This may be a different kind of season for Cathedral High School wrestling.
The Irish, perennial state-title contenders, enter 2022-2023 without their usual level of experience – and therefore with different expectations than usual. But they have front-line talent – and the potential for a memorable season.
“It’s a new experience for us, but as a team I like where we’re at,” Irish wrestling coach Sean McGinley said.
The Irish, state champions in 2014 and 2018-2020, finished fifth in 2022. They won the 2022 City Championship in mid-December and enter late December ranked fifth in Indiana according to IndianaMat.com.
“We’ve got some guys where this is their first opportunity to get out there at the varsity level consistently,” McGinley said. “There are guys who have the opportunity for the first time to wrestle at their actual weight class. That’s beneficial.
“This is one of the first years of many we don’t have a returning state champion. It’s always nice having that in your back pocket. Not having anybody who has been under the big lights we can really lean on is tough, but I think if we keep doing what we’re doing and we do what we normally do in the postseason, we should have several guys at the state finals.”
The 2022-2023 Irish are led by:
*Senior Aden Reyes, ranked No. 5 by IndianaMat.com at 126 pounds in mid-December and a state qualifier at 120 pounds in 2022. “He’s seen what it takes to get to the next level,” McGinley said. “He really has stepped it up a notch. He went from a guy where people said he might be a place-winner to now they’re thinking this guy has a legit chance at wrestling under the lights.”
*Junior Dillon Graham, No. 6 by IndianaMat.com at 145 pounds and a fourth-place finisher at 120 pounds as a freshman in 2021. “He’s ready to compete at 145,” McGinley said of Graham, who broke his ankle the week of semi-state in 2022.
*Junior Jackson Weingart, No. 5 by IndianaMat.com at 220 pounds and a seventh-place finisher at 220 in 2022 after starting the season 2-8. “The growth he had from beginning of the year to the end of the year was tremendous,” McGinley said. “He’s a guy who works his butt off and one who’s getting better every day. Where he came in this year compared to last year is way ahead of the game. He can surprise some people again this year.”
*Junior Hosia Smith, No. 3 by IndianaMat.com at 285 pounds and a fifth-place finisher at 285 in 2022. “He has the athletic ability if he keeps getting better,” McGinley said. “There’s a chance he could be under the lights come February.”
Added McGinley, “You hope the guys you’re counting on come through and you’re always hoping for a couple of guys who turn it on at the end. Probably the guy you feel best about is the kid who’s right there on the edge and he makes it through with a great tournament and gets on the podium. That really makes it worthwhile.”
Also key for the Irish: Senior Josh Johnson (No. 11 IndianaMat.com, 132 pounds, eighth at 106 in 2020) and senior Gabe Bragg (No. 19, 152 pounds), with sophomore John Bissmeyer (No. 20, 106 pounds) and freshman Kyle Harden (No. 5, 170 pounds) strong underclassmen.
“Very rarely do you find a freshman who can do as well as he can at the upper weight classes,” McGinley said of Harden. “We expect him to be right there come the end of the year. He will be someone we’ll be leaning on at the end of the year and from years to come.”
And while the Irish may not be favored in the last meet of the season, McGinley said that won’t mean the Irish won’t have a memorable season.
“We’ve been right there at the cusp of winning the state,” he said. “This is one of those years where we’re a very good team but there are a couple of teams that are probably better. Not worrying about that maybe takes some of the pressure off. We’re all about just getting better.
“We’re young, and our veterans are starting to turn it on a little bit – to turn the corner. Our schedule’s so tough. You hope everyone can keep improving every week and eventually have a successful season when it’s all said and done.”