Through two seasons, Bishop Noll striker Jake Wichlinski had an unprecedented impact on the Warriors' program. Now, he can claim the title as the greatest forward in program history.
Wichlisnki broke Noll's career scoring record Monday when he headed in for his 76th goal against Griffith. In the process, he added another accolade on top of his match-winning assist to Bruno Zamora in last year's Class 2A state title game against Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter.
“He and I – even his mom and dad – had this countdown going in our heads,” Noll coach Quinn Cloghessy said. “To do it in three (years) is no easy feat to do.”
Cloghessy was tallying up stats from the Warriors' 6-4 loss at Goshen on Saturday when he realized Wichlinski was two goals away from the record. Wichlinski has come a long way from the start of his freshman season, when Cloghessy said the young forward struggled early before breaking out with a hat trick in his third game.
Wichlinski's size was evident from the moment he stepped on the field for Noll (7-7-1). He takes his spot at the top of Noll's formation, holds off defenders and scores with his feet or his head. He beats defenses with physicality rather than dribble moves.
He's a classic target man in an era that seems to favor more versatile forwards. Still, Wichlinski has rounded out his game in his junior season. Along with 23 goals, he's up to nine assists in 15 matches and has already surpassed last year's total of nine.
Cloghessy said Butler showed interest after Wichlinski's performance against Cardinal Ritter, and this coming offseason will be a big one for the forward's college recruitment.
“He definitely has the skills and the body to play at the Division I level,” Cloghessy said.
Lake Central builds toward tough sectional
Lake Central is used to dominating its sectional, but that changed last season when Morton broke the Indians' run of 15 straight. The sectional has gotten even more difficult with Noll moving up from Class 2A, and Lake Central has a particularly young team loaded with sophomores.
But coach Jereme Rainwater has liked what he has seen. The challenge is to keep close losses like recent setbacks to Morton, Chesterton and Valparaiso from snowballing.
“I think that's gonna be the difference stepping into sectionals: What's the mentality of the players?” Rainwater said. “My fear is that they're heads are down a little bit. I see that in the guys right now, and it's my job to make sure that their head's not down.”
Lake Central remains above .500 at 6-5-1 and still touts wins over Munster, Highland and South Ben St. Joseph. The Indians were tied 1-1 with Chesterton at halftime on September 18 en route to a 2-1 loss, suggesting they've come a long way since a 4-0 loss to Crown Point on August 21.
Emilio Zambrano and Rob MacNeill give LC a strong pair in attack, and the defense allowed almost nothing against Valparaiso on Wednesday. Lake Central even had the better chances but failed to take advantage. That has been the story of the season so far, although it doesn't have to remain so.
“They haven't necessarily gotten the results that they wanted or deserved maybe sometimes … but their intentions are in the right spot,” Rainwater said.
“Can they have the fortitude and fight to see to it in the postseason that these 0-0 games or 1-0 (losses) end up becoming 2-1 on the other side? I think they can. I've been around the game a long time, and I'm extremely proud of where they're at. I think we have a good chance going forward.”
Boone Grove rebounds from tough start
Boone Grove's season-opening loss to Chesterton wasn't pretty. But it also effected change.
The Wolves lost 12-0 at Chesterton on August 19, being outshot 43-3 in the process. If the program wanted to continue living up to its lofty standards, something needed to change.
“We knew going up to Chesterton that they were gonna be an extremely good team, and the reason we played Chesterton in the first place is so that we can learn about ourselves,” coach Brian Sherwin said. “A lot of it had to do with our defense.”
Sherwin relied on the same four defenders each of the past three seasons, but all four graduated. As a result, he had to figure out who he wanted in the back and at what positions. Even now, the Wolves (9-3-1) are still tinkering — Sherwin said they'll use a flat back four or a diamond formation.
Once Boone figured out the defense, senior midfielder Angel Castellanos took care of the rest. Castellanos has followed up a 22-goal, 11-assist season a year ago with 18 goals in 13 matches, as he has taken over for Logan Tatalovich as the Wolves' top threat.
“He has really stepped up as a team leader, taking on the role as our goal-scorer and field general even. He really is calm with the ball. He's our guy in the middle, so the other guys rely on him a whole lot and just his presence on the field makes everybody around him better.”