By STEVE KRAH
Joel Byman is an example for current and future wrestlers at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne.
Not only is the senior 126-pounder a fine grappler for the Tim Sloffer-coached “Super Chargers,” he is ranked No. 1 in a class of about 500 and has been accepted to Harvard University.
Byman has never gotten a B in his life.
“I once got an A-minus,” Byman said. “Calculus is a lot of fun and I enjoy (Advanced Placement) Spanish.”
He looks forward to the rigorous academics of the Ivy League.
“It opens so many doors for the future,” Byman said. “I’ll probably study economics. I want to get a degree I can use to get into another country. My ultimate goal is to be a missionary or pastor overseas.”
While he is not planning to wrestle at Harvard at this point, Byman does not rule out continuing his mat career should it become an option.
When he’s not wrestling or helping a teammate with his studies, Byman might be playing the trumpet in the Carroll jazz band or the piano at church.
Sloffer, who is in his first season as Carroll head coach but involved with the program since his elementary school days, is proud to say that Chargers wrestling is “sending good characters, good men out into the world” and Byman is a prime example.
“He’s a leader in everything he does,” Sloffer said. “He leads by example. He excels in everything that he does.
“I would never bet against him.”
While they all won’t be at the top of their class or go on to Harvard, Sloffer said Byman is leaving a legacy for his younger teammates and future Chargers.
“I think the kids see that,” Sloffer said. “Our juniors (who will be seniors next year) will remember what these seniors did and Joel’s the biggest part of that. We have a group of seniors (including Stone Davidson, Lucas Hook, Jessie Lawson, Tristan Lerch, Tyler McKeever and Travis Sloffer ) which have done a nice job this year.
What does Byman do best on the mat?
“I’m pretty good on top with keeping control, especially in tight matches,” Byman said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t be anywhere without Him. Also, my family and my teammates (junior Grant Byman is also a Carroll wrestler), the way they encourage me is just awesome.”
Byman was one of 11 Carroll wrestlers to qualify for the 2016 Fort Wayne Semistate and got better in the off-season at the Disney Duals in Florida.
He’s having a solid senior season for a squad which spent the Christmas holiday break by placing eighth in Class 3A at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals in Fort Wayne (up from 12th the year before) and fifth at the 32-team Al Smith Classic in Mishawaka (up from 10th).
“We’ve progressed each year,” Byman said. “We want to take our team to another level and set an example for future years.”
Coach Sloffer agrees with that assessment.
“Things are really starting to look up for us,” Sloffer said of a high school program which is supported by the Carroll Wrestling Club, which includes grapplers from Arcola, Cedar Canyon, Eel River, Hickory Center, Huntertown, Oak View and Perry Hill elementaries as well as Carroll and Maple Creek middle schools plus high schoolers. “It’s just been a big effort from a lot of people, really for generations.
“We’re just trying to make a better program and get the parents involved.”
Carroll, who counts Sloffer, Joe Caprino, Kyle Wood, Logan Lee and Justin Smith on the coaching staff, has earned six straight sectional and four consecutive regional championships and is seeking its first semistate team crown.
Crowds at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum Expo Center and Mishawaka’s “Cave” impressed Byman.
“It’s crazy to see how many people are supporting wrestling and are excited about it,” Byman said. “It’s awesome.”
Byman said a typical Carroll practice includes plenty of live wrestling.
“That’s really helped us get in shape,” Byman said.
Sloffer said Byman was attracted to wrestling as a Carroll Middle School eighth grader because of the challenge it presented.
“Wrestling is the toughest sport there is,” Sloffer said. “Even if he has a loss, he’s not one you have to worry about. He’s going to come back and get re-focused.
“Wrestling will be a part of who he is.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Tested regularly by the best from the Calumet Region and the state, Colton Cummings has become Lowell High School wrestling’s latest “face of the program.”
Cummings has gotten plenty of attention as a two-time IHSAA state champion (at 106 pounds as a sophomore in 2015 and 113 as a junior in 2016) and three-time State Finals performer (he was a qualifier at 106 as a freshman in 2014).
“I’m a fighter,” Cummings said. “I’ll just keep coming at you no matter what. I’ve been taught that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
He knows that he came into the 2016-17 season with the proverbial target on his back and he does not back down from that.
“If you’re on top, you’ve always got to have a target,” Cummings said. “If you don’t have a target, you’re not doing your job correctly.”
His off-season training included sessions with CIA and Region wrestling academies.
“You’ve got to put in the work,” Cummings said. “The Region’s pretty solid.”
Now a 126-pounder and a verbal commit to West Point, Cummings spent the early portions of this season ranked No. 1 in Indiana. Among his wins are a pin of Prairie Heights senior Riley Rasler and a decision against Bellmont senior Jon Becker.
Cummings dropped to No. 3 after losing 4-2 to Columbus East junior Graham Rooks in the finals of Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic. Cummings was trying to become the fourth four-time Al Smith champion in 40 years after 2016 Lowell graduate Drew Hughes became the third four-time winner a year ago.
Hughes, now a Michigan State University, was a four-time state placer for the Lowell Red Devils (second at 120 in 2013, fifth at 138 in 2014, first at 160 in 2015 and first at 170 in 2016).
“We have been very, very fortunate in our program for the last five years now to have Hughes come through and have Colton come through,” Lowell head coach Bobby Howard said. “I talk to the kids all the time about how much they need to take advantage of that. They get to be around him everyday and watch how he practices, watch how he goes about his business at tournaments. That’s huge.”
Wanting to get the most out of his wrestlers, Howard aims for them to peak at the right time. As the postseason approaches, Lowell workouts are intense but short. The focus is placed on rest, recovery and nutrition.
“I’ve been fortunate enough the last couple years to hit the peak at a good time,” Howard said. “I don’t know if there’s some luck involved, but we’re going to continue doing what we have been doing.”
Howard, who enjoyed plenty of mat success himself (winning three national titles by age 8, two Al Smith Classic crowns, placing fifth at senior nationals and finishing fifth at 112 and first at 119 in the IHSAA State Finals for Lowell in 1999 and 2000), said with hard work and following the instruction of the coaching staff, his up-and-coming Red Devils could be the next Hughes or Cummings.
“That’s the carrot we dangle,” Howard, a coach for 11 years, said. “That’s what we tell them, ‘who’s going to be next?’ ‘Who’s going to be the next face of this program?
“Right now it’s Colton.”
Cummings is sure someone is up for the challenge. Perhaps sophomore Andres Moreno or freshman Shawn Hollis or a non-ranked Red Devil?
“We have a great team this year,” Cummings said. “We have plenty of people who could come up and take Drew and my spot easily.”
Like many wrestlers, Cummings came to the sport as a young kid.
It didn’t go that smoothly for him.
“I was so small I wrestled up like five weight classes and I was getting creamed,” Cummings said. “I said, ‘I’m done.’ I got talked back into it in sixth grade. I’ve been going from there.”
What makes Cummings so good?
“He’s just an all-around tough kid,” Howard said. “When he was younger he wrestled with older kids. They didn’t take it easy on him.
“He’s got a motor that very few people can keep up with.”
Cummings regularly works out with assistant coach Cameryn Brady, a two-time Division II All-American at the University of Indianapolis. Brady is about 40 pounds heavier than Cummings.
Growing up in the woods around Lowell, Cummings said he would like to study biology and environmental science in college. It looks like he will be doing that on the “Banks of the Hudson” in New York at the United States Military Academy (West Point).
“It’s one of the more prestigious schools in the country,” Cummings said. “It’s kind of an honor to go there.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Yorktown won its third Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals Class 2A title in five years two days before Christmas in Fort Wayne.
Among those leading the Tigers were senior Brad Laughlin and sophomore Brayden Curtis.
Both are ranked No. 1 as individuals — Laughlin at 160 and Curtis at 106. Curtis competed at 113 for Tigers coach Trent McCormick at the IHSWCA State Duals.
Laughlin’s career mat resume includes three trips to the IHSAA State Finals — he was a qualifier at 120 as a freshman, fifth-place finisher at 138 as a sophomore and took third place at 145 as a junior.
Curtis wound up seventh among 106-pounders at the 2016 State Finals.
McCormick, who is in his 29th season at Yorktown with more than 500 dual victories, 92 state qualifiers, 50 state placers and three state champions (heavyweight Ross Janney in 2010, 138-pounder Devon Jackson in 2012 and 160-pounder Rhett Hiestand in 2014), explains what makes Laughlin and Curtis special.
For West Point-bound Laughlin, it’s his willingness to do whatever it takes to get better. He takes very little time away from the mat or weight room during the year.
“He’s got a great work ethic,” McCormick said of Laughlin. “He’s put a lot of time in during the off-season.”
Until this year, Laughlin and Cael McCormick (Trent’s son and the fifth-place finisher at 152 at the 2016 IHSAA State Finals) were primary drill partners for about six or seven years.
“They sharpened each other’s edge in the practice room,” Trent McCormick said.
Laughlin is a student of the sport and studies FloWrestling video of himself and others and incorporates it into his system.
And this Tiger likes to pounce.
“I love to attack,” Laughlin said. “I think that’s one of my strongest suits. I attack, get takedowns and put points up on the board.”
Laughlin, who placed fourth in the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, N.C., in October, signed to wrestle at Army — fittingly — on Veterans Day.
He chose West Point because he likes the idea of fighting with “boots on the ground.”
“On the ground with a rifle, that’s something that appealed to me,” Laughlin, a Yorktown team captain, said.
Having Army wrestling in his future has benefitted his high school team and his senior season.
“He knows he’s wrestling at the next level,” Trent McCormick said. “He’s shifted his training to more of a collegiate style. That helps him now, whether it’s being aggressive or proper positioning and those kinds of things.”
McCormick enjoyed wrestling success himself at Delta High School (at 185, he placed fourth at the State Finals as a junior for team state champions in 1985 and first as a senior to team state runners-up in 1986; he went 35-1 that final prep season) and remembers what teammate David Palmer (state champ at 167 in 1981 and 177 in 1982) always used to say: “You can either hate drilling or hate losing.”
Yorktown practices are drill-heavy and McCormick sees Brayden Curtis as someone who’s benefitted from hard work and daily challenges from teammates.
“You have to have good drill partners if you want to be good,” McCormick said. “Everyday he’s wrestling Josh Stepehson. Zachary Todd and sometimes his own brother (junior Xavier Curtis), Brayden will wrestle anyone in the room if you ask him to. He just wants to get better everyday.”
Brayden has been using his older brother as a wrestling role model for years.
“It started in eighth grade,” Brayden Curtis said. “I saw my brother have success and I just wanted to be great like him.
“He’s a real good counter to me because he’s tall and lanky and I’m very short and stocky. I have a little bit of quickness.”
While being ranked No. 1 might be flattering, Curtis. Laughlin and McCormick are quick not to place too much stock in it.
“It’s not something I’m too concerned about,” Laughlin said. “I just want to go out there and compete. Rankings are made for the fans.”
“At the end of the day, it’s just a ranking. I just want to improve from last year when I got seventh (at the IHSAA State Finals),” Brayden Curtis said. “I just want to be satisfied with what I do.”
Getting people talking about the sport is never a bad thing, but there’s more to it than that.
“It’s always nice to see your name in lights, a little recognition for the work you’ve put in,” McCormick said. “(Being ranked) doesn’t mean anything when you step on the mat. You’ve got to take care of business.”
But Yorktown wrestling, which was IHSAA state runners-up in 2010 and 2013 and third in 2014, is not only about the business of wrestling.
McCormick and his coaching staff wants their young Tigers to go on to be productive members of society.
“We try to use wrestling to instill life skills into our kids,” McCormick said. “We talk about these things all the time — say please and thank you, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, do good things in life. don’t always make the easy choice, make the right choice. It’s all those things that kids need to hear these days.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
There may be an “i” in Triton, but there’s no “i” in team.
