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Found 68 results

  1. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com When Trent McCormick became head wrestling coach at Yorktown High School, he was a teenager leading teenagers. Over the decades, McCormick turned the Tigers into a mat powerhouse. In his 30 seasons, Yorktown sent many wrestlers to the State Finals in Indianapolis. Fifty-nine times, they headed back to Delaware County as state placers. Six times, they were state champions — Ross Janey (285 in 2010), Devon Jackson (138 in 2012), Rhett Hiestand (160 in 2014), Brad Laughlin (160 in 2017), Brayden Curtis (106 in 2017 and 113 in 2018). McCormick, 50, has announced his retirement and he steps away as the leader of the program with a memorable last go-round at the State Finals. “We were a small team this year,” said McCormick Saturday, Feb. 17 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “There were a lot of studs on the team. We always like to say, ‘Steel sharpens steel.’ It’s been a long, grueling season and to have four state placers and six state qualifiers, I was very proud of them.” McCormick, a state champion at 185 for Delta in 1986 and an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, took his boys back to the State Finals after winning the 22nd sectional, 13th regional and eighth semistate of his career. At Indy, junior Brayden Curtis (40-0) bested New Castle junior Andrew Black 6-0 in the finals to become a two-time state champion on McCormick’s watch. “He knows how to plan and he knows how to coach us mentally and physically,” said Curtis of McCormick. “He’s a huge part of my success as well as (assistant) coach (Kenny) O’Brien.” Senior Christian Hunt (48-1) concluded his Yorktown career as a state runner-up at 145. “It was a great honor to go out and represent my school,” said Hunt. “I definitely wanted to come out with a first, but second isn’t too bad.” “As a senior, I wanted to send Coach McCormick out on a positive note,” said McCormick. “I did absolutely the best I could.” Senior Alex Barr (48-3) placed sixth at 132. Senior Zach Todd (42-8) came in seventh at 106. State qualifiers were junior Eric Hiestand (42-4) at 152 and sophomore Holden Parsons (39-6) at 285. The Tigers finished seventh in the team standings. During McCormick’s run, Yorktown has been state runner-up twice and won four team state duals championships. A lay coach for 18 years who transitioned into teaching and has been in the classroom for the past 12, McCormick said he plans to spend more time with loved ones. He also plans to travel and that means going to West Point, N.Y., to see son Cael McCormick wrestle for Army. Cael was a three-time state medalist at Yorktown. “I’m going to spend some more time with the family and not so much time in the gymnasium,” said McCormick.
  2. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com When Trent McCormick became head wrestling coach at Yorktown High School, he was a teenager leading teenagers. Over the decades, McCormick turned the Tigers into a mat powerhouse. In his 30 seasons, Yorktown sent many wrestlers to the State Finals in Indianapolis. Fifty-nine times, they headed back to Delaware County as state placers. Six times, they were state champions — Ross Janey (285 in 2010), Devon Jackson (138 in 2012), Rhett Hiestand (160 in 2014), Brad Laughlin (160 in 2017), Brayden Curtis (106 in 2017 and 113 in 2018). McCormick, 50, has announced his retirement and he steps away as the leader of the program with a memorable last go-round at the State Finals. “We were a small team this year,” said McCormick Saturday, Feb. 17 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “There were a lot of studs on the team. We always like to say, ‘Steel sharpens steel.’ It’s been a long, grueling season and to have four state placers and six state qualifiers, I was very proud of them.” McCormick, a state champion at 185 for Delta in 1986 and an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, took his boys back to the State Finals after winning the 22nd sectional, 13th regional and eighth semistate of his career. At Indy, junior Brayden Curtis (40-0) bested New Castle junior Andrew Black 6-0 in the finals to become a two-time state champion on McCormick’s watch. “He knows how to plan and he knows how to coach us mentally and physically,” said Curtis of McCormick. “He’s a huge part of my success as well as (assistant) coach (Kenny) O’Brien.” Senior Christian Hunt (48-1) concluded his Yorktown career as a state runner-up at 145. “It was a great honor to go out and represent my school,” said Hunt. “I definitely wanted to come out with a first, but second isn’t too bad.” “As a senior, I wanted to send Coach McCormick out on a positive note,” said McCormick. “I did absolutely the best I could.” Senior Alex Barr (48-3) placed sixth at 132. Senior Zach Todd (42-8) came in seventh at 106. State qualifiers were junior Eric Hiestand (42-4) at 152 and sophomore Holden Parsons (39-6) at 285. The Tigers finished seventh in the team standings. During McCormick’s run, Yorktown has been state runner-up twice and won four team state duals championships. A lay coach for 18 years who transitioned into teaching and has been in the classroom for the past 12, McCormick said he plans to spend more time with loved ones. He also plans to travel and that means going to West Point, N.Y., to see son Cael McCormick wrestle for Army. Cael was a three-time state medalist at Yorktown. “I’m going to spend some more time with the family and not so much time in the gymnasium,” said McCormick. View full article
  3. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com “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).
  4. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com “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). View full article
  5. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com A quiet leader continues to make noise for the Goshen High School wrestling program. By scoring three first-period pins and earning a second straight Goshen Regional title GHS 106-pounder senior Fernando Flores heads to the Fort Wayne Semistate with a 2017-18 season record of 39-3. At 145-26, “Nando” is No. 2 on Goshen’s all-time victory list. Program No. 1 Andrew Yoder, who went 40-4 and placed fourth at the state meet as a senior in 1998, finished his prep mat career at 156-36. “I like going out there and competing and having a good show for the fans,” says two-time Elkhart Sectional champion Flores when asked about his favorite part about wrestling. “I try to score as fast as I can.” Fernando is one of Goshen’s captains. But his leadership style is not a vocal one. “He’s a quiet kid,” says RedHawks head coach Jim Pickard. “But he leads by example. It’s his work ethic and what he produces. “He does speak up when he needs to, but he’s really that example: ’Let’s do what Nando’s doing.’ You go and you work hard all the time.” With its physicality, wrestling can be a grueling sport and pain is inevitable. Flores pushes past it with plenty of support from his family, teammates and coaches. Shawn Haley and Marquita Flores have four boys — Victor, Hector, Fernando and Ricky. Victor, a 152-pounder, was a Goshen senior in 2015, 126-pound Hector in 2016. Ricky, a 120-pounder, is younger than Fernando and was on the RedHawks team last season. Fernando started his mat career as a sixth grader and chose wrestling over basketball when he got to high school. He was a semistate qualifier as a sophomore and a state qualifier as a junior. Where has he improved most since last season? “I’ve gotten better at getting off the bottom,” says Flores. “I’ve worked a lot on that. Last year, I had some trouble with it. “I’ve also gotten more confident.” That confidence has been helped by his coaches, including Jim Pickard and assistants Matt Katzer, Troy Pickard, Travis Pickard, Josh Abbs, Carl Creech, Gerardo Quiroz, Ben Schrock and Miguel Navarro, telling him that he could do well in the state tournament series if he performed to his capabilities. “It was a whole experience for me,” says Flores of going to the State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I just want to go down there again. What will it take to get back there? “A lot of hard work and just putting in the time over the summer,” says Flores. “That’s a big difference for a lot of guys. Working over the summer, you get so much better coming into the next season.” Some of Fernando’s favorite wrestlers are Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder and NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello — both at Ohio State University — and world and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs. “I try to shoot a high crotch,” says Flores. “Tomasello is really good at those. I went to one of his camps. He showed us a whole bunch of set-ups and uses.” Pickard has encouraged Flores to open up his offense in recent weeks. “We don’t want to just do the same moves,” says Pickard, who is in his 25th season at Goshen. “Sooner or later, someone is going to shut down some of those moves. We’ve worked a little bit on some stuff he hasn’t done that much. “You’ve got to have that second, third, fourth move.” Pickard says moves must be practiced over and over again until they become muscle memory. “We drill everyday and we drill multiple moves,” says Pickard. “We don’t just drill your favorite moves. “You’ve got to be able to switch off. I tell kids all the time that by the time you think I should do this, it’s too late. You just have to do it.” Pickard says Flores is beginning to get to the point where he can make the necessary on-the-fly changes. “He’s getting there,” says Pickard. “It’s one-week-at-a-time, but I think he has what it takes to get where he wants to be in two weeks. “He’s more committed than most. And he’s put in the time needed. He’s believing in himself. He’s focused and determined.” While Flores has been a 106-pounder at state tournament time the past four seasons, he has competed at 113 and 120 this season. Flores is still contemplating his future plans. He says he is considering college or joining the U.S. Air Force.
  6. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com A quiet leader continues to make noise for the Goshen High School wrestling program. By scoring three first-period pins and earning a second straight Goshen Regional title GHS 106-pounder senior Fernando Flores heads to the Fort Wayne Semistate with a 2017-18 season record of 39-3. At 145-26, “Nando” is No. 2 on Goshen’s all-time victory list. Program No. 1 Andrew Yoder, who went 40-4 and placed fourth at the state meet as a senior in 1998, finished his prep mat career at 156-36. “I like going out there and competing and having a good show for the fans,” says two-time Elkhart Sectional champion Flores when asked about his favorite part about wrestling. “I try to score as fast as I can.” Fernando is one of Goshen’s captains. But his leadership style is not a vocal one. “He’s a quiet kid,” says RedHawks head coach Jim Pickard. “But he leads by example. It’s his work ethic and what he produces. “He does speak up when he needs to, but he’s really that example: ’Let’s do what Nando’s doing.’ You go and you work hard all the time.” With its physicality, wrestling can be a grueling sport and pain is inevitable. Flores pushes past it with plenty of support from his family, teammates and coaches. Shawn Haley and Marquita Flores have four boys — Victor, Hector, Fernando and Ricky. Victor, a 152-pounder, was a Goshen senior in 2015, 126-pound Hector in 2016. Ricky, a 120-pounder, is younger than Fernando and was on the RedHawks team last season. Fernando started his mat career as a sixth grader and chose wrestling over basketball when he got to high school. He was a semistate qualifier as a sophomore and a state qualifier as a junior. Where has he improved most since last season? “I’ve gotten better at getting off the bottom,” says Flores. “I’ve worked a lot on that. Last year, I had some trouble with it. “I’ve also gotten more confident.” That confidence has been helped by his coaches, including Jim Pickard and assistants Matt Katzer, Troy Pickard, Travis Pickard, Josh Abbs, Carl Creech, Gerardo Quiroz, Ben Schrock and Miguel Navarro, telling him that he could do well in the state tournament series if he performed to his capabilities. “It was a whole experience for me,” says Flores of going to the State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I just want to go down there again. What will it take to get back there? “A lot of hard work and just putting in the time over the summer,” says Flores. “That’s a big difference for a lot of guys. Working over the summer, you get so much better coming into the next season.” Some of Fernando’s favorite wrestlers are Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder and NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello — both at Ohio State University — and world and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs. “I try to shoot a high crotch,” says Flores. “Tomasello is really good at those. I went to one of his camps. He showed us a whole bunch of set-ups and uses.” Pickard has encouraged Flores to open up his offense in recent weeks. “We don’t want to just do the same moves,” says Pickard, who is in his 25th season at Goshen. “Sooner or later, someone is going to shut down some of those moves. We’ve worked a little bit on some stuff he hasn’t done that much. “You’ve got to have that second, third, fourth move.” Pickard says moves must be practiced over and over again until they become muscle memory. “We drill everyday and we drill multiple moves,” says Pickard. “We don’t just drill your favorite moves. “You’ve got to be able to switch off. I tell kids all the time that by the time you think I should do this, it’s too late. You just have to do it.” Pickard says Flores is beginning to get to the point where he can make the necessary on-the-fly changes. “He’s getting there,” says Pickard. “It’s one-week-at-a-time, but I think he has what it takes to get where he wants to be in two weeks. “He’s more committed than most. And he’s put in the time needed. He’s believing in himself. He’s focused and determined.” While Flores has been a 106-pounder at state tournament time the past four seasons, he has competed at 113 and 120 this season. Flores is still contemplating his future plans. He says he is considering college or joining the U.S. Air Force. View full article
