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  1. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Frankton wrestling coach Courtney Duncan walked in on the first day of practice carrying something a little bit unusual. The Frankton wrestling coach wasn’t holding a whistle, or uniforms. He was holding index cards. He passed one out to each kid in the room and told them to write down why they came out for wrestling. When Duncan read the answers, he knew he had a pretty special team. “Almost every kid put that they wrestle because it builds family and relationships,” Duncan said. “I didn’t have the kids put their names on the card, but that told me right then and there that they get it. It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about trusting each other and being loyal to each other.” Frankton, a small school of 480 students just north of Anderson, had one of the best Class A teams in the state last year. Coach Duncan really thought that they could have fared well at the team state tournament, but they did not get an invite. This year, that has changed. Frankton will be one of the teams competing for the Class A title. “We are really excited about team state,” Duncan said. “This is where we wanted to get as a team. We thought we had a chance last year, but this year we’re going in hoping to prove we belong. We have more kids out than we’ve probably ever had. The kids are excited and they all really look forward to the tournament.” One of Frankton’s hammers is junior 170 pounder Cody Klettheimer. Last season Klettheimer was one of two Frankton grapplers to advance to the individual state tournament. “We are looking forward to team state,” Klettheimer said. “Our goal is to win it. But we also think we can win our sectional, regional and maybe even our semistate.” That isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for Frankton. The team has four returning wrestlers who advanced to at least the ticket round of semistate last year. Klettheimer and senior David Delph advanced to state. Senior Dru Berkebile lost in the ticket round at semistate as did junior Cole Baker. The Eagles have other wrestlers, like senior Grant Geisinger, that are hoping to do well in the tourney this year. Geisinger lost to Cathedral’s Elliott Rodgers on a last second takedown in the opening round of regional. Rodgers went on to place fourth in state. “Grant has really developed,” Duncan said. “He has had a taste of success now, and he’s ready to make a run.” Frankton has the luxury of depth this year, something the school hasn’t really ever had before. There were over 30 kids go out for the team. “I have options this year,” Duncan said. “We are able to move kids around. We are able to make strategic lineup decisions. We have backups at just about every spot in our lineup.” Another major team strength is the bond the wrestlers have. “We all love being around each other,” Klettheimer said. “We know what we want to get to, and we push each other to the limit in the room. Even drilling we are starting to go 100 percent on everything. And, when we’re not wrestling, we are all hanging out together. We’ve became very close.” Frankton has improved its strength of schedule over the last several years, hoping it will create better wresters. “Our kids believe,” Duncan said. “They believe in each other, and they believe in themselves. We have a tough schedule, but it doesn’t matter what size school you come from, you still put your wrestling shoes on the same way. We are realizing by facing these larger, stronger schools, we can compete with anyone.” Klettheimer said the team’s motto is “Take No Prisoners.” The Eagles are good, and they want to prove it. Team state can’t come fast enough for this tight knit group. “We’re ready to see what we can accomplish,” Duncan said. “I think we can do something pretty special.”
  2. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Frankton wrestling coach Courtney Duncan walked in on the first day of practice carrying something a little bit unusual. The Frankton wrestling coach wasn’t holding a whistle, or uniforms. He was holding index cards. He passed one out to each kid in the room and told them to write down why they came out for wrestling. When Duncan read the answers, he knew he had a pretty special team. “Almost every kid put that they wrestle because it builds family and relationships,” Duncan said. “I didn’t have the kids put their names on the card, but that told me right then and there that they get it. It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about trusting each other and being loyal to each other.” Frankton, a small school of 480 students just north of Anderson, had one of the best Class A teams in the state last year. Coach Duncan really thought that they could have fared well at the team state tournament, but they did not get an invite. This year, that has changed. Frankton will be one of the teams competing for the Class A title. “We are really excited about team state,” Duncan said. “This is where we wanted to get as a team. We thought we had a chance last year, but this year we’re going in hoping to prove we belong. We have more kids out than we’ve probably ever had. The kids are excited and they all really look forward to the tournament.” One of Frankton’s hammers is junior 170 pounder Cody Klettheimer. Last season Klettheimer was one of two Frankton grapplers to advance to the individual state tournament. “We are looking forward to team state,” Klettheimer said. “Our goal is to win it. But we also think we can win our sectional, regional and maybe even our semistate.” That isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for Frankton. The team has four returning wrestlers who advanced to at least the ticket round of semistate last year. Klettheimer and senior David Delph advanced to state. Senior Dru Berkebile lost in the ticket round at semistate as did junior Cole Baker. The Eagles have other wrestlers, like senior Grant Geisinger, that are hoping to do well in the tourney this year. Geisinger lost to Cathedral’s Elliott Rodgers on a last second takedown in the opening round of regional. Rodgers went on to place fourth in state. “Grant has really developed,” Duncan said. “He has had a taste of success now, and he’s ready to make a run.” Frankton has the luxury of depth this year, something the school hasn’t really ever had before. There were over 30 kids go out for the team. “I have options this year,” Duncan said. “We are able to move kids around. We are able to make strategic lineup decisions. We have backups at just about every spot in our lineup.” Another major team strength is the bond the wrestlers have. “We all love being around each other,” Klettheimer said. “We know what we want to get to, and we push each other to the limit in the room. Even drilling we are starting to go 100 percent on everything. And, when we’re not wrestling, we are all hanging out together. We’ve became very close.” Frankton has improved its strength of schedule over the last several years, hoping it will create better wresters. “Our kids believe,” Duncan said. “They believe in each other, and they believe in themselves. We have a tough schedule, but it doesn’t matter what size school you come from, you still put your wrestling shoes on the same way. We are realizing by facing these larger, stronger schools, we can compete with anyone.” Klettheimer said the team’s motto is “Take No Prisoners.” The Eagles are good, and they want to prove it. Team state can’t come fast enough for this tight knit group. “We’re ready to see what we can accomplish,” Duncan said. “I think we can do something pretty special.” View full article
  3. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Roncalli freshman Alec Viduya knew what it would take to become a wrestling state champion. There’s hard work, dedication and all that jazz – but most importantly, he needed a perm. “Alec decided it was time to bring the perm back before the sectional this year,” Roncalli coach Wade McClurg said. “He was 15-0 in the state series with the perm, so the secret is in the hair.” Viduya won the 113 pound weight class, beating Jimtown’s No. 6-ranked Hunter Watt 7-4 in the finale. “He earned the nickname Goku (Dragonball Z reference) last summer,” McClurg said. “Goku is known for his work ethic and constantly striving to be the greatest warrior to protect the universe. Alec has crazy hair like Goku and he is always striving to be the best wrestler to protect the Southside Rebellion.” Viduya become Roncalli’s fourth state champion, and the first in 32 years since Chris Maxwell won in 1985. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his former coach Lance Ellis and become a four-time champion. “He was my coach for a long time, and I’d love to follow what he did,” Viduya said. Viduya certainly doesn’t lack confidence. The freshman tried not one, but two standing cradles in the finals match. “I know what I’m capable of,” Viduya said. “I knew that if I could lock that up I was getting back points.” Coach McClurg learned from his mentor, Carmel coach Ed Pendoski, that communication is the key to having a successful program. So McClurg held a meeting with Alec and his family at their kitchen table in July and discussed Alec’s goals. “Without hesitation he told me that he wanted to be a state champion as a freshman like his mentor Lance Ellis,” McClurg said. “That dialogue began when he was a youth wrestler and continued into the kitchen table conversation in July, and it’s still communicated on a daily basis.” Viduya dismantled several ranked opponents during his tournament run. He beat Warren Central’s No. 3-ranked Skylour Turner in the New Castle semistate final 15-4. He then beat #17 Kane Egli, No. 8 Jose Diaz and No. 1-ranked, returning state champion Asa Garcia leading up to the final match. “My Friday night match was one of the hardest because I had to make weight and maintain my weight,” Viduya said. “I was pretty tired. On Monday I was 122 pounds.” As is the case with almost every state champion, Viduya strives for excellence in practice. “I’ve had the privilege to have coached Alec since he was 8 years old,” McClurg said. “Alec has always taken his training very seriously and is passionate about wrestling. He is motivated by his absolute hatred of losing and has been that way since he was very young. That’s just how he is programmed. Alec is the ultimate competitor. He is confident in his abilities and he stays mentally strong in tough situations.” To many, Viduya seems very straight-laced and serious at all times. He is hyper-focused during tournaments and dual meets. But coach McClurg says he’s not always that way. “There is a misconception with some people who are not real familiar with Alec,” McClurg said. “Because they think he never smiles or talks. The people that really know Alec and see him every day in the hallways at Roncalli know that is certainly not the case. If I had to describe Alec in one word it would be ‘cool.’ Alec is one cool customer.” This summer Viduya plans to wrestle at Fargo in freestyle. His work to stay on the top of the championship ladder in high school is far from over. But, he feels that as long as he puts in the work, and keeps the perm, he should be ready. Click here to view the article
  4. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Roncalli freshman Alec Viduya knew what it would take to become a wrestling state champion. There’s hard work, dedication and all that jazz – but most importantly, he needed a perm. “Alec decided it was time to bring the perm back before the sectional this year,” Roncalli coach Wade McClurg said. “He was 15-0 in the state series with the perm, so the secret is in the hair.” Viduya won the 113 pound weight class, beating Jimtown’s No. 6-ranked Hunter Watt 7-4 in the finale. “He earned the nickname Goku (Dragonball Z reference) last summer,” McClurg said. “Goku is known for his work ethic and constantly striving to be the greatest warrior to protect the universe. Alec has crazy hair like Goku and he is always striving to be the best wrestler to protect the Southside Rebellion.” Viduya become Roncalli’s fourth state champion, and the first in 32 years since Chris Maxwell won in 1985. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his former coach Lance Ellis and become a four-time champion. “He was my coach for a long time, and I’d love to follow what he did,” Viduya said. Viduya certainly doesn’t lack confidence. The freshman tried not one, but two standing cradles in the finals match. “I know what I’m capable of,” Viduya said. “I knew that if I could lock that up I was getting back points.” Coach McClurg learned from his mentor, Carmel coach Ed Pendoski, that communication is the key to having a successful program. So McClurg held a meeting with Alec and his family at their kitchen table in July and discussed Alec’s goals. “Without hesitation he told me that he wanted to be a state champion as a freshman like his mentor Lance Ellis,” McClurg said. “That dialogue began when he was a youth wrestler and continued into the kitchen table conversation in July, and it’s still communicated on a daily basis.” Viduya dismantled several ranked opponents during his tournament run. He beat Warren Central’s No. 3-ranked Skylour Turner in the New Castle semistate final 15-4. He then beat #17 Kane Egli, No. 8 Jose Diaz and No. 1-ranked, returning state champion Asa Garcia leading up to the final match. “My Friday night match was one of the hardest because I had to make weight and maintain my weight,” Viduya said. “I was pretty tired. On Monday I was 122 pounds.” As is the case with almost every state champion, Viduya strives for excellence in practice. “I’ve had the privilege to have coached Alec since he was 8 years old,” McClurg said. “Alec has always taken his training very seriously and is passionate about wrestling. He is motivated by his absolute hatred of losing and has been that way since he was very young. That’s just how he is programmed. Alec is the ultimate competitor. He is confident in his abilities and he stays mentally strong in tough situations.” To many, Viduya seems very straight-laced and serious at all times. He is hyper-focused during tournaments and dual meets. But coach McClurg says he’s not always that way. “There is a misconception with some people who are not real familiar with Alec,” McClurg said. “Because they think he never smiles or talks. The people that really know Alec and see him every day in the hallways at Roncalli know that is certainly not the case. If I had to describe Alec in one word it would be ‘cool.’ Alec is one cool customer.” This summer Viduya plans to wrestle at Fargo in freestyle. His work to stay on the top of the championship ladder in high school is far from over. But, he feels that as long as he puts in the work, and keeps the perm, he should be ready.