And for the Trojans — under the direction of co-head coaches Matt Arvesen and Ron Brown — team is the most important thing.
That philosophy has helped a school that is small (enrollment 265) become mighty in the wrestling community.
Bolstered by the attitude and success of the Class of 2015 (then-sophomore 106-pounder Malachi Greene, senior 152-pounder, Grant Stichter, junior 160-pounder Gage Waddle and senior 170-pounder Nate Spangle) won their weight class at the Plymouth Sectional), Triton went to its first Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals in 2015-16 (placing 10th in Class 1A).
Waddle defended his sectional crown as a senior last winter.
The Trojans have been invited back to the State Duals for 2016-17 (the meet is Friday, Dec. 23 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne).
“We’re where we are at because we kept the idea of team,” Arvesen said. “Everybody’s important. No person is more important than anybody else. Even my best guys will take the time to work with the younger kids, even if they have to sacrifice a little of their practice time.
“It’s really nice that we have some kids who have learned how to lead in the room but, ultimately, it stems back to that (Class of 2015) group. They were all about each other and how the team was doing.”
Arvesen said talk about “Team State” had been going on at the Marshall County school for four or five years and then Triton qualified and it really bolstered the program even more.
“(Going to the State Duals) was nice because they kept everybody else focused on the team aspect,” Arvesen said. “We were never going to see the light of day, going to State with the Warren Centrals and the Penns. We just aren’t there as far as the level of commitment kids need as whole year-round to develop into that kind of team.
“Whereas, we saw as an opportunity to get our kids to focus on the team and get the numbers out in the room, we could (earn an invitation to a classed dual tournament).
“Last year, the experience was fantastic.”
Even the kids who set the stage and had since graduated were there to cheer on the Trojans.
“They took a break from college and made the trip to Fort Wayne,” Arvesen said. “It was cool to see everybody come together like that.”
The athletes on the current squad are young and talented and still very team-oriented.
“It’s really nice that we have some kids who have learned how to lead,” Arvesen said. “But with all the young kids, we are focused on learning technique.
“Down the line, your condition is going to play a role, your strength is going to play a role, but ultimately, your level of technique and how well you do your best stuff is what’s going to take you to that highest level.”
Arvesen wrestled for coach Bob Read at Plymouth High School and was an IHSAA State Finals qualifier as a sophomore in 1998 at 171 pounds then placed fifth at the IHSAA State Finals as a junior in 1999 at 189 and second as a senior in 2000 at 189. He was on the coaching staff at Yorktown High School while attending Ball State University and picked up technique from Troy Dulaney (now at Daleville).
Brown, a 1999 graduate of Crosswell-Lexington High School in Michigan, was on the wrestling staffs at Richmond and Marion high schools before coming to Triton. Last fall marked his second as the school’s head football coach.
A traditionally-strong basketball community, wrestling is now creating a buzz and crowds at Triton’s gym aka “The Trojan Trench.”
“We’ve gotten more numbers (out for the team),” Brown said. “People have been talking about our success. It was a big deal the first time we qualified for (the State Duals).”
Triton graduates Jason Thompson (who is also head junior high wrestling coach) and Brock Vermillion and Wawasee graduate Shaun Belin are also part of the Trojans wrestling coaching staff. Arvesen and Thompson also help coach football.
Triton wrestlers begin learning a core of basic moves in the kids club — led by the high school coaches — and progress as they move up the ladder. The move set doesn’t change from fourth grade up to high school.
“By the time they are freshmen, they pretty much know all the basics and we can get into the more complicated stuff,” Thompson said. “We can just move along. We don’t have to stop and take time to say ‘this is the double-leg (takedown), this is the Half (Nelson).’ We’ve already taken care of those things in the younger years.”
The idea is to keep the lingo simple.
“We all have the same terminology,” Arvesen said. “I can say something to any one of my kids and they’re going to understand what we’re talking about and what we want them to do during the match.”
Some don’t step on the mat until they reach high school. But those who experience wrestling and start building a report with the coaches early at Triton have a real chance to succeed.
“Most of our success can be attributed to getting them to buy in at a very young age,” Thompson said. “It really starts when we get the kids in junior high and they really buy into our system. He’ll have confidence in you as a coach if you have a good relationship with him.
“If he knows you want him to be successful and you’ll work hard for him as long as he returns the favor for you. If you can get the kids to buy in early, they’ll do that for you throughout their career.”
Brown said it’s not just about takedowns and pinning combinations at Triton.
“We care more about them as people than athletes and I think they see that,” Brown said. “They put out a lot of effort for us. It’s a unique situation here. We see them so much in the classroom and in other sports.”
Consequently, the Trojans are close-knit.
“You can see it in how we handle them when they come off the mat after a tough loss or in the wrestling room,” Brown said. “It’s all very respectful and in a caring manner.”
Greene, now a senior 132-pounder, enjoys the family atmosphere of the Triton program as well as the coaching staff’s ability to get the most out of their athletes.
“Coaches drill us in a certain way to battle and fight for every point,” Greene said. “What makes us successful is that we don’t give up.”
Junior Vincent Helton (182) said the Trojans give it “everything we have” at practices which typically include plenty of drill work and time for a little fun.
“Everyone is focusing in the room and listening to what the coaches are telling us and working hard,” Helton said. “We cheer each other on. We’re their backing each other up.”
Even as sophomores, 195-pounder Cameron Scarberry and heavyweight Billy Smith have their ideas of what makes Triton successful.
Scarberry: “It’s our coaches’ enthusiasm for the sport and their constant reminding us that it’s an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. We need to work hard and be intense through practices so we can do well individually and as a team. (Getting ready for State Duals) really gives us the boost of confidence we need to do better.”
Smith: “We have great coaches. They love wrestling just as much as the kids do. You can’t do good if the coach doesn’t love wrestling. Our coaches never put us down. They expect us to do our best (no matter the level of opponent).”
Because they’re all into it TOGETHER.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Take the tenacity of the middle brother, the unpredictability of the youngest one and add the bloodlines of a two-time Indiana state wrestling champion and you get a formidable family combination: The Davisons of Chesterton High School.
Andrew Davison, a 195-pound senior, and Lucas Davison, a 182-pound junior, are both ranked high statewide in their respective weight divisions and are out to make their mark this winter for the Trojans.
Father Keith Davison, who won IHSAA state titles for CHS at 171 as a junior in 1988 and senior in 1989, is there as an assistant coach and inspirational figure along with long-time Chesterton head coach Chris Joll.
Andrew has been to the State Finals twice already — placing fifth as a sophomore and bowing out in the first round as a junior. He missed his freshman season with a back injury.
Lucas was a regional qualifier as a freshman and semistate qualifier as a sophomore.
Jack Davison, now a student at Indiana University, was a three-time semistate qualifier as a Chesterton wrestler.
Last summer, Andrew and Lucas both placed first at USA Wrestling Folkstyle nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Five of eight All-American honors at the USA Wrestling Nationals in Fargo, N.D., were from Chesterton — four for the Davison boys and one for Eli Pokorney. Lucas was second in freestyle and fifth in Greco-Roman. Andrew placed seventh in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
In 2015, Andrew finished first in Greco-Roman and third in freestyle at Fargo while Lucas was second at folkstyle nationals.
Keith Davison was a two-time All-American at the University of Wisconsin, where he grappled two years at 177, redshirted then two more at 190. Andrew is bound for the Big Ten as a signee with the University of Michigan, where is projected as a 197-pounder.
For the 2016-17 prep season, Andrew and Lucas have flip-flopped weights. A year ago, Andrew was at 195 and Lucas at 182, but both grew during the off-season. At 6-foot-2, Lucas is slightly taller than Andrew and Keith.
Keith sees Andrew as a wrestler willing to constantly push the pace.
“(Andrew) doesn’t mind getting tired,” Keith Davison said. “He has a high threshold for pain and fatigue and he attacks a bunch, too.
“He enjoys dragging people into the deep water (a phrase popularized by NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois).
Andrew explains his admiration for Martinez.
“I hear he won’t leave practice until he has to crawl off the mat,” Andrew Davison said. “He’s pretty inspirational.”
While tired himself, Andrew uses his opponent’s fatigue as motivation to fight through the pain.
“It’s late in the third period, you’re gassed and breathing hard and you see your opponent is also gassed,” Andrew Davison said. “I’ve learned to push through stuff. It’s made me a much better and tougher athlete.”
Having one last chance to climb to the top of the podium in Indiana inspires Andrew on a daily basis.
“I’ve been thinking about it non-stop,” Andrew Davison said. “I can’t wait to get back down there (to the IHSAA State Finals). It’s definitely been motivating, just thinking about it all the time.”
There won’t be many — if any breathers — along the way with tough Duneland Athletic Conference duals plus appearances in the Munster Super Dual, Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals and Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic all happening before the end of 2016.
“We’ve got a loaded schedule this year, to say the least,” Andrew Davison said. “That’s awesome. We don’t get to wrestle a whole lot of Indy teams. Hopefully we get to do that (in the IHSWCA State Duals Dec. 23 in Fort Wayne). That will be good for us. You want to wrestle the best of the best.
“When you love it so much, it’s like more of a privilege. It’s such a cool experience. I’m really enjoying it.”
Andrew chose to wrestle at Michigan because he saw himself as a good fit after being recruited by the Wolverines and making a visit to the Ann Arbor campus.
“I saw how hard all these kids were working,” Andrew Davison said. “They have a common goal. They all want to be great at what they’re doing. I wanted to be somewhere they took wrestling seriously and academics just as seriously.”
Though currently undecided on his college major, Andrew is considering pre-medicine.
Lucas, a frequent workout partner, addresses his brother’s wrestling strengths.
“He’s really good on his feet,” Lucas Davison said. “As a seasoned Greco-Roman wrestler, he can go from the upper body to low singles and anything in-between. He can attack the hips and launch you if it’s there for him. He’s dangerous from anywhere.”
Joll credits hard work and being the off-spring of two athletes (mother Jennifer was a runner in her days at Chesterton High School) for Andrew’s success.
“He has a great set of genes,” Joll said. “Dad was a very good wrestler in high school and college and he has made a commitment to making those boys the best they can be.”
There is no doing things half way when Keith is around. That goes for all Chesterton wrestlers — not just his boys.
“We’re not too concerned with pushing them past the point of exhaustion,” Keith Davison said. “We keep the intensity very high and try to be very physical. We’ll taper practices when we get ready for big competitions.”
Keith sees Lucas as a versatile wrestler who can combine sound fundamentals as an attacker and defender with a few unorthodox moves.
“Luke is pretty uncanny at his scrambling abilities,” Keith Davison said. “You think he’s in trouble and he comes out of danger on top a lot.”
Lucas sees his long arms and legs and his mat experience as assets.
“I’m a pretty tall guy and that leads to some clunkiness, but I’m able to manage that pretty well,” Lucas Davison said. “Being at one of the bigger weights, there’s a lot of strong guys. I’ve been around the sport my whole life. It’s huge to be able to understand the sport. I feel things other people wouldn’t be able to feel.”
Lucas enjoys being versatile on the mat.
“I try not to wrestle predictably,” Lucas Davison said. “You don’t want to move the same over and over. You want to change it up. I like to attack from everywhere. It’s important to have a big bag of tricks and be able to switch things up. You do something that’s super easy to key off of for an opponent.”
Chesterton wrestlers employ a variety of styles.
“We’re striving to be diverse wrestlers and have styles that would be hard to scout as opponents,” Lucas Davison said. “The goal is to have clean impeccable technique. It doesn’t matter if they know what’s coming.”
Joll emphasizes the same point.