  7. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com The Diaz family was on the ground floor in building the wrestling program at Wheeler High School. Now, two Diaz siblings are reaching for the heights during the 2017-18 IHSAA state tournament series. At the Jan. 27 Crown Point Sectional, senior Jose Diaz Jr. placed second at 113 pounds and sophomore Giovanni Diaz finished first at 106. They both move on to the Feb. 3 Crown Point Regional. “He’s very intelligent,” says third-year Wheeler head coach Robin Haddox of Jose Jr. “He knows the sport very well. He’s extremely fast. He’s strong. He’s got the whole package.” A 106-pound Jose Jr. became Wheeler’s first State Finals qualifier in 2016. He placed eighth at 113 in 2017. Giovanni was an East Chicago Semistate qualifier at 106 in 2017. Jose Jr. explains why he enjoys wrestling. “It’s you and another person,” says Jose Jr. “You go out and show who you really are. It’s what you decide to put on the mat. “Winning feels great. Every time I get my hand raised, it feels great and motivates me to keep going.” Giovanni likes to be pushed to his limit — something that he gets with wrestling. “I like everything about it,” says Giovanni. “Most days, we try to push ourselves even when it’s supposed to be a light day. “You’ve got to have a certain mindset. If you want to achieve your goals, you’re going to have some toughness and think you’re going to break.” While they sometimes drill with other wrestlers in practice, Jose Jr. and Giovanni often trade moves. “It’s always close when we wrestle,” says Jose Jr. “It’s always fun.” Says Giovanni, “sometimes it get a little rough, but we keep it under control.” The Wheeler Bearcats officially hit the mats six years ago. Jose Jr. was a seventh grader. Giovanni was a fifth grader. Father Jose Sr. introduced the boys to the sport soon after they were born. Jose Sr. wrestled at Taft High School in Chicago, placing fourth in the city championships — just one win from the Illinois State Finals — as a senior in 1999. “I loved it,” says Jose Sr. of the sport. “Wrestling helped me stay out of trouble. That’s what it does for a lot of Chicago Public Schools kids.” The elder Diaz and wife Patty moved their family to unincorporated Valparaiso near uncle Luis Del Valle. “It was one of the best decisions we made,” says Jose Sr. “It’s a better than the life I lived. “There have been a lot of opportunities for all of my kids (Jose Jr., Giovanni, third grader Aidan and second grader Emma).” Jose Sr. knew he wanted his boys to wrestle and they began training at home, but he waited for them to commit to competition. When Jose Jr. was in third grade and Giovanni first grade, they joined the Boone Grove Wrestling Club as athletes and their father as a coach. Then came the Wheeler Wrestling Club and the high school squad. Steadily the numbers have grown. This winter, the Bearcats filled nearly every weight class in most duals. The club has swelled to more than 40 wrestlers and the middle school team competed for its second season. “Wheeler is not a dominant program yet, but we have guys who go down-state,” says Jose Sr., a construction contractor. Jose Jr. likes the idea of leaving a legacy. “I want to be remembered at this school as a good wrestler,” says Jose Jr. “When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a role model. I was always shy. (Success in wrestling) helps me understand that I can be. It helped me with my confidence.” Jose Jr. stays after high school practice each day to help younger club grapplers and is proud of what Bearcats wrestling has become. “I love coaching the little kids and giving back to the community,” says Jose Jr. “With our numbers. our program has started getting 10 times better. Being part of this program means a lot to me.” The Diaz boys will also leave their mark at Wheeler for his academic achievements. Jose Jr. carries a 4.089 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and is on his way to making the Wheeler Academic Hall of Fame. Giovanni has a 4.105 GPA. “Wheeler is great for academics,” says Jose Jr. “Teachers are always there for you.” With about 500 students, the teacher-to-student ratio allows for one-on-one attention. Jose Jr., a National Honor Society member, has been accepted at educationally-prestigious Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where he will compete in NCAA Division I wrestling. He plans to study health science with the aim of becoming a physical therapist. “It’s a perfect fit for Jose,” says Jose Sr., of Franklin & Marshall, where Mike Rogers in head wrestling coach. “It’s a small private school. The student-to-staff ratio is 9-to-1. The school has history. It’s like an Ivy League school. A degree from there opens up a lot of doors. You go to Franklin & Marshall for academics, not for wrestling. “I get a good feeling, handing over my son. Jose has been coached by me. I’ve been his dad and his coach. It’s a big step. I wanted to make sure Jose goes into a program that fits him.” Jose Jr. knows it will be transition. “I’m nervous to not have (my father) in my corner,” says Jose Jr. “He’s been there since Day 1. He sees what I don’t see. He tells it straight on. “I’m not always happy about it, but it helps me tremendously.” The student half of student-athlete is important throughout the Wheeler wrestling program. “This is the highest grade-point average team I’ve ever been involved with,” says Haddox, an industrial construction manager. “The majority of our kids are 3.0 or better. We have not had to worry about grades at all with any of our wrestlers.” Haddox wrestled at Chesterton High School, where he graduated in 1981, and the University of Tennessee. After a time in Texas, he moved back to northwest Indiana and began helping with the Portage High School wrestling program before Wheeler came calling. Besides Haddox and Jose Diaz Sr., the Bearcats are coached by Alex Bravo (former Valparaiso High School wrestler) and Yusef Mohmed (who has a background in mixed martial arts).
  8. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com The Diaz family was on the ground floor in building the wrestling program at Wheeler High School. Now, two Diaz siblings are reaching for the heights during the 2017-18 IHSAA state tournament series. At the Jan. 27 Crown Point Sectional, senior Jose Diaz Jr. placed second at 113 pounds and sophomore Giovanni Diaz finished first at 106. They both move on to the Feb. 3 Crown Point Regional. “He’s very intelligent,” says third-year Wheeler head coach Robin Haddox of Jose Jr. “He knows the sport very well. He’s extremely fast. He’s strong. He’s got the whole package.” A 106-pound Jose Jr. became Wheeler’s first State Finals qualifier in 2016. He placed eighth at 113 in 2017. Giovanni was an East Chicago Semistate qualifier at 106 in 2017. Jose Jr. explains why he enjoys wrestling. “It’s you and another person,” says Jose Jr. “You go out and show who you really are. It’s what you decide to put on the mat. “Winning feels great. Every time I get my hand raised, it feels great and motivates me to keep going.” Giovanni likes to be pushed to his limit — something that he gets with wrestling. “I like everything about it,” says Giovanni. “Most days, we try to push ourselves even when it’s supposed to be a light day. “You’ve got to have a certain mindset. If you want to achieve your goals, you’re going to have some toughness and think you’re going to break.” While they sometimes drill with other wrestlers in practice, Jose Jr. and Giovanni often trade moves. “It’s always close when we wrestle,” says Jose Jr. “It’s always fun.” Says Giovanni, “sometimes it get a little rough, but we keep it under control.” The Wheeler Bearcats officially hit the mats six years ago. Jose Jr. was a seventh grader. Giovanni was a fifth grader. Father Jose Sr. introduced the boys to the sport soon after they were born. Jose Sr. wrestled at Taft High School in Chicago, placing fourth in the city championships — just one win from the Illinois State Finals — as a senior in 1999. “I loved it,” says Jose Sr. of the sport. “Wrestling helped me stay out of trouble. That’s what it does for a lot of Chicago Public Schools kids.” The elder Diaz and wife Patty moved their family to unincorporated Valparaiso near uncle Luis Del Valle. “It was one of the best decisions we made,” says Jose Sr. “It’s a better than the life I lived. “There have been a lot of opportunities for all of my kids (Jose Jr., Giovanni, third grader Aidan and second grader Emma).” Jose Sr. knew he wanted his boys to wrestle and they began training at home, but he waited for them to commit to competition. When Jose Jr. was in third grade and Giovanni first grade, they joined the Boone Grove Wrestling Club as athletes and their father as a coach. Then came the Wheeler Wrestling Club and the high school squad. Steadily the numbers have grown. This winter, the Bearcats filled nearly every weight class in most duals. The club has swelled to more than 40 wrestlers and the middle school team competed for its second season. “Wheeler is not a dominant program yet, but we have guys who go down-state,” says Jose Sr., a construction contractor. Jose Jr. likes the idea of leaving a legacy. “I want to be remembered at this school as a good wrestler,” says Jose Jr. “When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a role model. I was always shy. (Success in wrestling) helps me understand that I can be. It helped me with my confidence.” Jose Jr. stays after high school practice each day to help younger club grapplers and is proud of what Bearcats wrestling has become. “I love coaching the little kids and giving back to the community,” says Jose Jr. “With our numbers. our program has started getting 10 times better. Being part of this program means a lot to me.” The Diaz boys will also leave their mark at Wheeler for his academic achievements. Jose Jr. carries a 4.089 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and is on his way to making the Wheeler Academic Hall of Fame. Giovanni has a 4.105 GPA. “Wheeler is great for academics,” says Jose Jr. “Teachers are always there for you.” With about 500 students, the teacher-to-student ratio allows for one-on-one attention. Jose Jr., a National Honor Society member, has been accepted at educationally-prestigious Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where he will compete in NCAA Division I wrestling. He plans to study health science with the aim of becoming a physical therapist. “It’s a perfect fit for Jose,” says Jose Sr., of Franklin & Marshall, where Mike Rogers in head wrestling coach. “It’s a small private school. The student-to-staff ratio is 9-to-1. The school has history. It’s like an Ivy League school. A degree from there opens up a lot of doors. You go to Franklin & Marshall for academics, not for wrestling. “I get a good feeling, handing over my son. Jose has been coached by me. I’ve been his dad and his coach. It’s a big step. I wanted to make sure Jose goes into a program that fits him.” Jose Jr. knows it will be transition. “I’m nervous to not have (my father) in my corner,” says Jose Jr. “He’s been there since Day 1. He sees what I don’t see. He tells it straight on. “I’m not always happy about it, but it helps me tremendously.” The student half of student-athlete is important throughout the Wheeler wrestling program. “This is the highest grade-point average team I’ve ever been involved with,” says Haddox, an industrial construction manager. “The majority of our kids are 3.0 or better. We have not had to worry about grades at all with any of our wrestlers.” Haddox wrestled at Chesterton High School, where he graduated in 1981, and the University of Tennessee. After a time in Texas, he moved back to northwest Indiana and began helping with the Portage High School wrestling program before Wheeler came calling. Besides Haddox and Jose Diaz Sr., the Bearcats are coached by Alex Bravo (former Valparaiso High School wrestler) and Yusef Mohmed (who has a background in mixed martial arts). View full article
  9. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Cousins Conner Graber and Owen Eveler were born into a wrestling family. Every time the Northridge High School seniors step on the mat, they have a small army of relatives clad in green and gold enthusiastically cheering them on. “It’s a huge factor,” says Owen of the family appreciation for the sport. “It’s been bred in us since we were young. “You can definitely pick out the Northridge crowd.” Such is also the case for sophomore Oliver Eveler, junior Adam Hooley and freshman Logan Hooley. They also part of the second generation in a clan that loves its wrestling. “They are the loudest fans,” says Northridge head coach Eric Highley. “But they’re not malicious or inappropriate. They’re always encouraging. They’re a great family.” In the Raider rooting section, there’s first-generation mat mavens Scott Graber (NHS Class of 1982) and his brothers Jeff (NHS Class of 1984) and Ted (Class of 1986) and sister Tonya (Graber) Eveler (NHS Class of 1988). Tonya is married to Mark Eveler (Goshen Class of ’85) and they are parents to Owen, Oliver and seventh-grade grappler Sydney. Scott, Jeff and Ted were all semistate qualifiers as Raiders. Pull out the 1982 Shield yearbook, turn to page 56 and there’s a photo of Scott Graber pinning an opponent. Jared Graber (NHS Class of 2007) and Drew Graber (NHS of 2009) are Scott’s sons. Drew was a three-time State Finals qualifier and finished second twice (171 in 2008 and 182 in 2009) while winning 117 career matches. He is now Northridge assistant coach. Ted and Rolonda (Hooley) Graber (NHS Class of 1989) are parents to Conner. Rolonda’s brothers Brad Hooley (NHS Class of 1982) and Allen Hooley (NHS Class of 1985) were also wrestlers. Adam Hooley is the son of Brad and Logan the offspring of Allen. “It helps me to compete, trying to be one of the best in my family,” says Adam Hooley, who remembers watching cousin Drew Graber’s drive on video. “We talk about future matches and previous matches (at family gatherings) and how we can get better.” Logan Hooley has soaked up a lot of knowledge from his cousins. “I’ve learned a lot by watching them,” says Logan, who began wrestling as a seventh grader. “It helped me understand it more.” Oliver Eveler has also felt the love. “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, at the end of the day you always have your family behind you,” says Oliver. At those family outings, there’s plenty of friendly smack talk, especially among the second generation. And at some point, it becomes more than talk. “There always seems to be a wrestling match until something gets broken and then we’ve got to shut it down,” says Ted Graber, who has a wrestling mat in his basement as does Mark Eveler. Heading into the Elkhart Sectional, 182-pounder Conner Graber is 34-1 on the 2017-18 season and 132-21 for his career. Only Steve Zimmerman (NHS Class of 1995) with 138 and Ross Powell (NHS Class of 1997) with 133 rank ahead of him on Northridge’s all-time wrestling victory list. Conner won a single-season school record 44 matches and placed seventh at the IHSAA State Finals at 182 in 2016-17. Conner Graber’s secret sauce? “It’s just a good work ethic,” says Conner, the 2018 Northern Lakes Conference champion at 182. “Weightlifting is a big part of it and working all my moves in practice and building up my endurance.” In matches, Conner heeds his coach’s advice to have a plan, be fast and work the angles. He grappled at 160 as a freshman, moved to 182 as a sophomore and has been in that class ever since, though he has bumped up to 195 a few times this season to see better competition. Drew Graber came back to the program knowing he would get a chance to help his cousins and that includes Conner Graber. “Every year he’s had more drive to open and wants to learn more and get better,” says Drew of Conner. “With success came some confidence and some open-mindedness with some moves. This year, he’s a completely different wrestler than last year. He’s scoring more points. “Seniors are often very set in their ways. But Conner has been very flexible with technique and trying stuff. “As a coaching staff, we model that continued growth with all of our wrestlers.” Two of his notable victories were 4-2 decisions against New Haven senior Jonyvan Johnson and Indiana Creek senior Grant Goforth. His lone loss is a 5-4 decision against Wabash senior Noah Cressell. Owen Eveler (145) goes into the sectional at 33-4 this season and 116-29 in his career. “I’ve improved my mat skills this season — top and bottom,” says Owen, who placed third in the NLC at 145. “My neutral’s always been there.” Ted Graber credits Mark Eveler for getting the Raider Wrestling Club going about a decade ago. “He’s been very instrumental,” says Ted of Mark. “He has touch a lot of lives.” Conner Graber has seen the fruits of the Raider Wrestling Club’s labor. “That helped a ton,” says Conner. “We expanded on everything we had already talked about and done in a limited capacity at Fairfield.” When Conner Graber and Owen Eveler were kindergartners and before Northridge had its own club, they went to Fairfield High School to participate in the Talon Wrestling Club run by Dan Glogouski and Jesse Espinoza. Ron Kratzer was head coach for the Raiders from 1975-88 and coached Scott, Jeff and Ted Graber. Kratzer was followed by Tom Fudge, Mark Hofer, Mike Wickersham, Scott Giddens, Joe Solis and Shawn Puckett. Since 2013, Highley has headed the program. His current assistants beside Drew Graber are Puckett, Jeff Howe and Mike Price. “Northridge is blessed in many ways with their coaching,” says Ted Graber. “The parents are very appreciative.” Highley is grateful for the support shown not only by the Grabers, Evelers and Hooleys, but all the dads and moms. “We’ve got all these parents that have been involved with it for a long time. They understand what’s going on. They understand the sacrifices their sons have to make.” There is a big banner in the Northridge practice room that reads: You Get What You Earn. “If they are willing to go in and put in all that sacrifice, all that time and all that hard work, then they are earning their chance to achieve what they want to achieve,” says Highley. “They are going to see the results. “If you want to be lazy, that’s fine. But you’re probably not going to go as far as you want to go.”
