Joey Buttler and Noah Clouser entered Saturday’s competition representing different schools in different weight classes, and even boasting different rankings.
Their missions, however, ran parallel to one another. The two highest-rated wrestlers in Johnson County through the 2022-23 regular season took the first of what both hope are many postseason steps by winning sectional championships at Mooresville.
Buttler, a Whiteland senior who is the state’s No. 1 at 132 pounds, upped his season record to 34-0 with a dominant performance.
“There’s not much pressure because I take a lot of losses, like in the offseason,” Buttler said. “I try to challenge myself. I try to go against top kids in the nation. I just go out there and wrestle.
“But at this point, taking it match by match is obviously important. I have to treat them all like the state finals. This is just another one of the steps.”
Clouser, a junior for third-ranked Center Grove who sits at No. 3 at 170, took home a blue ribbon as well. He stands at 26-3 entering the regional, which will also be at Mooresville.
“Placing higher at sectional and regional helps your placement in brackets,” Clouser said. “The main goal is to get to the podium (at state) and climb as high as I can.
“I feel like my wrestling was good today. Coming off all these hard duals in the regular season, it helps so much. Seeing all those state-level opponents, it helps you prepare.”
The 18th team sectional championship in Center Grove history was the ultimate in exclamation points — 321.5 points, 12 individual champions and 13 wrestlers moving on to regional.
“That was a sectional scoring record, so I don’t know if you expect that every time,” Trojans coach Maurice Swain said. “But our guys wrestled hard. We’ve had a good last couple weeks of practice. We talk a lot about preparation and about how you felt last year when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
Center Grove wrestlers began blazing a path to the top of the podium with Charlie LaRocca (113 pounds) and continued on through the efforts of Eddie Goss (120), Hyatt Yeager (126), Reese Courtney (138) and Wyatt Krejsa (145).
Goss, a sophomore, managed to exact some revenge in the 120-pound final, rallying from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to pin Cascade senior Logan Bickel in the third round.
“Last year I got beat by him in the (sectional) semifinals,” said Goss, who is now 32-3 on the season. “Today, I think I was just hesitating about certain positions I knew he was good at. Right when the third period hit, just his posture, I knew I had him.”
The Trojans’ dominance continued with Silas Stits (152 pounds), Andre Merritt (160), Clouser (170), Julian Weems (182), Kaden McConnell (195), Nate Johnson (220) and Tyler Schott (285) all winning their respective weight classes.
All five of the runners-up from 170 pounds on up were from Whiteland, which finished second in the team standings with 163.5 points and qualified seven individuals for regional. Franklin is sending six wrestlers to the next level, and Greenwood two.
At the Bloomington North Sectional, Indian Creek senior Jackson Heaston (27-3), a state finalist a year ago, won the 113-pound weight class. Other Braves making it to the regional at Bloomington South are sophomores Jude Heaston (106) and Elias Strauss (120).
Roncalli advanced all 14 of its wrestlers out of the Southport Sectional, led by champions Alex Plahitko (126 pounds), Braden Getz (145), Bryce Lowery (152), Luke Hansen (195) and Royce Deckard (220).