  5. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Breyden Bailey has done just about everything one can do to improve in wrestling. He puts time in the weight room, works relentlessly in practice and studies the sport. He’s gotten better in all aspects of wrestling. Yet, each year, despite his improvements, his season has ended in the exact same way -- third place. Bailey, a senior at Indianapolis Cathedral, is one of the most highly decorated wrestlers in Indiana history. He’s a four time sectional champion, a four time regional champion and as of last Saturday, he’s a four-time New Castle semistate champion. Going to state is nothing new for Bailey. He’s been there four times. He’s won his Friday night match the last three years. He’s also won his first and second matches on Saturday for the last three years. The state semifinals has proven to be the death round for Bailey. He has lost in the semifinals all three years. Each time, the opponent that has beaten him, has then fallen to the eventual state champion en route to a second place finish. Bailey has went on to win the third place match all three times. “It does mean a lot to me to be a four-time state qualifier,” Bailey said. “I am proud of my placings, but I want to win it.” Wrestling is in Bailey’s blood. His father, Bryan, is a two-time state champion from Martinsville and a one-time runner-up. “Bryan has been coaching Breyden his whole life,” Cathedral coach Sean McGinley said. “He’s been able to absorb things about the sport. Wrestling really is a way of life for him.” Bailey started wrestling when he turned seven. He had instant success, placing second in the ISWA folkstyle state that year. “Wrestling really seems to have come naturally to me,” Bailey said. About the time Bailey started wrestling, he also started going to the state finals in Indianapolis to watch the high school guys reach for their goals. “I’ve been going to the state tournament since I was in second grade,” Bailey said. “My favorite memory was when Briar Runyan from Martinsville won it. I remember getting my picture taken with him. They are close family friends.” Bailey doesn’t participate in any other sport. He says his normal day is waking up early, doing a little lifting or running a few miles, then going to school. During the school day he often gets the opportunity during one of his resource classes to look at film on wrestling. After school he goes to practice, then sticks around some nights to put extra work in with his freshman brother Logan. Logan lost in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate on Saturday. McGinley says there really isn’t a weakness in Bailey’s wrestling. “He’s good from top, bottom and neutral,” McGinley said. “But the first thing I’d say about Bailey is that he’s a student of the sport. I’ve never had a kid that has so much knowledge, that’s so involved in our room. He’s constantly helping other kids and coaching. He’s on another level in terms of his knowledge of the sport.” Bailey’s leadership (he’s a three-year captain at Cathedral) is one of the big reasons the Irish are considered contenders for the team state title this year. Cathedral won the New Castle semistate and will send seven grapplers to the state meet. The Irish were especially dominant in the middle weights. Jordan Slivka won the 126 pound class, Bailey took first at 132 and Zach Melloh won the 138 pound bracket. Elliot Rodgers finished second at 145. Ben Stewart finished second for Cathedral at 195 pounds and Andy Guhl was second at 220. Caleb Oliver finished fourth at 113. “We thought the semistate team championship would be close,” McGinley said. “I really thought it was Perry Meridian’s to lose. But we always talk about how we want to get on a little bit of a roll. We know if we lose one we aren’t expected to, we need someone who isn’t expected to win to pull off the upset. “That happened when we lost at 106 with little Bailey. We turned around at 113 and got back on track.” Oliver’s advancement was a bit of a surprise, considering he had just an 18-16 record entering the semistate. For Breyden, he has learned leadership skills by watching guys that were good leaders to him. “My freshman year we won state,” Bailey said. “We had guys like Vinny Corsaro and Wesley Bernard that were great leaders. I learned a lot from their style.” Bailey will wrestle for Division I Northern Illinois University next season. His college bio page will talk about his three third place finishes. He’s hoping there is also a line that reads “2017 Indiana state champion” as well. “Right now that’s my number one goal,” Bailey said. “I want to get under those lights.” Click here to view the article
  6. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Breyden Bailey has done just about everything one can do to improve in wrestling. He puts time in the weight room, works relentlessly in practice and studies the sport. He’s gotten better in all aspects of wrestling. Yet, each year, despite his improvements, his season has ended in the exact same way -- third place. Bailey, a senior at Indianapolis Cathedral, is one of the most highly decorated wrestlers in Indiana history. He’s a four time sectional champion, a four time regional champion and as of last Saturday, he’s a four-time New Castle semistate champion. Going to state is nothing new for Bailey. He’s been there four times. He’s won his Friday night match the last three years. He’s also won his first and second matches on Saturday for the last three years. The state semifinals has proven to be the death round for Bailey. He has lost in the semifinals all three years. Each time, the opponent that has beaten him, has then fallen to the eventual state champion en route to a second place finish. Bailey has went on to win the third place match all three times. “It does mean a lot to me to be a four-time state qualifier,” Bailey said. “I am proud of my placings, but I want to win it.” Wrestling is in Bailey’s blood. His father, Bryan, is a two-time state champion from Martinsville and a one-time runner-up. “Bryan has been coaching Breyden his whole life,” Cathedral coach Sean McGinley said. “He’s been able to absorb things about the sport. Wrestling really is a way of life for him.” Bailey started wrestling when he turned seven. He had instant success, placing second in the ISWA folkstyle state that year. “Wrestling really seems to have come naturally to me,” Bailey said. About the time Bailey started wrestling, he also started going to the state finals in Indianapolis to watch the high school guys reach for their goals. “I’ve been going to the state tournament since I was in second grade,” Bailey said. “My favorite memory was when Briar Runyan from Martinsville won it. I remember getting my picture taken with him. They are close family friends.” Bailey doesn’t participate in any other sport. He says his normal day is waking up early, doing a little lifting or running a few miles, then going to school. During the school day he often gets the opportunity during one of his resource classes to look at film on wrestling. After school he goes to practice, then sticks around some nights to put extra work in with his freshman brother Logan. Logan lost in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate on Saturday. McGinley says there really isn’t a weakness in Bailey’s wrestling. “He’s good from top, bottom and neutral,” McGinley said. “But the first thing I’d say about Bailey is that he’s a student of the sport. I’ve never had a kid that has so much knowledge, that’s so involved in our room. He’s constantly helping other kids and coaching. He’s on another level in terms of his knowledge of the sport.” Bailey’s leadership (he’s a three-year captain at Cathedral) is one of the big reasons the Irish are considered contenders for the team state title this year. Cathedral won the New Castle semistate and will send seven grapplers to the state meet. The Irish were especially dominant in the middle weights. Jordan Slivka won the 126 pound class, Bailey took first at 132 and Zach Melloh won the 138 pound bracket. Elliot Rodgers finished second at 145. Ben Stewart finished second for Cathedral at 195 pounds and Andy Guhl was second at 220. Caleb Oliver finished fourth at 113. “We thought the semistate team championship would be close,” McGinley said. “I really thought it was Perry Meridian’s to lose. But we always talk about how we want to get on a little bit of a roll. We know if we lose one we aren’t expected to, we need someone who isn’t expected to win to pull off the upset. “That happened when we lost at 106 with little Bailey. We turned around at 113 and got back on track.” Oliver’s advancement was a bit of a surprise, considering he had just an 18-16 record entering the semistate. For Breyden, he has learned leadership skills by watching guys that were good leaders to him. “My freshman year we won state,” Bailey said. “We had guys like Vinny Corsaro and Wesley Bernard that were great leaders. I learned a lot from their style.” Bailey will wrestle for Division I Northern Illinois University next season. His college bio page will talk about his three third place finishes. He’s hoping there is also a line that reads “2017 Indiana state champion” as well. “Right now that’s my number one goal,” Bailey said. “I want to get under those lights.”