  10. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Cousins Conner Graber and Owen Eveler were born into a wrestling family. Every time the Northridge High School seniors step on the mat, they have a small army of relatives clad in green and gold enthusiastically cheering them on. “It’s a huge factor,” says Owen of the family appreciation for the sport. “It’s been bred in us since we were young. “You can definitely pick out the Northridge crowd.” Such is also the case for sophomore Oliver Eveler, junior Adam Hooley and freshman Logan Hooley. They also part of the second generation in a clan that loves its wrestling. “They are the loudest fans,” says Northridge head coach Eric Highley. “But they’re not malicious or inappropriate. They’re always encouraging. They’re a great family.” In the Raider rooting section, there’s first-generation mat mavens Scott Graber (NHS Class of 1982) and his brothers Jeff (NHS Class of 1984) and Ted (Class of 1986) and sister Tonya (Graber) Eveler (NHS Class of 1988). Tonya is married to Mark Eveler (Goshen Class of ’85) and they are parents to Owen, Oliver and seventh-grade grappler Sydney. Scott, Jeff and Ted were all semistate qualifiers as Raiders. Pull out the 1982 Shield yearbook, turn to page 56 and there’s a photo of Scott Graber pinning an opponent. Jared Graber (NHS Class of 2007) and Drew Graber (NHS of 2009) are Scott’s sons. Drew was a three-time State Finals qualifier and finished second twice (171 in 2008 and 182 in 2009) while winning 117 career matches. He is now Northridge assistant coach. Ted and Rolonda (Hooley) Graber (NHS Class of 1989) are parents to Conner. Rolonda’s brothers Brad Hooley (NHS Class of 1982) and Allen Hooley (NHS Class of 1985) were also wrestlers. Adam Hooley is the son of Brad and Logan the offspring of Allen. “It helps me to compete, trying to be one of the best in my family,” says Adam Hooley, who remembers watching cousin Drew Graber’s drive on video. “We talk about future matches and previous matches (at family gatherings) and how we can get better.” Logan Hooley has soaked up a lot of knowledge from his cousins. “I’ve learned a lot by watching them,” says Logan, who began wrestling as a seventh grader. “It helped me understand it more.” Oliver Eveler has also felt the love. “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, at the end of the day you always have your family behind you,” says Oliver. At those family outings, there’s plenty of friendly smack talk, especially among the second generation. And at some point, it becomes more than talk. “There always seems to be a wrestling match until something gets broken and then we’ve got to shut it down,” says Ted Graber, who has a wrestling mat in his basement as does Mark Eveler. Heading into the Elkhart Sectional, 182-pounder Conner Graber is 34-1 on the 2017-18 season and 132-21 for his career. Only Steve Zimmerman (NHS Class of 1995) with 138 and Ross Powell (NHS Class of 1997) with 133 rank ahead of him on Northridge’s all-time wrestling victory list. Conner won a single-season school record 44 matches and placed seventh at the IHSAA State Finals at 182 in 2016-17. Conner Graber’s secret sauce? “It’s just a good work ethic,” says Conner, the 2018 Northern Lakes Conference champion at 182. “Weightlifting is a big part of it and working all my moves in practice and building up my endurance.” In matches, Conner heeds his coach’s advice to have a plan, be fast and work the angles. He grappled at 160 as a freshman, moved to 182 as a sophomore and has been in that class ever since, though he has bumped up to 195 a few times this season to see better competition. Drew Graber came back to the program knowing he would get a chance to help his cousins and that includes Conner Graber. “Every year he’s had more drive to open and wants to learn more and get better,” says Drew of Conner. “With success came some confidence and some open-mindedness with some moves. This year, he’s a completely different wrestler than last year. He’s scoring more points. “Seniors are often very set in their ways. But Conner has been very flexible with technique and trying stuff. “As a coaching staff, we model that continued growth with all of our wrestlers.” Two of his notable victories were 4-2 decisions against New Haven senior Jonyvan Johnson and Indiana Creek senior Grant Goforth. His lone loss is a 5-4 decision against Wabash senior Noah Cressell. Owen Eveler (145) goes into the sectional at 33-4 this season and 116-29 in his career. “I’ve improved my mat skills this season — top and bottom,” says Owen, who placed third in the NLC at 145. “My neutral’s always been there.” Ted Graber credits Mark Eveler for getting the Raider Wrestling Club going about a decade ago. “He’s been very instrumental,” says Ted of Mark. “He has touch a lot of lives.” Conner Graber has seen the fruits of the Raider Wrestling Club’s labor. “That helped a ton,” says Conner. “We expanded on everything we had already talked about and done in a limited capacity at Fairfield.” When Conner Graber and Owen Eveler were kindergartners and before Northridge had its own club, they went to Fairfield High School to participate in the Talon Wrestling Club run by Dan Glogouski and Jesse Espinoza. Ron Kratzer was head coach for the Raiders from 1975-88 and coached Scott, Jeff and Ted Graber. Kratzer was followed by Tom Fudge, Mark Hofer, Mike Wickersham, Scott Giddens, Joe Solis and Shawn Puckett. Since 2013, Highley has headed the program. His current assistants beside Drew Graber are Puckett, Jeff Howe and Mike Price. “Northridge is blessed in many ways with their coaching,” says Ted Graber. “The parents are very appreciative.” Highley is grateful for the support shown not only by the Grabers, Evelers and Hooleys, but all the dads and moms. “We’ve got all these parents that have been involved with it for a long time. They understand what’s going on. They understand the sacrifices their sons have to make.” There is a big banner in the Northridge practice room that reads: You Get What You Earn. “If they are willing to go in and put in all that sacrifice, all that time and all that hard work, then they are earning their chance to achieve what they want to achieve,” says Highley. “They are going to see the results. “If you want to be lazy, that’s fine. But you’re probably not going to go as far as you want to go.” View full article
  11. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com “Warrior Tough” was on display in the Summit City. Years of effort were rewarded when Wawasee climbed to the peak that is the Class 2A championship at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Team State Duals. The Warriors beat Franklin County 54-19, Bellmont 49-25, North Montgomery 31-28 and Garrett 37-33 for the right to hoist the trophy Saturday, Dec. 23 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. “This has been a long time building,” says Frank Bumgardner, Wawasee’s third-year head coach of the program’s resurgence and his 2017-18 team’s qualifying for the annual IHSWCA event. “It’s a culmination of a lot of effort over a lot of years. “We’re all on same path. When you have that uniformity, it’s inevitable that good things are going to happen.” Bumgardner, who was the head coach at alma mater Whitko High School for five seasons before coming to Wawasee, and the other coaches (Jesse Espinoza, Jamie Salazar, Dillon Whitacre, Matt Elvidge, Darrell Carr at the high school level) in the program have the Warriors being physical while having fun. “We understand that different people come with different personalities,” says Bumgardner, who counts 80 to 100 kids in Grades K-12 that also compete in either the Wawasee Wrestling Club for beginners or Viper Wrestling Club for the advanced and elite. “Not everyone is going to embrace every style to the furthest degree. We do what the kid does best, we score points and have fun.” Fun is essential. “When you have fun, you look forward to coming back,” says Bumgardner, who is a seventh grade math teacher at Wawasee. “You look forward to getting better. “It’s like they say at Ohio State — Positivity Infinity. The better you can do that, the better life you’re going to have.” Last year, the Warriors were just seven points shy of automatic qualification for the State Duals without the coaches vote and “7” became the rally cry. “We knew we were capable of it,” says Bumgardner. “The kids have done wonderful job of doing that. The community is excited. “We’re looking to bring the momentum back to the program so we can continue to build well beyond this year.” Five Wawasee wrestlers — senior Elisha Tipping (285 pounds), juniors Braxton Alexander (126) and Geremia Brooks (132), sophomore Garrett Stuckman (138) and freshman Jace Alexander (106)— enjoyed 4-0 days at the 2017 State Duals. “A lot of us on the team now started when we were young,” says Braxton Alexander, who placed sixth at 120 at the 2017 IHSAA State Finals. “Just about all on the team wrestled for at least five years. “We put too much work into it to be bad.” Bumgardner has witnessed a change in Braxton — the older brother of Jace — that has made him an even better grappler. “He’s willing to take more risks,” says Bumgardner of Braxton. “He’s attempting to score more points and dictating were the action goes. “He would definitely look to score points before. He was such a good scrambler, he was consistently catching people in big moves. He is developing an offense that is consistent.” Braxton has grown about three inches since last season to 5-foot-7 and turned from a counter-offensive wrestler to an attacker. “Last year, I didn’t have a shot too often,” says Alexander of his 42-6 sophomore season. “I was defensive. Now, I’m pushing the pace and pulling the trigger more often.” He can hear Bumgardner’s words echo as he goes through a match. “‘As long as you’re moving and pushing the pace, no one can keep up with you,’” Alexander of his head coach’s message. Braxton is constantly pushing workout partner Stuckman and Garrett returns the favor. “We scramble more often,” says Braxton. “On the mat, we know what to do and how to capitalize on a mistake.” To stay in shape for wrestling, Braxton is a member of the Wawasee cross country and track and field teams. His best 5K cross country time is 17:10. He runs the open 800, 3200 relay and does the pole vault in the spring. Last summer, he sharpened his wrestling skills in folkstyle tournaments in New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan and Iowa. Braxton and Jace are the two oldest of four children in a single-parent household. Mother Jaclyn also has seventh grader Landen (who also wrestles in the spring and summer) and third grader Kenadee. A building trades student at Wawasee, Braxton would like to have his own construction business someday. Right now, he’s helping to build the Warriors back into wrestling power to be reckoned with.