“We have some basics that we go by, but let kids focus on their strengths,” Joll said. “As coaches, we try to foster individually.”
And there’s also the old steel sharpens steel thing going on in the wrestling room.
“Having a drill partner like my brother, you get to defend better than the average guy,” Lucas Davison said.
Joll said wrestling builds camaraderie and life-long friendships because of all the hard work the athletes put in together.
“The most rewarding thing for me get wrestlers to their potential,” Joll said. “Their accomplishments are just important to me as the high placers.
Joll also likes to see them give back to the sport.
That’s what Keith Davison is doing as a coach. Keith is also president of the Chesterton Wrestling Club (formerly the Duneland Wrestling Club). The group is open to all students from DAC schools and is based at CHS. The club has 70 to 80 members in Grades K-12.
Among the ones making a name for themselves are the Davison boys.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Following in the footsteps of their father, the Faulkner brothers — senior 182-pounder Austin and junior heavyweight Alex — are looking to leave their mark on the storied Mishawaka High School wrestling program.
Mike Faulkner, a 1987 graduate, was an IHSAA state finalist as a junior 185-pounder and state runner-up as a senior heavyweight for Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Al Smith.
Mike was bested by Lake Central’s Mike Fross in the ’87 finals then went on to grapple two years at Grand Rapids Junior College (now Grand Rapids Community College), placing eighth and fourth at the National Junior College Athletic Association Nationals for coach Charlie Wells, and two at Ferris State University.
The elder Faulkner has coached or officiated the sport ever since. His resume includes a three-year stint as head coach at South Bend Adams High School, one season of leading the John Young Middle School program and many years as an assistant coach for his alma mater, working primarily with the heavyweights. He has more than two decades of experience as an IHSAA-sanctioned wrestling official and member of the St. Joseph Valley Officials Association.
A former City of Mishawaka employee (14 of his 18 years were spent as parks superintendent), he served five years as assistant athletic director at MHS and July 1, 2016 became director of operations, overseeing buildings and grounds, transportation and safety.
Austin Faulkner, 18, has his sights set high for his final prep wrestling campaign after earning his first Mishawaka Sectional title and second semistate appearance in 2015-16. He also went to semistate as a sophomore. All of this came at 182.
A wall in the MHS wrestling room lists the state champions and state placers. Austin notices it at every workout.
“I want my name to up there,” Austin Faulkner said. “I’m a Mishawaka wrestler. Mishawaka has had a tradition of great wrestlers. I want to continue that.”
Alex Faulkner, 17, is looking to make his mark on the mat this year after placing fourth at sectional and bowing out in the first round of the Rochester Regional as a sophomore heavyweight.
One thing Alex did in the off-season was hit the weight room.
“I feel like I’m more physical and stronger than I was last year,” Alex Faulkner said. “I feel like I have more movement and will have a much better year. My loss at regionals last year upset me and I’m doing everything I can to make it to state this year.”
Austin, who went into last week ranked No. 14 statewide at 195 but intends to be back at 182, knows that the formula for mat success is an offensive mindset.
“Sometimes I catch myself being a little bit patient and not going after the guy,” Austin Faulkner said. “My dad tells me all the time just ‘go, go, go and keep attacking.’”
That’s the way Mike was during his days as a wrestler and he still believes it.
“You can’t win in wrestling unless you attack and go on offense,” Mike Faulkner said. “A lot of times you see wrestlers who are passive and they want to go on the defensive. Any successful wrestler that you have seen over time are those ones who continuously attack.”
Those wrestlers also hone their moves repeatedly in the practice room in order to be able to perform them well on the competition mat.
And the number of tricks in the bag does not have to be large.
“It’s definitely better to perfect a few amount of moves,” Austin Faulkner said. “You see successful collegiate wrestlers who use a double-leg, a single-leg — nothing crazy.”
Mike Faulkner is also a fan of repetition.
“It becomes muscle memory,” Mike Faulkner. “It’s a reaction rather than a plot. I’m going to go out there and do this. As a wrestler, you can’t do that. It has to be a reaction. Mat time is crucial for the experience and for getting that feel for the flow of the match.”
And no matter what, a grappler must commit to what they are doing.
“You have to finish your move no matter what it is whether it’s a stand-up or a sit-out, switch, reversal or takedown,” Mike Faulkner said.
Scouting reports on opponents are helpful, but not necessary if a wrestler can dictate what goes on inside the circle.
“It’s nice to know what another guy does but you’ve got to go out and wrestle your match every time,” Austin Faulkner said. “You can’t let them control the match.”
Mishawaka head coach Charlie Cornett counts Austin Faulkner as a leader for the Cavemen.
“He comes in the room ready to go,” Cornett said. “He leads by example. He has improved quite a bit on his feet.”
Cornett now sees Austin constantly pushing the pace, something he did not always do last season.
The Faulkner boys are both multi-sport athletes. They are coming off a football season where fullback Austin (1,274 yards and 13 touchdowns as an all-Northern Indiana Conference first teamer) often followed the blocks of right guard Alex in helping coach Bart Curtis and the Cavemen go 10-3 and place second to Penn in the NIC North.
“Football and wrestling go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways,” Austin Faulkner said. “Tackling is the same thing as a double-leg takedown. One of the things I like about being in football is that it makes me hungrier for wrestling season. Some of those kids that wrestle year-round might get tired of it. I can’t wait to get back on the mat.
“(Mishawaka head football) coach (Bart) Curtis is big about us going out for other sports. It doesn’t matter what it is.”
Cornett has watched Alex Faulkner fill out his frame, which is about 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds.
“Alex has definitely picked up a little bit of an edge that he didn’t have last year from playing the interior line in football,” Cornett said. “He wrestled small at heavyweight last year and he got pushed around a little bit. I don’t see that happening this year nearly as much.”
What’s the difference between football and wrestling shape?
“They’ve finding that out right now,” Mike Faulkner said as his sons are now cutting weight for the mat. It’s something they don’t have to sweat in the fall.
“Football shape, you can eat whatever you want,” Monique Faulkner, Mike’s wife and the mother of Austin and Alex, said.
“You can’t get into wrestling shape by running the football or tackling the guy with the football,” Mike Faulkner said. “You’ve got to be wrestling live matches and doing those workouts in the wrestling room to get into tip-top wrestling shape. There’s no question.”
Austin, who is pondering college offers for football and wrestling, played football at 207 and planned to be at 182 to start the season.
Mike typically cut 40 pounds from football and wrestling leading up to his senior season when Coach Smith convinced him to be a heavyweight. Earlier in the year, he went from 190 to 210.
“I never looked back,” Mike Faulkner said. “I was a heavyweight the rest of my life.
“You can cut weight, but you’ve got to be smart about it. You can’t cut it too quick. There’s a reason the IHSAA and National Federation have implemented these (weight loss) rules.
“(Austin’s) eyes are bigger than his stomach. He’ll eat the foods he enjoys the most rather than the ones that will benefit him and give him the protein he needs.”
As for officiating, a wrestling background is helpful.
“You can anticipate which way they’re going and get yourself in good position to call that near fall or takedown on the side of the mat,” Mike Faulkner said. “Knowing how the flow of wrestling goes is an advantage to an official.”
Focus in the face of mental and physical fatigue is also important. Wrestling tournaments can be very long for wrestlers, coaches and the men in stripes.
“You have to try to stay sharp and not let the day get the best of you,” Mike Faulkner said.
Giving it their best is what Austin and Alex Faulkner indeed to do each day they step on the mat for Mishawaka.
“It’s great to have both Faulkner boys on one team,” Cornett said. “They are definitely pillars.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Stay humble yet ready to rumble.
It’s an approach that has served Isaiah McWilliams well.
The South Bend Washington High School wrestler exploded onto the statewide scene, finishing his sophomore season in 2015-16 by going 45-9 and placing fourth in the 285-pound weight division of the IHSAA State Finals.
“Not many people were counting on me,” Isaiah Williams said. He was ranked No. 17 coming out of sectionals.
Along tournament trail, McWilliams’ confidence was fueled with victories against Jimtown’s Nick Mammolenti (Northern Indiana Conference meet), South Bend St. Joseph’s Michael Koebel (Mishawaka Sectional and Rochester Regional), Oak Hill’s Owen Perkins and Franklin’s Quinn York (State Finals).
Supported by his family, coaches and teammates, Isaiah made it the semifinals of the State Finals before bowing to eventual state champion Shawn Streck of Merrillville.
After a productive prep off-season, McWilliams began 2016-17 ranked No. 2 at 285.
But the Panther heavyweight has not taken more mat success for granted while competing for his father and Washington head coach Tony McWilliams, a 1998 South Bend Bend LaSalle graduate and former IHSAA State finalist.
“I want to continue to get better everyday,” Isaiah McWilliams said. “If I don’t get better everyday it means I’m slacking. If you’re not getting better today that means you’re getting worse
“I have a bullseye on my back. I have to continue to work hard to defend that bullseye.”
A year ago, the 5-foot-7 athlete took the mat at 240 pounds and began the current season around 265. He is looking to tone down to around 255 and maintain his quickness.
“It’s all about how much heart you have and how you are determined to win,” Isaiah McWilliams. “It’s not the size that matters.
“Speed at heavyweight is very critical. You can move out of the way if you’re very quick. My agility help me win (against York) because at the end he tripped me and I kept moving. I rolled between his legs and go my two (points).
“My mindset is to go out there and dominate and get out as quick as possible and wrestle smart. If I can’t go for a pin, I’ll keep working my takedowns and turns and get as many points as I can.”
Stamina is a strong suit for McWilliams, who was a first-team all-NIC pick in football last fall (he played defensive end and fullback).
“He can go three periods or more,” Tony McWilliams said. “Some of those big guys can’t. One of his keys has been to wear them down and get them at the end. That’s where he wins the most — the third period.”
Dad/coach said it’s not uncommon for Isaiah to get back from a Saturday tournament and run a mile before heading home.
“Sometimes, if he’s mad, he’ll run two,” Tony McWilliams. “That’s his idea. Some of his teammates catch on, some don’t.”
Tony McWilliams, who saw a quick study when he first began teaching wrestling to Isaiah at age 4, adds a few other qualities when listing his son’s reasons for mat achievement.
“He listens,” Tony McWilliams said of his son, the holder of the 4.0 grade-point average. “If you tell him something, you don’t have to tell him more than once. His knowledge is there.”
Isaiah is a medical magnet at Washington and job shadows doctors and nurses. He sees himself one day as a sports medicine doctor or pediatrician.
That kind of attention to details translates to wrestling.
“He’s focused,” Tony McWilliams said. “He’s got goals and ***NO NO NO***ion. You’ve got to have that in this sport because one false move and it can be over as far as a match or even your career.
“He pays attention. He knows what to fix and how to fix it.”
Tony McWilliams coached seven seasons at LaSalle Academy and is now in his seventh season as head coach at Washington. A lay coach (his day job is as a union carpenter), he relishes the chance to work with his son and take other young grapplers (the Panthers have no seniors this winter) as far as they want to go.
“This is a dream come true for a father and a son to be in this situation,” Tony McWilliams said. “It’s really awesome. I’m at a loss for word sometimes.”
Aggressiveness is what Washington wrestling is all about.
“We have to go on offense,” Tony McWilliams said. “We’re not going to try to be defensive wrestlers this year. We’re going to perfect our moves and we’re going to score.”
The bar is set high for Isaiah McWilliams, but the expectations are also up there for the rest of those in green and black.
“A state championship, that’s our main goal for Isaiah,” Tony McWilliams said. “Our staff is going to be on his butt to get it. If anybody else on the team wants to go along for the ride, that’s great.”
Tony rejects those who say Isaiah’s success comes because he is the head coach’s son and conveys that to everyone in his program.
