By STEVE KRAH
“We have two from the Patriots of Jay County!”
Gaven Hare and Mason Winner are back for their second appearance in the IHSAA State Finals “Parade of Champions.”
Once the pre-meet pageantry is over at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis Friday night, it’s time to get down to business for 220-pound senior Hare and 160-pounder Winner.
There’s no more “just happy to be here.”
Hare was a state qualifier at 220 as a junior. Winner placed seventh at 145 as a freshman.
This year, Hare’s postseason path has included runner-up finishes at the sectional and regional tournaments — both held at Jay County — and a championship at the Fort Wayne Semistate.
“This year, I know not to go in there content,” says Hare, who is 38-7 for 2017-18 and 120-44 for his prep career. “I have to stay hungry. “I’ve already lost two title matches (at sectional and regional). I know how bad it feels to lose. I’m not trying to have that feeling anymore.”
It was Hare’s first semistate title and Winner’s second straight (the sophomore also won sectional and regional in 2018).
Other Jay County semistate champions include Glenn Glogas (1982), Greg Garringer (1982), Eric Lemaster (1987), Geoff Glogas (1987), Larry Brown (1988), Casey Kenney (2008 and 2009), Drake Meska (2011) and Eric Hemmelgarn (2013 and 2014).
When Hare earned his semistate title, he impressed a number of people in the Memorial Coliseum crowd.
“I was getting feedback on both sides of the coin,” says fourth-year Patriots head coach Eric Myers. “I had at least 10 people come up to me afterward and say that he was one of their favorite wrestlers to watch.”
It’s obvious to his coach by the smile on his face that Hare is enjoying the challenges of wrestling.
“He likes to compete and have a good time,” says Myers. “Gaven is great for the sport. He makes it exciting out there.” Myers, a former Adams Central wrestler and South Adams head coach, is a seventh grade teacher and he first encountered Hare as a junior high student. It was in that seventh grade year that Andy Schmidt recruited the young man to the mats.
“He was really raw at first,” says Myers. “But he had this athleticism and this innate sense to compete and to win.”
As a freshman, Hare set his sights high and he won a challenge match to take a sport in the varsity lineup.
“He’s always set goals,” says Myers. “ I’m going to be here by such and such time and usually he’s achieved those goals.”
Myers has watched Hare experience some ups and downs in his senior season. He took two losses and narrowly avoided a third at the Carroll Super Dual and suffered setbacks against South Adams senior Isaiah Baumgartner in the sectional final and Adams Central senior Chandler Schumm in the regional championship match.
Those only served to re-focus him.
“He’s been pushing himself just a little harder than he did before,” says Myers. “He was banged up going into state tournament series so he backed off and that showed in his results.”
At semistate, Hare edged Baumgartner 5-4 in the semifinals and pinned Central Noble junior Levi Leffers in 1:58 in the finals.
A three-sport athlete, Hare is also a two-way lineman in football and right-handed pitcher in baseball. He has worked as an umpire and would like to explore coaching, something he has discussed with his Jay County head coaches — Myers in wrestling, Tim Millspaugh in football and Lea Selvey in baseball.
When he’s not playing school sports, he is likely competing with friends or family in basketball, wiffleball, bowling or something else.
“I’m a sports fanatic,” says Hare.
Between all his other sports, Hare has found time to make it to off-season open rooms and works out in practice with assistant coaches like Bryce Baumgartner, who placed seventh at 182 as a Bellmont senior in 2017.
“These older guys give me a good pounding,” says Hare. “They show me more technique and the moves that will get me through the tough matches.”
Myers has two paid assistants in Jeff Heller and Bruce Wood and three volunteers in Baugmgartner, Jon Winner and Chad Chowning. Bellmont graduate Heller was a Myers assistant at South Adams and is also his brother-in-law. Wood and Chowning are Jay Country graduates. Jon Winner is a former Monroe Central wrestler and the father of Mason.
The son of Molly Robbins and Zack Hare and middle sibling between Destiny Hare and Corbin Hare, Portland resident Gaven says he would like to pursue one or more sports in college.
As self-described academic slacker his first few years of high school, Hare pulled a 4.0 and 3.8 in the first two grading periods this school year.
“I’m trying to catch up,” says Hare, who has drawn some interest from college wrestling programs and will wait to see what unfolds this spring on the baseball diamond.
Winner, who is 44-2 on the season and 83-6 for his career, has been around wrestling almost non-stop since he was a second grader. He has traveled extensively with the Indiana Outlaws and trained with the best at CIA and Pride centers and attended Jeff Jordan’s camps.
“He’s a year-round grinder,” says Myers of Winner. “He immerses himself in the sport and so does his family.”
Winner, who topped Fort Wayne Bishop Luers senior Chandler Woenker 3-0 in the semistate finals, is always looking to make himself better.
That’s why he started running cross country in sixth grade.
“It’s whether you want to push yourself or not,” says Winner. “They say that wrestling is 90 percent mental. It’s whether you want do to it or not. You have to push yourself — in running or wrestling.”
Winner has a way of pushing himself and his opponent.
“He’s an in-your-face wrestler that will keep coming at you,” says Myers. “He’s got a quality that is hard to implant in kids. He’ll keep going until he gets what he wants. He’s hard-nosed and mentally tough.
“He has the confidence to keep going after it.” Mason also draws inspiration from his family. Jon and Kimberly Winner have three children — Mason, Mitchell and Mallory. Mitchell is a
freshman and also runs cross country. Fifth grader Mallory competes with the Jay County Wrestling Club and also plays softball.
The Winners are Ridgeville area farmers and have about 50 head of Charolais cattle between their property and that of Bill and Sandra Winner — Jon’s parents.
Both of Mason’s paternal grandparents were too ill to attend semistate.
“I’m wrestling with so much more emotion,” says Mason. “My grandpa has Alzheimer’s (disease). He’s my hero.
“It would mean so much to me to win a state title for him.”
Two Patriots — Geoff Glogas (98) and David Ferguson (105) — reached the top of the State Finals podium in 1987.
Jay County’s state placers:
• Glenn Glogas (second at 112 in 1981; second at 119 in 1982).
• Greg Garringer (fifth at 155 in 1982).
• Kurt VanSkyock (third at 145 in 1984; third at 155 in 1985)
• Larry Wilson (fourth at 167 in 1985).
• Geoff Glogas (state champion at 98 in 1987; fifth at 103 in 1988).
• David Ferguson (state champion at 105 in 1987).
• Shawn Jordan (sixth at 152 in 1997).
• James Myers (seventh at 125 in 1997).
• James Brewster (seventh at 215 in 1999).
• Casey Kenney (second at 103 in 2008).
• Eric Hemmelgarn (third at 285 in 2012; fifth at 285 in 2013; fourth
at 285 in 2014).
• Kyle Garringer (sixth at 195 in 2013).
• Andy Kohler (sixth at 182 in 2016).