By STEVE KRAH
Evan Ellis is studious in more ways than one.
The unbeaten heavyweight wrestler from Eastern High School in Greentown is a student of the sport.
â€œI watch 20 hours of FloWrestling a week,â€ Ellis said. â€œIâ€™m watching the Big Ten. Iâ€™m watching different things. Iâ€™ve just infatuated myself with (wrestling).â€
After placing eighth in 2015 and third in 2016 at 220, Ellis has has qualified for his third straight IHSAA State Finals (he drew 28-8 senior Brendan Sutton of Jennings County in the first round at 285 on Friday, Feb. 17 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis).
No. 2-ranked Ellis (44-0) is one of three unbeatens in the 285-pound class. South Bend Washington junior Isaiah McWilliams (50-0 and ranked No. 1) and Mt. Vernon senior Wade Ripple (49-0 and ranked No. 3) are the others.
After bowing out 3-2 in the â€œticketâ€ round at the Fort Wayne Semistate as a freshman, Ellis started pouring it on, not only during the high school season, but in the summers. He placed second in the Cadet Folkstyle Nationals in 2014 and second at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals, fourth at the Junior Folkstyle Nationals and eighth and the Super 32 in 2015.
But Ellis is also an exceptional student in the scholastic sense as evidenced by his being accepted to Ivy League school Brown University in Providence, R.I. He plans to wrestle for the Bears beginning in 2017-18.
According to U.S. News & World Report, Brown has one of the lowest acceptance rates of colleges and universities in the country. It was 9 percent in 2015.
â€œThey were the very first school to send me a letter,â€ Ellis said. â€œWe were preparing for the Super 32 my sophomore year, they sent a letter just wanted to â€˜Hi! We see want youâ€™ve done. We see youâ€™re academic all-state. Then they just went away for awhile.â€
As the sophomore and junior years went by, Ellis got better and better in his wrestling and his academics and Brown became persistent in its recruit of the big Comet who enjoys his Advanced Placement curriculum at Eastern.
â€œFinally, we got an official visit set up,â€ Ellis said. â€œI just love in out there. Itâ€™s a great atmosphere for learning, but the wrestling team has a lot of special things going on as well.â€
Led by head coach Todd Beckerman, Brown is part of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association.
What made Ellis better on the mat?
â€œI had to change my lifestyle,â€ Ellis said. â€œIf this is really what I wanted to do, I had to make changes. I was good for our area and I was decent for our state. But I just wanted to pursue it deeper. I had a burning sensation to just be dominant.â€
Ellis decided to give up football and track and focus on wrestling.
â€œI consumed myself with it,â€ Ellis said. â€œIt was hard. I had to give up a lot. But I knew I wanted to be the guy and it was going to take a lot of work.â€
Ellis cut fast food out of his diet, even in the off-season.
â€œMy family even changed with me,â€ Ellis said of father Rodney, mother Amy and sister Olivia. â€œWe went with organic and no hormones. They spent that extra money for me to eat like this. Iâ€™ve been lifting (weights) all the time.
â€œIn the summer, itâ€™s hot. You just want to lie around the house and play some Xbox. But I got up at 6 a.m. and worked out.â€
Ellis is thankful for a family that has traveled all over the country while he pursued his wrestling dreams.
â€œTheyâ€™ve spent a fortune,â€ Ellis said. â€œWeâ€™ve been from border and border. Without their sacrifice, thereâ€™s no way Iâ€™d be where I am. They just wanted to give me the opportunity to be the best I could be.
â€œItâ€™s a whole new level of confidence. Iâ€™ve been in so much time in the off-season. Iâ€™m just anxious to get out there and dominate.â€
Ellis is coached by an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer in Bob Jarrett. He is in his eighth season at Eastern. He spent 24 years at Western in nearby Russiaville and came out of retirement after an eight-year hiatus.
â€œHeâ€™s just a kid thatâ€™s put in the time and effort,â€ Jarrett said of Ellis. â€œHeâ€™s been doing it since grade school.
â€œI think heâ€™s good enough to win it all (at the State Finals), but that doesnâ€™t mean he canâ€™t be beat. He works extremely hard . He had a great attitude and heâ€™s a smart kid, obviously.â€
Jarrett said that Ellis, who weighs around 240 pounds, has succeed as a bigger wrestler because from a young age he has been willing to work some moves usually employed by smaller grapplers.
â€œWeâ€™ve worked on wrestling moves while other heavyweights have just kind of leaned on each other,â€ Jarrett said. â€œThey push and shove. He was doing little-guy moves and itâ€™s really helped him in the long run.â€