“Everything that he’s doing, I tell them that they had an opportunity to do — all the summer wrestling,” Tony McWilliams said. “Isaiah wrestled 80 matches last summer (including Disney Duals in Florida and National Scholastic Duals in Virginia). With the success he’s having, a lot of people are going to be watching this team and they’re going to see you, too.
“If you want to make a name for yourself, now’s the time to do that. Now’s the time to practice hard, wrestler hard. We’ve got to get them to buy into that.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
“How many of you can look me in the eye and tell me you are working as hard as you can? … Find a teammate and help him push through.”
Those are the words of Kyle Marsh in his new role as head wrestling coach at Fairfield High School.
The former West Noble High School wrestler and six-year assistant coach is putting the Falcons through a grueling workout — something Marsh knew well when he competed for WNHS for father Tom Marsh.
Work ethic and attention to detail are the qualities that Kyle Marsh credits for his prep success.
“You could push him, push him and push him,” Tom Marsh said of his oldest son. “He would take it and try to get better.”
Before graduating from the Ligonier school in 2008, he was a two-time Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals qualifier and two-time Westview Sectional champion (all at 130 pounds as a junior and senior). He was a Goshen Regional champion as a senior and place third at the Fort Wayne Semistate his final two high school campaigns.
A collegiate mat career at Trine University was cut short by a shoulder injury suffered just before the Thunder’s intrasquad meet.
Kyle learned how to put in maximum effort from his father. Tom Marsh has been an assistant football coach at West Noble for more than 25 years and has led the Chargers’ wrestling program since the mid-2000’s.
“Being around him and his teams, work ethic was built into my DNA from a young age,” Kyle Marsh said. “I know there are kids that have a hard time being coached by a dad or a parent because sometimes the sport can be taken home. I’m definitely not like that. My dad coached me for six or seven years and was constantly pushing me and motivating me and I’m very thankful that he did.”
Kyle Marsh began wrestling in the sixth grade. When Tom Marsh caught the wrestling bug, it allowed Kyle — and his younger siblings (Kevin and Molly) — plenty of off-season opportunities like tournaments and camps.
“It became a family affair,” Kyle Marsh said. “My sister probably would have been the best wrestler in the state. She was a placer at the (Indiana State Wrestling Association) state meet a couple of times.”
Molly Marsh is now a junior catcher on the softball team at Indiana University-South Bend.
After his own college athletic career was over, Kyle began coaching wrestling, middle school football and some high school football at West Noble.
In recent years, he had discussions with his father about possibly coaching at a different school.
Kyle Marsh wound up at Fairfield — a Northeast Corner Conference rival to West Noble — after Jim Jones retired, leaving a head coaching vacancy for the Falcons.
After discussing the situation with his wife — the former Erica Dolezal (who had been a girls basketball coach at Goshen Middle School) — Kyle decided to apply.
“My wife was a coach and she knows the time commitment that coaching in general takes up,” Kyle Marsh said. “She thought it would be great. I reminded her that it would be a lot more time than just being dad’s assistant. She said ought to do it.”
Kyle and Erica have three children — daughter Brogan, son Layten and caught Caelin. The latter is name for Cael Sanderson — “the greatest wrestler.”
When Kyle got the Fairfield job, his father was the first person he called with the news.
Tom Marsh said an attribute for Kyle is his ability to relate to young athletes.
“I’m more Old School,” Tom Marsh said. “It’s a lot different than 20 years ago. There are so many more options for (students) after school. Some sports getting individualized. There are a lot of one-sport athletes.
“Kyle does a good job of getting those kids to give it a go. They relate better to the young guys better than the old guys.”
Father and son are ultra-competitive with everything from corn hole to golf (the two are currently tied in head-to-head matches at 22-all). Trash talk at family functions are common.
So what happens when the Falcons and Chargers step on the mat together?
“My sister, brother and I even joke around it being hash-tagged in text messages,” Kyle Marsh said in referring to the West Noble at Fairfield NECC dual meet. “It’s #December8.”
Michelle Marsh — wife to Tom and mother to Kyle — is expected to be there with some sort of mashup outfit combining Fairfield and West Noble.
The date is also important at West Noble.
“I know he wants to beat us and we want to beat him,” Tom Marsh said. “We don’t talk about any of our kids to each other. We don’t go there with each other.”
Kyle is familiar with the returning grapplers for the Chargers.
“I know their kids real well and I know their wrestling styles,” Kyle Marsh said. “It’s probably a slight advantage, but I’m sure my dad is doing everything he can to find about kids from over here and they will talk plenty about strategy before Dec. 8.”
Fairfield is scheduled to open the varsity season at home Nov. 22 against Northridge.
West Noble begins varsity action Nov. 26 at the Wawasee Super Dual.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Kenny Kerrn turned heads during his senior football season at Jimtown High School.
He is hoping to do more of the same in his final prep wrestling campaign for the Jimmies. He ranks No. 2 in the 2016-17 Indiana Mat preseason rankings at 152 pounds.
“There’s a lot of high expectations for me this year and a big part of that is because of my dad,” Kenny Kerrn said of Mark Kerrn, the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “He’s such a respected coach in the state. I’m kind of just in awe of seeing my name ranked second in the state. It makes me want to go in everyday and work as hard as I can and get that title under my name.”
And his fall sport has definitely contributed to his winter sport and vice versa for the teen.
“Wrestling helps me with football and football helps me with wrestling,” Kenny Kerrn said. “It’s a good balance.”
As a running back for a 7-5 team that was a sectional finalist, Kenny toted the football 261 times for 1,563 yards and 26 touchdowns in the fall. In game against Concord, he set single-game school records for carries (38), yards (320) and points scored (32).
Learning wrestling from a young age from his father and other talented coaches and JHS wrestlers, Kenny enjoyed a breakout season in the circle as a junior.
A 2015-16 campaign which culminated with a seventh-place finish at 145 at the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals included a 45-6 record (he is 96-28 for this first three high school seasons).
Along the way, the young Kerrn won titles at the prestigious Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka as well as in the Northern Indiana Conference, Elkhart Sectional and Goshen Regional. He was a runner-up at the Fort Wayne Semistate.
As a team, Jimtown went 21-2 with a sectional title and runner-up finishes in the conference and the Class 2A division of the IHSWCA State Duals (the Jimmies are slated to compete in the meet again Dec. 23 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne). Mark Kerrn was named NIC Coach of the Year.
Several of Kenny Kerrn’s wrestling teammates were also his mates on the football field.
“It’s kind of fun to see how they act in one and another,” Kenny Kerrn said.
While both sports are physically-demanding, the Jimmie senior who is exploring different college options that could include some combination of football, wrestling or track sees a contrast.
“It’s totally different atmosphere,” Kenny Kerrn said. “Somedays in the wrestling room are just intense. It’s something you would never see on the football field. (Wrestling) can be hard-nose, just going non-stop for two hours. In football, there’s a little bit more of the learning aspect.
“Coaches will stand you up and teach you the things you need to know for football. (In wrestling), it’s all hands-on and you’ve just got to drill.”
Kenny Kerrn (@KennyKerrn on Twitter) explained the difference between being “wrestling shape” and for other sports, including his third prep sport (track).
“You can go run seven miles everyday if you want to and still not in wrestling shape because you haven’t been down in your stance, feeling that burn in your legs. It’s a totally different thing.”
Of course, there are parallels to the mat and the gridiron.
“People talk all the time about how if you need help with tackle form, it’s just a double-leg takedown,” Kenny Kerrn said. “It really is if you think about it. A text-book tackle (in football) is really a blast-double for wrestling.
“And keeping your head up (in wrestling) in just as important as it is on the football field.”
Stay low and keep your feet moving is good advice in both sports.
“You want that low center of gravity, keep you feet moving and explode out,” Kenny Kerrn said. “Running backs in college and the pros are explosive. They find a whole and explode. You look at the best wrestlers in the Olympics and stuff and they are staying low to the ground and they are exploding out when they’re taking shots.”
Mark Kerrn, who is also a longtime Jimtown football assistant coach as well as being in his 25th season as head wrestling coach, said he can cite example after example of pro football players who wrestled and learned lessons that transferred well from the mat to the gridiron — things like balance as well as physical mental toughness.
“Guys who wrestle aren’t afraid tote the rock or be a receiver or a quarterback — that limelight guy — because they have no fear of losing,” Mark Kerrn said. “Because there’s a chance that every time they go out on the mat they are going to lose by themselves and have nobody else to blame but themselves.”
That being said, there was a brotherhood displayed during the football season that has carried over into wrestling.
“We had one of the closest group of seniors (in football),” Mark Kerrn said. “And that’s carried over.”
And there’s been “proud dad” moments all along the way as father has watched son.
“It’s really been special watching him go from that 4-year-old bouncing around on the mat, jumping on people and not being able to take a stance then year by year getting better and better and better,” Mark Kerrn said. “He’s always been a competitor. But it really snapped last year. Something kicked in and he started doing some really great things.”
The Kerrns and the Jimmies are hoping to get even more kicks this last go-round together.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
It was one of the most highly-anticipated championship matches in the 78 years of the IHSAA State Finals.
There was a buzz around the Indiana wrestling community for months.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, before 12,602 leather-lunged fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, New Palestine’s Chad Red and Evansville Mater Dei’s Nick Lee — ranked No. 1 and 2 in the nation and holding four previous state titles between them — stepped under the lights with the 132-pound title on the line.
Here they were, what long-time State Finals public address announcer Kevin Whitehead called “two of the finest high school wrestlers on the planet.”
The crowd and the television audience was treated to a tussle between the two Big Ten Conference-bound grapplers.
Red had never lost a match as a high schooler and yet he found himself behind 4-0 early in the match. He cradled his way back into the lead and wound up with his hand being raised after a 6-5 victory.
“I just feel like I wrestled through that match calmly and, other than giving up that four. I wrestled pretty good,” Red said. “(Lee’s quick 4-0 lead) definitely caught me off-guard. I noticed I had to move a lot more. Once I started moving a little more, I started changing the momentum of the match. Once I locked up that cradle, I started changing the momentum of the match and the crowd got a little more quiet. It was back to us wrestling. I had to control the lead.”
The New Pal Dragon sprinted off at 183-0 with state titles at 106, 120, 126 and 132.
Red is only the third Indiana high schooler to go unbeaten throughout his career and the ninth four-time IHSAA state champion, joining Crown Point’s Jason Tsirtsis (2009-12), Griffith’s Angel Escobedo (2002-05) and Alex Tsirtsis (2001-04), Mater Dei’s Blake Maurer (2001-04), Indianapolis Cathedral’s Lance Ellis (1986-89), South Bend Central’s Howard Fisher (1949-52), Muncie Central’s Willard Duffy (1930-33) and Bloomington’s Estil Ritter (1924-27).
Lee, who was at the top of the podium at 132 in 2015 and third at 126 in 2014, finished his junior season at 16-1.
He’s been on big stages and won championships all around the country, but Saturday in Indianapolis was special.
“This is crazy,” Red said. “This is one of my favorites, if THE best.”
Ellis, the first Indiana grappler to run the table, was there to present Red with his medal and later reflected on the moment.
“That was good for our sport, good for Indiana wrestling,” Ellis said. “What Chad Red did is amazing. He’s put himself in the record book as probably the greatest high school wrestler in Indiana history.”
What makes Red so good?
“A lot of things,” Ellis said. “It’s the time he puts in on the mat, the dedication, athleticism, just the will to win. He’s just a phenomenal wrestler. The bond he has with his dad (Chad Red Sr.) is special. Once you start winning, it becomes contagious.”
But what it boils down to for Ellis is that Red has what it takes to go into an early deficit, in front of a huge crowd with many rooting against him and still dig deep and come out on top.
