By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Last season, Tippecanoe put its first wrestlers on the podium at state since 2011.
First-year coach Nick Petro thinks that’s just the beginning.
The Red Devil wrestling team graduated nine seniors off of last year’s team — including state placer Austin Robbins. But Tippecanoe, led by another returning state placer and bolstered by large numbers of young wrestlers, is looking to build on last year’s success and continue building a solid program for the future.
“We’re a very young team this year,” Petro said. “We graduated nine seniors that filled the bulk of the lineup last year — but even after taking away those nine guys, we have more wrestlers this year. Our numbers are up. We’ve got a lot of freshmen, some sophomore and a junior that decided to come back to wrestling. We’re really excited about these young guys.”
Every group of youngsters needs leaders, though, and the Devils have those in a solid group of returners — including senior Jack Peura, who placed sixth at state last season.
“Jack is an absolutely outstanding young man, and he’s unbelievably dedicated to winning a state title this season,” Petro said. “He’s relentless on the mat, he’s definitely someone that wants perfection — and he’s hungry. He’s a great leader, and he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Peura and Robbins were the first Red Devils to place at state since the 2011 season, and it was also the first time the Devils have had two state placers in the same year since 2000 — a year Petro remembers. He wrestled for the Devils and graduated in 2001.
“It’s my first time as a head coach, and I couldn’t be happier where I’m at,” Petro said. “I’m very lucky to be part of this great school district with this great group of kids to work with. I’ve been met with open arms, especially in the wrestling program.”
Also back for the Devils is a core group of district qualifiers looking to reach the next level in seniors Logan Ferrell and John Erhard, junior Grant Carlson and sophomore Cameron Abrams, as well as sophomore Caleb Blake, who is stepping up from JV last season.
“Logan is tough as nails and highly motivated,” Petro said. “He’s the fastest heavyweight I’ve ever seen, and he was a district qualifier last year. He came up just short of going to state, and he’s using that as motivation. John was a district qualifier last year that’s going to fill a vital role for us at 106. And Grant will be wrestling at 195 this year after being a district qualifier at 220 last year. He’s a very intense wrestler and is very aggressive.
“Cameron was a district qualifier at 113, and he’s the young man I think is most improved since last year. He’s been at every workout and open mat, and he’s extremely dedicated. Caleb wrestled JV last year and will wrestle at 145 for us. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do in the varsity lineup. He’s one to watch for in the future.”
The Devils also have a solid group of new talent in sophomores Russell Ramsey and Mason Pence, freshmen Jackson Yeager and Brandon Singleton, as well as John Hagey, who saw some varsity action last season.
And with this being the Devils’ final season in the Central Buckeye Conference before leaving for the Greater Western Ohio Conference, Petro and the team want to leave their mark.
“We’re looking to be competitive wherever we go,” Petro said. “We’re looking to set the tone, wrestle our style and dominate. We’re going to all have a hard-nosed, in-your-face style, and we’re going to keep coming to the end. We’re going to take the CBC down one person at a time, and we’re looking forward to different challenges in the GWOC in the future.”
But the Devils have goals off the mats, too.
“Academics are our No. 1 priority,” Petro said. “I want all of our wrestlers to be all-state status when it comes to grades. My student-athletes are here to get an education, and that’s something that isn’t overlooked in our program. After that, our goal is for every wrestler to get better every time out, in the smallest way or the biggest way. We’re looking for the guys to better themselves, whether that means one spot higher on the podium or winning one more match at district than before — getting better in any aspect.
“This group of guys has a great future ahead of them. We’re here to build a program that doesn’t view different competition in a bad way. We want to step on the mat against the best every time. These are the challenges myself and my staff are wanting to take on.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.