By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Two down, two to go. Two stages passed, two more tough matches remaining to reach the ultimate goal.
Bedford North Lawrence senior James Covey, after advancing through the IHSAA regional, needs to win his first two matches in the semistate at Jasper on Saturday to qualify for the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Covey (27-3 at 220 pounds) has reached the point where the culling process of the state tournament series gets serious. He won the sectional, finished third in the regional, and now needs to finish among the top four of the 16 competitors in his class to advance to the finals on Feb. 19-20.
“To get the state tournament is a monumental task, because we’re already to the top 64 wrestlers in the state,” BNL coach Chris Branam said. “You’re already in the upper echelon, so each round you advance it continues to get harder and harder.
“He belongs in the best of the best. Go out there with respect for the opponents, but if he puts together a good day, he’ll go on. Just work what we do well and be ready. Matches are won by small margins. Everyone is so talented at this point.”
Covey will face Franklin junior Nolan Skaggs (15-6 after a runner-up finish in the regional at Mooresville) in the opening round. The winner will meet either Evansville Reitz senior Logan Huggins (30-0 and the top seed) or Southwestern’s Brady McLain (16-6) in the second round.
“At this level, you can’t make mistakes,” Branam said. “You have to go in trusting your offense. We’re not looking to change the way he wrestles at this point. That would be foolish. We just want to capailtze on what he does well.
“You have to wrestle smart, you can’t wrestle scared. It has to be confidence. If there’s an opportunity to score, that window will close very quickly at this level. You have to put them in position to make mistakes and capitalize.”
Covey competed in the semistate last year and fell to Brownsburg freshman Leighton Jones by a 7-5 decision in the first round.