“It comes down to mental toughness,” Ellis said. “And you’ve got to give (Nick) Lee all the credit in the world. For him to go after Red and challenge himself says a lot about him. Most people would do that. No one would do that. He’s a competitor.”
Ellis said as impressive as the showdown was now, it will be even more important years from now when Red and Lee can look back on even bigger titles at the national and international levels.
What did Lee think about the experience?
“You don’t get to wrestle the best kid in the country all the time,” Lee said. “You don’t take it for granted. You go out there and give it 100 percent. The hype is the hype. There’s always hype every year in every weight class. The opportunity to wrestler somebody with that many great credentials is just exciting for me.”
The moves that built the 4-0 lead?
“An inside tie to a Fireman’s (Carry) and I got him to his back, so two (points) for a takedown and two for a near fall,” Lee said. “You can’t panic when you get down and he didn’t panic and he took the lead. That’s something you can admire in wrestlers at this level. They’re always in the match no matter what the score is.”
Red will take his talents to the college mat at Nebraska while Lee has committed to Penn State.
Who knows, but these two could meet again many times in the future?
As for the immediate future for Red, he does not plan to be back in the wrestling room on Monday.
“I’m going to take a long time off,” Red said. “I’m about the chill-ax right now, kick my feet up and sit back.”
But Red will be back in the spotlight again soon enough when he takes on the Pennsylvania 132-pound champion March 26 at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Confidence and conviction can take you a long way.
Kokomo High School wrestlers like junior 113-pounder Jabin Wright (45-5) and senior 145-pounder Szhantrayl Roberson (42-10) have taken that and landed in the IHSAA State Finals — Wright for the second time and Roberson for the first.
These two Wildkats are the 14th and 15th state qualifiers in Ryan Wells’ eight season as head coach.
“My coach said I can be the best in the state if I continue to attack and continue to put pressure and I did that today,” Wright said after winning at the Fort Wayne Semistate. “He told me I can beat anybody if I keep working hard. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Wright said he “turned it up a notch” as the 2015-16 postseason has approached.
“I want to get better and better and I want to be on top of the podium on Saturday,” Wright said. “Coached told me, ‘Now’s your time. Now is when it really matters.’”
Wells, a former Kokomo wrestler who graduated in 2001, asks his Kats to keep it simple and to stay aggressive and in good position. He has seen Wright stick to that plan and it has him back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“He is really peaking at the right time,” Wells said of Wright. “He’s just wrestling so well with his takedowns. He’s really confident.
“He’s getting deep on shots, finishing and staying in great position all the time. He’s really, really wrestling well.”
Wright placed third at semistate and lost in the first round in 2015. As a returnee, he will have familiarity with the situation this time.
But not only that.
Wright’s first-round draw on Friday night (Feb. 19) is Logansport junior Donovan Johnson, a fourth-place finisher at the East Chicago Semistate. It will be the fourth meeting between the two during the 2015-16 season.
After losing 7-2 and 17-6 to Logansport’s Donovan Johnson during the season, Wright topped the Berries grappler 8-2 in the finals of the Jan. 24 North Central Conference tournament.
Like many wrestlers, Wright listens to music before his matches. He was scene doing dance moves prior to wrestling moves at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum.
“It calms me,” Wright said. “The music kind of just takes me. I don’t want to stress out about my matches and go out there and not stick to my gameplan.”
And Wright’s pre-match tunes of choice?
“Music you can dab to,” Wright said.
Besides former successful Kokomo wrestlers coming into the practice room to give athletes like Wright and Roberson a different look, there are current Kats like Rafael Lopez (126) and T.T. Allen (138) to help make them better.
“Since he’s a little guy, he’s real quick,” Roberson said of Wright. “His quickness makes my reaction time better. My strength and my length makes him better because he sometimes has to face tall, lanky guys who are strong. We help each other throughout the season.”
Roberson lost to Yorktown’s Brad Laughlin in the “ticket” round at semistate last year and now he’s going to the Big Show where he will face Evansville Mater Dei sophomore Joe Lee, a champion at the Evansville Semistate, in the first round.
What has gotten this Kat to Indy?
“I’m pretty good on my feet,” Roberson said. That’s my strength. “I like to use a Russian into a sweep single on the right side. A duck-under into a high crotch. I finish a lot with that, too.”
Roberson also has a pre-match routine. After a talk with his coaches, he puts on his headphones for “hype-up” rap and R&B songs.
“I turn the music up real loud and get in my zone,” Roberson said. “I get my adrenaline going for the match. It usually helps.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
It took a little convincing to get brothers Bo, Blake and Beck Davis to see that wrestling is for them.
But once they committed to the mat sport, success followed and Garrett has been the beneficiary.
Bo Davis represented the Garrett High School Railroaders twice at the IHSAA State Finals, qualifying as a junior in 2014 and placing third in 2015 — both times at 195 pounds. He became a collegiate wrestler at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.
Blake Davis (220) was a State Finals qualifier as a junior in 2015 just won Carroll Sectional and Carroll Regional titles as a senior in 2016. He will be a No. 1 in the Fort Wayne Semistate at Memorial Coliseum.
Beck Davis, who was at 182 as a freshman in 2015, has won at the sectional and regional stages as a sophomore at 195 in 2016. He, too, will be a top seed at semistate .
Bo, Blake and Beck are part of a family athletic legacy that includes father Chad Davis and mother Lisa (Leichty) Davis (a pair of 1990 Garrett graduates) and grandfather Steve Dembickie (GHS Class of 1971).
In a family where they take their sports and their academics seriously (Bo, Blake and Beck have all excelled in football for Garrett and Blake and Beck are ranked in the top five of their respective classes), it took some serious coaxing to become wrestlers.
“In our school wrestling was the weird thing to do,” Bo Davis said after being recruited to wrestling in sixth grade following a less-than-satisfying basketball experience. “I was forced into it, but I loved it.”
Blake Davis soon followed his older brother into wrestling. But, at first, there was resistance.
“All of us thought wrestling was a joke,” Blake Davis said, speaking for himself and both his brothers. We didn’t take it seriously. Bo went out and we made fun of him.”
But something clicked for Bo and Blake. They began to really enjoy wrestling and the all work it takes to do well.
It took a little more work coaxing Beck to join them.
“We offered him $250 to come to one practice,” Bo Davis said.
“I was probably the most stubborn at the start,” Beck said. “I thought it was weird.”
It was Garrett coach Nick Kraus, who had Beck in a weight training class, that persuaded him to became a wrestler.
Kraus, in his fifth season with the program and third as head coach, watched the oldest Davis brother grind to make himself into a decorated wrestler.
“Bo is very coachable and he hated to lose,” Kraus said. “He was very, very persistent.”
After not placing at Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic as a senior, Bo bared down week by week and it paid off during the IHSAA state tournament series.
“He’s a strong kid with an athletic build who got very good at a couple things he did consistently,” Kraus said. “I’ve never coached anybody who worked as hard as Bo Davis.”
That kind of drive in the classroom turned Davis into Garrett’s 2015 valedictorian and he is now studying biomedical engineering at Indiana Tech. Blake and Beck are ranked in the top five of their classes at Garrett.
A mean streak has also served Blake well.
“Blake is the meanest of the brothers,” Kraus said. “He imposes his will on people. He’s almost a bully on the wrestling mat.”
Lisa (Liechty) Davis, a standout athlete during her time at Garrett (she is a 1990 GHS graduate) and the boys’ mother, has witnessed the rage.
“Blake is mean,” Lisa Davis said. “If Bo was beating them when they were wrestling, they might throw a punch or two. Five minutes later, they are each others’ best friend.”
Blake does not shy away from the mean label.
“I guess since I was little I had anger problems,” Blake Davis said. “I’ve gotten better over the years of channeling it. If you are a competitive person, you don’t want to lose. If you live with them, you’re going to hear about it.”
Kraus appreciates the hate-to-lose attitude.
“That’s not a bad thing in wrestling and it’s trickled down throughout the team,” Kraus said. “All the kids are getting that chip on their shoulder.”
Superior conditioning has been Blake’s calling card.
“I know I’m not the most talented wrestler, but I can outwork them,” Blake Davis said. “I prefer to pin the guy as quickly as possible, but I can go six minutes.”
After an injury-filled football season, Blake just reached the wrestling shape of his junior season in recent weeks.
Using his competitive nature, Blake has avenged early losses or beaten opponents even more convincingly in rematches.
“(Blake) does have finesse,” Kraus said. “But for the most part, it’s a physical brute style of wrestling.”
Even at 220, it’s not all bulldozer with Blake.
“He’s pretty slick,” Bo Davis said of Blake. “He’s athletic for somebody that size. He can pull off some lighter-guy moves that stop people in their tracks sometimes.”
Kraus said Beck has the potential to be the best wrestling Davis brother.
“He’s had his brothers to work with all the time,” Kraus said. “He didn’t want to do it at first. Once he started to do it, he was all in. Now he doesn’t miss summer sessions, camps or weight room workouts. There are high expectations with his brothers’ accomplishments, but he doesn’t let it get to him.”
Following coaching advice, Beck tries to keep moving on the mat and believe in himself.
“I’ve been working on (constant motion),” Beck Davis said. “And to keep having fun and stay confident.
“I’m not really technical sound, but I have a decent gas tank and I like to shoot.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Bill Flatt does not try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
The 17th-year head wrestling coach at South Bend Riley High School knows that each athlete is different.
Flatt gets his Wildcats to play to their strengths and it has paid off with plenty of mat success.
“I don’t try to put them into a mold,” Flatt said. “It’s not ‘here’s how I want all of you to wrestle.’ I emphasize their individuality.”
Flatt encourages his wrestlers to find what style best suits them and go with that. He will be there to help them refine it.
The veteran coach and is a former Mishawaka High School (Class of 1979) and Columbia University (Chicago) grappler. As an MHS junior, Flatt went 22-1 for Hall of Fame coach Al Smith. Flatt’s only loss came in the semistate semifinals to the defending state champion.
After college, Flatt was an assistant to Smith for one season before taking over the Riley program.
With all his time on and around the mat, Flatt knows that some wrestlers are better on their feet and others excel on top.
“The guys who are good riders and pinners, when they are on bottom, I don’t want them getting to their feet and getting escapes,” Flatt said. “I want them to get the reversals to get into their best position and score from there.
“I’m always looking to get them to their best positions, whichever that is. It may be a match-to-match situation.”
With seniors Austen Laughlin (40-2 at 145 pounds) and Kassius Breathitt (38-4 at 152) and junior Tristan Goering (33-2 at 170) winning weight-class titles and senior RZ Teague (27-15 at 160) finishing fourth, again bolstered Riley as the Wildcats [laced third at the Mishawaka Sectional. Next up is the Rochester Regional.
“The middle of our lineup has really set the tempo for the team,” Flatt said. That tempo helped the Cats go 17-8 in 2015-16 duals and is leading to wins in the postseason.
“We want to just keep that momentum going,” Flatt said. “Get the points you need and get off the mat. This time of the year, it’s nothing but the W. Keep going to the right on that bracket. Go to the left and you lose another match and you’re done. So we want to keep going toward that championship bout.”
Goering placed fourth at 160 at the 2015 IHSAA State Finals. Laughlin is a two-time State Finals qualifier and a 46-match winner in 2014-15.
“Tristan’s run in the semistate and state finals last year was tremendous,” Flatt said. “For Austen, it’s all about confidence. He’s wrestled so much, there’s always another trick in his bag, one more thing he can do. He breaks people and just gets them to submit.”
Ultra-competitors Laughlin, Breathitt, Teague and Goering are regular sparring partners during intense Riley workouts.
“We hate losing,” Laughlin said. “That’s what motivates us to get better. It definitely gets heated in (the practice room).”
