OSCEOLA - The Indiana High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament continues around the state, with everyone having the same goal - Make it to the Ford Center in Evansville for the State Finals on February 16 and 17, 2024.
Following the Mishawaka Sectional, four LaVille grapplers finished in the top four and advanced to the Penn Regional.
Among those was Jonathan Neese, who claimed the 215-pound Sectional Championship.
As Neese worked his way through his bracket, the Lancer junior started with a forfeit victory in the opening round. From then on, Neese worked quickly, picking up three pins in the next three rounds.
Jonathan won the quarterfinal match with a pin over Jack Burd of Marian in 1-minute, 27-seconds.
He then was able to stick Jaden Laurence from South Bend Adams a little quicker, pinning Adams senior in 1:14.
In the championship match, Neese got behind early, 6-0, but made a quick momentum change and took a 1:42 fall over Malachi Evans of Penn.
"We knew going into the match the way he wrestled," Neese said of his championship round opponent. "So I felt pretty confident even down by 6 because I knew my big move was coming."
In the earlier rounds, Neese felt he had a good plan in mind to continue advancement.
"I was really just trying to go out and get the pin as quick as possible," Neese said of his execution. "I wanted to save as much energy as possible for the finals."
According to Neese, he felt like practices went well as he prepared to start the state tournament.
"I knew going into the tournament I had a good chance of winning," said Neese. "I felt I had a good week of practice in the room and was ready to use it."
As Neese stood on the podium to collect his championship medal, an interesting scenario ended up playing out. The LaVille junior was the only wrestler not from Mishawaka or Penn to earn first place.
"It felt great to show even though we are a small school compared to them we still work just as hard if not harder than they do," concluded Neese.
Joining Neese at the Penn Regional were Jonah Skiles, 138lb runner-up, Brock Gest, 150lb third place, and Rylan Davis, 132lb fourth place.
At the Penn Regional, Gest and Davis were both eliminated in their opening round match.
For Neese and Skiles, both won first round bouts to move on to the final four and guarantee themselves a ticket to the East Chicago Central Semi-State on February 10.
Neese started the day off with a victory by fall over Triton's Esai Lemler. In the semifinal, the Lancer junior lost by fall to Warsaw's Kameron Kauffman. In the consolation round, Penn's Malachi Evans won by fall over Neese, who finished fourth and advanced to EC Central.
Skiles also won his first match by fall over Triton's Brenton Heckaman before losing by fall to Plymouth's Wesley Smith and Winamac's Willis Dennis to finish in fourth.
The East Chicago Central Semi-State is scheduled for February 10. The top 4 wrestlers from Crown Point, Hobart, Logansport, and Penn will head to John C. Baratto Athletic Center at EC Central High School.
Opening round matches begin at 10 am ET.
Admission will be $12 per person. Children age 5 and younger admitted free. The top four place winners in each weight class advance to the state finals.
Pictures By Michael Caterina, South Bend Tribune