  12. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com “Warrior Tough” was on display in the Summit City. Years of effort were rewarded when Wawasee climbed to the peak that is the Class 2A championship at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Team State Duals. The Warriors beat Franklin County 54-19, Bellmont 49-25, North Montgomery 31-28 and Garrett 37-33 for the right to hoist the trophy Saturday, Dec. 23 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. “This has been a long time building,” says Frank Bumgardner, Wawasee’s third-year head coach of the program’s resurgence and his 2017-18 team’s qualifying for the annual IHSWCA event. “It’s a culmination of a lot of effort over a lot of years. “We’re all on same path. When you have that uniformity, it’s inevitable that good things are going to happen.” Bumgardner, who was the head coach at alma mater Whitko High School for five seasons before coming to Wawasee, and the other coaches (Jesse Espinoza, Jamie Salazar, Dillon Whitacre, Matt Elvidge, Darrell Carr at the high school level) in the program have the Warriors being physical while having fun. “We understand that different people come with different personalities,” says Bumgardner, who counts 80 to 100 kids in Grades K-12 that also compete in either the Wawasee Wrestling Club for beginners or Viper Wrestling Club for the advanced and elite. “Not everyone is going to embrace every style to the furthest degree. We do what the kid does best, we score points and have fun.” Fun is essential. “When you have fun, you look forward to coming back,” says Bumgardner, who is a seventh grade math teacher at Wawasee. “You look forward to getting better. “It’s like they say at Ohio State — Positivity Infinity. The better you can do that, the better life you’re going to have.” Last year, the Warriors were just seven points shy of automatic qualification for the State Duals without the coaches vote and “7” became the rally cry. “We knew we were capable of it,” says Bumgardner. “The kids have done wonderful job of doing that. The community is excited. “We’re looking to bring the momentum back to the program so we can continue to build well beyond this year.” Five Wawasee wrestlers — senior Elisha Tipping (285 pounds), juniors Braxton Alexander (126) and Geremia Brooks (132), sophomore Garrett Stuckman (138) and freshman Jace Alexander (106)— enjoyed 4-0 days at the 2017 State Duals. “A lot of us on the team now started when we were young,” says Braxton Alexander, who placed sixth at 120 at the 2017 IHSAA State Finals. “Just about all on the team wrestled for at least five years. “We put too much work into it to be bad.” Bumgardner has witnessed a change in Braxton — the older brother of Jace — that has made him an even better grappler. “He’s willing to take more risks,” says Bumgardner of Braxton. “He’s attempting to score more points and dictating were the action goes. “He would definitely look to score points before. He was such a good scrambler, he was consistently catching people in big moves. He is developing an offense that is consistent.” Braxton has grown about three inches since last season to 5-foot-7 and turned from a counter-offensive wrestler to an attacker. “Last year, I didn’t have a shot too often,” says Alexander of his 42-6 sophomore season. “I was defensive. Now, I’m pushing the pace and pulling the trigger more often.” He can hear Bumgardner’s words echo as he goes through a match. “‘As long as you’re moving and pushing the pace, no one can keep up with you,’” Alexander of his head coach’s message. Braxton is constantly pushing workout partner Stuckman and Garrett returns the favor. “We scramble more often,” says Braxton. “On the mat, we know what to do and how to capitalize on a mistake.” To stay in shape for wrestling, Braxton is a member of the Wawasee cross country and track and field teams. His best 5K cross country time is 17:10. He runs the open 800, 3200 relay and does the pole vault in the spring. Last summer, he sharpened his wrestling skills in folkstyle tournaments in New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan and Iowa. Braxton and Jace are the two oldest of four children in a single-parent household. Mother Jaclyn also has seventh grader Landen (who also wrestles in the spring and summer) and third grader Kenadee. A building trades student at Wawasee, Braxton would like to have his own construction business someday. Right now, he’s helping to build the Warriors back into wrestling power to be reckoned with. View full article
  13. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com There’s only so much time to prepare. That is one of many lessons sophomore Graham Calhoun has learned while competing for veteran head coach Bob Read and his staff as part of the Plymouth High School wrestling program. After going 44-5 and placing seventh at the IHSAA State Finals as a freshman 138-pounder in 2016-17, Calhoun is off to a strong start to the 2017-18 season. “We don’t want to waste a second of practice,” says Read, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer and Billy Thom Award winner who has produced 33 state qualifiers. He was hired at his alma mater in 1978 as a science teacher and wrestling assistant. He took over the Rockies matmen in 1981 and has been in that post ever since. Calhoun is the most recent of Read’s 14 state meet placers and an athlete driven to improve. “Graham is the kind of kid who looks to get better,” says Reed. “If he wants to stand on the top of the podium, he’s got to get better than what he is right now. Senior Gavin Banks (Graham’s drill partner) knows the same thing.” Tim Roahrig (1987), Josh Hutchens (1993 and 1994) have won state titles with Read in their corners. Hutchens was also third in 1992. Other state placers on Read’s watch include David Shook (second in 1983), Gabe Lopez (fourth in 1983), Jason Rudd (sixth in 1992), Kyle Condon (eighth in 1994), Matt Arvesen (fifth in 1999 and second in 2000), Dan Denaut (second in 1998), Damon Howe (fifth in 2010 and second in 2011) followed by Graham Calhoun in 2017. Says Graham of his daily workouts this season with Banks, “We go pretty hard in the room. We make each other better.” Graham has gotten bigger since last season and is certified at 152. “I’ve filled out and grew a couple inches to 5-foot-9 1/2,” says Graham, who is focused this season on “trusting the process.” That means listening to his coaches as they push all Plymouth wrestlers toward constant improvement. “If it’s a Thursday or a Friday and I’m four or five pounds over, I can’t just use that practice to cut weight. I’ve got to get better.” Read, who was a state qualifier in his senior year at Plymouth (1973) and grappled four years at Western Michigan University, sees in Graham Calhoun a young man who is learning to operate with controlled intensity. “He’s a pretty even-keeled kid — win or lose,” says Read. “He doesn’t like to lose. But the last two years when he gets a chance to face someone who beat him before he usually turns the tide.” Graham did just that against Munster’s Cody Crary last season. He lost to Crary at the Plymouth Super Dual then bested him in the East Chicago Semistate “ticket” round. “He’s a competitor,” says Read. “Sometimes it’s difficult to teach that to somebody. He doesn’t fear the fact that the kid has beaten him. He absorbs that challenge. It’s fun to watch him. He can get pretty intense in the midst of a match.” Curbing his emotions is something Graham has been working on. “I’ve been working on keeping composure the mat,” says Calhoun, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. “That’s helped a lot. I watch these college guys and no matter what the score is, no matter what the position is they’re always composed and in-control. “In wrestling, there’s a lot to get prepared for mentally and physically. Before a match, I put headphones on and clear everything out. I stay calm. I don’t get too fired up. I want to stay ready and mentally prepared. Sometimes I find myself getting too pumped up for a match. I look to find a good balance.” Graham has been in the sport since age 4. “My dad tried to get me to quit when I first started I was so bad,” says Graham, the youngest of Jim and Cammie Calhoun’s four sons (Kyle, Josh and Micah are older). “I got pinned every time I went on the mat. But I didn’t quit and I still liked it. So Graham just stayed with it and kept getting better and did let the fact he was born with one kidney stop him. “It doesn’t really bother me,” says Graham. “I just can’t drink any dark pop or caffeine. I go for annual check-ups.” All his work helped Graham explode onto the high school wrestling scene a year ago and followed brother Micah’s lead all the way to the big stage in Indianapolis. Micah Calhoun was 43-4 and a state qualifier in 2017 as senior 160-pounder. “I’ve learned everything from him — spiritually, mentally, physically, wrestling-wise,” says Graham of Micah. The mat means a great deal to Graham. But it’s not the thing. There is his faith and his family. “Wrestling is a big part of my life, but Jesus is definitely the biggest part of my life,” says Graham. “I’m a Christian and I love Jesus with all my heart. I do everything to glorify Him.” Jim Calhoun, a Rochester native, attended Central Bible College in Missouri and wrestled for the University of Missouri, is senior pastor at Word of Truth Plymouth. Read counts Jim and Micah Calhoun as volunteers on a coaching staff that features former Bremen High School head coach and former Bremen grappler Travis Meister. “I don’t even need to be in the room, I know the kids are going hard,” says Read. “Those guys have made it easy for me. “I seek that wise counsel that the Bible talks about. I try to surround myself with those guys and it’s paid off over the years. “I wish I could tell you every decision I’ve made wrestling-wise is a correct decision and that every kid I’ve coach I’ve treated fairly and uprightly. I’ve made mistakes all over the place. But I hope that in the years that I’ve coached I’ve poured into more people in a positive way.” In his decades of coaching, Read has had wrestlers live with him and his family, which includes wife Karen, daughters Lane and Cari and son Matt, a state qualifier wrestler for Plymouth in 2003. Read’s bailed wrestlers out of jail. He’s helped them deal with divorce and the loss of loved ones. “As a coach, it’s more than wrestling,” says Read. “For me and my staff, it’s a ministry. That’s why we get along so well. “My faith is really important to me.” Read keeps a list of people who have qualities or characteristics that he seeks when he needs help in life. Using examples from the Bible, he looks for those who are like Paul (“somebody who is going to pour into you and teach you what it’s like to be the man of character”), Barnabas (“a guy who walks with people because they are in the same season in life”) and Timothy (“someone who you pour into”). His father James is one of those people on his list. “Not many men don’t have cracks some place,” says Read. “My dad is a man that doesn’t have cracks.” James Read, 89, are partners in a business — J.B. Fish. When Bob retired from the class room in 2014, he and his father started raising fish in a 14,000-gallon tank. At first, it was striped bass and now it’s tilapia. “We raise our own brood — from eggs to selling them live,” says Read. “They start out in aquariums, we move them along and they finish in larger tanks. We sell them at a pound 3/4 or bigger. It takes about 11 months to finish them out.” Read and his coaches show their wrestlers plenty of finishing moves and insist that everybody develops go-to maneuvers that they trust and can execute. “When you’ve been at the sport as long as I have what happens is you see a go-to move for a bunch of kids,” says Read. “Then they develop counters and everybody is looking for that (move). They starred to fade away from that. That sits the archives for years then — all of a sudden — it starts coming back. “I’ll say ‘this is what we did years and years ago’ and bring out some old moves.” Why is it important to have a “bag of tricks”? “Not everybody has quick feet,” says Read. “I wrestled after college in a number of big tournaments and learned that I couldn’t move my feet fast enough to sprawl. But I could change levels and bump with my hips.” It’s a matter of identifying the wrestler’s capabilities. “I have a kid who’s extremely explosive so we’re going to give him stuff he can use,” says Read. “Most of are kids aren’t so we’ve got to come in tight and control things. “Our off-season and in-season weight program is important to us. We want to be strong enough that we can compete with people. We believe that if we’re not in great shape that we’re going to struggle so we work on being in great shape. Our kids know it and they work hard at it.” Like many teams are the state, Plymouth’s number are down a little bit. “I think it has something to do with where we’re at in society and it’s sad,” says Read. “It’s a great sport and there’s so many lessons to be learned.” Graham Calhoun continues to learn those learning those lessons.