When Breathitt looks at Laughlin, Teague and Goering, he sees driven athletes.
“They’re determined,” Breathittt said. “They want to go places. They love the sport.”
“We all work hard in here and push each other to be better,” Teague said.
Goering said it’s a matter of iron sharpening iron.
“Austen is one of the best on our team technically,” Goering said. “Kassius stays in really good position. RZ is a combination of the two. He’s real-rounded overall. My strengths are my athleticism, my explosiveness. I’ve been told I’m hard-nosed. I’m not the most skilled, but I go out there real hard and that tends to break guys down.”
One bit of advice from Flatt that sticks with Goering is focusing on each period instead of the whole six-minute match.
“If you win two minutes at a time, you will win the match,” Goering said.
The junior also serves notice about the 2016-17 Wildcats and sees Riley having a good shot at ending Penn’s stranglehold on the top spots in the sectional and Northern Indiana Conference.
“We’ll be better next year than we are this year,” Goering said.
Laughlin said it is his ability to adapt to many styles and to go against teammates in practice that know how to scramble to helps him win close matches.
While Breathitt is strong as a bottom wrestler, it’s also what he has between the ears that helps him be successful.
“It’s that mental toughness and staying strong throughout the match no matter what happens,” Breathitt said. “You’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ve got to think that you can do it.
“I’m pretty decent on my feet, but nobody can hold me down. I’m not staying on the mat. A sit-out hip-heist is kind of my go-to thing. I keep running those. I also have moves like Granbys and such.”
Having drilled so much, Breathitt has confidence in his best set of moves.
“I keep running it until they stop it,” Breathitt said. “I don’t like to change it up for other people. I like to keep doing what I’ve trained to do.”
It’s a pretty smart group, too. Flatt said Breathitt, Teague and Goering are on the their way to academic all-state honors.
Many Riley wrestlers compete throughout the year as a part of the South Bend Wrestling Club, which holds most workouts at Riley and South Bend Joseph.
The current pack of Wildcats are continuing a strong tradition of South Bend’s South Side. From 1960-15, Riley racked up 53 indivudal State Finals.
Jon Galloway (1964-65-66) was a three-time state champion for the Cats. Larry Katz (1963), Matt Wills (1991), Matt Nowak (1995) and George Malone (2007) also took state titles.
“We just keep producing,” Flatt said. “We bring kids in, give them the idea they can be successful and try to put their name on (Riley Wrestling Wall of Fame) list.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
A bond shared between siblings is a big part of why they are among the top wrestlers in their realm — big sister at the national and international level and little brother near the top of the high school pinnacle.
Sarah Hildebrandt, 22, is a member of Team USA and trying to earn a spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 2011 Penn High School graduate, just completed a national team training camp in Iowa City, Iowa, the site of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling on April 9-10. She is among those going for spots at 53 kg (116.8 pounds).
Drew Hildebrandt, 18, is coming off a runner-up IHSAA State Finals finish at 113 pounds and a key role in Penn’s 2014-15 team state championship. Now a senior, the Central Michigan University-bound grappler is currently ranked No. 1 in his weight class in Indiana at 120 and was just named MVP of the Northern Indiana Conference for the NIC team champions.
Sarah will have an overseas tour and a few tournaments leading up to the Olympic Trials. One is scheduled for the weekend of the IHSAA State Finals, Feb. 19-20, in Indianapolis.
“Yo! I’m not going to that,” Sarah stated emphatically while visiting family for the holidays and watching her brother compete during break from training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I’ve got to see my little brother.”
Sarah, who got to coach from the corner at Mishawaka High School while her bro won an Al Smith Classic title in late December, is close to all her family members (Chris and Nancy have four children — Cory, Sarah, Amy and Drew).
But the lofty wrestling goals and shared mat experiences have brought Sarah and Drew even closer.
“We keep in touch (texts and phone calls etc.),” Sarah said. “We send each other silly stuff all the time. But before a competition, he will say, ‘I love you. You’re a beast.’ Drew knows I can do this. He’s been in this position. He trains with me. He knows me.
“I love to hear from him . He’ll say, ‘Sarah, you’ve got this. Keep going.’ At the end of the tournament, he’ll say ‘I’m so proud of you.’”
Through training and listening, Drew has benefitted from Sarah’s experience as a top grappler at King University and with the national team.
Drew has adopted Sarah’s front headlock and slide-by to his bag of tricks.
“People say, ‘you have a nasty slide-by’ and I say, ‘I learned it from my sister,’” Drew said.
As a wrestler elementary school, Drew would get almost sick from anxiety before every match. With plenty of time in the spotlight since, that is no longer an issue.
But Drew and Sarah do have anxious moments.
“When she’s wrestling, I’m twice as nervous as when I’m wrestling and when I’m wrestling, she’s twice as nervous,” Drew said.
On breaks from the national team — like the one in December — Sarah came into the practice room and shared her knowledge with all the Kingsmen, including head coach Brad Harper and his staff.
“With the moves she shows us, she really focuses on the little things,” Drew said. “It’s more about the neutral position since she really doesn’t do bottom of top.”
Harper, who started at Penn the same season as Sarah in 2007-08, appreciates the technician that she has become.
“I told her back then that if she was going compete against boys, her technique and positioning had to be perfect,” Harper said. “She has taken that to heart. It has shown. She has even taken it to the next level.”
Harper, a former standout at Mishawaka High School and Purdue University who has continued to coach Sarah past her high school days, said attention to detail is what she will need to have to earn a spot for Rio.
“It’s about a lot of reps and a lot of practice and knowing you’re ready,” Harper said. “It’s hitting things over and over and over. That makes her makes her a great technician. She realizes her weaknesses and strengths.”
Sarah said its her perfectionist tendencies that help her make adjustments and gives her confidence on the mat.
“I love to just drill,” Sarah said. “Everybody knows I have a headlock and everybody knows I have a slide-by. Everyone in the country knows and people on the other side of the world know. But they don’t know the corrections I am making.”
Sarah has also worked on her quickness.
“I am a very heavy-footed wrestler,” Sarah said. “I’ve really focused on moving my feet, elevating the pace and moving in and out. The first time I executed it, people came up to me and said, ‘wow! you look like a different wrestler.’”
Making Sarah and other Penn athletes better wrestlers is what Harper strives to do, not only with the teaching of technique, but with his encouragement.
“That’s my secret sauce, it’s all about motivation,” Harper said. “I try to keep them focused on the ultimate goal.”
With his current Penn grapplers — like Drew — that goal is individual and team championships.
For Sarah, it’s an Olympic dream.
Harper, who was in Las Vegas on a Friday night when Sarah qualified for the Olympic Trials and with his Penn team the next morning for a tournament in early December, likes to send motivational quotes.
A recent one to the Hildebrandts came from legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
The quote read: “It’s not the will to win that matters — everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
The Harpers know Sarah as an athlete, but are very close with the whole Hildebrandt family. Sarah, best friend and national team training partner Jenna (Burkert) Lowry and others could be seen with Brad and wife Christina’s daughter and son — Mackenzie, 2, and Deuel, 5 months — at the Al Smith Classic.
As a motivator and accountability partner, Harper watches film of Sarah and gives pointers. He talks to her about her diet (she has gone down a weight class), her training and her mental game.
“We talk everyday,” Sarah said. “He’ll ask me, ‘have you visualized today?’”
Dropping down to 53 kg (about four pounds lighter than her previous class and her lowest weight since high school), Sarah made a total change to her routine.
“I took the cut very, very seriously,” Sarah said. “I probably started three months out. I complete changed my diet, my cardio and my lifting.”
She continued with wrestling workouts five days a week (twice a day three times) and went from 20 to 40 minutes of running on the treadmill and a sauna session each day.
Then a funny thing happened.
“The day of weigh-in, I was being nice to people. It was a whole new experience,” Sarah said. “(When cutting weight,) I can get a little cranky. I love being down at the other weight. I feel like I can move better.”
While running back in northern Indiana, she noticed how training at 6,000 feet above sea level in Colorado helps.
“I was running 2 to 3 mph faster here,” Sarah said.
It has been quite a run for the Hildebrandts and that run still has miles to go.
Here is a link to a previous story on Sarah Hildebrandt
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
David Eli got an up-close look at the big stage as a sophomore.
The Elkhart Memorial High School wrestler placed seventh at 182 pounds at the 2014-15 IHSAA State Finals.
A year wiser and stronger, Eli has his sights set on loftier heights in 2015-16.
Working with a Brian Weaver-led coaching staff that includes former successful Memorial wrestlers, Eli is honing his skills for a tournament run.
Eli spent the time between high school season attending Indiana State Wrestling Association Regional Training Center workouts at Penn and going to freestyle and folkstyle tournaments.
Just before the start of the current Crimson Charger slate, he went to Las Vegas and went 8-2 in two divisions of the “Freak Show.” Competing at 200 pounds, he won the varsity division and placed fourth in the elite.
That experience combined with plenty of time in the weight room led the a season filled with grueling training sessions and more victories on the mat.
“We’ve been working real hard,” Eli said after a recent win at 182. “I feel like I’ve got conditioning on some guys.”
Weight workouts — especially with his legs — have added the muscle to help put away opponents.
His regular workout partner at Memorial has been senior 170-pounder Nick Ritchie and both have benefitted from pushing one another.
“For David to get down to the State Finals again this year, he needs opponents that can push him to his limitations,” Weaver said. “Nick Corpe, Shane Hendrickson and Tieshawn Johnson can push David to his limitations, get him where he needs to get.”
Corpe and Hendrickson are EMHS assistant coaches and Johnson is a 2014 Memorial graduate.
Corpe was a state champion for the Chargers at 171 in 2004-05 and went on to compete at Purdue University.
Hendrickson, a 2010 Memorial graduate and two-time semistate qualifier and Northern Lakes Conference champion, wrestled for Trine University.
Johnson, who placed fifth at the 2013-14 State Finals at 195, wrestled at Indiana Tech.
“It really helps me out, them coming into the room and working with me,” Eli said.
Corpe has been impressed with Eli’s work ethic and athleticism.
“He doesn’t miss any practices,” Corpe said of Eli. “He just keeps getting better.
“He digs for his ties and gets to his positions. When he hits his moves, he’s explosive. He stays in control of the match.”
While Eli has been successful with blast double, high crotch and headlock combinations, Corpe wants him to add to his arsenal.
“To win a state title, you need more than one shot,” Corpe said. “You’ve got to be able to scramble and know your positions. On top, he’s good. He’s a strong kid. But it usually comes down to the feet game. You need to compete with everyone on your feet.”
Eli has taken this to heart.
“I can be one-dimensional,” Eli said. “I’m working on scoring from more positions.
“No matter who I’m wrestling, I’ve got to make sure I’m finishing my shots. Everything needs to be crisp.”
Hendrickson said it is the basics that make Eli so good.
“He is one of the more fundamentally-sound wrestlers I’ve ever seen in high school,” Hendrickson said of Eli. “That’s what we continue to work on. Fundamentals — David has gone them down. That’s why he’s ranked so high. That’s why he’s going to do damage at the state tournament.”
Hendrickson sees Eli stay in what he calls “power positions.”
“He’s always in a good stance,” Hendrickson said. “He doesn’t expose his side or his hip as much as he can help it.”
Weaver, who placed seventh at the State Finals at 130 in 1996, said Eli and other high school (folkstyle) wrestlers have benefitted from freestyle wrestling.
“There are more angles to freestyle and you can lock hands,” Weaver said. “(Freestyle) helps with mat awareness. Anytime you expose your back to the mat, it’s two points. A freestyle match can go very quick. You have to keep yourself in very good position the entire match.”
Some folkstyle matches become a contest of playing near the edge of the mat. That’s not the case in freestyle.