  7. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com When Gary Black Jr. interviewed for the head wrestling coach at Shenandoah, his goals were clear. He didn’t want to maintain the status quo for the Raiders. He wasn’t content with getting a few kids through to semistate. He wanted to put Shenandoah on the wrestling map, and he wanted the small Henry County school to compete, and win against the state’s best programs. His vision for the program landed him the job, and now, seven years later, he has done exactly what he said he would. Shenandoah won the school’s first sectional two weeks ago. The Raiders dominated larger schools such as New Castle and Richmond in the process. Last week the Raiders fell 1.5 points shy of winning the school’s first regional title. “We had to get a mentality change,” Black said. “We had to understand the physicality of wrestling. We reached out to the elementary school. We implemented a club to get young kids invested in the sport at an early age. It took us a few years, but when we had an opening for the middle school job and I had John Slivka and my dad (Gary) take over, we really started developing our feeder system.” Shenandoah has seven wrestlers competing at the New Castle semistate Saturday. Sophomores A.J. Black (106) and Dallas Pugsley (126), senior Ryan Surguy (138) and freshman Silas Allred (170) were all Richmond regional champions. Sophomore Hayden Lohrey (132) lost a close match to undefeated Cainan Schaefer in the championship round. Josh Gee (senior, 160) lost to No. 2-ranked Alston Bane 1-0 in the championship and sophomore Jake Webster placed fourth in the 152-pound class. The Raider success story is one of heartache, determination and a coach that refuses to give up on his kids. The Heartache Coach Black’s younger brother Levi was perhaps the most talented grappler on the Raider team. He had an insane dedication to the sport and a work ethic that was unrivaled. Levi was well liked by everyone he came in contact with. But, despite all the positives he had going for him, Levi struggled with a mental illness that eventually led him to take his own life, at the high school, in November of 2015. The death rocked the tiny Shenandoah community, as well as much of the surrounding area. Levi’s funeral brought together wrestlers from around the state. Many wrestlers, such as Bane at Richmond, have shown support of the Black family and helped raised awareness of mental illness by having a green streak (symbolic of Levi’s fight with the disease) dyed in his hair. The Shenandoah team needed strength during this time. They needed someone to help them cope with the emotional gravity of the situation. The Black family was there to provide it. “Both coaches (Gary Jr. and Sr.) are my heroes,” Gee said. “After all they went through, they still took care of us – even over themselves. Through their pain they never let us down. They helped us cope and really turned us into a wrestling brotherhood. We are a family.” For Gary Jr., he knew he needed to find a way to honor Levi, yet move forward. “The last 16 months have been a huge learning curve for a lot of us,” Black said. “Not only are you dealing with the daily grind of being a wrestler at a high level, but these kids already battle a lot of things daily. That was one more added struggle for all of us. There are days for me, my dad and I‘m sure the kids – being at that exact same place where everything happened – that make it very difficult. All of our lives have been changed.” The Determination Last year A.J. Black, Levi and Gary Jr’s youngest brother, tried doing everything he could to honor Levi. At times, the pressure got to him. He didn’t want to let his family down. When he lost in the ticket round to go to state, you could see that built up emotion boil over as tears streamed down his face. “The weight of trying to accomplish a goal for the memory of his brother took its toll on A.J. and just mentally wore him down,” coach Black said. “We talked about it. He had to make a shift in how he honors his brother. He needs to start doing things for himself. “I ask him before every match, who he is wrestling for. He now will say ‘Me’ and then give me a hug and go wrestle. He still honors Levi, but by working his hardest and doing his best. That’s all Levi would have wanted.” The hard work mantra extends past A.J. To a man, the Raiders pride themselves on outworking other teams. The guys have bought into the system and have dedicated their summers to the sport. “Levi was the hardest worker in the room,” A.J. said. “Everyone wants to make him proud by working as hard as they can, every day.” Take Allred for example. He is a 14-year old freshman that won’t turn 15 until May 28. He’s wrestling in one of the most physically demanding classes (170). Yet he’s undefeated. “We believe success is a mindset,” Allred said. “I constantly train and constantly push myself to get better. If you want to be the best, you have to work to be the best. You can get better, or worse every single day.” Surguy and Gee are two examples of the dividends of that work ethic. As a sophomore Gee was pinned by Bane in the sectional final in 36 seconds. Last year he lost 5-1 to Bane in the sectional final. This year, Gee has dropped two matches to Bane, but both were by the score of 1-0. Surguy is another senior that struggled early, but has blossomed due to the work he puts in. This year Surguy is 42-2 with a sectional and regional title. The Coach Gary has built the Raider program to be one of the state’s best. The Raiders finished No. 2 in the Class A team state, and have higher aspirations down the road. For Gary, the key to success has been making the wrestlers buy into the fact that the only way to improve, is to outwork the opposition. He also makes sure the wrestlers feel like a family. “We see each other at our worst, and we see each other at our best,” said Allred, who has a 4.0 GPA and is ranked third in his class. “When one of us has a down day, the rest of us try and pick him up. This is more than a wrestling team. We’re all friends. We’re all brothers.” The leader of the Raider family is undoubtedly the young coach Black. His passion for the team is evident in every match he coaches. “On Sundays I’m exhausted,” Black said “It’s hard for me to be on the sideline when I just want to go to war with them. I don’t want to be the general just telling them to go into battle. I want to battle with them. I’ll be the intense guy on the sideline. “I want these kids to win as bad as they do. I get extremely emotionally involved in their success. I’d like to think they appreciate it, even though I look ridiculous. I love wrestling and I love watching those kids compete.” Last year only Lohrey punched his ticket to the state meet for the Raiders. This year Shenandoah has high hopes to have more than one kid represented. They know how hard the road is to get to state, but they’ve prepared themselves to complete the journey – just like a young coach interviewing for his first head coaching job seven years ago said they would. Click here to view the article
  8. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com When Gary Black Jr. interviewed for the head wrestling coach at Shenandoah, his goals were clear. He didn’t want to maintain the status quo for the Raiders. He wasn’t content with getting a few kids through to semistate. He wanted to put Shenandoah on the wrestling map, and he wanted the small Henry County school to compete, and win against the state’s best programs. His vision for the program landed him the job, and now, seven years later, he has done exactly what he said he would. Shenandoah won the school’s first sectional two weeks ago. The Raiders dominated larger schools such as New Castle and Richmond in the process. Last week the Raiders fell 1.5 points shy of winning the school’s first regional title. “We had to get a mentality change,” Black said. “We had to understand the physicality of wrestling. We reached out to the elementary school. We implemented a club to get young kids invested in the sport at an early age. It took us a few years, but when we had an opening for the middle school job and I had John Slivka and my dad (Gary) take over, we really started developing our feeder system.” Shenandoah has seven wrestlers competing at the New Castle semistate Saturday. Sophomores A.J. Black (106) and Dallas Pugsley (126), senior Ryan Surguy (138) and freshman Silas Allred (170) were all Richmond regional champions. Sophomore Hayden Lohrey (132) lost a close match to undefeated Cainan Schaefer in the championship round. Josh Gee (senior, 160) lost to No. 2-ranked Alston Bane 1-0 in the championship and sophomore Jake Webster placed fourth in the 152-pound class. The Raider success story is one of heartache, determination and a coach that refuses to give up on his kids. The Heartache Coach Black’s younger brother Levi was perhaps the most talented grappler on the Raider team. He had an insane dedication to the sport and a work ethic that was unrivaled. Levi was well liked by everyone he came in contact with. But, despite all the positives he had going for him, Levi struggled with a mental illness that eventually led him to take his own life, at the high school, in November of 2015. The death rocked the tiny Shenandoah community, as well as much of the surrounding area. Levi’s funeral brought together wrestlers from around the state. Many wrestlers, such as Bane at Richmond, have shown support of the Black family and helped raised awareness of mental illness by having a green streak (symbolic of Levi’s fight with the disease) dyed in his hair. The Shenandoah team needed strength during this time. They needed someone to help them cope with the emotional gravity of the situation. The Black family was there to provide it. “Both coaches (Gary Jr. and Sr.) are my heroes,” Gee said. “After all they went through, they still took care of us – even over themselves. Through their pain they never let us down. They helped us cope and really turned us into a wrestling brotherhood. We are a family.” For Gary Jr., he knew he needed to find a way to honor Levi, yet move forward. “The last 16 months have been a huge learning curve for a lot of us,” Black said. “Not only are you dealing with the daily grind of being a wrestler at a high level, but these kids already battle a lot of things daily. That was one more added struggle for all of us. There are days for me, my dad and I‘m sure the kids – being at that exact same place where everything happened – that make it very difficult. All of our lives have been changed.” The Determination Last year A.J. Black, Levi and Gary Jr’s youngest brother, tried doing everything he could to honor Levi. At times, the pressure got to him. He didn’t want to let his family down. When he lost in the ticket round to go to state, you could see that built up emotion boil over as tears streamed down his face. “The weight of trying to accomplish a goal for the memory of his brother took its toll on A.J. and just mentally wore him down,” coach Black said. “We talked about it. He had to make a shift in how he honors his brother. He needs to start doing things for himself. “I ask him before every match, who he is wrestling for. He now will say ‘Me’ and then give me a hug and go wrestle. He still honors Levi, but by working his hardest and doing his best. That’s all Levi would have wanted.” The hard work mantra extends past A.J. To a man, the Raiders pride themselves on outworking other teams. The guys have bought into the system and have dedicated their summers to the sport. “Levi was the hardest worker in the room,” A.J. said. “Everyone wants to make him proud by working as hard as they can, every day.” Take Allred for example. He is a 14-year old freshman that won’t turn 15 until May 28. He’s wrestling in one of the most physically demanding classes (170). Yet he’s undefeated. “We believe success is a mindset,” Allred said. “I constantly train and constantly push myself to get better. If you want to be the best, you have to work to be the best. You can get better, or worse every single day.” Surguy and Gee are two examples of the dividends of that work ethic. As a sophomore Gee was pinned by Bane in the sectional final in 36 seconds. Last year he lost 5-1 to Bane in the sectional final. This year, Gee has dropped two matches to Bane, but both were by the score of 1-0. Surguy is another senior that struggled early, but has blossomed due to the work he puts in. This year Surguy is 42-2 with a sectional and regional title. The Coach Gary has built the Raider program to be one of the state’s best. The Raiders finished No. 2 in the Class A team state, and have higher aspirations down the road. For Gary, the key to success has been making the wrestlers buy into the fact that the only way to improve, is to outwork the opposition. He also makes sure the wrestlers feel like a family. “We see each other at our worst, and we see each other at our best,” said Allred, who has a 4.0 GPA and is ranked third in his class. “When one of us has a down day, the rest of us try and pick him up. This is more than a wrestling team. We’re all friends. We’re all brothers.” The leader of the Raider family is undoubtedly the young coach Black. His passion for the team is evident in every match he coaches. “On Sundays I’m exhausted,” Black said “It’s hard for me to be on the sideline when I just want to go to war with them. I don’t want to be the general just telling them to go into battle. I want to battle with them. I’ll be the intense guy on the sideline. “I want these kids to win as bad as they do. I get extremely emotionally involved in their success. I’d like to think they appreciate it, even though I look ridiculous. I love wrestling and I love watching those kids compete.” Last year only Lohrey punched his ticket to the state meet for the Raiders. This year Shenandoah has high hopes to have more than one kid represented. They know how hard the road is to get to state, but they’ve prepared themselves to complete the journey – just like a young coach interviewing for his first head coaching job seven years ago said they would.
  9. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Tristan Sellmer is a wrestling junkie. When Sellmer isn’t training on the physical aspects of the sport, the Floyd Central junior is learning the mental side. He spends time each day watching film or studying new moves. He is hoping his knowledge of the sport, and his strong work ethic, will help him reach the Indiana High School state finals this season. “Tristan Sellmer eats and breathes wrestling,” Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said. “He loves it. He’s always studying film. He also seeks out the best wrestlers and wants to go against them.” Sellmer has had a lot of success in his high school career. To date, he is a three-time sectional champion and two-time regional champ. His tournament trail has ended the last two years at the Evansville semistate. As a freshman Sellmer won regional, but then received an unfortunate draw when Paul Konrath injury defaulted in the Castle regional. Sellmer then had to face Konrath in the first round, and lost 12-2. Sellmer was close to punching his ticket to state as a sophomore. He won his first round semistate matchup, but then lost a heart breaker to Avon’s Nathan Conley 3-2. “Not making it to state eats at me every single day,” Sellmer said. “It makes me train more and more. Every chance I get I am training or watching technique videos. I stay occupied completely with wrestling now.” Sellmer doesn’t play any other sports, and he says he doesn’t have a hobby. Wrestling and his grades are his only passions right now. This season Sellmer has faced five of the top 15-ranked grapplers in his 138-pound weight class. He’s won all but one of those matches. Sellmer, ranked No. 4 currently, lost to No. 3-ranked Kris Rumph 3-2 in overtime. He has beaten No. 2-ranked Zach Melloh, No. 5-ranked Conley, No. 8-ranked Jake Schoenegge and No. 14-ranked Derek Blubaugh. Sellmer’s Floyd Central team claimed its 28th sectional title this season. The school has won sectional 28 out of its 49 years in existence. The Highlanders had 13 advance to regional with five sectional champions. Johnathan Kervin, Devon Stikes, Ty Sorg, Bradley Philpot and Sellmer were the sectional title winners. “This is one of my more talented teams,” Sisson said. “But they are also one of the most fun and coachable teams I have had. There isn’t any negative energy in the room.” Sellmer is one of the kids that pushes his teammates to get better. He has put a lot of work in during the offseason. He’s went to several national tournaments and feels that’s really what has helped him get to the level he is wrestling at today. After high school Selmer would like to wrestle in college and eventually get a degree in accounting. He loves numbers, and they come easy for him he says. Right now he has not decided where he will attend. Click here to view the article
  10. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Tristan Sellmer is a wrestling junkie. When Sellmer isn’t training on the physical aspects of the sport, the Floyd Central junior is learning the mental side. He spends time each day watching film or studying new moves. He is hoping his knowledge of the sport, and his strong work ethic, will help him reach the Indiana High School state finals this season. “Tristan Sellmer eats and breathes wrestling,” Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said. “He loves it. He’s always studying film. He also seeks out the best wrestlers and wants to go against them.” Sellmer has had a lot of success in his high school career. To date, he is a three-time sectional champion and two-time regional champ. His tournament trail has ended the last two years at the Evansville semistate. As a freshman Sellmer won regional, but then received an unfortunate draw when Paul Konrath injury defaulted in the Castle regional. Sellmer then had to face Konrath in the first round, and lost 12-2. Sellmer was close to punching his ticket to state as a sophomore. He won his first round semistate matchup, but then lost a heart breaker to Avon’s Nathan Conley 3-2. “Not making it to state eats at me every single day,” Sellmer said. “It makes me train more and more. Every chance I get I am training or watching technique videos. I stay occupied completely with wrestling now.” Sellmer doesn’t play any other sports, and he says he doesn’t have a hobby. Wrestling and his grades are his only passions right now. This season Sellmer has faced five of the top 15-ranked grapplers in his 138-pound weight class. He’s won all but one of those matches. Sellmer, ranked No. 4 currently, lost to No. 3-ranked Kris Rumph 3-2 in overtime. He has beaten No. 2-ranked Zach Melloh, No. 5-ranked Conley, No. 8-ranked Jake Schoenegge and No. 14-ranked Derek Blubaugh. Sellmer’s Floyd Central team claimed its 28th sectional title this season. The school has won sectional 28 out of its 49 years in existence. The Highlanders had 13 advance to regional with five sectional champions. Johnathan Kervin, Devon Stikes, Ty Sorg, Bradley Philpot and Sellmer were the sectional title winners. “This is one of my more talented teams,” Sisson said. “But they are also one of the most fun and coachable teams I have had. There isn’t any negative energy in the room.” Sellmer is one of the kids that pushes his teammates to get better. He has put a lot of work in during the offseason. He’s went to several national tournaments and feels that’s really what has helped him get to the level he is wrestling at today. After high school Selmer would like to wrestle in college and eventually get a degree in accounting. He loves numbers, and they come easy for him he says. Right now he has not decided where he will attend.
