock and Tori Forrest navigate tricky fields.

Bullock (25-11) will open up the day against junior Clayton Jackson (24-13) of Leo while on the other side of the bracket, No. 20 William Fiechter (34-5) of Southern Wells and Braxton Rodriguez (28-12) of Goshen face off.

After finally getting a win over Forrest the week prior at the Peru Regional, Freije said Bullock needed to use his offense more this Saturday.

“Zack needs to run his race,” Freije said. “He needs to wrestle to win and not to lose.

“The wrestler that is passive usually loses so we’ve been focusing on being aggressive all the time, strategy and situations.”

Forrest (29-7), who finished fourth as a result of the match with Bullock, opens with a fellow senior in Reis Shrock (30-6) of Carroll (Fort Wayne).

The other side of the quarter bracket will likely bring a tough foe in No. 6 Tanner Schoeff (33-4) of Central Noble, who ended up as a third-seed last week with a loss to No. 3 Conner Gimson of Jimtown.

Schoeff, a state qualifier last year, will face freshman AJ Dull (25-10) of South Adams in his opener.

Aaron McKinley (29-3) will be next up at 145 pounds, looking to find a rematch in the ticket round if he can navigate past senior Jordan Schricker (34-8) of Jay County in the opening round.

The Braves junior will be aiming for another crack at No. 14 Ryan Rasler (35-3) of Prairie Heights if the senior defeats Mathew Kline (22-18) of Huntington North in the opening round.

Rasler defeated McKinley 6-2 at Yorktown, a result Freije said the junior understood and was looking to rectify if he wins the opening round bout.

“Aaron has been really focused on things this week and having a superb training week,” Freije noted. “I look for a big week from him and we’re looking forward to those bouts.”

Up at 160 pounds, Peru’s Zian Constable (31-6) comes off three-consecutive runner-up finishes at the TRC, Peru Sectional and Peru Regional and will open up the day against a fellow junior in Treyven McKinley (27-12) of Eastside.

A tough draw likely waits on the other side as No. 11 Jon Ruble (32-6) of Bellmont, a returning state qualifier, will take on Tyler Becker (21-14) of NorthWood.

Teammate Zion Ryan (29-7) will also be stepping into an unknown matchup against sophomore Ibrahim Khoucha (24-8) of Northridge.

The two wrestles were a result of way from meeting at the Al Smith Classic earlier this year, both falling to James Goldsborough of Elkhart Memorial in consecutive rounds.

The inner will face either Allan Ives (22-10) of Carroll (Fort Wayne) or No. 7 Cale Gray (26-4) of Norwell, who was upended by Chandler Chapman (14-0) of Jay County at the Jay County regional.

Of the county wrestlers looking to reach the state finals, the favorite among them is Adam Bowman (34-0) of Maconaquah, the only heavyweight in the New Haven field still sporting an unblemished record with titles at the TRC, Peru Sectional and Peru Regional in consecutive weeks.

No. 6 Bowman will begin his day against Keenan Perkins (30-12) of Jimtown while on the other side of the quarter bracket, Nolan Hathaway (22-12) of Garett faces off with Andre Hughes (30-4) of South Adams.

While a state place will be the main priority, Bowman holds wins over two other significant wrestlers in the regional in No. 7 Holden Parsons (33-2) of Yorktown, a 3-1 decision win in overtime, and Brian Bergman (27-5) of Lakeland, a 13-4 major decision. Parsons and Bergman could meet in the ticket round.

As such, the aim for Bowman will be for more than just a spot in the state finals though Freije said the senior was keeping things simple throughout the week.

“Adam is preparing like he has all season and has his routine down,” Freije said. “Adam stays to his game plan and ability and for him, the sky is the limit.”

Wrestling at the New Haven Semi-State will begin at 8:30 a.m.