By JEREMY HINES
Breyden Bailey has done just about everything one can do to improve in wrestling. He puts time in the weight room, works relentlessly in practice and studies the sport. Heâ€™s gotten better in all aspects of wrestling. Yet, each year, despite his improvements, his season has ended in the exact same way -- third place.
Bailey, a senior at Indianapolis Cathedral, is one of the most highly decorated wrestlers in Indiana history. Heâ€™s a four time sectional champion, a four time regional champion and as of last Saturday, heâ€™s a four-time New Castle semistate champion.
Going to state is nothing new for Bailey. Heâ€™s been there four times. Heâ€™s won his Friday night match the last three years. Heâ€™s also won his first and second matches on Saturday for the last three years.
The state semifinals has proven to be the death round for Bailey. He has lost in the semifinals all three years. Each time, the opponent that has beaten him, has then fallen to the eventual state champion en route to a second place finish.
Bailey has went on to win the third place match all three times.
â€œIt does mean a lot to me to be a four-time state qualifier,â€ Bailey said. â€œI am proud of my placings, but I want to win it.â€
Wrestling is in Baileyâ€™s blood. His father, Bryan, is a two-time state champion from Martinsville and a one-time runner-up.
â€œBryan has been coaching Breyden his whole life,â€ Cathedral coach Sean McGinley said. â€œHeâ€™s been able to absorb things about the sport. Wrestling really is a way of life for him.â€
Bailey started wrestling when he turned seven. He had instant success, placing second in the ISWA folkstyle state that year.
â€œWrestling really seems to have come naturally to me,â€ Bailey said.
About the time Bailey started wrestling, he also started going to the state finals in Indianapolis to watch the high school guys reach for their goals.
â€œIâ€™ve been going to the state tournament since I was in second grade,â€ Bailey said. â€œMy favorite memory was when Briar Runyan from Martinsville won it. I remember getting my picture taken with him. They are close family friends.â€
Bailey doesnâ€™t participate in any other sport. He says his normal day is waking up early, doing a little lifting or running a few miles, then going to school. During the school day he often gets the opportunity during one of his resource classes to look at film on wrestling. After school he goes to practice, then sticks around some nights to put extra work in with his freshman brother Logan.
Logan lost in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate on Saturday.
McGinley says there really isnâ€™t a weakness in Baileyâ€™s wrestling.
â€œHeâ€™s good from top, bottom and neutral,â€ McGinley said. â€œBut the first thing Iâ€™d say about Bailey is that heâ€™s a student of the sport. Iâ€™ve never had a kid that has so much knowledge, thatâ€™s so involved in our room. Heâ€™s constantly helping other kids and coaching. Heâ€™s on another level in terms of his knowledge of the sport.â€
Baileyâ€™s leadership (heâ€™s a three-year captain at Cathedral) is one of the big reasons the Irish are considered contenders for the team state title this year.
Cathedral won the New Castle semistate and will send seven grapplers to the state meet. The Irish were especially dominant in the middle weights. Jordan Slivka won the 126 pound class, Bailey took first at 132 and Zach Melloh won the 138 pound bracket. Elliot Rodgers finished second at 145.
Ben Stewart finished second for Cathedral at 195 pounds and Andy Guhl was second at 220. Caleb Oliver finished fourth at 113.
â€œWe thought the semistate team championship would be close,â€ McGinley said. â€œI really thought it was Perry Meridianâ€™s to lose. But we always talk about how we want to get on a little bit of a roll. We know if we lose one we arenâ€™t expected to, we need someone who isnâ€™t expected to win to pull off the upset.
â€œThat happened when we lost at 106 with little Bailey. We turned around at 113 and got back on track.â€
Oliverâ€™s advancement was a bit of a surprise, considering he had just an 18-16 record entering the semistate.
For Breyden, he has learned leadership skills by watching guys that were good leaders to him.
â€œMy freshman year we won state,â€ Bailey said. â€œWe had guys like Vinny Corsaro and Wesley Bernard that were great leaders. I learned a lot from their style.â€
Bailey will wrestle for Division I Northern Illinois University next season. His college bio page will talk about his three third place finishes. Heâ€™s hoping there is also a line that reads â€œ2017 Indiana state championâ€ as well.
â€œRight now thatâ€™s my number one goal,â€ Bailey said. â€œI want to get under those lights.â€