  11. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com There is an episode of ‘Malcom In the Middle’ where a few teenagers pick on an elderly man and then run away from him. As they run, they taunt the man – knowing they are much younger and faster than he is. The old man is persistent though. He never stops moving forward. Eventually, much to the surprise of the teens, he catches up to them and beats the tar out of them. Delta’s Jacob Gray is a lot like that old man. He’s not slow, by any means, but he is relentless. He’s always pressing forward. Every time an opponent looks up, Gray’s massive 182 pound frame is right in front of them. “Jacob is a meat and potatoes kind of wrestler,” Delta coach Gary Schleissman said. “He’s not fancy. He doesn’t do funk. He’s straight forward and relentless. He sticks to the basics, and he does them very well. He wrestles smart and doesn’t waste any movement. He’s always been that way.” Gray has 141 varsity victories and only 11 losses. As a freshman he lost in the ticket round at semistate. His sophomore year he lost just twice, both in the state finals. He ended up placing sixth that year. Last year Gray went 37-3 and lost Friday night at state. This season Gray is 28-2. Both of his losses came at the hands of the state’s No. 1-ranked 182 pounder, Nathan Walton. The first time the two wrestled Walton won 5-2. Gray narrowed the gap the next time they squared off – losing by just one point, 1-0. “Those losses have made me want to work harder,” Gray said. “You just think of how close the matches have been, and how a takedown, a reversal or something could have changed the outcome.” Gray, who has never been pinned in high school, has made it a point this season to attack more. “I am pressing the action a lot more,” Gray said. “I started noticing how in harder matches I was getting a little fatigued. Now that I’m trying to put up more points, I’m not getting as tired. I feel like it has helped me get in better shape.” One of Gray’s physical attributes that has helped him on the mat is his ridiculous hand strength. “His hand strength is absolutely crazy,” Schleissman said. “When I wrestle around with him in the room, it really hit me how strong his hands were last season. He’d grab a hold of my wrist and – holy crap” Gray is fueled by competing at a school with a rich wrestling history. Delta is fourth on Indiana’s all-time team state championships list with five. The school, located on the outskirts of Muncie, has had 13 individual champions. The list of individual champs include: Tim Klingensmith (1970), Chris Campbell (1981), Don Heintzelman (1981), Greg Gadbury (1981), David Palmer (1981, 1982), John Ginther (1983, 1984), Ron Riggin (1984), David Locke (1984), Craig Campbell (1985), Trent McCormick (1986), Jeff Tuttle (1987), Craig Locke (1990) and Eric Kerkhof (1994, 1996). “I want to be one of those guys you think about when you think of Delta wrestling,” Gray said. “Our coaches, teachers and a lot of people in our community talk about how good we were. All of my friends’ dads talk about the glory days. I see the pictures on the wall every day of all of our state champions, and I know I can be our next one.” Gray got his wrestling start at the Muncie Pal Club. According to coach Schleissman, the Pal Club was a place where “a bunch of rough neck kids would go in and beat the crap out of each other every day.” Bryce Baumgartner, Sage Coy, Luke Schleissman and Gray were a few of the wrestlers that emerged from the Pal Club. Despite his success on the mat, Gray isn’t one to brag on himself. “Jacob is just a great kid,” Schleissman said. “He’s very humble and very quiet. He’s polite and everyone respects him. I have watched him wrestle since he was very young. He’s my go to kid in practice. After this year, I’m really going to miss him.” After high school he plans to wrestle in college, but has not decided where he wants to go or what he wants to study. Right now he’s focusing on getting to the top rung of the podium at Banker’s Life in February. Jacob wants to go out on top – like all senior wrestlers. Click here to view the article
  12. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com There is an episode of ‘Malcom In the Middle’ where a few teenagers pick on an elderly man and then run away from him. As they run, they taunt the man – knowing they are much younger and faster than he is. The old man is persistent though. He never stops moving forward. Eventually, much to the surprise of the teens, he catches up to them and beats the tar out of them. Delta’s Jacob Gray is a lot like that old man. He’s not slow, by any means, but he is relentless. He’s always pressing forward. Every time an opponent looks up, Gray’s massive 182 pound frame is right in front of them. “Jacob is a meat and potatoes kind of wrestler,” Delta coach Gary Schleissman said. “He’s not fancy. He doesn’t do funk. He’s straight forward and relentless. He sticks to the basics, and he does them very well. He wrestles smart and doesn’t waste any movement. He’s always been that way.” Gray has 141 varsity victories and only 11 losses. As a freshman he lost in the ticket round at semistate. His sophomore year he lost just twice, both in the state finals. He ended up placing sixth that year. Last year Gray went 37-3 and lost Friday night at state. This season Gray is 28-2. Both of his losses came at the hands of the state’s No. 1-ranked 182 pounder, Nathan Walton. The first time the two wrestled Walton won 5-2. Gray narrowed the gap the next time they squared off – losing by just one point, 1-0. “Those losses have made me want to work harder,” Gray said. “You just think of how close the matches have been, and how a takedown, a reversal or something could have changed the outcome.” Gray, who has never been pinned in high school, has made it a point this season to attack more. “I am pressing the action a lot more,” Gray said. “I started noticing how in harder matches I was getting a little fatigued. Now that I’m trying to put up more points, I’m not getting as tired. I feel like it has helped me get in better shape.” One of Gray’s physical attributes that has helped him on the mat is his ridiculous hand strength. “His hand strength is absolutely crazy,” Schleissman said. “When I wrestle around with him in the room, it really hit me how strong his hands were last season. He’d grab a hold of my wrist and – holy crap” Gray is fueled by competing at a school with a rich wrestling history. Delta is fourth on Indiana’s all-time team state championships list with five. The school, located on the outskirts of Muncie, has had 13 individual champions. The list of individual champs include: Tim Klingensmith (1970), Chris Campbell (1981), Don Heintzelman (1981), Greg Gadbury (1981), David Palmer (1981, 1982), John Ginther (1983, 1984), Ron Riggin (1984), David Locke (1984), Craig Campbell (1985), Trent McCormick (1986), Jeff Tuttle (1987), Craig Locke (1990) and Eric Kerkhof (1994, 1996). “I want to be one of those guys you think about when you think of Delta wrestling,” Gray said. “Our coaches, teachers and a lot of people in our community talk about how good we were. All of my friends’ dads talk about the glory days. I see the pictures on the wall every day of all of our state champions, and I know I can be our next one.” Gray got his wrestling start at the Muncie Pal Club. According to coach Schleissman, the Pal Club was a place where “a bunch of rough neck kids would go in and beat the crap out of each other every day.” Bryce Baumgartner, Sage Coy, Luke Schleissman and Gray were a few of the wrestlers that emerged from the Pal Club. Despite his success on the mat, Gray isn’t one to brag on himself. “Jacob is just a great kid,” Schleissman said. “He’s very humble and very quiet. He’s polite and everyone respects him. I have watched him wrestle since he was very young. He’s my go to kid in practice. After this year, I’m really going to miss him.” After high school he plans to wrestle in college, but has not decided where he wants to go or what he wants to study. Right now he’s focusing on getting to the top rung of the podium at Banker’s Life in February. Jacob wants to go out on top – like all senior wrestlers.
