Since 1977 Brookville High School has dominated the SWBL wrestling championships and 22 times has brought home the league trophy. You can now, make that 23 times, as Brookville again dominated league competition and returned the championship to its rightful home. Winning the SWBL team title this past weekend.
I asked Coach Sam Sampson about his team, how it feels to be a league champion, and what lies ahead for these young men, “It’s been nine long years since our last league title. It was a great victory for an outstanding group of wrestlers. We have an amazing group of seniors they were sophomores when I became the coach. There was only one upper classman that year.
“They were thrust into the fire, and maybe before some of them were ready,” he added. “We had three sophomore captains that year. They accepted every challenge that I’ve put in front of them and they’ve grown with each victory and defeat. They have fully embraced the ‘family’ culture and have instilled those values by actions to the rest of the team. Replacing what this group means to me personally isn’t possible, but I believe the culture they have helped me build will be enduring.
“It’s the charge of the next group of leaders and my coaching staff to keep it going. Does that mean we’re going to run off 20 straight league titles? We’ll see, I will tell you we do have a lot of depth. We have a great group of freshmen coming in and our elementary group is special too. The ingredients are there, for a strong and enduring program. What’s next? I’m excited to see how we finish the next few weeks as we get into the individual tournament (Sectional, District, State). I’m also anxious to see how these young men attack life, and what they become as men. I hope and pray that the battles they have won and lost on the mat can help them to endure the battles they will be tested with in life. I have been in the military for 19 years and can tell you that nothing I’ve done was harder than wrestling physically and sometimes mentally. It’s more important than wins and losses and championships. Don’t get me wrong it’s fun to win, but that’s my ‘why.’”
I believe wrestling instills the qualities necessary to compete and thrive in everyday life and when facing life’s inevitable challenges, so does Coach Sampson, and he works to this goal.
I asked Coach Sampson for a brief synopsis of our league champions:
132 – Mason Esterline, junior – “No doubt best performance of the year. He came in as the second seed. The first seed was Peyton Brown from Milton-Union. Brown won league last year at 132, Esterline got fifth at 132. 132 was loaded with talent, he didn’t get any easy matches and approached it with a great attitude. It was a sweet victory.”
145 – Devon Myers, senior – “He’s been chasing this for quite some time. Placing second last year hurt. He’s also been battling injuries all year. It’s been a struggle both physically and emotionally. Honestly, he was on the verge of breaking. He pushed through the adversity and pain. He helped his team place fourth at State (team) even though he wasn’t 100 percent and (was) hurt throughout the tournament. This was his coming out party and he knew it. He felt and looked great, he absolutely dominated on his way to the finals and won a great match against a great opponent in the final. I’m so proud of your performance Devon! You’re just getting started.”
182 – Luke Williams, senior – “Luke has been outstanding this year. He’s 38-4 this year with 31 pins. Wowza! 31 pins is already a single season record. He pinned his way through the bracket and broke the record in the finals!” (The previous season pin record was set in 2010, by Aaron Wilbanks with 30 pins.)
220 – Matt Hamm, senior – “I’m fairly sure this is his first time at the top of a podium. He picked a great time to kick it into high gear! In the finals he got put on his back but fought hard for 30-plus seconds to get out. It felt like an eternity. He was down five but he’s like the energizer bunny and he just wears kids out. He ended up pinning his opponent and the joys of sweet victory were felt by all.”
For the record, every wrestler, in every weight class scored points for the Blue Devils thus contributing to a total team victory and the runaway score besting second place Monroe by 50-plus points 248-198, Valley View finished in third place with 150 points.
“Every wrestler in all 14 weight classes scored points,” said Sampson. “We earned a bunch of bonus points and gave up very few.”
Team victories require team sacrifices. Sometimes this means moving to a different weight class if it looks like more TEAM points can be scored by doing so. This can be upsetting to be moved out of your normal weight class, but again an individual sacrifice may be necessary for a TEAM victory, and such was the case this weekend.
