By JEREMY HINES
A lot has changed in the wrestling room at New Palestine High School over the course of a year. The Dragons have a new coach and a lot younger team. But one thing remains the same â€“ Alec White is still a hammer in the New Pal lineup.
White, a senior, is a three-time state qualifier. He placed fourth as a freshman at 106 pounds. As a sophomore he qualified for state at 113 pounds and then returned as a junior in the same weight class and took sixth. This year White is the No. 5-ranked grappler at 126.
â€œAlec is just cool,â€ first-year New Palestine wrestling coach Alex Johns said. â€œIf I were to describe him, thatâ€™s the first thing you notice. Heâ€™s cool. This year he has taken a different approach. Heâ€™s very intelligent and he has a game plan for each match. Heâ€™s more laid back this year than he has been in the past. Heâ€™s enjoying the ride instead of worrying about the results.â€
Last season New Palestine was loaded with talent. At the top of that list was Chad Red Jr., who finished his high school career as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Indiana history. Red was undefeated in high school, winning four state titles in the process.
Red wasnâ€™t the only talented senior on last yearâ€™s squad. Jared Timberman was ranked in the top three most of the year at 145 pounds. Cameron Diep and Eugene Starks were also very good wrestlers for the Dragons.
In addition to losing those quality seniors, coach Chad Red Sr., also resigned at the end of the season.
This year New Palestine has a young lineup and a first-year coach.
â€œLast year we always expected to win, team-wiseâ€ White said. â€œThis year weâ€™re looking at it as a long process. Each and every person on the team has to trust the process and continue to get better. Obviously we have individual goals as well. Mine are set very high. Other people on the team have different goals that are attainable.â€
Coach Johns is enjoying his first season at the helm of the Dragons. He wrestled for the University of Indianapolis and was later a graduate assistant there. He hopes to instill some of the core values of a college wrestler into his high school team.
â€œWe are young and inexperienced this year,â€ Johns said. â€œBut the future looks bright for us for the next several years.â€
White was very disappointed with his sixth-place finish last season. White lost to Warren Centralâ€™s Skylour Turner in the Shelbyville sectional final 2-1, but then reversed that decision a week later in regional action, beating Turner 5-3 in the final. White and Turner were on opposite sides of the bracket at the New Castle semistate, but Cathedralâ€™s Jordan Slivka beat Turner 7-3. White then beat Slivka 4-3 to win the semistate championship.
White won his first round at state, but lost the next round 6-2 to Geoffery Davis. Davis then lost to Slivka in the third-fourth place match. White lost to his tourney nemesis, Turner, 3-2 in the fifth and sixth place match.
â€œI was upset with my finish,â€ White said. â€œI thought I had a great opportunity to get under the lights. The draw didnâ€™t matter to me. I felt like I was one of the best in the weight class, but someone beat me. That happens in wrestling. Iâ€™ve turned the page. I donâ€™t like focusing on last year. Iâ€™m a different wrestler now.
â€œIâ€™ve been chasing a state title ever since I can remember. Thatâ€™s been my goal ever since I first saw a state finals when I was about three years old. I saw two kids wrestling under the lights and everyone watching them. I knew someday I wanted that to be me.â€
White feels he has improved over the course of the year.
â€œIâ€™ve improved in every aspect,â€ he said. â€œMy mental toughness, my wrestling ability and my knowledge has really improved. And I hope I continue to improve. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve peaked. My best days are certainly ahead of me.â€
The Purdue Boilermakers are hoping that is true. White will wrestle for Purdue next season.