  13. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Lawrenceburg’s Jake Ruberg has battled some of Indiana’s best wrestlers, and more often than not has emerged victorious. But Ruberg’s true adversary isn’t an opponent standing across from him on the mat. No, for Ruberg, the demons he has wrestled in his own mind are far more vicious and formidable than any opponent could ever be. Ruberg emerged on the state scene four years ago. He was a little-known freshman wrestling for a small school a stone’s throw away from the Ohio state line. He won sectional and regional that year and eventually advanced to state. He lost just twice as a freshman, once to eventual champion Tommy Cash 2-1 in semistate, and then to Jacob Covaciu in the first round of state. Ruberg had sat at the table of the state’s wrestling elite. He developed a taste for that success and became obsessed with getting back there. He stepped on the mat 10 times that sophomore season, and all 10 times he emerged victorious. He was well on his way back to Indiana’s pinnacle – the state finals. Ruberg injured his shoulder during football, and thought he would be able to wrestle. But wrestling can be a cruel mistress at times. Ruberg realized that his shoulder needed more time to heal, and that he would have to stop wrestling for the remainder of the season. That injury led to a dark time for Ruberg, one where he would eventually be hospitalized because of a deep depression. “I’ve had to deal with some pretty tough stuff,” Ruberg said. “I became very depressed after my shoulder injury and I was in the hospital for a while. It was at the same time that Shenandoah’s Levi Black committed suicide after dealing with a mental illness. I was shocked to see that another kid was having some of the same issues I was having. I knew I had to come out of it.” Ruberg made the decision to talk about his issues. He went to therapy. He talked to Levi’s parents and brother (Shenandoah head coach Gary Black). By talking about it, he was starting to get better. He also realized that there might be other kids out there going through similar struggles. So, he made himself available to talk to them. “I wanted to make sure I was there for people,” Ruberg said. “Nobody should battle that alone. Mental illnesses are tough. I’ve been dealing with them since I was little. It’s something you have to work out. You can’t just fix yourself in a day. You have to have outlets and people you can talk to. My outlet is wrestling and working out. If I’m feeling bad, I go lift or work out on the mat. Everyone has to find their own outlet to get their mind clear.” Ruberg didn’t advance to state as a junior. He lost in the ticket round to Noah Warren in the New Castle semistate. The loss hurt, but Ruberg has learned to deal with the negative emotions and turn them into a positive. That was evident this football season. The Tigers advanced to the state championship game, eventually getting second. Ruberg was named the Class 3A Mental Attitude Award winner. “Jake is a born leader,” Lawrenceburg coach Mark Kirchgassner said. “He’s been a leader on our wrestling team for four years. He’s a leader on the football field. He’s just a leader in everything he does. “With Jake there have been ups and downs. But he has really taken positive steps. He’s done vigils with people battling depression. He’s taken kids under his wings. He helps people along the process and he’s been very open with it to other kids. It takes a lot of courage for a high school guy to tell people that he battles depression.” Ruberg is hoping this senior campaign ends with him on the podium at the state meet. He is currently ranked No. 10 at 170 pounds. He has a lost twice this year, once to No. 2-ranked Tanner Webster 3-2, and the other time he was pinned by No. 9-ranked Kameron Fuller. “My goal is to win state, and I expect to be in the top three at least,” Ruberg said. Ruberg has the luxury of being in the same room with three other highly skilled wrestlers in the upper weights. Nationally ranked Mason Parris is at 220. Jonah Rolfes (ranked No. 5 in the New Castle semistate) is at 182 pounds and Sam Tibbets is at 195 pounds. “We are fortunate for a small school to have four guys of that caliber that can battle every day in practice,” Kirchgassner said. “They are really able to push each other.” Ruberg loves the success his small school has had recently in wrestling. “People try and tell me how much better the Ohio tournament is,” Ruberg said. “I know they have great wrestlers. But we have a tournament where a school of 600 people gets to compete against a school of 6,000. Your ability really shines. You know you are one of the top 16 when you make it to state. If you win, there is no doubt that you are the best. I do wish we had wrestle backs though.” After high school Ruberg will wrestle for the University of Indianapolis. He chose Indianapolis because he wanted to remain close to home, and he really liked the coaching staff. “Their coach is very down to earth,” Ruberg said. “He will talk to you about anything. He’ll check up with you on the weekends and see how you’re doing. I just really like their program.” Ruberg plans to go into nursing. He had people help him when he was at his lowest point, and now he wants to make a career out of helping others. “My advice to anyone that might be struggling is to find someone that will listen to you,” Ruberg said. “Find someone you can open up to. Always keep going. There might be bad times, but something greater is always right around the corner.” Click here to view the article
  14. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Lawrenceburg’s Jake Ruberg has battled some of Indiana’s best wrestlers, and more often than not has emerged victorious. But Ruberg’s true adversary isn’t an opponent standing across from him on the mat. No, for Ruberg, the demons he has wrestled in his own mind are far more vicious and formidable than any opponent could ever be. Ruberg emerged on the state scene four years ago. He was a little-known freshman wrestling for a small school a stone’s throw away from the Ohio state line. He won sectional and regional that year and eventually advanced to state. He lost just twice as a freshman, once to eventual champion Tommy Cash 2-1 in semistate, and then to Jacob Covaciu in the first round of state. Ruberg had sat at the table of the state’s wrestling elite. He developed a taste for that success and became obsessed with getting back there. He stepped on the mat 10 times that sophomore season, and all 10 times he emerged victorious. He was well on his way back to Indiana’s pinnacle – the state finals. Ruberg injured his shoulder during football, and thought he would be able to wrestle. But wrestling can be a cruel mistress at times. Ruberg realized that his shoulder needed more time to heal, and that he would have to stop wrestling for the remainder of the season. That injury led to a dark time for Ruberg, one where he would eventually be hospitalized because of a deep depression. “I’ve had to deal with some pretty tough stuff,” Ruberg said. “I became very depressed after my shoulder injury and I was in the hospital for a while. It was at the same time that Shenandoah’s Levi Black committed suicide after dealing with a mental illness. I was shocked to see that another kid was having some of the same issues I was having. I knew I had to come out of it.” Ruberg made the decision to talk about his issues. He went to therapy. He talked to Levi’s parents and brother (Shenandoah head coach Gary Black). By talking about it, he was starting to get better. He also realized that there might be other kids out there going through similar struggles. So, he made himself available to talk to them. “I wanted to make sure I was there for people,” Ruberg said. “Nobody should battle that alone. Mental illnesses are tough. I’ve been dealing with them since I was little. It’s something you have to work out. You can’t just fix yourself in a day. You have to have outlets and people you can talk to. My outlet is wrestling and working out. If I’m feeling bad, I go lift or work out on the mat. Everyone has to find their own outlet to get their mind clear.” Ruberg didn’t advance to state as a junior. He lost in the ticket round to Noah Warren in the New Castle semistate. The loss hurt, but Ruberg has learned to deal with the negative emotions and turn them into a positive. That was evident this football season. The Tigers advanced to the state championship game, eventually getting second. Ruberg was named the Class 3A Mental Attitude Award winner. “Jake is a born leader,” Lawrenceburg coach Mark Kirchgassner said. “He’s been a leader on our wrestling team for four years. He’s a leader on the football field. He’s just a leader in everything he does. “With Jake there have been ups and downs. But he has really taken positive steps. He’s done vigils with people battling depression. He’s taken kids under his wings. He helps people along the process and he’s been very open with it to other kids. It takes a lot of courage for a high school guy to tell people that he battles depression.” Ruberg is hoping this senior campaign ends with him on the podium at the state meet. He is currently ranked No. 10 at 170 pounds. He has a lost twice this year, once to No. 2-ranked Tanner Webster 3-2, and the other time he was pinned by No. 9-ranked Kameron Fuller. “My goal is to win state, and I expect to be in the top three at least,” Ruberg said. Ruberg has the luxury of being in the same room with three other highly skilled wrestlers in the upper weights. Nationally ranked Mason Parris is at 220. Jonah Rolfes (ranked No. 5 in the New Castle semistate) is at 182 pounds and Sam Tibbets is at 195 pounds. “We are fortunate for a small school to have four guys of that caliber that can battle every day in practice,” Kirchgassner said. “They are really able to push each other.” Ruberg loves the success his small school has had recently in wrestling. “People try and tell me how much better the Ohio tournament is,” Ruberg said. “I know they have great wrestlers. But we have a tournament where a school of 600 people gets to compete against a school of 6,000. Your ability really shines. You know you are one of the top 16 when you make it to state. If you win, there is no doubt that you are the best. I do wish we had wrestle backs though.” After high school Ruberg will wrestle for the University of Indianapolis. He chose Indianapolis because he wanted to remain close to home, and he really liked the coaching staff. “Their coach is very down to earth,” Ruberg said. “He will talk to you about anything. He’ll check up with you on the weekends and see how you’re doing. I just really like their program.” Ruberg plans to go into nursing. He had people help him when he was at his lowest point, and now he wants to make a career out of helping others. “My advice to anyone that might be struggling is to find someone that will listen to you,” Ruberg said. “Find someone you can open up to. Always keep going. There might be bad times, but something greater is always right around the corner.”
  15. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com A lot has changed in the wrestling room at New Palestine High School over the course of a year. The Dragons have a new coach and a lot younger team. But one thing remains the same – Alec White is still a hammer in the New Pal lineup. White, a senior, is a three-time state qualifier. He placed fourth as a freshman at 106 pounds. As a sophomore he qualified for state at 113 pounds and then returned as a junior in the same weight class and took sixth. This year White is the No. 5-ranked grappler at 126. “Alec is just cool,” first-year New Palestine wrestling coach Alex Johns said. “If I were to describe him, that’s the first thing you notice. He’s cool. This year he has taken a different approach. He’s very intelligent and he has a game plan for each match. He’s more laid back this year than he has been in the past. He’s enjoying the ride instead of worrying about the results.” Last season New Palestine was loaded with talent. At the top of that list was Chad Red Jr., who finished his high school career as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Indiana history. Red was undefeated in high school, winning four state titles in the process. Red wasn’t the only talented senior on last year’s squad. Jared Timberman was ranked in the top three most of the year at 145 pounds. Cameron Diep and Eugene Starks were also very good wrestlers for the Dragons. In addition to losing those quality seniors, coach Chad Red Sr., also resigned at the end of the season. This year New Palestine has a young lineup and a first-year coach. “Last year we always expected to win, team-wise” White said. “This year we’re looking at it as a long process. Each and every person on the team has to trust the process and continue to get better. Obviously we have individual goals as well. Mine are set very high. Other people on the team have different goals that are attainable.” Coach Johns is enjoying his first season at the helm of the Dragons. He wrestled for the University of Indianapolis and was later a graduate assistant there. He hopes to instill some of the core values of a college wrestler into his high school team. “We are young and inexperienced this year,” Johns said. “But the future looks bright for us for the next several years.” White was very disappointed with his sixth-place finish last season. White lost to Warren Central’s Skylour Turner in the Shelbyville sectional final 2-1, but then reversed that decision a week later in regional action, beating Turner 5-3 in the final. White and Turner were on opposite sides of the bracket at the New Castle semistate, but Cathedral’s Jordan Slivka beat Turner 7-3. White then beat Slivka 4-3 to win the semistate championship. White won his first round at state, but lost the next round 6-2 to Geoffery Davis. Davis then lost to Slivka in the third-fourth place match. White lost to his tourney nemesis, Turner, 3-2 in the fifth and sixth place match. “I was upset with my finish,” White said. “I thought I had a great opportunity to get under the lights. The draw didn’t matter to me. I felt like I was one of the best in the weight class, but someone beat me. That happens in wrestling. I’ve turned the page. I don’t like focusing on last year. I’m a different wrestler now. “I’ve been chasing a state title ever since I can remember. That’s been my goal ever since I first saw a state finals when I was about three years old. I saw two kids wrestling under the lights and everyone watching them. I knew someday I wanted that to be me.” White feels he has improved over the course of the year. “I’ve improved in every aspect,” he said. “My mental toughness, my wrestling ability and my knowledge has really improved. And I hope I continue to improve. I don’t think I’ve peaked. My best days are certainly ahead of me.” The Purdue Boilermakers are hoping that is true. White will wrestle for Purdue next season. Click here to view the article
  16. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com A lot has changed in the wrestling room at New Palestine High School over the course of a year. The Dragons have a new coach and a lot younger team. But one thing remains the same – Alec White is still a hammer in the New Pal lineup. White, a senior, is a three-time state qualifier. He placed fourth as a freshman at 106 pounds. As a sophomore he qualified for state at 113 pounds and then returned as a junior in the same weight class and took sixth. This year White is the No. 5-ranked grappler at 126. “Alec is just cool,” first-year New Palestine wrestling coach Alex Johns said. “If I were to describe him, that’s the first thing you notice. He’s cool. This year he has taken a different approach. He’s very intelligent and he has a game plan for each match. He’s more laid back this year than he has been in the past. He’s enjoying the ride instead of worrying about the results.” Last season New Palestine was loaded with talent. At the top of that list was Chad Red Jr., who finished his high school career as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Indiana history. Red was undefeated in high school, winning four state titles in the process. Red wasn’t the only talented senior on last year’s squad. Jared Timberman was ranked in the top three most of the year at 145 pounds. Cameron Diep and Eugene Starks were also very good wrestlers for the Dragons. In addition to losing those quality seniors, coach Chad Red Sr., also resigned at the end of the season. This year New Palestine has a young lineup and a first-year coach. “Last year we always expected to win, team-wise” White said. “This year we’re looking at it as a long process. Each and every person on the team has to trust the process and continue to get better. Obviously we have individual goals as well. Mine are set very high. Other people on the team have different goals that are attainable.” Coach Johns is enjoying his first season at the helm of the Dragons. He wrestled for the University of Indianapolis and was later a graduate assistant there. He hopes to instill some of the core values of a college wrestler into his high school team. “We are young and inexperienced this year,” Johns said. “But the future looks bright for us for the next several years.” White was very disappointed with his sixth-place finish last season. White lost to Warren Central’s Skylour Turner in the Shelbyville sectional final 2-1, but then reversed that decision a week later in regional action, beating Turner 5-3 in the final. White and Turner were on opposite sides of the bracket at the New Castle semistate, but Cathedral’s Jordan Slivka beat Turner 7-3. White then beat Slivka 4-3 to win the semistate championship. White won his first round at state, but lost the next round 6-2 to Geoffery Davis. Davis then lost to Slivka in the third-fourth place match. White lost to his tourney nemesis, Turner, 3-2 in the fifth and sixth place match. “I was upset with my finish,” White said. “I thought I had a great opportunity to get under the lights. The draw didn’t matter to me. I felt like I was one of the best in the weight class, but someone beat me. That happens in wrestling. I’ve turned the page. I don’t like focusing on last year. I’m a different wrestler now. “I’ve been chasing a state title ever since I can remember. That’s been my goal ever since I first saw a state finals when I was about three years old. I saw two kids wrestling under the lights and everyone watching them. I knew someday I wanted that to be me.” White feels he has improved over the course of the year. “I’ve improved in every aspect,” he said. “My mental toughness, my wrestling ability and my knowledge has really improved. And I hope I continue to improve. I don’t think I’ve peaked. My best days are certainly ahead of me.” The Purdue Boilermakers are hoping that is true. White will wrestle for Purdue next season.
