By JEREMY HINES
Terre Haute North has never had a wrestler reach the championship match in the state tournament. Thomas Dull is hoping to change that this season.
Dull has been a solid wrestler throughout his career, but when he took the time between his sophomore and junior season to work on expanding his offensive attacks â€“ the rewards were almost immediate. Last year, as a junior, Dull advanced to the state tournament for the first time in his career, and ended up finishing fifth.
Dull was defeated in the sectional and regional championships last season by Jacob Hendrich, but Dull was able to win the final meeting between the two in the third place match at semistate. Dull pinned Hendrich in that match. Dull went on to place fifth at state.
â€œMy defining moment came between my sophomore and junior year,â€ Dull said. â€œThatâ€™s when things really started to click for me. Things started to really work. I became more aggressive and I think that was able to make me turn a corner.â€
The most notable difference came in Dullâ€™s offensive attack options. He was a three-time ISWA Greco-Roman state champion and relied heavily on his arsenal of throws to win folkstyle matches. He understood that he was going to have to open things up and work on his leg attacks to be able to beat the top tier wrestlers in the state.
â€œThomas really had a reputation as a thrower,â€ Patriots coach Mark Frisz said. â€œYou get to the higher levels, and you have to have more of an attack. So he has opened up his offense. That really showed last year during the state tournament.â€
Dull, like many successful wrestlers, believes the key to success lies in hard work. That work ethic helped him on the football field this year when he earned all-conference and honorable mention all-state as a linebacker.
Despite playing football at a very high level, Dull didnâ€™t want to fall behind in wrestling. So he often conditioned on his own for wrestling after a football practice.
â€œI tried to stay in wrestling shape,â€ Dull said. â€œI ran. I worked on hand fighting. I have wrestling mats at my house so Iâ€™d get them out and work on them. A few times I even took them to the city park to work out in the fresh air. People probably thought we were weird for doing that, but I loved it. It was different than being in a wrestling room.â€
Last yearâ€™s trip to the state meet motivated Dull to get back this season.
â€œGoing to state was the best experience Iâ€™ve ever had with wrestling,â€ Dull said. â€œThere isnâ€™t anything comparable to it in Indiana. I am definitely not satisfied though. I want first. After doing what I did last year, I know I can shoot for the top now.â€
Coach Frisz is also hoping to get back to state â€“ and for the first time in his 27-year coaching career, heâ€™d like to get a wrestler under the lights.
â€œI havenâ€™t had a state champion,â€ Frisz said. â€œI hope to find out what itâ€™s like. I go to state every year and watch the kids under the lights. Having that feature match, around that big crowd is amazing. It would be a dream come true for Tomas, and for me and our program. It certainly would be a special moment.â€
Dull fell in love with wrestling when his dad, Larry, took him to a match between Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South when he was five years old. Larry had wrestled for Jay County in the 80s where he injured his knee and had to miss his senior season. His workout partner, Larry Brown, finished third in 1988 at heavyweight.
Thomas has dedicated countless hours to the sport of wrestling. His hard work has been an inspiration to his teammates.
â€œThomas is a real leader,â€ Frisz said. â€œHe has great leadership abilities. Kids gravitate to him. He picks up a room. His personality is infectious and it brings a room to life and makes practices as fun as they can be.â€