“Freestyle does not allow you to play the out-of-bounds line,” Weaver said. “(The official) will blow the whistle and take you right back to the center. They don’t want the lag time.
“I’m hoping that Indiana will go to the college rules where if you have any limb inside the circle, it’s still live wrestling. It will eliminate playing the out-of-bounds line game.”
Taking his knowledge of freestyle and his work ethic, Eli is aiming high this season.
Next up for Eli and the Chargers is a dual against Northridge Tuesday, Jan. 19, and the NLC Tournament Saturday, Jan. 23 — both at Memorial.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Plenty of practice and coaching reminders gave Jimtown High School wrestlers to succeed during a recent grueling stretch.
The Jimmies placed 11th out of 32 teams in the 37th annual Al Smith Classic, held Dec. 29-30 at Mishawaka. Jimtown junior Kenny Kerrn took top honors at 145 pounds.
On Saturday, Jan. 2, the Jimmies finished second out of 12 squads in the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum. Jimtown edged Yorktown 31-30 in the semifinals before bowing 46-23 to Bellmont in the Class 3A finals.
Jimtown head coach Mark Kerrn and his staff got the Jimmies ready for the tough week with quality mat time the week after Christmas and through visualization and confidence-building drills.
Repetition in practice and time spent in the high school off-season at tournaments, camps and Indiana State Wrestling Association Regional Training Center sessions at Jimtown, Penn and Mishawaka continues to get the Jimmies ready for whatever they face during a match.
“We work a lot in practice on situations,” Mark Kerrn said. “It’s about knowing what the score is and (getting an extra point or avoiding giving one up). We’ve been making good decisions.”
Kerrn constantly talks about the effort it takes to be a Jimmie wrestler and the family bond that is being built though the shared hard work.
“A lot of kids sacrificed (in the State Duals, especially against Yorktown),” Mark Kerrn said. “They were getting thrown in against better wrestlers, but they were unselfish.”
In giving Yorktown its first-ever loss in State Duals competition in an event began in 2012-13, Jimtown got pin victories from sophomore Hunter Whitman (113), Kenny Kerrn (145) and senior Ben Davis (182), a major decision victory from junior Dalton Heintzberger (170) and decision triumphs from freshman Matt Gimson (120), senior Jarod Hayes (195) and junior Nick Mammolenti (heavyweight).
The Jimmies yielded two pins to the Tigers, but no other “bonus” points (four for a major decision, five of a technical fall or six for a pin or forfeit).
Mammolenti won 4-3 in overtime and freshman Hunter Watts (106) took the final match to overtime before losing 9-6 while giving up no extra points and helping Jimtown to a narrow win.
“Going in I knew I had to win to give us (a chance to win) the match,” Mammolenti.
After he was penalized for a fleeing — a call he disagreed with — the Jimmie heavyweight got fired up even more.
“That really made me motivated to take (Yorktown’s Jacob Rhoades) down,” Mammolenti said. “I got up and turned around and shot at him and I don’t think he expected it. Then he was hurt. I just had to ride him out for another three seconds and it was over.”
Mammolenti credits his progression in the sport to all the coaches who train with him in practice. Among those are Paul Bachtel, a state champion for Concord in 197x and a longtime Jimtown assistant.
“If I can do anything on him, I can do anything on anybody,” Mammolenti said.
Also contributing to Jimtown’s 2A runner-up finish were freshman Connor Gimson (126), senior Greden Kelley (132), senior Cole Watson (138), senior John Windowmaker (152), freshman Tyler Norment (160), freshman Aaron Martinez (also at 170) and junior Caleb Fowler (220).
Jimtown followed up the performance in Fort Wayne with a practice filled with a little fun as well as work. With a day off of classes, the Jimmies wore “crazy” singlets and had a dodgeball tournament before being put through drills by assistant coach Anthony Lewis.
“We try to break up the monotony as much as possible,” Lewis said. “We had just had a tough week — mental and physically.”
Lewis, who wrestled for uncle Darrick Snyder at Mishawaka and joined the Jimtown staff in 2012-13 to help the Jimmies place fifth at State Duals and get Nick Crume an individual state championship, said the season is a progression.
In early practices, coaches show wrestlers a large number of moves. As the season goes on, those moves are refined and a wrestler finds the combinations that works best for them. Practices become shorter, but more intense.
The constant is the attack mode.
“We try to push the pace and control the tempo in the match,” Lewis said. “Get the first takedown and then keep lighting the scoreboard up after that.”
Mark Kerrn asks his youth athletes to give it their all during workouts, but he knows that there’s more to life.
“We ask them everyday to touch the sign, just think about wrestling for two hours and then they go back to being a kid,” Mark Kerrn said. “It’s not wrestling 24/7.”
But the dedication needs to be there as Mark’s son will attest.
“You’ve got to love the sport of wrestling,” Kenny Kerrn said. “It’s an intense sport. You can’t dread it.”
After a 3-1 day at the West Noble Super Dual (the loss came against 2015-16 IHSWCA State Duals 1A winner Prairie Heights) on Saturday, Jan. 9, the Jimmies look forward to the Northern Indiana Conference tournament Saturday, Jan. 16 at Mishawaka (the first NIC meet since Jimtown, Bremen, Glenn and New Prairie joined the conference in 2015-16) and then the IHSAA state tournament series.
“The (Elkhart Sectional) is wide open,” Mark Kerrn said of the eight-team field. “There’s about five teams who could win. It just depends who is on that day.”
- by Y2CJ41
By Steve Krah
When the mat sport attracts a child, it often brings whole family with it.
Once that flame is lit, it’s next impossible to extinguish.
An interest sparked into just such a passion for the Culps of Columbia City.
Two topics come up at family meal time.
“Wrestling and racing,” Pat Culp said. “That’s all we talk about at our house.”
Blane Culp, son of Pat and David, loves the mat and dirt track racing and runs a website (http://www.maximumdirt.com/) dedicated to the latter.
But it’s the love of takedowns, turns and technical falls that has gone on to have a major impact on not only Whitley County but the whole Indiana wrestling community and beyond.
Introduced to competitive wrestling around age 6, Blane Culp enjoyed early success. He placed second in his weight class in at the Indiana State Wrestling Association state tournament in his second year and was hooked.
“I lost to a kid named (Angel) Ecobedo (who went on to become four-time IHSAA state champion at Griffith High School and then an NCAA champion and four-time collegiate All-American for Indiana University),” Blane Culp recalls. “I was probably the last one who came close to beating him in Indiana.”
Blane’s older brother, Josh Ross, also was having a blast and winning matches.
Around 1996, the Culps — Pat and husband Dave (who had been a wrestler at Lewis Cass High School, where he graduated in 1977) — started the Columbia City Wrestling Club. Blane and Josh were an active part of an organization that went on to be one of the bigger ones around the state with an enrollment consistently over 100.
While other family members Kayla Culp, David Stahl and Shane Stahl would be involved on the mats at the club and/or high school levels, Josh would go on to compete at 140 pounds in the IHSAA State Finals in his senior year at Columbia City (1998) while 125-pounder Blane placed third in his final prep season (2004).
Randy Kearby was the Eagles head coach for both boys.
Blane went on to grappled for two seasons at IU. He was an assistant at Bloomington North High School and is now in his sixth years as head coach at Columbia City.
With all the knowledge gained as a wrestler and coach, Blane throws a lot of information at his young Eagles and they incorporate what works best for them.
“I show a lot of stuff and they take what they want,” Blane Culp said. “We have short stocky guys and tall skinny guys. Some run legs and some run cradles. All of our guys are different.
“There is not a set style in Columbia City and I like that. That’s the way it was when I was in school. I wrestled one way, but could change it for someone else.”
Columbia City wrestlers generally have three of four options to take on double leg takedowns or finishes and they refine those as the season gets closer to conference and state tournament time.
“By the end of the year, they’re picking their set-ups and their finishes,” Blane Culp said. “Come January and February, they are fine-tuning their favorite moves. It’s no longer in my hands. It’s in their hands.”
Pat Culp has kept a hand in the sport because she believes in it.
“Wrestling builds self esteem,” Pat Culp said. “It’s really good for the kids. That’s why I stayed involved.”
And involved she is.
Pat Culp, the Columbia City club president, got so caught up in the fun and excitement that she began helping to organize wrestling tournaments outside her club and became an ISWA Pairing Developmental Director.
“I love organizing events,” Pat Culp said.
She routinely runs or oversees multiple tournaments — high school and club — at the same time. She trains workers and is available on-site or by phone as a trouble shooter.
Mark Dunham, Kyle Keith and Jean Whetstone are other volunteers who keep Indiana wrestling events running like clockwork.
While more and more tournaments use Trackwrestling for scoring, Pat Culp insists that workers know how to manually score a tournament in case something happens like a computer server going down.
“We want to keep the tournament running without people realizing what’s going on,” Pat Culp said. “There are a lot of variables, but it’s a lot of fun.”
She knows that not all tournaments are the same and she tries to cater to each director. Some are ran as duals and other with individual brackets. Scoring for advancement and match points can differ.
One tournament might be rigid for location of matches and others might go with first available match or use a combination of the two.
“I don’t put everybody in a box,” Pat Culp said.
If things are going smoothly at a tournament, like the IHSWCA State Duals which she helped run Saturday, Jan. 2, in Fort Wayne, Pat can watch what’s happening on the mats.
Blane has noticed.
“It seems that moms enjoy wrestling more than what dads do sometimes,” Blane Culp said.
“She’s watched all these (Columbia City) kids grow up. At semistate, I can see her across the arena when we are in a ‘ticket’ round, she’s still biting her nails. She’s still nervous for them. It’s like when I was in school. They’re still her boys.”
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Blake Glogouski wants to ascend to the top of the IHSAA wrestling hill and he wants to get there quickly.
The Fairfield High School senior sees speed as one of his weapons as he looks to add to a prep resume that already includes two trips to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (he was a state qualifier as a freshman at 106 pounds and placed fifth at 113 as junior). He wants to compete “under the lights” this time around and speed will be part of the package.
“I always push the pace,” Glogouski said. “My coaches always tell me to move faster than the opponent and don’t slow down.”
Falcons assistant Jesse Espinoza is taken with the intensity and toughness packed into an athlete who clocks in at 5-foot-7 and plans to wrestle at 120 on the back side of the 2015-16 season.
“It’s hard to explain,” Espinoza said. “He’s just one of those kids. You tell him to run through a brick wall and he’ll get through it.
“If you are wrestling in the (practice) room and he gets hold of a leg, it doesn’t matter what you do to him he’s not going to let go of that leg.”
Dan Glogouski, Blake’s father and another assistant on Fairfield head coach Jim Jones’ coaching staff, has watched his son became more of a leader to his teammates.
Maturity and off-season work, including an appearance at the Disney Duals and workouts with older brother Forrest who will again be a teammate when he is joined by Blake at NCAA Division II Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, in 2015-16, have combined to make Blake a better Falcon since he went 52-3 last winter.
“Mentally, he’s gotten better,” Dan Glogouski said of Blake. “It’s from growing up, being a senior, being that leader. He’s the guy most of the kids on the team look up to.”
Blake tends to be quiet, but when he uses his deep voice, he commands attention.
“He may be little, but he’s a mighty kid,” Dan Glogouski said of an athlete who was also an impact performer on offense, defense and special teams in football for Fairfield’s NECC big school division co-champions.
While Blake regularly works out with junior 132-pounder Dillon Yoder, he does not shy away from larger wrestlers in practice.
“He’s not scared of anybody,” Espinoza said. “Some kids will go after him, but after about 30 seconds or so they are done.
“He kind of turns it on.”
Blake Glogouski began the season at 126, but intends to drop down to 120 because he thinks it gives him a chance to be stronger and for the most success. Of course, he has the prerogative to change his mind.