  17. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Two years ago Thomas Penola didn’t crack Zionsville’s varsity lineup. Last year he had a mediocre season, going 24-13. A week ago he entered the prestigious Al Smith Classic as an unranked, unseeded junior competing in arguably the toughest weight class in the tournament. Now, just a week later, Penola’s career has taken a drastic turn. He won the Al Smith at 170 pounds, beating four ranked wrestlers in the process. When the new state rankings came out this week, Penola had one of the biggest jumps in the ranking’s history. He went from not being in the top 16, to his current rank of No. 3. “I was really surprised when I saw the rankings,” Penola said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I had beaten some good guys at the Al Smith, but I generally don’t even look at rankings. I just listen to my coaches and go out and wrestle.” Penola’s coaches are perhaps the ones surprised the least about his sudden rise into the state’s wrestling spotlight. “Thomas has had a great year,” Zionsville coach Jared Williams said. “We knew going into the Al Smith, with the competition that was going to be there at that weight, that we’d have a chance to see where he stood. I thought he could win it. I really thought that, going in, he’s there with anyone.” Penola knocked off No. 16 ranked Jordan Rader (14-2) in the opening round of the Al Smith. He later defeated Mike Edwards (10-5), No. 10 ranked Jared Swank (19-2), No. 9 ranked Tavonte Malone (24-1) and No. 5-ranked Zack Fattore (15-2) to win the championship. Penola is currently 20-1 on the season. Both he, and his coaches, point to his vigorous off-season training as the reason for his success this season. “For me, the biggest difference was that I stopped playing football and focused on wrestling,” Penola said. “The coaches I have been working with are great. They helped me focus on working on my feet. I went to camps, I worked out at CIA. I got to wrestle some guys that have really pushed me. Before this summer my weakness was wrestling on my feet. Now, I’d say, it’s my biggest strength.” Coach Williams credits Penola’s work ethic and desire for the turnaround. “I really thought last year that he would make a big jump,” Williams said. “I don’t think quitting football really had anything to do with it other than he came into our season healthy. He had one of his knees worked on last year and missed all of freestyle and folkstyle season. He felt behind and really wanted to focus on wrestling during the fall. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to stop playing football. If you want to make a big jump, it can happen in the spring and summer. “Thomas is hyper focused, and that’s why he is where he is today.” This year Penola’s goal is to place high at the state meet. He acknowledged that it won’t come easy. He is focusing on each match he wrestles and knows he can’t get to the point where he overlooks anyone. “I see what happens with him in the room,” Williams said. “I can feel it when I wrestle with him. He’s up there with anyone. He has that state-placing potential. But we’ve talked, and he has a lot of things that have to improve for him to be in a state title conversation. But he’s going the things he needs to do. “He’s as coachable as any person I’ve ever had. He takes in everything we, as a coaching staff, tell him. If we say we need something to happen, he’ll do everything in his power to make it happen. He does everything right, from nutrition, to rest to working hard in the weight room. He’s a leader for our team. And, the reason he loves wrestling is because he knows it’s a sport that rewards those that work the hardest.” Penola also credits having teammates that push him in the room as a reason for his success. “Guys like Sam Gobeyn, Matt Wertz and Josue Hill all have the same mind set and are improving because of their work and the way they push each other,” Williams said. Outside of wrestling Penola loves to hang out with his family, which includes two sisters and five brothers. He enjoys watching football and wrestling. And, he says, he loves eating when it isn’t wrestling season. Click here to view the article
  18. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Two years ago Thomas Penola didn’t crack Zionsville’s varsity lineup. Last year he had a mediocre season, going 24-13. A week ago he entered the prestigious Al Smith Classic as an unranked, unseeded junior competing in arguably the toughest weight class in the tournament. Now, just a week later, Penola’s career has taken a drastic turn. He won the Al Smith at 170 pounds, beating four ranked wrestlers in the process. When the new state rankings came out this week, Penola had one of the biggest jumps in the ranking’s history. He went from not being in the top 16, to his current rank of No. 3. “I was really surprised when I saw the rankings,” Penola said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I had beaten some good guys at the Al Smith, but I generally don’t even look at rankings. I just listen to my coaches and go out and wrestle.” Penola’s coaches are perhaps the ones surprised the least about his sudden rise into the state’s wrestling spotlight. “Thomas has had a great year,” Zionsville coach Jared Williams said. “We knew going into the Al Smith, with the competition that was going to be there at that weight, that we’d have a chance to see where he stood. I thought he could win it. I really thought that, going in, he’s there with anyone.” Penola knocked off No. 16 ranked Jordan Rader (14-2) in the opening round of the Al Smith. He later defeated Mike Edwards (10-5), No. 10 ranked Jared Swank (19-2), No. 9 ranked Tavonte Malone (24-1) and No. 5-ranked Zack Fattore (15-2) to win the championship. Penola is currently 20-1 on the season. Both he, and his coaches, point to his vigorous off-season training as the reason for his success this season. “For me, the biggest difference was that I stopped playing football and focused on wrestling,” Penola said. “The coaches I have been working with are great. They helped me focus on working on my feet. I went to camps, I worked out at CIA. I got to wrestle some guys that have really pushed me. Before this summer my weakness was wrestling on my feet. Now, I’d say, it’s my biggest strength.” Coach Williams credits Penola’s work ethic and desire for the turnaround. “I really thought last year that he would make a big jump,” Williams said. “I don’t think quitting football really had anything to do with it other than he came into our season healthy. He had one of his knees worked on last year and missed all of freestyle and folkstyle season. He felt behind and really wanted to focus on wrestling during the fall. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to stop playing football. If you want to make a big jump, it can happen in the spring and summer. “Thomas is hyper focused, and that’s why he is where he is today.” This year Penola’s goal is to place high at the state meet. He acknowledged that it won’t come easy. He is focusing on each match he wrestles and knows he can’t get to the point where he overlooks anyone. “I see what happens with him in the room,” Williams said. “I can feel it when I wrestle with him. He’s up there with anyone. He has that state-placing potential. But we’ve talked, and he has a lot of things that have to improve for him to be in a state title conversation. But he’s going the things he needs to do. “He’s as coachable as any person I’ve ever had. He takes in everything we, as a coaching staff, tell him. If we say we need something to happen, he’ll do everything in his power to make it happen. He does everything right, from nutrition, to rest to working hard in the weight room. He’s a leader for our team. And, the reason he loves wrestling is because he knows it’s a sport that rewards those that work the hardest.” Penola also credits having teammates that push him in the room as a reason for his success. “Guys like Sam Gobeyn, Matt Wertz and Josue Hill all have the same mind set and are improving because of their work and the way they push each other,” Williams said. Outside of wrestling Penola loves to hang out with his family, which includes two sisters and five brothers. He enjoys watching football and wrestling. And, he says, he loves eating when it isn’t wrestling season.
  19. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com One and a half points. That’s all that separated North Montgomery from winning the Crawfordsville sectional championship last year. The Chargers were defeated by Southmont, their arch rival by a score of 242-240.5. It was the closest score between the top two teams in all of the state last year in sectional action. “Southmont is our county and they are our biggest rivals,” North Montgomery coach Maurice Swain said. “Our kids have been seeing those guys since elementary school. We’re hoping this year we can turn that score around.” North Montgomery is certainly poised to win a sectional title – and possibly more. The Chargers return a senior-laden team led by their 170-pound wrecking ball Tanner Webster. Webster is currently the No. 2 ranked grappler in the weight class, just behind his good friend Burk Van Horn. “Tanner is one of those kids that is always on the wrestling mat,” Swain said. “When I first came here he was in fifth grade and would wrestle in the varsity room. He was always working with our high schoolers. He always wants to get better. The goal this year for him is to win a state title.” Webster vividly remembers the excitement of advancing to state last year and ultimately placing sixth at 170 pounds. But now that he’s had a taste for the big stage, he’s setting his sights on bringing home top honors. “Last season just going to state was very cool,” Webster said. “It relieved a bunch of stress I felt to get there. But this year I want to win it all, and I want to have several of my teammates at state with me as well.” The Chargers have eight seniors on the team, and seven of those seniors are in the lineup. “Even the guys that aren’t seniors have been in our program for a long time,” Swain said. “At North Montgomery we don’t get move-ins. We have to develop our wrestlers.” Sophomore 106-pounder Seth Johnson is the team’s only other state-ranked wrestler. Johnson is currently No. 5. Cade Graves, Isaac Fruits and Cole Slavens are all ranked in the New Castle semistate. Graves is No. 7 at 152, Fruits is No. 5 at 182 and Slavens is No. 5 at 195. “I really think this is the best team North Montgomery has ever had,” Webster said. “Coach Swain has done an awesome job here. We know we can do some damage. From the bottom of our lineup to the top this is the best we’ve ever been.” The Chargers have the same goals every year. They want to win their County meet, their conference meet and do well in the state series. Southmont is standing in their way in all three goals. “Our county meet was postponed, but we are excited to see those guys,” Webster said. “We feel like we are better than we were and we hope to prove that.” Click here to view the article
  20. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com One and a half points. That’s all that separated North Montgomery from winning the Crawfordsville sectional championship last year. The Chargers were defeated by Southmont, their arch rival by a score of 242-240.5. It was the closest score between the top two teams in all of the state last year in sectional action. “Southmont is our county and they are our biggest rivals,” North Montgomery coach Maurice Swain said. “Our kids have been seeing those guys since elementary school. We’re hoping this year we can turn that score around.” North Montgomery is certainly poised to win a sectional title – and possibly more. The Chargers return a senior-laden team led by their 170-pound wrecking ball Tanner Webster. Webster is currently the No. 2 ranked grappler in the weight class, just behind his good friend Burk Van Horn. “Tanner is one of those kids that is always on the wrestling mat,” Swain said. “When I first came here he was in fifth grade and would wrestle in the varsity room. He was always working with our high schoolers. He always wants to get better. The goal this year for him is to win a state title.” Webster vividly remembers the excitement of advancing to state last year and ultimately placing sixth at 170 pounds. But now that he’s had a taste for the big stage, he’s setting his sights on bringing home top honors. “Last season just going to state was very cool,” Webster said. “It relieved a bunch of stress I felt to get there. But this year I want to win it all, and I want to have several of my teammates at state with me as well.” The Chargers have eight seniors on the team, and seven of those seniors are in the lineup. “Even the guys that aren’t seniors have been in our program for a long time,” Swain said. “At North Montgomery we don’t get move-ins. We have to develop our wrestlers.” Sophomore 106-pounder Seth Johnson is the team’s only other state-ranked wrestler. Johnson is currently No. 5. Cade Graves, Isaac Fruits and Cole Slavens are all ranked in the New Castle semistate. Graves is No. 7 at 152, Fruits is No. 5 at 182 and Slavens is No. 5 at 195. “I really think this is the best team North Montgomery has ever had,” Webster said. “Coach Swain has done an awesome job here. We know we can do some damage. From the bottom of our lineup to the top this is the best we’ve ever been.” The Chargers have the same goals every year. They want to win their County meet, their conference meet and do well in the state series. Southmont is standing in their way in all three goals. “Our county meet was postponed, but we are excited to see those guys,” Webster said. “We feel like we are better than we were and we hope to prove that.”
