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FC grapplers have a lot to defend as season new starts

By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor

The question coming into the 2017-18 season for the Franklin County varsity wrestling team is, “how do the Wildcats follow up a season where they won the trifecta of postseason championships?” The answer, for head coach Doug Deters, is all too simple; do it again.

Franklin County won its second straight Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference championship in a row last season. A week later, the Wildcats claimed their first sectional trophy in 18 years. The team continued its momentum for another week, winning the regional title as well.

Eight Wildcats advanced to semi-state. Tyler Selm was the lone grappler to make his way to State Finals in Indianapolis. After such a successful season, Deters and Franklin County will take a tall task when it comes to repeating the team's performance.

“As long as we stay mentally focused we'll be ok,” Coach Deters said. “We're ready to wrestle, so we just have to make sure our guys keep their grades up and stay healthy.”

For starters, Franklin County will have to find a way to replace half a dozen senior, who provided the team with leadership and experience. Fortunately, several varsity starters return, and Coach Deters is impressed with some of the “green” grapplers that are making the move up to the varsity team.

Like recent history, the Wildcats enter the season with an advantage that most teams in the area cannot claim. The Wildcats' roster will fill nearly every weight position this season. The only exception will be the 220-lb. class, which was vacated by Blake Ripperger last season.

“I think we can compete at every class except 220,” Deters said. “Ten of our 14 guys know what it's like to win, and they know what I expect from them.”

The early part of the 2017-18 campaign will be about the Wildcats taking their lumps and getting better. December has become more of an event-season for FC, as the team competes in big tourneys and invites. Between Saturday, December 2, and Saturday, December 30, the Wildcats compete in the Harrison (Ohio) Invite, the New Castle Invite, the Spartan Classic, and the Indiana Team State Championships.

All of the tourneys provide a tough test, but the Team State will be especially difficult. Getting an invitation to the event is rare, but it comes in recognition of a program's strength and accomplishments. This will be the third straight year that FC competes in the championship tournament.

The Wildcats immediately jump into Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference play when the calendar turns over. Franklin County is expected to compete for a third straight EIAC title, but still, competition will stand in the team's way. According to Coach Deters, Lawrence-burg and South Dearborn will once again be major threats to FC's title. East Central could also be in the mix.

“We have to be ready no matter who we face,” the coach said. “We don't want to overlook anybody, but we have the ability to win another title.”

Depending on the year, the Wildcats host few matches on their home floor. Other than a home dual against Milan on Wednesday, December 13, FC does not host another home meet in 2017. At the end of the season, however, the 'Cats enjoy a string of home meets.

In fact, the final three weeks of January will keep FC within the friendly confines of the FCHS gymnasium. Beginning on Wednesday, January 10, the Wildcats host South Dearborn for Senior Night. The following weekend is the six-team Franklin County Invitational. The EIAC Championships follow the next weekend, but this season marks FC's turn to host. As luck would have it, Brookville will also be the sight of the 2018 Sectional 24 tournament. Coach Deters is hoping all the home cooking can help FC build momentum for another great run by the Wildcats.

In all his years as coach, Deters has never won a Sectional on a home floor. If the Wildcats can come close to matching their performance last year, the team stands a great chance of winning another. After an 18-year drought between sectional titles, the coach is not looking to sit back and let someone else take the trophy.

“Going back-to-back with winning conference, sectional and regional titles would be nice,” the coach said. “That would definitely be extra special.”