  14. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com There’s only so much time to prepare. That is one of many lessons sophomore Graham Calhoun has learned while competing for veteran head coach Bob Read and his staff as part of the Plymouth High School wrestling program. After going 44-5 and placing seventh at the IHSAA State Finals as a freshman 138-pounder in 2016-17, Calhoun is off to a strong start to the 2017-18 season. “We don’t want to waste a second of practice,” says Read, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer and Billy Thom Award winner who has produced 33 state qualifiers. He was hired at his alma mater in 1978 as a science teacher and wrestling assistant. He took over the Rockies matmen in 1981 and has been in that post ever since. Calhoun is the most recent of Read’s 14 state meet placers and an athlete driven to improve. “Graham is the kind of kid who looks to get better,” says Reed. “If he wants to stand on the top of the podium, he’s got to get better than what he is right now. Senior Gavin Banks (Graham’s drill partner) knows the same thing.” Tim Roahrig (1987), Josh Hutchens (1993 and 1994) have won state titles with Read in their corners. Hutchens was also third in 1992. Other state placers on Read’s watch include David Shook (second in 1983), Gabe Lopez (fourth in 1983), Jason Rudd (sixth in 1992), Kyle Condon (eighth in 1994), Matt Arvesen (fifth in 1999 and second in 2000), Dan Denaut (second in 1998), Damon Howe (fifth in 2010 and second in 2011) followed by Graham Calhoun in 2017. Says Graham of his daily workouts this season with Banks, “We go pretty hard in the room. We make each other better.” Graham has gotten bigger since last season and is certified at 152. “I’ve filled out and grew a couple inches to 5-foot-9 1/2,” says Graham, who is focused this season on “trusting the process.” That means listening to his coaches as they push all Plymouth wrestlers toward constant improvement. “If it’s a Thursday or a Friday and I’m four or five pounds over, I can’t just use that practice to cut weight. I’ve got to get better.” Read, who was a state qualifier in his senior year at Plymouth (1973) and grappled four years at Western Michigan University, sees in Graham Calhoun a young man who is learning to operate with controlled intensity. “He’s a pretty even-keeled kid — win or lose,” says Read. “He doesn’t like to lose. But the last two years when he gets a chance to face someone who beat him before he usually turns the tide.” Graham did just that against Munster’s Cody Crary last season. He lost to Crary at the Plymouth Super Dual then bested him in the East Chicago Semistate “ticket” round. “He’s a competitor,” says Read. “Sometimes it’s difficult to teach that to somebody. He doesn’t fear the fact that the kid has beaten him. He absorbs that challenge. It’s fun to watch him. He can get pretty intense in the midst of a match.” Curbing his emotions is something Graham has been working on. “I’ve been working on keeping composure the mat,” says Calhoun, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. “That’s helped a lot. I watch these college guys and no matter what the score is, no matter what the position is they’re always composed and in-control. “In wrestling, there’s a lot to get prepared for mentally and physically. Before a match, I put headphones on and clear everything out. I stay calm. I don’t get too fired up. I want to stay ready and mentally prepared. Sometimes I find myself getting too pumped up for a match. I look to find a good balance.” Graham has been in the sport since age 4. “My dad tried to get me to quit when I first started I was so bad,” says Graham, the youngest of Jim and Cammie Calhoun’s four sons (Kyle, Josh and Micah are older). “I got pinned every time I went on the mat. But I didn’t quit and I still liked it. So Graham just stayed with it and kept getting better and did let the fact he was born with one kidney stop him. “It doesn’t really bother me,” says Graham. “I just can’t drink any dark pop or caffeine. I go for annual check-ups.” All his work helped Graham explode onto the high school wrestling scene a year ago and followed brother Micah’s lead all the way to the big stage in Indianapolis. Micah Calhoun was 43-4 and a state qualifier in 2017 as senior 160-pounder. “I’ve learned everything from him — spiritually, mentally, physically, wrestling-wise,” says Graham of Micah. The mat means a great deal to Graham. But it’s not the thing. There is his faith and his family. “Wrestling is a big part of my life, but Jesus is definitely the biggest part of my life,” says Graham. “I’m a Christian and I love Jesus with all my heart. I do everything to glorify Him.” Jim Calhoun, a Rochester native, attended Central Bible College in Missouri and wrestled for the University of Missouri, is senior pastor at Word of Truth Plymouth. Read counts Jim and Micah Calhoun as volunteers on a coaching staff that features former Bremen High School head coach and former Bremen grappler Travis Meister. “I don’t even need to be in the room, I know the kids are going hard,” says Read. “Those guys have made it easy for me. “I seek that wise counsel that the Bible talks about. I try to surround myself with those guys and it’s paid off over the years. “I wish I could tell you every decision I’ve made wrestling-wise is a correct decision and that every kid I’ve coach I’ve treated fairly and uprightly. I’ve made mistakes all over the place. But I hope that in the years that I’ve coached I’ve poured into more people in a positive way.” In his decades of coaching, Read has had wrestlers live with him and his family, which includes wife Karen, daughters Lane and Cari and son Matt, a state qualifier wrestler for Plymouth in 2003. Read’s bailed wrestlers out of jail. He’s helped them deal with divorce and the loss of loved ones. “As a coach, it’s more than wrestling,” says Read. “For me and my staff, it’s a ministry. That’s why we get along so well. “My faith is really important to me.” Read keeps a list of people who have qualities or characteristics that he seeks when he needs help in life. Using examples from the Bible, he looks for those who are like Paul (“somebody who is going to pour into you and teach you what it’s like to be the man of character”), Barnabas (“a guy who walks with people because they are in the same season in life”) and Timothy (“someone who you pour into”). His father James is one of those people on his list. “Not many men don’t have cracks some place,” says Read. “My dad is a man that doesn’t have cracks.” James Read, 89, are partners in a business — J.B. Fish. When Bob retired from the class room in 2014, he and his father started raising fish in a 14,000-gallon tank. At first, it was striped bass and now it’s tilapia. “We raise our own brood — from eggs to selling them live,” says Read. “They start out in aquariums, we move them along and they finish in larger tanks. We sell them at a pound 3/4 or bigger. It takes about 11 months to finish them out.” Read and his coaches show their wrestlers plenty of finishing moves and insist that everybody develops go-to maneuvers that they trust and can execute. “When you’ve been at the sport as long as I have what happens is you see a go-to move for a bunch of kids,” says Read. “Then they develop counters and everybody is looking for that (move). They starred to fade away from that. That sits the archives for years then — all of a sudden — it starts coming back. “I’ll say ‘this is what we did years and years ago’ and bring out some old moves.” Why is it important to have a “bag of tricks”? “Not everybody has quick feet,” says Read. “I wrestled after college in a number of big tournaments and learned that I couldn’t move my feet fast enough to sprawl. But I could change levels and bump with my hips.” It’s a matter of identifying the wrestler’s capabilities. “I have a kid who’s extremely explosive so we’re going to give him stuff he can use,” says Read. “Most of are kids aren’t so we’ve got to come in tight and control things. “Our off-season and in-season weight program is important to us. We want to be strong enough that we can compete with people. We believe that if we’re not in great shape that we’re going to struggle so we work on being in great shape. Our kids know it and they work hard at it.” Like many teams are the state, Plymouth’s number are down a little bit. “I think it has something to do with where we’re at in society and it’s sad,” says Read. “It’s a great sport and there’s so many lessons to be learned.” Graham Calhoun continues to learn those learning those lessons. View full article
  15. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Heavyweight wrestler Alex Cartwright was very close to representing LaVille High School at the IHSAA State Finals in 2016-17. An overtime loss in the East Chicago Semistate “ticket” round separated the big Lancer from appearing on the mats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Cartwright took part in his first state tournament series as a sophomore and won the 285-pound title at the LaPorte Sectional, pinning his last two opponents. He placed second at the Crown Point Regional, defaulting in the finals because of a neck injury. At East Chicago, he won his first match then lost in overtime to Merrillville’s Brandon Streck. “It was kind of a kick in the butt,” says Cartwright of the narrow defeat that denied him a trip to Indy. “I was wrestling kind of nervous. That’s when I learned you can’t let things get in your head. You’ve just got to go when it’s your time. It’s been kind of motivational. I’ve got my head right this year.” The best opponent he saw last season? Cartwright says it’s Chesterton’s Eli Pokorney, who he beat 7-5 at the Knox Super Dual. Back for his junior season in 2017-18, Cartwright is ranked among Indiana’s top 285-pounders. He is currently No. 6. But he doesn’t dwell on it. “You never want to get ahead of yourself,” says Cartwright. “I just think of it as a number.” Alex is the “baby” in Clyde and Shirley’s family of eight. There are four boys and two girls. Alex’s brothers are Corian Correll, Chris Cartwright and Tom Cartwright. Their sisters are Lindsay Scott and Alison Cartwright. Alex first got interested in the sport by watching big bro Corian, participated as a sixth grader and then came back as a freshman heavyweight. Correll grappled at 195 for LaVille, graduating in 2016 and is now a part of the coaching staff. “He’s taught me a lot of about throwing and a lot about the basics, the necessities of wrestling,” says Alex of Corian. Learning throws from Corian and by attending a Greco-Roman camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on the Northern Michigan University campus in Marquette, Mich., last summer (one of his opponents was Colton Schultz, who recently became the first American to win a cadet Greco-Roman world title in 20 years), Cartwright has added to his arsenal. While Corian does spar some with Cartwright (who tipped the scales at the season-opening Jimtown Super Dual Saturday, Dec. 2 at 275 pounds), it’s 220-pound junior Anthony Hatter that serves as his workout partner. “We do a lot of drilling,” says Hatter. “I teach him things and he helps me work with my moves. “He’s been working on technique and speed. There’s some quick heavyweights and he’s one of them.” Cartwright is a mobile big man. “I shoot and not a lot of heavyweights do,” says Cartwright. “It’s a mixture of speed and strength. It takes a lot of strength to get your shot fully in.” Cartwright remembers the words of former assistant coach Ronnie McCollough. “He taught to be more aggressive,” says Cartwright. “Even when you’re on bottom, you don’t sit. You’ve got to move. Just simple things that stick in my mind as a wrestler.” For his post-high school future, Cartwright is considering two diverse career possibilities. “I’m looking at going to Seattle for schooling in under-water welding or going local for marketing and business. “I’ve been looking into (under-water welding). It looks really enjoyable.” Cartwright has done dry-land welding in his agriculture power class at LaVille. Current Lancers head coach Sean Webb talks about Cartwright’s improvement on the mat. “His work ethic has been a lot better,” says Webb, who had been working as a wrestling official and stepped in to run the program when Mike Bottorff had to back off because of health issues. “He’s working really hard and figuring out how to beat the buys he lost to last year this year. He’s trying to do that now rather than later.” “He knows what he needs to do. Now I’ve just got to push him harder and harder to make sure he doesn’t go out in overtime and he finishes that match.” Webb, who wrestled for LaVille for four seasons, bumping up in weight each year from 103 to 112 to 119 to 125 for his senior season in 2011, stresses being in proper position then helps tailor a style for each of his athletes. “The one thing about wrestling is when you keep your stance and keep your hips set and ready to go — in position, as we like to call it — we can ready think about what kind of moves we can do.” Bottorff was head coach for 26 years. This past year, he suffered a stroke. Three weeks after leaving the hospital he contracted endocarditis, a blood disease that causes inflammation of the heart’s inner lining. He went for daily treatments for two months and then had a heart check. Having received a mechanical valve in 2007. The next day he was at a wrestling meet. Three times that year, he had to have his heart shocked back into rhythm. Ten year later, Bottorff went in for another heart procedure. “Now, I have two mechanical valves and it’s hard for me to get my strength back,” says Bottorff, who was at the Jimtown Super Dual. “I can’t lift over 20 pounds right now. I kneel down on the mat with the kids and I can’t get back up from that. “I just had to give it up. My health and seeing my grandkids is more important.” A 1970 LaVille graduate, Bottorff went to college to play basketball. He came back home and joined the football coaching staff at his alma mater when a need popped up in the wrestling program. He was eventually convinced to take it over. “For three years in a row, I said “no. I know nothing about it,” says Bottoff, who left coaching 16 dual-meet wins shy of 400. “I’ve been here ever since.” Under the advisement of his heart doctor and his wife of 16 years — Nancy — he is not supposed to get excited or stressed. He had his heart shocked back into rhythm two weeks ago. “I told the kids I’ll be here to watch them and root them on,” says Bottorff. “My wife says I’m allowed to do that but if she hears me yelling and screaming and getting upset over anything, she won’t let me do it anymore.” Bottorff enjoyed coaching so much because of the relationship he built with kids. He is hoping for big things from Cartwright. “He’s a kid you want on your team because he says ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’” says Bottorff. “If he does something wrong and you tell him about it, he says ‘OK.’ He never has an excuse. That goes for wrestling or anything. His mom and dad brought him up right. He’s a perfect kid.” Bottorff does wish Armstrong and Hatter would take to the gridiron. “I’ve twisted the arms of Armstrong and Hatter in attempt to get them to play football,” says Bottorff. “They’re two of the strongest kids in the school. “LaVille is a small school and we need three-sport athletes. I do my best to try to talk them into it.”
