By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The history of Bedford North Lawrence wrestling at the state finals is very limited. Three competitors have reached the ultimate goal of the grand stage in the IHSAA tournament series. Jorj Filler and Ethan Stancombe have the chance to add their names to a prestigious list.
With two wins, Filler and Stancombe will qualify for the state championships. Just two. But that’s the problem. From this point, nothing will be easy. If it were, more than three would have done it in the school’s 50-year history.
BNL’s duo will battle in the semistate at Evansville on Saturday. The top four in each weight class will advance to the state finals in Evansville on Feb. 16. That means, in a field of 16 in each division, wins in the first two rounds are mandatory for advancement. This is where the culling process gets serious.
Filler, 30-7 at 126 pounds, will clash with Avon’s Luke Rioux (33-4 and ranked No.3 in the state by IndianaMat.com) in the first round. That survivor will meet either Peyton Richards of Switzerland County (42-0) or Peyton Pfettscher of Evansville Reitz (43-5) in the must-win quarterfinal.
Stancombe (30-8 at 165) will meet Franklin’s Cory Fuller (29-13) in his opening match. That winner will collide with either Brownsburg’s Jesse Derringer (24-8 and ranked 16th in the state) or Vincennes Lincoln’s Cooper Collins (31-10) in the quarterfinal.
“The last time someone from BNL made it to semistate was my freshman year (James Covey in 2021),” Filler said. “Ever since then, it was a goal of mine. And it’s nice to have a teammate going with me. I know I have to face harder competition, so I have to leave it all out there on the mat. I have to win the first two.”
Filler, only the third wrestler in BNL history to reach 100 career victories, would love to add his name to the exclusive list of state qualifiers – Chris Jones (the state runner-up at heavyweight) in 1982, Bryon Blackwell in 1984, and Shawn Fields in 1989.
“I have to take it one step at a time,” said Filler, a senior who plans to attend Florida Atlantic and major in nursing. “That’s definitely the goal, walking in the parade of champions (at the state finals). I just have to wrestle my best match. I can’t make any mistakes. If I do make a mistake, I have to get back on it and correct it.”
Stancombe, an aggressive junior, wants to elevate the program status.
“I’m going out there with a chip on my shoulder, being ready to go,” he said. “It’s the underdog mentality. BNL is not a school that’s really big in wrestling, and a lot of people see that,. But we want to put our wrestling on the map and show people we mean business. We’re not coming to play around.”
Stancombe finished third in the sectional and third in the regional to qualify for his first semistate.
“This was a huge goal,” he said. “I’ve been working on it since I started taking wrestling very seriously. It reminds me of all the days that I put in work, the summer days when it was hot and it sucked, going out for those runs, things I didn’t want to do. I did it because I had this dream.
“Any time I’m on the mat, if I’m in my stance, I should be shooting (for a leg takedown) or trying to get to something. I have the goal of putting the pace on them and getting points.”
Action at the Ford Center will begin at 10 a.m.