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 â€” Laughlin at 160 and Curtis at 106. Curtis competed at 113 for Tigers coach Trent McCormick at the IHSWCA State Duals.
Laughlinâ€™s career mat resume includes three trips to the IHSAA State Finals â€” 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, itâ€™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.
â€œHeâ€™s got a great work ethic,â€ McCormick said of Laughlin. â€œHeâ€™s put a lot of time in during the off-season.â€
Until this year, Laughlin and Cael McCormick (Trentâ€™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.
â€œThey sharpened each otherâ€™s edge in the practice room,â€ 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.
â€œI love to attack,â€ Laughlin said. â€œI think thatâ€™s one of my strongest suits. I attack, get takedowns and put points up on the board.â€
Laughlin, who placed fourth in the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, N.C., in October, signed to wrestle at Army â€” fittingly â€” on Veterans Day.
He chose West Point because he likes the idea of fighting with â€œboots on the ground.â€
â€œOn the ground with a rifle, thatâ€™s something that appealed to me,â€ Laughlin, a Yorktown team captain, said.
Having Army wrestling in his future has benefitted his high school team and his senior season.
â€œHe knows heâ€™s wrestling at the next level,â€ Trent McCormick said. â€œHeâ€™s shifted his training to more of a collegiate style. That helps him now, whether itâ€™s being aggressive or proper positioning and those kinds of things.â€
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: â€œYou can either hate drilling or hate losing.â€
Yorktown practices are drill-heavy and McCormick sees Brayden Curtis as someone whoâ€™s benefitted from hard work and daily challenges from teammates.
â€œYou have to have good drill partners if you want to be good,â€ McCormick said. â€œEveryday heâ€™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.â€
Brayden has been using his older brother as a wrestling role model for years.
â€œIt started in eighth grade,â€ Brayden Curtis said. â€œI saw my brother have success and I just wanted to be great like him.
â€œHeâ€™s a real good counter to me because heâ€™s tall and lanky and Iâ€™m very short and stocky. I have a little bit of quickness.â€
While being ranked No. 1 might be flattering, Curtis. Laughlin and McCormick are quick not to place too much stock in it.
â€œItâ€™s not something Iâ€™m too concerned about,â€ Laughlin said. â€œI just want to go out there and compete. Rankings are made for the fans.â€
â€œAt the end of the day, itâ€™s just a ranking. I just want to improve from last year when I got seventh (at the IHSAA State Finals),â€ Brayden Curtis said. â€œI just want to be satisfied with what I do.â€
Getting people talking about the sport is never a bad thing, but thereâ€™s more to it than that.
â€œItâ€™s always nice to see your name in lights, a little recognition for the work youâ€™ve put in,â€ McCormick said. â€œ(Being ranked) doesnâ€™t mean anything when you step on the mat. Youâ€™ve got to take care of business.â€
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.
â€œWe try to use wrestling to instill life skills into our kids,â€ McCormick said. â€œWe talk about these things all the time â€” say please and thank you, donâ€™t be afraid to get your hands dirty, do good things in life. donâ€™t always make the easy choice, make the right choice. Itâ€™s all those things that kids need to hear these days.â€