WRESTLING CHAMP. Parke Heritage’s Ben Blacketer stands tall in first place on the podium at Attica High School Wednesday, January 16 after winning the 132-pound weight class during the annual Wabash River Conference tournament. (photo submitted)

The annual Wabash River Conference (WRC) wrestling meet was held Wednesday, January 16 at Attica High School.

Parke Heritage, in its first conference tournament as the Wolves, placed sixth out of seven participating teams with 129 points overall. Remaining teams taking part were: Attica, first place and WRC champion, 260.5 points; Fountain Central, second, 184; South Vermillion, third, 183; North Vermillion, fourth, 161; Seeger, fifth, 134; and Covington, seventh, 102.

“There were ups and downs as in every tournament, but overall the feeling was a good one after the meet,” Parke Heritage head coach Tyler Thornton said.

The Wolves had several wrestlers finish in the top four in their respective weight classes. They were: Gage Gerald, third place at 120 pounds; Brandon Casey, fourth at 126; Ben Blacketer, first at 132; Kayleb Price, fourth at 138; Cole Jones, second at 182; and Christian Young, third at 195.

Blacketer, who was unseeded, placed highest among the Wolves on the day by taking the top spot in the 132-pound weight class. Pinning the third seed from South Vermillion in his opening matchup, Blacketer went on to defeat the second seed from North Vermillion. He capped his performance with a pin in the championship match over his counterpart from Fountain Central.

“[Blacketer’s] constant positive attitude and work ethic in the practice room is really starting to pay off toward the end of this season,” Thornton said. “I am proud of the way he works; if he keeps this up, he will have many more championships ahead of him.”

Jones, Parke Heritage’s lone senior, also made it to his championship round but fell short, finishing second overall in the 182 weight class.

“[Jones] is another one of the leaders in the practice room who is always trying to get better and has a constant positive attitude about everything,” Thornton said. “His improvements since the start of the season are also obvious and evident in where he has been placing in competition.”

This year’s tournament, plagued by inclement weather, was originally intended to be held January 12 but was rescheduled to January 19 due a snowstorm. Then, January 14, the teams were notified the tournament had again been rescheduled, this time to January 16 —  a “school night.”

Typically held on a Saturday, the tournament is considered an all-day event and had to be confined to just one evening from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

“That was really a feat and was much appreciated so we could get everyone back home at as reasonable of a time as possible,” Thornton said. “Attica did an amazing job running and hosting the tournament.”

Looking ahead to next season, Thornton has nothing but praise and high expectations from his budding team of wrestlers.

“The outlook for next year’s WRC [tourney] looks bright with our young team and the momentum we have now,” he said. “As long as we can keep everyone healthy and on the mat, expect some more young men on the podium next year.”

Attica will retain bragging rights as conference champion until the next conference wrestling tournament in January 2020. However, individuals who place first in their weight class during the conference tournament are automatically selected to the All-Conference Team, including Blacketer, who will be honored alongside his teammates at the Parke Heritage Winter Sports Banquet in March of this year.

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