  16. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Heavyweight wrestler Alex Cartwright was very close to representing LaVille High School at the IHSAA State Finals in 2016-17. An overtime loss in the East Chicago Semistate “ticket” round separated the big Lancer from appearing on the mats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Cartwright took part in his first state tournament series as a sophomore and won the 285-pound title at the LaPorte Sectional, pinning his last two opponents. He placed second at the Crown Point Regional, defaulting in the finals because of a neck injury. At East Chicago, he won his first match then lost in overtime to Merrillville’s Brandon Streck. “It was kind of a kick in the butt,” says Cartwright of the narrow defeat that denied him a trip to Indy. “I was wrestling kind of nervous. That’s when I learned you can’t let things get in your head. You’ve just got to go when it’s your time. It’s been kind of motivational. I’ve got my head right this year.” The best opponent he saw last season? Cartwright says it’s Chesterton’s Eli Pokorney, who he beat 7-5 at the Knox Super Dual. Back for his junior season in 2017-18, Cartwright is ranked among Indiana’s top 285-pounders. He is currently No. 6. But he doesn’t dwell on it. “You never want to get ahead of yourself,” says Cartwright. “I just think of it as a number.” Alex is the “baby” in Clyde and Shirley’s family of eight. There are four boys and two girls. Alex’s brothers are Corian Correll, Chris Cartwright and Tom Cartwright. Their sisters are Lindsay Scott and Alison Cartwright. Alex first got interested in the sport by watching big bro Corian, participated as a sixth grader and then came back as a freshman heavyweight. Correll grappled at 195 for LaVille, graduating in 2016 and is now a part of the coaching staff. “He’s taught me a lot of about throwing and a lot about the basics, the necessities of wrestling,” says Alex of Corian. Learning throws from Corian and by attending a Greco-Roman camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on the Northern Michigan University campus in Marquette, Mich., last summer (one of his opponents was Colton Schultz, who recently became the first American to win a cadet Greco-Roman world title in 20 years), Cartwright has added to his arsenal. While Corian does spar some with Cartwright (who tipped the scales at the season-opening Jimtown Super Dual Saturday, Dec. 2 at 275 pounds), it’s 220-pound junior Anthony Hatter that serves as his workout partner. “We do a lot of drilling,” says Hatter. “I teach him things and he helps me work with my moves. “He’s been working on technique and speed. There’s some quick heavyweights and he’s one of them.” Cartwright is a mobile big man. “I shoot and not a lot of heavyweights do,” says Cartwright. “It’s a mixture of speed and strength. It takes a lot of strength to get your shot fully in.” Cartwright remembers the words of former assistant coach Ronnie McCollough. “He taught to be more aggressive,” says Cartwright. “Even when you’re on bottom, you don’t sit. You’ve got to move. Just simple things that stick in my mind as a wrestler.” For his post-high school future, Cartwright is considering two diverse career possibilities. “I’m looking at going to Seattle for schooling in under-water welding or going local for marketing and business. “I’ve been looking into (under-water welding). It looks really enjoyable.” Cartwright has done dry-land welding in his agriculture power class at LaVille. Current Lancers head coach Sean Webb talks about Cartwright’s improvement on the mat. “His work ethic has been a lot better,” says Webb, who had been working as a wrestling official and stepped in to run the program when Mike Bottorff had to back off because of health issues. “He’s working really hard and figuring out how to beat the buys he lost to last year this year. He’s trying to do that now rather than later.” “He knows what he needs to do. Now I’ve just got to push him harder and harder to make sure he doesn’t go out in overtime and he finishes that match.” Webb, who wrestled for LaVille for four seasons, bumping up in weight each year from 103 to 112 to 119 to 125 for his senior season in 2011, stresses being in proper position then helps tailor a style for each of his athletes. “The one thing about wrestling is when you keep your stance and keep your hips set and ready to go — in position, as we like to call it — we can ready think about what kind of moves we can do.” Bottorff was head coach for 26 years. This past year, he suffered a stroke. Three weeks after leaving the hospital he contracted endocarditis, a blood disease that causes inflammation of the heart’s inner lining. He went for daily treatments for two months and then had a heart check. Having received a mechanical valve in 2007. The next day he was at a wrestling meet. Three times that year, he had to have his heart shocked back into rhythm. Ten year later, Bottorff went in for another heart procedure. “Now, I have two mechanical valves and it’s hard for me to get my strength back,” says Bottorff, who was at the Jimtown Super Dual. “I can’t lift over 20 pounds right now. I kneel down on the mat with the kids and I can’t get back up from that. “I just had to give it up. My health and seeing my grandkids is more important.” A 1970 LaVille graduate, Bottorff went to college to play basketball. He came back home and joined the football coaching staff at his alma mater when a need popped up in the wrestling program. He was eventually convinced to take it over. “For three years in a row, I said “no. I know nothing about it,” says Bottoff, who left coaching 16 dual-meet wins shy of 400. “I’ve been here ever since.” Under the advisement of his heart doctor and his wife of 16 years — Nancy — he is not supposed to get excited or stressed. He had his heart shocked back into rhythm two weeks ago. “I told the kids I’ll be here to watch them and root them on,” says Bottorff. “My wife says I’m allowed to do that but if she hears me yelling and screaming and getting upset over anything, she won’t let me do it anymore.” Bottorff enjoyed coaching so much because of the relationship he built with kids. He is hoping for big things from Cartwright. “He’s a kid you want on your team because he says ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’” says Bottorff. “If he does something wrong and you tell him about it, he says ‘OK.’ He never has an excuse. That goes for wrestling or anything. His mom and dad brought him up right. He’s a perfect kid.” Bottorff does wish Armstrong and Hatter would take to the gridiron. “I’ve twisted the arms of Armstrong and Hatter in attempt to get them to play football,” says Bottorff. “They’re two of the strongest kids in the school. “LaVille is a small school and we need three-sport athletes. I do my best to try to talk them into it.” View full article
  17. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com A willingness to work toward constant improvement has helped raise Elkhart Central High School’s wrestling profile on the bigger stage. The 2016-17 Blue Blazers forged an 11-5 dual-meet record, beat crosstown rival Elkhart Memorial in a dual meet for the first time in many years then raised an Elkhart Sectional team trophy for the first time in 28. With Nick Conner (285 pounds), Tykease Baker (160) and Xander Stroud (145) winning their respective weight classes Blue Blazers edged Northridge by two points. It was the ECHS program’s first sectional team title since 1989. The Blazers won the sectional with a come-from-behind pin victory in a consolation match. “It takes a lot of team effort,” says Central head coach Zach Whickcar, now in his sixth season of leading the wrestling program at his alma mater. He grappled for four seasons, graduating in 2006. “Everybody needs to pull their weight. “We won sectional with 14 guys, but it was the 14 behind them were every bit as important. They needed someone to practice with.” “It’s been a total buy-in. We took 11 kids to the Jeff Jordan’s State Champ Camp (during the high school off-season). The kids genuinely like being around each other. “It’s consistency and being present that gets you to where you want to be.” While they want to win during the regular, everything the Blazers do is focused toward the postseason. “I’m always telling them that we want to be peaking at sectionals,” says Whickcar. “We want to put out a product that’s competitive. But we want to do what is best for the kids. We want to win a sectional (team title) and we want to do well (as individuals) in the state tournament.” Since Whickcar took over as head coach for the 2012-13 season (the Blazers were 2-16 in duals that year), Central has produced five IHSAA State Finals qualifiers — Johnny Tredway (eighth place at 160 pounds in 2013), Eliseo Guerra (sixth at 220 in both 2014 and 2015), Stroud (eighth at 145 in 2017) and Chaz Boyd (did not place at 138 in 2017). Whickcar calls Stroud a “mat junkie.” “He’s always wrestling,” says Whickcar of a grappler who regularly attends Indiana State Wrestling Association Regional Training Center sessions at Jimtown High School and Midwest Extreme Wrestling Club events at Penn High School besides going to places like Virginia Beach and the Iowa Nationals during the summer. “He takes advantage of those opportunities.” Stroud said competing in big tournaments has one effect and practicing against good wrestlers has a another. “The wrestling is done in the RTC’s,” says Stroud. “The tournaments help you with your mindset. It’s about not being worried about who you are facing and just working on your stuff. You wrestle like how you want to wrestle. “It’s just you wrestling that other kid.” Plenty of time in the circle has led to acute mat awareness for Stroud. “He has a real feel for what he needs to do,” says Whickcar. “Like all of our wrestlers, he is able to find a couple of good things he is good at and uses them. He has pretty good leg attacks. But he definitely can get better.” The wrestler talks about what mat awareness means to him. “Where I’m at on the mat and the moves I chose to make depends on where I’m at,” says Stroud. “If I’m we’re the outer edge of the mat and I’m on the inside part of the mat and he’s closer to the line, I might shoot him out to get him out-of-bounds to re-set my position to the center.” “Or maybe he has my leg, I’ll watch my position and step out so we can re-set and go back to the center.” A rule change this season also allows wrestlers to get pins outside the circle. Before they could get “back” points but not falls. “You still have to have a supporting part (of your body) inbounds,” says Stroud. “Now you can go for a pin instead of just getting points. “You have to really watch your position more now since you can get pinned out-of-bounds.” The current Central lineup features Sean Johnson (106), Eric Garcia (113), Brad Felder (120), Jacob Hess (126), Tony Lopez (132), Raul Martinez (138), Peyton Anderson or Austin Garcia (145), Nathan Dibley (152), Xander Stroud (160), Carlos Fortoso (170), Peterson Ngo (182), Alex Lucias (195), Omar Perez (220) and Nick Conner (285). Stroud, Conner, Lucias, Martinez, Perez and Ngo (back after wrestling for Central as a sophomore) are seniors leading the 2017-18 Blazers. “Those six seniors have busted their butt,” says Whickcar. “They love the sport.” Stroud, who is planning to study biomedical engineering in college and may wrestle at the next level, says he prefers to lead by example. “Omar Perez and Alex Lucias — They are pretty vocal,” says Stroud. “I only yell when I have to. “Our team is pretty good about doing what they are supposed to (be doing). During the season, we do larger things. At the end of the season, we fine-tune things. That’s when you want to peak — at the end of the season.” The Blazers opened the 2017-18 varsity season Saturday, Nov. 25 by placing second to Central Noble at the Elkhart Central Turkey Duals. Before the New Year, the Blazers have home dual meets slated against Northridge Dec. 5 and Mishawaka Dec. 7. Then comes the Jim Nicholson Charger Invitational at Elkhart Memorial Dec. 9 and dual meets at Elkhart Memorial Dec. 12 and South Bend Adams Dec. 14 followed by the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka Dec. 29-30. Coming down the stretch of the regular season, there’s a dual at Penn Jan. 4, East Noble Invitational Jan. 6, Northern Indiana Conference meet Jan. 13 and dual at Jimtown Jan. 18. Besides Whickcar, ECHS wrestlers are pushed by a coaching staff with Central graduates Abe Que, Trevor Echartea and Zack Kurtz, Elkhart Memorial graduates Carson Sappington and Steven Vergonet and Concord graduate Brian Pfeil.
  18. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com A willingness to work toward constant improvement has helped raise Elkhart Central High School’s wrestling profile on the bigger stage. The 2016-17 Blue Blazers forged an 11-5 dual-meet record, beat crosstown rival Elkhart Memorial in a dual meet for the first time in many years then raised an Elkhart Sectional team trophy for the first time in 28. With Nick Conner (285 pounds), Tykease Baker (160) and Xander Stroud (145) winning their respective weight classes Blue Blazers edged Northridge by two points. It was the ECHS program’s first sectional team title since 1989. The Blazers won the sectional with a come-from-behind pin victory in a consolation match. “It takes a lot of team effort,” says Central head coach Zach Whickcar, now in his sixth season of leading the wrestling program at his alma mater. He grappled for four seasons, graduating in 2006. “Everybody needs to pull their weight. “We won sectional with 14 guys, but it was the 14 behind them were every bit as important. They needed someone to practice with.” “It’s been a total buy-in. We took 11 kids to the Jeff Jordan’s State Champ Camp (during the high school off-season). The kids genuinely like being around each other. “It’s consistency and being present that gets you to where you want to be.” While they want to win during the regular, everything the Blazers do is focused toward the postseason. “I’m always telling them that we want to be peaking at sectionals,” says Whickcar. “We want to put out a product that’s competitive. But we want to do what is best for the kids. We want to win a sectional (team title) and we want to do well (as individuals) in the state tournament.” Since Whickcar took over as head coach for the 2012-13 season (the Blazers were 2-16 in duals that year), Central has produced five IHSAA State Finals qualifiers — Johnny Tredway (eighth place at 160 pounds in 2013), Eliseo Guerra (sixth at 220 in both 2014 and 2015), Stroud (eighth at 145 in 2017) and Chaz Boyd (did not place at 138 in 2017). Whickcar calls Stroud a “mat junkie.” “He’s always wrestling,” says Whickcar of a grappler who regularly attends Indiana State Wrestling Association Regional Training Center sessions at Jimtown High School and Midwest Extreme Wrestling Club events at Penn High School besides going to places like Virginia Beach and the Iowa Nationals during the summer. “He takes advantage of those opportunities.” Stroud said competing in big tournaments has one effect and practicing against good wrestlers has a another. “The wrestling is done in the RTC’s,” says Stroud. “The tournaments help you with your mindset. It’s about not being worried about who you are facing and just working on your stuff. You wrestle like how you want to wrestle. “It’s just you wrestling that other kid.” Plenty of time in the circle has led to acute mat awareness for Stroud. “He has a real feel for what he needs to do,” says Whickcar. “Like all of our wrestlers, he is able to find a couple of good things he is good at and uses them. He has pretty good leg attacks. But he definitely can get better.” The wrestler talks about what