  21. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Robert Faulkens is the face of wrestling at the Indiana High School Athletic Association office. As an assistant commissioner, he administers IHSAA wrestling (as well as football and boys and girls track and field). Faulkens, who also sits on several National Federation of State High School Associations committees, oversees an annual online rules meeting for IHSAA wrestling officials and coaches. He also likes to take advantage of face-to-face opportunities, like the recent St. Joseph Valley Officials Association gathering in Granger. There, Faulkens got a chance to address a roomful of mat referees and area coaching staffs. Faulkens, who defines his job as someone who must be equitable to all 4,000 wrestlers and all 309 programs in Indiana and not just the elite, covered many topics and had a dialogue with those in attendance. Much of the discussion were on areas relating to participation. “Wrestling’s been in a decline for about four or five years,” Faulkens said of dropping participation numbers. He said the only thing propping up participation in Indiana is girls wrestling, which had about 300 competing on boys squads throughout the state last season. It’s a number too low to make it a separate sport. But if the numbers continue to rise it could happen in the future. “My guess is we’re eight or 10 years from pulling girls out and making it a separate sport,” Faulkens said. “the number of teams that have girls wrestling is very small. There are pockets of girls wrestling (currently, Lafayette Jeff and Crispus Attucks each have more than a dozen girls in their programs). Either you have them or you don’t. Very rarely do you have one girl wrestling. Normally you have four or five.” Faulkens sits on the national rules writing committee for the National Federation. The committee met last April and considered and approved a new two-piece uniform with a tight shirt and shorts. The rules regulators at the next level turned down the proposal, saying there was no uniformity in the specifications nor was there time to approve the change by October. “In April (2017), we’ll probably do it all over again and have to be more specific,” Faulkens said. “I think we’re about three years away (from the two-piece uniform).” What’s wrong with the singlet? “Kids are not wresting because they are a little bit embarrassed to wear the singlet,” Faukens said. “Participation numbers have dropped and that’s one of the reasons kids have decided they don’t want to wrestle.” What are some of the other reasons? The long weekend events have become a grind to many young athletes. Faulkens noted that there no joy in spending all day on a Saturday and losing five times and wrestling all of six minutes. “Why as a high school kid would I give up seven weekends to not have fun?,” Faulkens said. Many schools have schedules made up mostly of Saturday super duals or tournaments. The suggestion has been made from some in Indiana to increase the number of weeknight dual meets. Another reason is parents don’t want their kids to wrestle because they equate the sport with brawling. “They see wrestling as MMA or as Ultimate Fight Club,” Faulkens said. “As scholastic wrestlers we’re trying to distance ourselves from those two entities because of the negative connotation.” That’s why he resists calling the lower part of the two-piece uniform “fight” shorts. Faulkens talked about the relationship between football and wrestling — a natural partnership in some communities, but not in all places. He is a fan of multi-sport participation. “Those schools that share kids among sports are normally the ones who are successful over a long period of time,” Faulkens said. “We have some hard-headed football coaches that believe a kid should just play football in the fall and lift weights in the winter and spring. “It goes against everything we know about kids. They need to do different sports at different times of the year. If they do the same thing all the time, they risk burnout and injury. Those two things are not good for any kid.” The assistant commissioner noted that 75 percent of the teams in the IHSAA football state championships have athletes who participate in another sport. At schools where wrestling coaches are having a hard time getting football players (or those specializing in one sport) to join their teams, Faulkens said their must be a conversation between the coach and their athletic director and and principal. Faulkens pointed out the differences in the gridiron and mat, noting that football is anaerobic and wrestling is aerobic “and never the twain shall meet.” “If you try to get a kid to go from quick bursts and a lot of rest to a sport that’s a continual expenditure of energy, it’s very difficult,” Faulkens said. “Wrestling is not an easy sport. We’ve got a group of kids that don’t want to work that hard. They really don’t. They’re going to take the path of least resistance. It’s just the mindset of our kids.” While many will argue that more mat time is always a good thing, Faulkens sees a trend coming from his involvement with the National Federation’s sports medicine advisory committee that calls for a reduction in the number of matches. “What we know is that at a certain point, there’s no return on improvement,” Faulkens said. “It’s likely that in a few years the maximum number of regular-season matches allowed per wrestler will be 25.” This will mean an adjustment in how schedules are made. There may not be as many two-day super duals with teams competing eight to 10 times in a weekend, knowing that they may be getting close to the maximum in a very short time period. A point of emphasis for Faulkens at each online rules meeting is the importance of being vigilant against infectious skin diseases. “Don’t share razors or soap and wash yourself everyday and wash your mats,” Faulkens said. Faulkens said showering after each practice and competition is suggested. But if coaches can’t enforce that they should at least have a bucket of antibacterial wipes for exposed skin when wrestlers get off the mat. Ideally, checking for skin lesions would be a daily occurrence, but every athlete should be checked at least once a week. A year ago, Faulkens said 70 schools had cases of infectious skin disease on their teams and five schools reported five or more cases. “Parents are not going to stand for it,” Faulkens said. “If you get a MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) in your room, that’s going to cost the parents $40,000. If they don’t have insurance, chances are they are not going to get the treatment that they need.” Faulkens notes that though he may come across as harsh when making his points about matters like this and with the proper administration of the weight management system (he got the athletic directors and athletic trainers involved four years ago), there’s a method to his madness. “We can’t lose wrestling because we can’t lose the lessons that wrestling gives us,” Faulkens said. “As coaches, you are in control of that.” As for the state of the sport as Faulkens heads into his seventh state tournament series, he likes what he sees. “We’re in good shape,” Faulkens said. “I love where we’re are in wrestling in the state of Indiana. I really do. “My job is to do what’s best for everybody.” Click here to view the article
  22. By STEVE KRAH stvkrh905@gmail.com Robert Faulkens is the face of wrestling at the Indiana High School Athletic Association office. As an assistant commissioner, he administers IHSAA wrestling (as well as football and boys and girls track and field). Faulkens, who also sits on several National Federation of State High School Associations committees, oversees an annual online rules meeting for IHSAA wrestling officials and coaches. He also likes to take advantage of face-to-face opportunities, like the recent St. Joseph Valley Officials Association gathering in Granger. There, Faulkens got a chance to address a roomful of mat referees and area coaching staffs. Faulkens, who defines his job as someone who must be equitable to all 4,000 wrestlers and all 309 programs in Indiana and not just the elite, covered many topics and had a dialogue with those in attendance. Much of the discussion were on areas relating to participation. “Wrestling’s been in a decline for about four or five years,” Faulkens said of dropping participation numbers. He said the only thing propping up participation in Indiana is girls wrestling, which had about 300 competing on boys squads throughout the state last season. It’s a number too low to make it a separate sport. But if the numbers continue to rise it could happen in the future. “My guess is we’re eight or 10 years from pulling girls out and making it a separate sport,” Faulkens said. “the number of teams that have girls wrestling is very small. There are pockets of girls wrestling (currently, Lafayette Jeff and Crispus Attucks each have more than a dozen girls in their programs). Either you have them or you don’t. Very rarely do you have one girl wrestling. Normally you have four or five.” Faulkens sits on the national rules writing committee for the National Federation. The committee met last April and considered and approved a new two-piece uniform with a tight shirt and shorts. The rules regulators at the next level turned down the proposal, saying there was no uniformity in the specifications nor was there time to approve the change by October. “In April (2017), we’ll probably do it all over again and have to be more specific,” Faulkens said. “I think we’re about three years away (from the two-piece uniform).” What’s wrong with the singlet? “Kids are not wresting because they are a little bit embarrassed to wear the singlet,” Faukens said. “Participation numbers have dropped and that’s one of the reasons kids have decided they don’t want to wrestle.” What are some of the other reasons? The long weekend events have become a grind to many young athletes. Faulkens noted that there no joy in spending all day on a Saturday and losing five times and wrestling all of six minutes. “Why as a high school kid would I give up seven weekends to not have fun?,” Faulkens said. Many schools have schedules made up mostly of Saturday super duals or tournaments. The suggestion has been made from some in Indiana to increase the number of weeknight dual meets. Another reason is parents don’t want their kids to wrestle because they equate the sport with brawling. “They see wrestling as MMA or as Ultimate Fight Club,” Faulkens said. “As scholastic wrestlers we’re trying to distance ourselves from those two entities because of the negative connotation.” That’s why he resists calling the lower part of the two-piece uniform “fight” shorts. Faulkens talked about the relationship between football and wrestling — a natural partnership in some communities, but not in all places. He is a fan of multi-sport participation. “Those schools that share kids among sports are normally the ones who are successful over a long period of time,” Faulkens said. “We have some hard-headed football coaches that believe a kid should just play football in the fall and lift weights in the winter and spring. “It goes against everything we know about kids. They need to do different sports at different times of the year. If they do the same thing all the time, they risk burnout and injury. Those two things are not good for any kid.” The assistant commissioner noted that 75 percent of the teams in the IHSAA football state championships have athletes who participate in another sport. At schools where wrestling coaches are having a hard time getting football players (or those specializing in one sport) to join their teams, Faulkens said their must be a conversation between the coach and their athletic director and and principal. Faulkens pointed out the differences in the gridiron and mat, noting that football is anaerobic and wrestling is aerobic “and never the twain shall meet.” “If you try to get a kid to go from quick bursts and a lot of rest to a sport that’s a continual expenditure of energy, it’s very difficult,” Faulkens said. “Wrestling is not an easy sport. We’ve got a group of kids that don’t want to work that hard. They really don’t. They’re going to take the path of least resistance. It’s just the mindset of our kids.” While many will argue that more mat time is always a good thing, Faulkens sees a trend coming from his involvement with the National Federation’s sports medicine advisory committee that calls for a reduction in the number of matches. “What we know is that at a certain point, there’s no return on improvement,” Faulkens said. “It’s likely that in a few years the maximum number of regular-season matches allowed per wrestler will be 25.” This will mean an adjustment in how schedules are made. There may not be as many two-day super duals with teams competing eight to 10 times in a weekend, knowing that they may be getting close to the maximum in a very short time period. A point of emphasis for Faulkens at each online rules meeting is the importance of being vigilant against infectious skin diseases. “Don’t share razors or soap and wash yourself everyday and wash your mats,” Faulkens said. Faulkens said showering after each practice and competition is suggested. But if coaches can’t enforce that they should at least have a bucket of antibacterial wipes for exposed skin when wrestlers get off the mat. Ideally, checking for skin lesions would be a daily occurrence, but every athlete should be checked at least once a week. A year ago, Faulkens said 70 schools had cases of infectious skin disease on their teams and five schools reported five or more cases. “Parents are not going to stand for it,” Faulkens said. “If you get a MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) in your room, that’s going to cost the parents $40,000. If they don’t have insurance, chances are they are not going to get the treatment that they need.” Faulkens notes that though he may come across as harsh when making his points about matters like this and with the proper administration of the weight management system (he got the athletic directors and athletic trainers involved four years ago), there’s a method to his madness. “We can’t lose wrestling because we can’t lose the lessons that wrestling gives us,” Faulkens said. “As coaches, you are in control of that.” As for the state of the sport as Faulkens heads into his seventh state tournament series, he likes what he sees. “We’re in good shape,” Faulkens said. “I love where we’re are in wrestling in the state of Indiana. I really do. “My job is to do what’s best for everybody.”