The highly-ranked grappler said his biggest area of improvement has come in takedowns. He uses about five or six and goes with the shots that opponents can’t easily stop.
With two State Finals appearances, 125 high school victories and numerous Indiana State Wrestling Association laurels coming into his senior season, Blake knows he will see the best others can throw at him.
“There’s definitely a target on my back,” Blake Glogosuki said. “I’ve just got to work harder.”
As Glogouski and the Falcons head into the 2016 part of the calendar, the heat will go up in practice.
“We’ll turn up the intensity in practice as we get closer to our conference tournament and on into sectionals,” Espinoza said.
On Wednesday, Dec. 23, Glogouski became a four-time champion at Rochester’s John McKee Invitational. He was named the meet’s outstanding wrestler for the second time.
Fairfield is scheduled to host Churubusco in dual Jan. 5 with the West Noble Super Dual Jan. 9 and Goshen Invitational Jan. 16, followed by the Northeast Corner Conference meet Jan. 23 and Elkhart Sectional Jan. 30. After that comes the Goshen Regional Feb. 6, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 13 and State Finals Feb. 19-20.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
Tanner DeMien likes to see his success even before he achieves it.
The NorthWood High School sophomore wrestler has learned to use visualization to take him to the next level. As a freshman, he placed seventh at the IHSAA State Finals at 106 pounds and his sights are set even higher this winter.
“I see myself running through my moves and getting my hand raised,” DeMien said. “I think about previous matches and how I can fix those mistakes.”
Fourth-year NorthWood head coach Damon Hummel said DeMien has gotten better in many aspects of wrestling, but it is between the ears where he has shown the most improvement.
Hummel said DeMien gets the mental game.
“He understands how to go into a tournament (with four or five matches) and mentally prepare himself,” Hummel said. “Kids have a tendency to wear themselves out by the end of the day. He prepares himself to be better at the end of the day.”
With his wrestling I.Q., Tanner is able to diagnose his issues about as quickly as Hummel and his staff.
“He’s been around wrestling enough that he knows what to do and what not to do,” Hummel said. “He picks himself apart more than most coaches do.”
Between matches at a super dual, Tanner will go into a quiet place and do visualization exercises and run the halls to keep his heart rate up.
These are lessons that Tanner has learned from the many camps and off-season programs — he toured the western U.S. with the Ohio All-Star Travel Wrestling Team for 45 days last summer — he’s attended.
Tanner, 16, is thankful for his father, Jason, who got him into wrestling as a 45-pound peewee at around age 6, for his help and guidance.
“He’s a big part of what I am and what I’ve accomplished,” Tanner said of father, who is also a NorthWood volunteer assistant coach. “I give my props to him. He’s been teaching me ever since I can remember.”
The DeMiens have heard highly-decorated coaches like Dan Gable speak on the importance of visualization.
“A lot of camps we’ve been to have really talked about the mental game,” Jason DeMien said. “It’s seeing the match before you step on the mat.”
While rotating between 106 and 113 pounds, Tanner has also refined his moves on the mat.
“I’ve gotten better in the top position and I’m able to turn people and put them away,” Tanner said. “It’s more about technique than a strength thing. I want to get more points for my team.”
Jason DeMien said his son has learned to apply more pressure on top, gotten good at escapes as well as movement on his feet.
“As he has gotten older, he’s learned to get angles and work those really hard,” Jason DeMien said.
Tanner goes into each practice with a game plan. He knows what he wants to concentrate on and he does so with intensity and is a believer in Hummel’s insistence on repetition.
“If I’m going drill high crotch, I’d rather do that 50 times then run five moves 10 times each,” Tanner said. “It’s just getting a couple of moves down and running them.”
Hummel calls Tanner a “drill king.”
“He loves to hit the move and hit the move,” Hummel said. “We talk to all of our kids about repetition.”
Hummel and his coaching staff do not throw the kitchen sink at the Panthers. The idea is to be proficient at the things they do and not how many things they do.
“When you get close to January, there’s not much more you can teach the kids,” Hummel said. “They’ve learned what they’ve learned. Now we need to fine-tune everything. You need to be ready for sectional at the end of the year.
“Kids think they can do everything, but you’ve got to teach them two or three good moves. Some of these kids can get a couple nice takedowns and go to state with that if you’re good at it.
Practice intensity goes up while duration goes down.
“When you’ve only got one guy per weight class, you can’t beat the heck out of them everyday in 2 1/2 practices,” Hummel said. “A lot of coaches believe in a lot of moves. We believe in a smaller move base and hit them harder and faster.”
While Tanner sees plenty of mat time during the year, he is not just a wrestler. He plays tennis for NorthWood in the fall.
“It’s great for a kid to do that,” Jason DeMien said of the multi-sport appoach. “It gives them a break from being on the mat where your body just gets worn down. Doing something different gives your mind a break.”
Not that Tanner didn’t use his mental skills on the court.
“There’s a lot of carryover between tennis and wrestling,” Jason DeMien said. “Tennis is a very mental sport and agility is huge. I noticed that his mental game was so much stronger than kids who have been playing a long time.”
Look for Tanner and his NorthWood Panther teammates Wednesday, Dec. 23, at Rochester’s McKee Memorial Invitational and Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 28-29, at Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
A willingness to learn has led to steady improvement and a bright outlook for one Warsaw Tiger.
Kyle Hatch began to make a name for himself on the Indiana high school wrestling scene during his freshman campaign at Warsaw.
As a 106-pounder, he placed fourth at the prestigious Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka in late December and went on to finish eighth in the his division at the 2014 IHSAA State Finals.
As a sophomore, the son of former two-time state finalist Dan Hatch (qualifier at 135 in 1991 and eighth place at 140 in 1992), grew to 120 and won the Al Smith and placed seventh in the state in 2015.
Now it’s 2015-16 and Kyle Hatch has begun his junior season with several dominant performances, the most recent during the Raider Super Duals Saturday, Dec. 12, at Northridge.
Kyle Hatch competed at both 145 and 138 pounds, but said he is likely to go at the lighter weight the rest of the way, including the Al Smith on Dec. 28-29.
“Technique-wise I’d be OK (at 145), but the strength wasn’t always there,” Kyle Hatch said.
Eighth-year Tigers head coach Justin Smith supports Hatch supports Hatch on his decision of weight — 138 or 145 — for the rest of the regular season and the IHSAA tournament series.
“I think he would be successful wherever he went,” Smith said. “A lot of it is what he feels. If he has a lot of confidence at one weight class or the other and wants to charge in, we’re going to let him.”
Kyle Hatch is improving as he goes along.
“I’m still learning a lot,” Kyle Hatch said. “I’ve learned that I need to contain my hips and make sure they stay balanced and equal on each side.”
That is advice from Smith and father Dan Hatch, a Warsaw assistant coach.
Smith, who has been watching the young Hatch wrestle since “he was knee-high to a grasshopper (Kyle started in second grade and later excelled at Warsaw’s Lakeview Middle School), admires the way father and son operate.
“They have a good relationship,” Smith said. “I just interject once in a while and give a fresh perspective.”
Wrestling becomes even more of a family affair when you consider that Kyle’s cousin, Tyler Fitzpatrick, is a junior wrestler at NorthWood High School.
Dan Hatch said the coaching staff likes for all Warsaw wrestlers to be able to break down their matches to be able to fix flaws. Sometimes this is done with video analysis.
“Kyle can usually point out the stuff faster than the rest of us can,” Dan Hatch said.
Smith, a former Homestead High School wrestler who was an assistant at his alma mater and head coach at Fort Wayne Wayne before going to Warsaw, sees an ability in Kyle Hatch to make necessary adjustments.
“He works on every aspect of his wrestling — neutral position, bottom and top,” Smith said of the young Hatch. “He’s at the point where he doesn’t have to make wholesale changes. We just pick out little things that are going to make him more effective, things like putting the hips in.”
Kyle Hatch has also learned to use his legs and his strength while on top to turn his opponent.
“His strength is deceiving,” Smith said. “He does not have a lot of bulk in his upper body, but he is fast and strong.”
Kyle Hatch notes that he’s getting better at takedowns and riding. His father said it’s hard to get much quality time working on escapes when you need someone capable of holding you down.
Those opportunities are bound to come at the Al Smith.
“I can’t wait for that.” Kyle Hatch said.
- by Y2CJ41
By STEVE KRAH
“Who wants to learn?”
Adam O’Neil invites his athletes to one side of the South Bend Clay High School wrestling room.
There, the second person ever to win an IHSAA state mat title for the Colonials (Randy Goss was the first in 1964 and 1965) shares his knowledge as Clay’s first-year head wrestling coach.
A little later, O’Neil gets in front of the group and tells them about stance.
“Keep your chest up,” O’Neil tells them. “I don’t want hunching down, alright? We don’t want to see the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
After all, an opponent can control, if a wrestler is hunched over.
O’Neil also instructs his Clay grapplers how to sprawl and demonstrates with a series of “burpees”.
But he stresses the basics.
“Even the best guys have to do the basics,” says O’Neil. “We’ll get into the flow of the different moves and when we do them later.
“I can only teach them what I know.”
What O’Neil knew when he wore a Colonial singlet was strength and a solid stance and form and loads of mat know-how gained from coach Al Hartman, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer.
It helped O’Neil win 154 matches. He went 45-0 as a senior in 2003-04, reigning as the 160-pound state champion.
That season, O’Neil tied for first in single-season wins with Jaylin Allen, Shakir Carr, Joe Gallegos, Mitchell Hartman and Laquan Lunfiord. Gallegos and Allen were state runners-up in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
O’Neil set Clay school records with 26 pins in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.
Any one of those accomplishments should give the 30-year-old instant credibility with these teenagers. But O’Neil doesn’t see it that way.
“I still need to prove myself to them,” says O’Neil, who went into this season ranked No. 4 on Clay’s all-time win list (behind Mitchell Hartman’s 164, Jake Hartman’s 156 and Steve Salinas’ 156. Places 5 through 12 were held by Kevin Hartman, 145; Gallegos 142; Lunsford, 121; Ryan Salata, 114; Garret Gleuckert, 112; Jeremy Burnside, 112; David Elliot, 109; and Dustin Swindeman, 108). “One of my biggest challenges is getting all the kids in here at the same time and getting them to listen. I want them to focus and listen to what I’m saying. If they are not listening, they are not absorbing.
“I’m only here a couple of hours a day with them. I try to have them learn as much as I can.”
After two seasons as a Clay assistant, O’Neil has taken over the reigns of the program from Hartman (who is still involved, mostly at the junior high level).
“It’s been a dream of mine to coach wrestling,” says O’Neil. “When I had the opportunity, I took it. Coach Hartman really helped me prepare for it. He pushed me to do it.”
A frozen foods frozen manager for Martin’s Supermarkets during the day, O’Neil relies on assistant coach and Clay teacher Jay Love to take care of administrative details and monitor the wrestlers during the school day.
“He helps me out a lot,” says O’Neil of Love. “He does paperwork and helps me recruit kids.”
Love also helps teach the sport to the Colonials.
The lessons have yielded a 9-1 start to 2015-16 season (5-0 at the South Bend Clay Super Dual and 4-1 at the Elkhart Central Turkey Duals).
O’Neil said he considers two-time semistate qualifier Rishod Cotton plus Mason Cao and Andrew Taborn to be his top three wrestlers as the season begins. But it’s steady improvement from he group that he seeks.
“Seeing them get better everyday is what I want,” says O’Neil.
Before the practice closes, O’Neil gets his wrestlers in a circle for a chant.
When the volume and enthusiasm are not right, he yells, “That was weak. Get back here.”
Then they do it to O’Neil’s satisfaction: “Clay on 3. 1, 2, 3, Clay!”
- by Y2CJ41