BACK TO THE MAT

An entire season can end with one move.

Only the smartest and strongest advance to the wrestling semistate, and Seymour will send two competitors to represent the Owls.

Senior Garrett Johnson and freshman Brandon Penegar will sport their purple singlets at the Ford Center on Saturday in Evansville, with their eyes on a ticket to the state championships.

With no wrestle-backs, Johnson and Penegar will have to win their first two matches to advance to the state finals.

This past weekend, Johnson — who was coming off a Jennings County Sectional championship — finished as runner-up at the Jeffersonville Regional in the 138-pound class.

Johnson pinned Jeffersonville’s Carson Somerville in 1:27 to open the day and won by decision (3-1) over Floyd Central’s Josh Foster before falling to Jennings County’s Brooks Wathen (3-1) in the championship match.

The week prior, Johnson had defeated Wathen by 5-4 decision.

“Everyone seems to think it’s pretty decent,” Johnson said of his postseason run. “I kind of expected a little more from myself. It’s not too bad of a feeling, but it isn’t great either. You always feel like you can do a little better.”

On Saturday, Johnson (31-8) will first take on Gibson Southern freshman Clay Singleton (28-8).

“We haven’t wrestled him, but we’ve gone up against others he has wrestled,” Owls coach Todd Weaver said. “That’s a matchup we should win. We split with the winner in our bracket. If we go out and wrestle to win, we’re going to the state tournament.”

Should he advance, Johnson will likely take on Northview’s Cale McCoy (38-1) — an opponent that Johnson has familiarity with.

“I need to wrestle smart against McCoy and beat (Singleton),” Johnson said. “I know that McCoy likes to keep them close until the end.”

At regional, Penegar, a 120-pounder, pinned Jeff’s Carlos Santos in 2:50, fell to eventual-champion Graham Rooks and defeated Eastern’s Robbie Stein by fall in 1:56 for third place.

“Once you start getting to 120, you stop wrestling a lot of freshmen,” Weaver said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for a freshman. He’s one of those kids that does exactly what we ask of him. He will go out and do ‘A,’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ to win. He was prepared to be right here in his spot.”

Penegar’s first match at semistate will be against Northview’s Austin Cook (29-6).

“I think that we could put a mirror in front of (Penegar) this week at practice,” Weaver said. “The kid he’s facing looks and wrestles like us. A lot of people who tell us about him, it sounds like they’re describing our kid. I think it’s a winnable match.”

If he makes it to the second match, Penegar (32-9) should face Mater Dei’s Kyle Luigs (30-1).

“I’ve been pushing myself really hard,” Penegar said. “I was trying to wrestle my hardest at regional. I really wanted to win that match (for third). I went out and wrestled my matches really tough. I’m in a good position right now.”

Weaver said he is unsure whether Penegar is the first freshman to advance to semistate representing Seymour, but if Penegar isn’t, he is one of a very small group that have accomplished the feat.

Throughout his first postseason, Penegar said he has relied on the support of his team to stay mentally strong.

“My teammates have helped a lot,” he said. “I try not to think about it all that much.”

“Right now, I’m focusing on getting off the bottom, mainly. I’m facing some really good kids that know how to keep me down. I’m trying to get better with my explosiveness.”

The most recent member of the Seymour team to make it to semistate was Matthew Ruddick two years ago.

Weaver said he is confident that his wrestlers will be ready to compete.

“They both have to wrestle to win the match — not to survive or not lose,” he said. “They need to have that attitude and put points on the board.”

Author photo
Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.