“I moved Bailey Larson (senior) to 120 from 113,” coach Sampson said. “I felt he had a great chance of scoring big points there.
“It worked and he ended up second against bigger opponents,” added Sampson. “I also moved our 106 pounder Logan Jones (freshman) to 113. That worked too!
“He was clearly smaller than all his opponents but that didn’t stop him. He ended up third and was losing by eight in the finals but secured a pin for the win.
Also, Owen Ashworth (sophomore) at 138, was in for junior Captain Brennon Moore, this week. Brennon had the flu and was out sick for three days.
“Ashworth did great finishing sixth,” Sampson said. “He lost two heartbreakers in overtime, but I saw a lot of growth in his wrestling. He did an outstanding job!”
Khadyn Jacobs, a freshman at 106, just missed qualifying by one point and did a very good job for the Blue Devils. At 113 Logan Jones was moved up, he has had phenomenal development in only his second year, has great balance and there is no quit in him, you had better be in shape when facing him, as he is always coming at you, Logan finished in third place with a pin in 2:29. At 120 pounds Larson finished second after moving up a weight class, this is an outstanding effort! At 126 pounds Timmy Davis finished in fifth place, losing in the semis, but did a very good job.
At 132 pounds Esterline was seeded second but came in first, Mason had two close matches in the semis to make the finals. At 138 pounds sophomore Ashworth filled in for Moore, finishing in sixth place by two overtime points. At 145 pounds Meyers, a state qualifier, found himself down by one point in his final match.
Undeterred, he scored a takedown and back points to secure a 9-7 victory and a first-place finish. At 152 pounds Gianni Carey finished in fifth place, with a takedown and back points also. At 160 pounds, Dylan Starnes, a sophomore, finished in second place, outmatched but with no quit in this pit bull of a wrestler. He had to be scouted as his final’s foe had no desire to wrestle on the mat with this kid.
At 170 pounds Dyer, a senior state qualifier, finished in third place, arguably competing in the toughest weight class with three state qualifiers. At 182 pounds Williams has had a terrific year as a senior, pinned all his competition to win his league championship, no doubt there have been some wild matches in his front room with brothers David and Dylan preceding him.
The 195 pounder Sadler Henson, a senior wrestler in only his first year on the mats, was one of the hardest workers in the wrestling room, scored consolation bonus points but was not able to place.
Senior Hamm found himself behind 5-0 in his finals match, he didn’t quit and came back and pinned his finals opponent in 3:49 to bring the crowd to its feet!
At 285 pounds senior Jon Mitchell found himself facing a district placer and a great athlete, finished in second place but scored valuable bonus points in the semi-finals.
With this outstanding team effort, I was hesitant to ask for an individual wrestler of the week, but Coach Sampson was quick to respond.
“Chase Dyer, our 170-pound senior captain, battling the flu and with the toughest weight class by far he got third place. Thank you for your leadership and sacrifices for your teammates!”
Brookville will have to move on from this great team victory and compete Feb. 28-29 at Covington High School in the sectional wrestling tournament.
A top four finish will be necessary for anyone hoping to move to district matches.
We congratulate Coach Sampson, his fellow coaches and of course, the league champion, wrestlers.
A closing note to the 2020 SWBL Wrestling Champion team, this championship has been a long time coming, too long! I assure you, that there are many ex- (old) Brookville wrestlers and coaches looking at your championship and, smiling, a smile of quiet satisfaction. They know what it is like to be a champion. The old accomplished much, they established a legacy of greatness, of success, and you have added to that legacy. You now join that select fraternity, and you are welcomed to it, with open arms.
Will it be another nine long years, before the next championship? Time will tell, and this now becomes your burden, your challenge, your mandate, can you repeat? Can you build on this success? Brookville is proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves.
On their behalf, congratulations and thank you!
Support our schools, support wrestling, see you, on the mat…of course!