mat awareness means to him. “Where I’m at on the mat and the moves I chose to make depends on where I’m at,” says Stroud. “If I’m we’re the outer edge of the mat and I’m on the inside part of the mat and he’s closer to the line, I might shoot him out to get him out-of-bounds to re-set my position to the center.” “Or maybe he has my leg, I’ll watch my position and step out so we can re-set and go back to the center.” A rule change this season also allows wrestlers to get pins outside the circle. Before they could get “back” points but not falls. “You still have to have a supporting part (of your body) inbounds,” says Stroud. “Now you can go for a pin instead of just getting points. “You have to really watch your position more now since you can get pinned out-of-bounds.” The current Central lineup features Sean Johnson (106), Eric Garcia (113), Brad Felder (120), Jacob Hess (126), Tony Lopez (132), Raul Martinez (138), Peyton Anderson or Austin Garcia (145), Nathan Dibley (152), Xander Stroud (160), Carlos Fortoso (170), Peterson Ngo (182), Alex Lucias (195), Omar Perez (220) and Nick Conner (285). Stroud, Conner, Lucias, Martinez, Perez and Ngo (back after wrestling for Central as a sophomore) are seniors leading the 2017-18 Blazers. “Those six seniors have busted their butt,” says Whickcar. “They love the sport.” Stroud, who is planning to study biomedical engineering in college and may wrestle at the next level, says he prefers to lead by example. “Omar Perez and Alex Lucias — They are pretty vocal,” says Stroud. “I only yell when I have to. “Our team is pretty good about doing what they are supposed to (be doing). During the season, we do larger things. At the end of the season, we fine-tune things. That’s when you want to peak — at the end of the season.” The Blazers opened the 2017-18 varsity season Saturday, Nov. 25 by placing second to Central Noble at the Elkhart Central Turkey Duals. Before the New Year, the Blazers have home dual meets slated against Northridge Dec. 5 and Mishawaka Dec. 7. Then comes the Jim Nicholson Charger Invitational at Elkhart Memorial Dec. 9 and dual meets at Elkhart Memorial Dec. 12 and South Bend Adams Dec. 14 followed by the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka Dec. 29-30. Coming down the stretch of the regular season, there’s a dual at Penn Jan. 4, East Noble Invitational Jan. 6, Northern Indiana Conference meet Jan. 13 and dual at Jimtown Jan. 18. Besides Whickcar, ECHS wrestlers are pushed by a coaching staff with Central graduates Abe Que, Trevor Echartea and Zack Kurtz, Elkhart Memorial graduates Carson Sappington and Steven Vergonet and Concord graduate Brian Pfeil. View full article
  19. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Evan Ellis is studious in more ways than one. The unbeaten heavyweight wrestler from Eastern High School in Greentown is a student of the sport. “I watch 20 hours of FloWrestling a week,” Ellis said. “I’m watching the Big Ten. I’m watching different things. I’ve just infatuated myself with (wrestling).” After placing eighth in 2015 and third in 2016 at 220, Ellis has has qualified for his third straight IHSAA State Finals (he drew 28-8 senior Brendan Sutton of Jennings County in the first round at 285 on Friday, Feb. 17 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis). No. 2-ranked Ellis (44-0) is one of three unbeatens in the 285-pound class. South Bend Washington junior Isaiah McWilliams (50-0 and ranked No. 1) and Mt. Vernon senior Wade Ripple (49-0 and ranked No. 3) are the others. After bowing out 3-2 in the “ticket” round at the Fort Wayne Semistate as a freshman, Ellis started pouring it on, not only during the high school season, but in the summers. He placed second in the Cadet Folkstyle Nationals in 2014 and second at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals, fourth at the Junior Folkstyle Nationals and eighth and the Super 32 in 2015. But Ellis is also an exceptional student in the scholastic sense as evidenced by his being accepted to Ivy League school Brown University in Providence, R.I. He plans to wrestle for the Bears beginning in 2017-18. According to U.S. News & World Report, Brown has one of the lowest acceptance rates of colleges and universities in the country. It was 9 percent in 2015. “They were the very first school to send me a letter,” Ellis said. “We were preparing for the Super 32 my sophomore year, they sent a letter just wanted to ‘Hi! We see want you’ve done. We see you’re academic all-state. Then they just went away for awhile.” As the sophomore and junior years went by, Ellis got better and better in his wrestling and his academics and Brown became persistent in its recruit of the big Comet who enjoys his Advanced Placement curriculum at Eastern. “Finally, we got an official visit set up,” Ellis said. “I just love in out there. It’s a great atmosphere for learning, but the wrestling team has a lot of special things going on as well.” Led by head coach Todd Beckerman, Brown is part of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. What made Ellis better on the mat? “I had to change my lifestyle,” Ellis said. “If this is really what I wanted to do, I had to make changes. I was good for our area and I was decent for our state. But I just wanted to pursue it deeper. I had a burning sensation to just be dominant.” Ellis decided to give up football and track and focus on wrestling. “I consumed myself with it,” Ellis said. “It was hard. I had to give up a lot. But I knew I wanted to be the guy and it was going to take a lot of work.” Ellis cut fast food out of his diet, even in the off-season. “My family even changed with me,” Ellis said of father Rodney, mother Amy and sister Olivia. “We went with organic and no hormones. They spent that extra money for me to eat like this. I’ve been lifting (weights) all the time. “In the summer, it’s hot. You just want to lie around the house and play some Xbox. But I got up at 6 a.m. and worked out.” Ellis is thankful for a family that has traveled all over the country while he pursued his wrestling dreams. “They’ve spent a fortune,” Ellis said. “We’ve been from border and border. Without their sacrifice, there’s no way I’d be where I am. They just wanted to give me the opportunity to be the best I could be. “It’s a whole new level of confidence. I’ve been in so much time in the off-season. I’m just anxious to get out there and dominate.” Ellis is coached by an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer in Bob Jarrett. He is in his eighth season at Eastern. He spent 24 years at Western in nearby Russiaville and came out of retirement after an eight-year hiatus. “He’s just a kid that’s put in the time and effort,” Jarrett said of Ellis. “He’s been doing it since grade school. “I think he’s good enough to win it all (at the State Finals), but that doesn’t mean he can’t be beat. He works extremely hard . He had a great attitude and he’s a smart kid, obviously.” Jarrett said that Ellis, who weighs around 240 pounds, has succeed as a bigger wrestler because from a young age he has been willing to work some moves usually employed by smaller grapplers. “We’ve worked on wrestling moves while other heavyweights have just kind of leaned on each other,” Jarrett said. “They push and shove. He was doing little-guy moves and it’s really helped him in the long run.”
  20. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Evan Ellis is studious in more ways than one. The unbeaten heavyweight wrestler from Eastern High School in Greentown is a student of the sport. “I watch 20 hours of FloWrestling a week,” Ellis said. “I’m watching the Big Ten. I’m watching different things. I’ve just infatuated myself with (wrestling).” After placing eighth in 2015 and third in 2016 at 220, Ellis has has qualified for his third straight IHSAA State Finals (he drew 28-8 senior Brendan Sutton of Jennings County in the first round at 285 on Friday, Feb. 17 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis). No. 2-ranked Ellis (44-0) is one of three unbeatens in the 285-pound class. South Bend Washington junior Isaiah McWilliams (50-0 and ranked No. 1) and Mt. Vernon senior Wade Ripple (49-0 and ranked No. 3) are the others. After bowing out 3-2 in the “ticket” round at the Fort Wayne Semistate as a freshman, Ellis started pouring it on, not only during the high school season, but in the summers. He placed second in the Cadet Folkstyle Nationals in 2014 and second at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals, fourth at the Junior Folkstyle Nationals and eighth and the Super 32 in 2015. But Ellis is also an exceptional student in the scholastic sense as evidenced by his being accepted to Ivy League school Brown University in Providence, R.I. He plans to wrestle for the Bears beginning in 2017-18. According to U.S. News & World Report, Brown has one of the lowest acceptance rates of colleges and universities in the country. It was 9 percent in 2015. “They were the very first school to send me a letter,” Ellis said. “We were preparing for the Super 32 my sophomore year, they sent a letter just wanted to ‘Hi! We see want you’ve done. We see you’re academic all-state. Then they just went away for awhile.” As the sophomore and junior years went by, Ellis got better and better in his wrestling and his academics and Brown became persistent in its recruit of the big Comet who enjoys his Advanced Placement curriculum at Eastern. “Finally, we got an official visit set up,” Ellis said. “I just love in out there. It’s a great atmosphere for learning, but the wrestling team has a lot of special things going on as well.” Led by head coach Todd Beckerman, Brown is part of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. What made Ellis better on the mat? “I had to change my lifestyle,” Ellis said. “If this is really what I wanted to do, I had to make changes. I was good for our area and I was decent for our state. But I just wanted to pursue it deeper. I had a burning sensation to just be dominant.” Ellis decided to give up football and track and focus on wrestling. “I consumed myself with it,” Ellis said. “It was hard. I had to give up a lot. But I knew I wanted to be the guy and it was going to take a lot of work.” Ellis cut fast food out of his diet, even in the off-season. “My family even changed with me,” Ellis said of father Rodney, mother Amy and sister Olivia. “We went with organic and no hormones. They spent that extra money for me to eat like this. I’ve been lifting (weights) all the time. “In the summer, it’s hot. You just want to lie around the house and play some Xbox. But I got up at 6 a.m. and worked out.” Ellis is thankful for a family that has traveled all over the country while he pursued his wrestling dreams. “They’ve spent a fortune,” Ellis said. “We’ve been from border and border. Without their sacrifice, there’s no way I’d be where I am. They just wanted to give me the opportunity to be the best I could be. “It’s a whole new level of confidence. I’ve been in so much time in the off-season. I’m just anxious to get out there and dominate.” Ellis is coached by an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer in Bob Jarrett. He is in his eighth season at Eastern. He spent 24 years at Western in nearby Russiaville and came out of retirement after an eight-year hiatus. “He’s just a kid that’s put in the time and effort,” Jarrett said of Ellis. “He’s been doing it since grade school. “I think he’s good enough to win it all (at the State Finals), but that doesn’t mean he can’t be beat. He works extremely hard . He had a great attitude and he’s a smart kid, obviously.” Jarrett said that Ellis, who weighs around 240 pounds, has succeed as a bigger wrestler because from a young age he has been willing to work some moves usually employed by smaller grapplers. “We’ve worked on wrestling moves while other heavyweights have just kind of leaned on each other,” Jarrett said. “They push and shove. He was doing little-guy moves and it’s really helped him in the long run.” Click here to view the article
  21. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Mighty in achievement if not mighty in size. That describes Central Noble High School’s wrestling program. The Cougars went 15-8 in 2016-17 dual meets and earned the school’s first sectional runner-up finish, trailing perennial powerhouse Prairie Heights at Westview while sending 10 to the Goshen Regional, where the squad finished 10th and advanced two to the Feb. 11 Fort Wayne Semistate. In December, Central Noble placed eighth in the Indiana High School Wrestling Association Team State Duals. The school was there for the second time in three seasons. If not for a disappointing day at the 2015 sectional, the Cougars might have gone three straight years. “(Team State Duals) gives us a chance as smaller schools to showcase ourselves. Getting 10 underclassmen to regional (in 2016-17), we’re in pretty good shape to go back again,” says Central Noble head coach Chuck Fleshman, the 1989 CNHS graduate who has served in various capacities in the program for 27 years (among those he’s coached are current Center Grove head coach Cale Hoover). “We talk about that. I’m an honest coach. We don’t have a state champion on our team. We’re not at that level. But I’ve got a couple who might medal (at the State Finals) if they put that work in.” Watching his wrestlers at the high school and junior high at the past few years, Fleshman knew the Cougars could be pretty good. “We’ve been seeing this coming,” says Fleshman. “I’ve got a lot of kids that put in the time in the off-season. “That’s a positive.” Instead of just one or two, about a half dozen wrestlers spent last summer at tournaments and in training. This at a small school where eight of 21 wrestlers are three-sport athletes. “It’s hard to focus on wrestling like some of the bigger schools,” says Fleshman, who counts Josh Dull, Randy Handshoe, Jonathan Pearson, Andrew Pyle and Tyler Rimmel as assistant coaches. “I’ve got a good group. They’re buying into what we’re coaching and teaching.” It’s all about the discipline to make weight through Thanksgiving and Christmas and beyond and all the grueling workouts in Central Noble’s three-tiered converted cafeteria of a wrestling room that make the Cougars a success inside the circle. When you are among the smaller schools on the scene, depth is a rarity. Even schools with a considerably higher enrollment than the just over 400 of Central Noble struggles to fill all 14 weight classes. While the Cougars did not have a 106-pounder for most of the season, there was plenty of competition in the wrestling room for many other varsity spots. “This is first year I’ve ever had 21 kids,” says Fleshman. “Some of these older kids better watch out, they’ve got freshmen there to push them. “We’ve got a group of kids who have worked and want to work.” Those grapplers include: • Sophomore Tanner Schoeff (sectional champion, third at regional and a semistate qualifier at 113). • Junior Ray Clay (third in sectional and regional qualifier at 120). • Junior Austin Moore (sectional and regional champion and a semistate qualifier at 132). • Sophomore Jadon Crisp (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 138). • Junior Tadd Owen (third in sectional and regional qualifier at 152). • Junior Connor Mooney (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 160). • Freshman Austin McCullough (fourth in sectional and regional qualifier at 170). • Junior Jordan Winebrenner (fourth in sectional regional qualifier at 195). • Sophomore Levi Leffers (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 220). • Junior Jesse Sade (fourth in sectional and regional qualifier at 285). Sophomore Giran Kunkel might well have been in the mix after going 33-4 as a freshman, but he suffered an ACL injury before the season and did not get to compete.