  23. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Burk Van Horn remembers being with his dad and brothers driving down the highway on their way to Nebraska, and seeing several cars trying to get their attention. Turns out, Van Horn had accidentally left the gates open on the family’s cattle trailer they were hauling, and some of the cattle was walking toward the opening. “The cows were just about to jump out when we stopped,” Van Horn said. “We had stopped to eat and I checked on the cattle, but forgot to close the gates.” Van Horn is a little more careful these days, both with cattle and on the wrestling mat. He’s currently ranked No. 2 at 160 pounds. He started the season out ranked No. 1 at 170 pounds and later moved to 160 and was given the top ranking there, before the latest polls had Evansville Mater Dei’s Joe Lee moving up to 160 and claiming the top spot. The Franklin Community senior has had a stellar career in high school, but it wasn’t until last season that he really stepped up his game. As a freshman Van Horn advanced to semistate. As a sophomore he was defeated in the first round of regional. But, as a junior, he not only made it to the state tournament – he wrestled his way under the lights at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. Van Horn lost a 3-0 heartbreaker in the state finals match to two-time champ Jacob Covaciu. “My sophomore year I had a bad match at regionals,” Van Horn said. “But that helped me to become better and motivate myself more. I started to break down matches more. That loss was a setback, but it made me want to go further. “Then, last year when I saw my draw at state, I really felt like I could get under the lights. Just getting there wasn’t my goal. I wanted to win, not get second.” Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said losing in regional as a sophomore was a turning point in Van Horn’s career. “It was a crappy match and things happened that was a little out of his control with the officiating,” Hasseman said. “At that time, when something didn’t go his way, Burk could get a little discombobulated. But since that time, and probably because of that time, he has learned to keep on rolling and to take the good with the bad. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to get bad calls. That’s wrestling. But he has to stay focused and keep wrestling and not make a grave error when he’s frustrated.” Van Horn has mixed emotions about the rankings this year. He likes the fact that he was ranked No. 1 at two different classes. He likes that he has a target on his back and a lot of guys are trying to knock him off. But he doesn’t like when kids get intimidated just because of his ranking. “I’ve still got a lot of room to improve before I can become a state champ,” he said. “I’m just another kid out there wrestling. There are sometimes I wish I wasn’t ranked because a lot of kids won’t wrestle me. Or, if they do wrestle, some of them just roll to their backs like little girls instead of at least putting up a fight. But it is fun walking onto the mat and knowing that you’re the man.” Van Horn has made weight once at 160, but plans to go back to 170. At this point, he’s not sure where he will wrestle in the tournament. “I’m going to do whatever is best for the team,” he said. Burk started wrestling about the time he learned to walk. He has two older brothers that were state qualifiers. “Burk is quite a bit bigger than his brothers were,” Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said. “He’s got the size and he’s very talented. His whole family seems to be just genetically strong. He has good hips and is very rarely out of position on the mat. His body build also helps him tremendously.” Burk is the epitome of being country strong. His daily routine of wrestling and then going home and working with the cattle and his show pigs has helped him develop a habit of hard working. “I show pigs and cattle year around,” Burk said. “It’s a lot of hard work. If you want to win in the show ring, or in wrestling, you have to be willing to put in the hard work.” Van Horn is hoping all his hard work produces an end result of a state championship this season. Click here to view the article
  24. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Burk Van Horn remembers being with his dad and brothers driving down the highway on their way to Nebraska, and seeing several cars trying to get their attention. Turns out, Van Horn had accidentally left the gates open on the family’s cattle trailer they were hauling, and some of the cattle was walking toward the opening. “The cows were just about to jump out when we stopped,” Van Horn said. “We had stopped to eat and I checked on the cattle, but forgot to close the gates.” Van Horn is a little more careful these days, both with cattle and on the wrestling mat. He’s currently ranked No. 2 at 160 pounds. He started the season out ranked No. 1 at 170 pounds and later moved to 160 and was given the top ranking there, before the latest polls had Evansville Mater Dei’s Joe Lee moving up to 160 and claiming the top spot. The Franklin Community senior has had a stellar career in high school, but it wasn’t until last season that he really stepped up his game. As a freshman Van Horn advanced to semistate. As a sophomore he was defeated in the first round of regional. But, as a junior, he not only made it to the state tournament – he wrestled his way under the lights at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. Van Horn lost a 3-0 heartbreaker in the state finals match to two-time champ Jacob Covaciu. “My sophomore year I had a bad match at regionals,” Van Horn said. “But that helped me to become better and motivate myself more. I started to break down matches more. That loss was a setback, but it made me want to go further. “Then, last year when I saw my draw at state, I really felt like I could get under the lights. Just getting there wasn’t my goal. I wanted to win, not get second.” Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said losing in regional as a sophomore was a turning point in Van Horn’s career. “It was a crappy match and things happened that was a little out of his control with the officiating,” Hasseman said. “At that time, when something didn’t go his way, Burk could get a little discombobulated. But since that time, and probably because of that time, he has learned to keep on rolling and to take the good with the bad. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to get bad calls. That’s wrestling. But he has to stay focused and keep wrestling and not make a grave error when he’s frustrated.” Van Horn has mixed emotions about the rankings this year. He likes the fact that he was ranked No. 1 at two different classes. He likes that he has a target on his back and a lot of guys are trying to knock him off. But he doesn’t like when kids get intimidated just because of his ranking. “I’ve still got a lot of room to improve before I can become a state champ,” he said. “I’m just another kid out there wrestling. There are sometimes I wish I wasn’t ranked because a lot of kids won’t wrestle me. Or, if they do wrestle, some of them just roll to their backs like little girls instead of at least putting up a fight. But it is fun walking onto the mat and knowing that you’re the man.” Van Horn has made weight once at 160, but plans to go back to 170. At this point, he’s not sure where he will wrestle in the tournament. “I’m going to do whatever is best for the team,” he said. Burk started wrestling about the time he learned to walk. He has two older brothers that were state qualifiers. “Burk is quite a bit bigger than his brothers were,” Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said. “He’s got the size and he’s very talented. His whole family seems to be just genetically strong. He has good hips and is very rarely out of position on the mat. His body build also helps him tremendously.” Burk is the epitome of being country strong. His daily routine of wrestling and then going home and working with the cattle and his show pigs has helped him develop a habit of hard working. “I show pigs and cattle year around,” Burk said. “It’s a lot of hard work. If you want to win in the show ring, or in wrestling, you have to be willing to put in the hard work.” Van Horn is hoping all his hard work produces an end result of a state championship this season.
  25. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com Beech Grove’s Ethan Smiley isn’t big on talking about himself. After repeated questions for this article about his wrestling and other accomplishments, Smiley barely mustered a word. But, when the questions turned to his teammates or his family, he was much more talkative. “Ethan is very quiet,” Hornet coach Matt Irwin said. “He isn’t the first person you notice in the room. He’d be the last person you’d notice. He is humble and it’s hard to get him to brag on himself. That’s how he was raised. He knows how to act and how to carry himself in a good manner.” Even though he won’t do it, Smiley has plenty to brag about on the mat and in the classroom. The Beech Grove junior is currently ranked No. 8 at 132 pounds. He has qualified for state both of his previous seasons. Last year he earned a spot on the podium with an 8th-place finish at 120 pounds. Off the mat, Smiley is ranked No. 1 in his class. “He has a GPA of over 4.2,” Irwin said. “Everything he does, he does it with all his effort. He takes everything seriously. He is an extremely hard worker with a no nonsense approach. He wants to get in, get out and get things accomplished.” Ethan would like to place higher at the state level this year than he did last year. It is equally important to him to get a teammate to state this year as well. “My goal is just to be grateful for the opportunity to wrestle and be with my teammates,” Smiley said. “We are better than we have been the last few years. I really want to bring some teammates to state this year. We have some decent guys that have a chance. Bailey Moore, our 138 pounder, could have a very good season. He is one of my practice partners.” Ethan’s older brother, Evan, was a two-time state qualifier for the Hornets. He finished fourth at 145 pounds his senior season. “I started wrestling when I was four,” Ethan said. “My brother was wrestling and I wanted to do it too. He still drills with me when he gets a chance.” Currently Evan is wrestling at 141 pounds for the University of Indianapolis. “I think Ethan has really taken a lot from Evan’s work ethic,” Irwin said. “Their styles aren’t similar, except that they are both very heavy handed. But they are very big on hard work and not cutting corners.” Coach Irwin believes Ethan has the ability to contend for a state title on the mat. Irwin said that Ethan has put a lot of work in during the offseason. He has gotten stronger, really worked with his nutrition and has done all of the right things to put himself in a good position to make a run. Last season Ethan wrestled Dylan Culp four times during the state tournament. He lost in the sectional final to Culp 6-0, but then turned it around and beat Culp 4-2 in the regional final. Culp won the semistate championship match 4-2. The two met one more time, in the 7th and 8th place match in the state finals. Culp won that battle 5-4. “I think my biggest win last year was at regionals when I finally beat Dylan Culp,” Ethan said. “That was my most satisfying win. He had beaten me numerous times before, but that was the first time I finally beat him.” Ethan would like to wrestle in college, but he hasn’t put much thought into that. He’s hoping to go to Purdue and study plant science. “I’m really into botany and plant science,” Ethan said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with a Purdue professor and do science research. I’d like to work in agriculture and get a degree in plant science. That’s what I work toward.” Wrestling is Ethan’s only high school sport. When he was younger he tried his hand at baseball and golf, but didn’t pursue those sports in high school. He usually shoots in the 90s in golf, he said. Ethan also plays guitar a little and loves comic books, especially batman. Ethan is very family oriented. He enjoys hanging out with his brother, or his parents Phil and Christa. He also enjoys playing with his dog. “Overall, Ethan is pretty serious, but he can be a goofball at times,” Irwin said. “He cares about other people and he wants his teammates to be successful. That is extremely important to him.” Click here to view the article
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