  22. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Mighty in achievement if not mighty in size. That describes Central Noble High School’s wrestling program. The Cougars went 15-8 in 2016-17 dual meets and earned the school’s first sectional runner-up finish, trailing perennial powerhouse Prairie Heights at Westview while sending 10 to the Goshen Regional, where the squad finished 10th and advanced two to the Feb. 11 Fort Wayne Semistate. In December, Central Noble placed eighth in the Indiana High School Wrestling Association Team State Duals. The school was there for the second time in three seasons. If not for a disappointing day at the 2015 sectional, the Cougars might have gone three straight years. “(Team State Duals) gives us a chance as smaller schools to showcase ourselves. Getting 10 underclassmen to regional (in 2016-17), we’re in pretty good shape to go back again,” says Central Noble head coach Chuck Fleshman, the 1989 CNHS graduate who has served in various capacities in the program for 27 years (among those he’s coached are current Center Grove head coach Cale Hoover). “We talk about that. I’m an honest coach. We don’t have a state champion on our team. We’re not at that level. But I’ve got a couple who might medal (at the State Finals) if they put that work in.” Watching his wrestlers at the high school and junior high at the past few years, Fleshman knew the Cougars could be pretty good. “We’ve been seeing this coming,” says Fleshman. “I’ve got a lot of kids that put in the time in the off-season. “That’s a positive.” Instead of just one or two, about a half dozen wrestlers spent last summer at tournaments and in training. This at a small school where eight of 21 wrestlers are three-sport athletes. “It’s hard to focus on wrestling like some of the bigger schools,” says Fleshman, who counts Josh Dull, Randy Handshoe, Jonathan Pearson, Andrew Pyle and Tyler Rimmel as assistant coaches. “I’ve got a good group. They’re buying into what we’re coaching and teaching.” It’s all about the discipline to make weight through Thanksgiving and Christmas and beyond and all the grueling workouts in Central Noble’s three-tiered converted cafeteria of a wrestling room that make the Cougars a success inside the circle. When you are among the smaller schools on the scene, depth is a rarity. Even schools with a considerably higher enrollment than the just over 400 of Central Noble struggles to fill all 14 weight classes. While the Cougars did not have a 106-pounder for most of the season, there was plenty of competition in the wrestling room for many other varsity spots. “This is first year I’ve ever had 21 kids,” says Fleshman. “Some of these older kids better watch out, they’ve got freshmen there to push them. “We’ve got a group of kids who have worked and want to work.” Those grapplers include: • Sophomore Tanner Schoeff (sectional champion, third at regional and a semistate qualifier at 113). • Junior Ray Clay (third in sectional and regional qualifier at 120). • Junior Austin Moore (sectional and regional champion and a semistate qualifier at 132). • Sophomore Jadon Crisp (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 138). • Junior Tadd Owen (third in sectional and regional qualifier at 152). • Junior Connor Mooney (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 160). • Freshman Austin McCullough (fourth in sectional and regional qualifier at 170). • Junior Jordan Winebrenner (fourth in sectional regional qualifier at 195). • Sophomore Levi Leffers (sectional runner-up and regional qualifier at 220). • Junior Jesse Sade (fourth in sectional and regional qualifier at 285). Sophomore Giran Kunkel might well have been in the mix after going 33-4 as a freshman, but he suffered an ACL injury before the season and did not get to compete. Click here to view the article
  23. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Brendan Black has learned to deal with adversity during his many years on the mat and it’s made him a better wrestler. Now a Hobart High School senior, Black was introduced to the sport at 3. In his third season of competition, he made it to the freestyle state finals. “I completely got my butt whipped,” Black, the Indiana University verbal commit, said. “It was bad.” By third grade, Black placed third at the same tournament and has ascended from there. Even the rare setbacks have helped him. “Every time I’ve gotten a bad loss, it’s made me want to work harder and get better,” Black said. “When I lost to (Griffith’s) Jeremiah Reitz my sophomore year, I can tell that every time I lost to him, I was back in the gym right after the tournament. I did not take a break. I was so mad at myself.” So Black got back at it, drilling his moves, lifting weights and building up his cardiovascular system. “As long as I’m getting something in, I feel that is bettering me,” Black said. “As a senior, I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I’ve just been putting in the work. If I lose right now it’s not going to affect me. It’ll show me where I need to put work in.” A two-time freestyle state champion, Black said that kind of wrestling has made him better in positioning. “(Freestyle) helps me on my feet,” Black said. “I’ve always been a good wrestler on top and bottom. On my feet was my downfall. “In freestyle, if you don’t turn them within 10 seconds, they put you right up to your feet.” The athlete who has added muscle definition since last winter has already been on the IHSAA State Finals mats three times, placing third at 132 at a junior in 2016, qualifying at 120 as a sophomore in 2015 and finishing eighth at 120 as a freshman in 2014. Among his key wins in 2016-17 are a pin of Merrillville junior Griggs and decisions against Bloomington South sophomore Derek Blubaugh and Portage junior Kris Rumph. Black went into Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic ranked No. 1 in Indiana at 138. An injury caused him to forfeit in the semifinals and he was held out of the recent Lake County Tournament at Hanover Central. He is expected to be back for the Brickies in the postseason. Hobart head coach Alex Ramos, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, sees Black as both tenacious and savvy as a wrestler. “He never gives up,” Ramos said. “He goes out there knowing he’s going to be in a six-minute fight and he treats it like that every time. “I don’t think he undervalues any opponent. He’s always got his head in the right place.” Scrapping in practice each day with teammates and coaches up to 170 pounds, Black has stood up to many mat challenges. “Getting beat down does make you better,” Ramos said. “You’ve got to see where your limit is and figure out how to push past it. I think (Brendan) tries that every day. “He pushes himself to that limit so he can become a better wrestler, a better person.” Black, an honor roll student, is still searching for a college. He wants to pursue a degree in construction management with the goal of owning his own construction company. He has served as an apprentice to his uncle and is currently interning on the construction crew at Hobart Middle School. “I can’t sit behind a desk all day,” Black said. “I want to work with my hands and out doing something. Construction’s the way to go for me.” The current Hobart High team is built from a foundation started in the Hobart Wrestling Club — annually one of the biggest wrestling organization in Indiana — around second or third grade. “They figure it out early,” Ramos said. “They don’t come back if they don’t enjoy it. So we find those wrestlers that really love the sport. “There’s excitement. We started elementary duals this year.” A psychology teacher at Hobart, Ramos believes that he and his assistants should serve as role models for their wrestlers and wants his young athletes to learn life lessons. “If I can learn from the classroom and take it out on the mat, I will,” Ramos said. “I can promise you that.” Ramos, who takes over the lead roll on the Hobart coaching staff from IHSWCA Hall of Famer Steve Balash, was a two-time state champion (119 in 1999 and 125 in 2000) for the Brickies and held school records for pins (143) and wins (148) at the start of 2016-17. Ramos wrestled two seasons at Purdue University. Expectations are always set high at Hobart — higher than the athlete even thinks they can achieve. “One thing we always preach in our program that it’s not just about on the mat,” Ramos said. “Wrestling is one of the most transferable sports. What you learn in the room — to never give up, find your breaking point and push past it.”
  24. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Brendan Black has learned to deal with adversity during his many years on the mat and it’s made him a better wrestler. Now a Hobart High School senior, Black was introduced to the sport at 3. In his third season of competition, he made it to the freestyle state finals. “I completely got my butt whipped,” Black, the Indiana University verbal commit, said. “It was bad.” By third grade, Black placed third at the same tournament and has ascended from there. Even the rare setbacks have helped him. “Every time I’ve gotten a bad loss, it’s made me want to work harder and get better,” Black said. “When I lost to (Griffith’s) Jeremiah Reitz my sophomore year, I can tell that every time I lost to him, I was back in the gym right after the tournament. I did not take a break. I was so mad at myself.” So Black got back at it, drilling his moves, lifting weights and building up his cardiovascular system. “As long as I’m getting something in, I feel that is bettering me,” Black said. “As a senior, I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I’ve just been putting in the work. If I lose right now it’s not going to affect me. It’ll show me where I need to put work in.” A two-time freestyle state champion, Black said that kind of wrestling has made him better in positioning. “(Freestyle) helps me on my feet,” Black said. “I’ve always been a good wrestler on top and bottom. On my feet was my downfall. “In freestyle, if you don’t turn them within 10 seconds, they put you right up to your feet.” The athlete who has added muscle definition since last winter has already been on the IHSAA State Finals mats three times, placing third at 132 at a junior in 2016, qualifying at 120 as a sophomore in 2015 and finishing eighth at 120 as a freshman in 2014. Among his key wins in 2016-17 are a pin of Merrillville junior Griggs and decisions against Bloomington South sophomore Derek Blubaugh and Portage junior Kris Rumph. Black went into Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic ranked No. 1 in Indiana at 138. An injury caused him to forfeit in the semifinals and he was held out of the recent Lake County Tournament at Hanover Central. He is expected to be back for the Brickies in the postseason. Hobart head coach Alex Ramos, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, sees Black as both tenacious and savvy as a wrestler. “He never gives up,” Ramos said. “He goes out there knowing he’s going to be in a six-minute fight and he treats it like that every time. “I don’t think he undervalues any opponent. He’s always got his head in the right place.” Scrapping in practice each day with teammates and coaches up to 170 pounds, Black has stood up to many mat challenges. “Getting beat down does make you better,” Ramos said. “You’ve got to see where your limit is and figure out how to push past it. I think (Brendan) tries that every day. “He pushes himself to that limit so he can become a better wrestler, a better person.” Black, an honor roll student, is still searching for a college. He wants to pursue a degree in construction management with the goal of owning his own construction company. He has served as an apprentice to his uncle and is currently interning on the construction crew at Hobart Middle School. “I can’t sit behind a desk all day,” Black said. “I want to work with my hands and out doing something. Construction’s the way to go for me.” The current Hobart High team is built from a foundation started in the Hobart Wrestling Club — annually one of the biggest wrestling organization in Indiana — around second or third grade. “They figure it out early,” Ramos said. “They don’t come back if they don’t enjoy it. So we find those wrestlers that really love the sport. “There’s excitement. We started elementary duals this year.” A psychology teacher at Hobart, Ramos believes that he and his assistants should serve as role models for their wrestlers and wants his young athletes to learn life lessons. “If I can learn from the classroom and take it out on the mat, I will,” Ramos said. “I can promise you that.” Ramos, who takes over the lead roll on the Hobart coaching staff from IHSWCA Hall of Famer Steve Balash, was a two-time state champion (119 in 1999 and 125 in 2000) for the Brickies and held school records for pins (143) and wins (148) at the start of 2016-17. Ramos wrestled two seasons at Purdue University. Expectations are always set high at Hobart — higher than the athlete even thinks they can achieve. “One thing we always preach in our program that it’s not just about on the mat,” Ramos said. “Wrestling is one of the most transferable sports. What you learn in the room — to never give up, find your breaking point and push past it.” Click here to view the article
  25. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Merrillville High School has enjoyed many championships in David Maldonado’s 15 years as head wrestling coach. Since that first season in 2002-03, the Pirates have appeared in the IHSAA Team State Finals three times (2006, 2007 and 2008) and won 12 sectionals, seven regionals and four semistates as a team. Merrillville has had three top-three places for the Coaches Cup (team score at individual state tournament) on Maldonado’s watch with a third in 2005, second in 2006 and third in 2007. There have been nine individual state title-takers — junior Wesley English at 145 in 2005, senior Javier Salas at 119 in 2006, senior Dexter Latimore at heavyweight in 2006, senior Jamal Lawrence at 145 in 2007, sophomore Bobby Stevenson at 170 in 2013, junior Jacob Covaciu at 145 in 2015, junior Shawn Streck at heavyweight in 2015, senior Jacob Covaciu at 160 in 2016 and senior Shawn Streck at heavyweight in 2016. Latimore (heavyweight) and Lawrence (145) were senior national champions in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Streck (Purdue) and Covaciu (Wisconsin) moved on the college wrestling. The number of state qualifiers during Maldonado’s time at Merrillville is 68. Including his time at Noll, Maldonado went into the 2016-17 season with a dual-meet record of 301-86, including 261-46 with the Pirates. But that’s not the only way to define success for Maldonado, himself a state champion at 130 as a junior in 1993 and state runner-up at 135 as a senior in 1994 at East Chicago Central. David Maldonado, a member of the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame as an individual (along with brother Billy) and as part of the famed Maldonado family (six of David’s uncles and several cousins, sons and nephews have been or are wrestlers), gets as much satisfaction for the relationships built and life lessons taught as the crisply-executed headlocks and underhooks. For the Merrillville coaching staff, which also features Gene Bierman, Bobby Joe Maldonado, Paul Maldonado, Tim Maldonado, Joe Atria and Tom Kelly, wrestling does not only build character, it reveals it. “We work every match to get better,” Maldonado said. “That’s all the matters. As long as we do that, everything else will take care of itself. The medals, awards stand, all that stuff takes care of itself. “For some kids, it happens sooner. For some kids, it happens later.” Years ago, Maldonado got into the habit of addressing each of his wrestlers immediately after their match. It could be a high-five, a word of encouragement or a constructive criticism. He wants the wrestler — and the wrestler’s parents — to know that he cares. A son to parents born in Mexico who teaches Spanish at Merrillville, Maldonado also builds these relationships in the classroom. “We’re all in this together,” Maldonado said. “Let’s communicate. Some coaches and teachers are afraid to call home and talk to parents. I’m not.” Maldonado, who was also a folkstyle senior nationals champion as a high schooler and then placed third twice and second once in the Big 12 Conference while grappling for Iowa State University and placing second at two more freestyle nationals, takes time every week to talk with parents. It’s a lesson he learned from his coach at Iowa State — Bobby Douglas, a former NCAA champion and Olympian. “Those little things that coaches do to help,” Maldonado said. “More than anything else, you need to build that relationship with kids. I always feel like we had a successful season because of those relationships and getting better. “It’s about being better at everything — a better athlete, a better wrestler, a better person.” Maldonado knows that teenagers can see right through you if you are not genuine. But show that genuine caring and by season’s end, they’ll be willing to run through a wall for you. But the relationships start long high school for many wrestlers. Maldonado is there at kids wrestling club practices and meets and knows them long before they put on a purple singlet for MHS. Maldonado also tries to enjoy the ride and wants those around him to do the same. He knows that wrestling season can be a grind and it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. “We need to just be grateful for having the opportunity and cherish it no matter how it turns out,” Maldonado said. “At the end of the year, there’s only going to be one happy kid per weight class or one happy coach. “At the end of the day, you’ve still got to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.”
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