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    The Avon wrestling team knows exactly where to look for inspiration as the season winds down and the state tournament draws near. The Orioles look to their own past.
    Avon has learned first hand how wild and unpredictable the tournament can be. Wrestlers on the team have proven that it doesn’t matter if you win sectional, or regional. It doesn’t matter if you take some losses during the regular season. What matters most is surviving and advancing.
    Avon senior Asa Garcia has epitomized that philosophy in his stellar career.
    As a freshman Garcia lost to Ty Mills of rival Brownsburg in the sectional championship. Mills went on to beat him again in the regional, and then handed him a 5-0 loss in the semistate final. At state, however, Garcia was the one standing at the end. Mills lost to Warren Central’s Keyuan Murphy 9-2 in the semifinal round. Garcia pinned Murphy in the state championship to claim his first title.
    Garcia had a fantastic sophomore year - winning sectional, regional and semistate, but he fell just short of his goal of back-to-back state titles, losing to eventual champion Alex Viduya in the state semifinal round. Garcia finished third that season.
    As a junior Garcia again lost to Mills in sectional (2-0) and regional (5-1). In the semistate Columbus East’s Cayden Rooks handed Mills a semifinal defeat (1-0) and then dealt Garcia a loss in the semistate championship (3-1). But, like his freshman year, Garcia learned from his losses.
    In the state finals Garcia ran through an absolute gauntlet of wrestling phenoms. He took out Beech Grove’s Ethan Smiley. He then faced Mills, who had dealt him so many previous losses. This time Garcia came out victorious 8-1. 
    In the championship, Garcia would once again take on Rooks - who had just beat him the week before. This time Garcia won the match 3-2 to claim his second title.
    “Asa is really the heart and soul of our team,” Avon coach Zach Errett said. “As he goes, so does the team. He’s not afraid of losing. That’s really a quality that a lot of our guys have. You have to learn from your losses, and Asa has really shown he can do that.”
    This year Avon has seven state-ranked wrestlers in the lineup. Garcia is No. 1 at 132 pounds this season and senior teammate Carson Brewer is ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds.
    Asa’s younger brother, Blaze, a freshman, is currently ranked No. 12 at 106 for the Orioles. Sophomore Tyler Conley is ranked No. 10 at 120 and his older brother Nathan Conley (12) is ranked No. 4 at 152.
    Junior Raymond Rioux is currently ranked No. 7 at 126. Sophomore Jaden Reynolds rounds out the ranked wrestlers for Avon, at No. 10 in he 138 pound weight class.
    “Asa, Nathan and Carson really lead the way for us,” Errett said. “They are great leaders and they work hard. That shows the other kids what’s expected and what needs to be done in order to have success.”
    Avon has three sets of brothers on the team in the Garcias, the Conleys and Jaden and Trae Reynolds. Trae, a senior, is injured and will miss the remainder of the season.
    “Trae had been ranked for most of the year,” Errett said. “Then at team state he dislocated his elbow and is out for the year. I feel terrible for him. The type of kid he is, he will probably be first team academic all-state. He had either the highest or the second highest GPA in all of the juniors and seniors last year. He’s a phenomenal young man. He’s a hard worker. His senior year ended in the wrong way, but he still comes in the room and helps coach. He’s trying to help his teammates anyway he can. He’s been an awesome kid.”
    For the last few years Avon has finished just behind Brownsburg in sectional and regional standings. The Orioles are hoping this year they can pull off the upset.
    “Our goal is to win the IHSAA state title,” Errett said. “We know in order to do that we have to have a lot of things go right for us. In this sport, that’s unpredictable. But, we really feel we have a chance if everyone is wrestling their best.”
    One family has had their hand raised in victory nearly 500 times while representing Calumet High School wrestling.
    Brothers Artty (Class of 1991) and Ed Fowler (1992) grappled to victories for the Warriors then the next generation added to that total. Artty and Deanna Fowler’s five oldest sons — Nathan (2010), Noah (2014), Nick (2015), Kobe (2016) and A.J. (2019) — have all won for the Warriors, especially Nick and A.J.
    With success in the IHSAA state tournament series, A.J. has a chance to pass Nick on the way to the top of the Calumet victory list. No. 1 is now held by 2010 130-pound state qualifier Mike Clark (143).
    In a household full of wrestlers, A.J. found out he had to get tough just to protect himself.
    “I’m as aggressive as a I can be,” says A.J. Fowler. “All my brothers beat me up when I was little.”
    All the Fowlers have played football and wrestled for the Warriors. A.J. ran for more than 500 yards as a fullback and also played defensive end and outside linebacker last fall. He sees his collegiate path including business management classes and either wrestling or football.
    “The two go hand-in-hand for success in both,” says Jim Wadkins, a 1980 Calumet graduate who grappled at 177 pounds for coach Rolland Beckham (who had been an NAIA All-American at Indiana State and coached at Calumet for 18 years) and has been on the wrestling coaching staff since 1984-85 (he was an assistant to Ken Stigall, who was placed third at 112 at the 1967 IHSAA State Finals) and head coach since 1990-91.
    Known for close to a decade after reorganization as Calumet New Tech High School, the Gary-based school has about 600 students. That makes it one of Indiana’s smaller Class 3A schools.
    “We’ve got a lot of two- and three-sport athletes at Calumet,” says Wadkins. 
    A.J. Fowler wrestled at 182 pounds as a freshman, 195 as a sophomore and junior and is at 220 as a senior. His resume includes two sectional titles, one regional crown, three semistate berths and a state qualifying appearance in 2018. He has a chance to join Butch Carpenter as four-time semistate qualifier for Calumet.
    The Warriors are members of the Greater South Shore Conference and face a strong schedule which includes, in addition to the conference tournament, the Warsaw Invitational, Harvest Classic at Lake Central, Chris Traicoff Memorial Invitational at Calumet, Jeffersonville Classic, Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka and Lake County Championships. Chris Traicoff started the Calumet program in 1939. The program was shut down during World War II and beyond and Beckham helped bring it back with the help of AD and boys basketball coach Traicoff during the 1960’s. He died in 1989.
    According to Wadkins, Lowell native George Belshaw introduced Traicoff to Indiana University coach Billy Thom and even though 1935 valedictorian Traicoff played basketball and never wrestled a match in at Calumet Township High School, he won an NCAA title for the Hoosiers in 1939. That same year, he came back to Calumet to start the program. Calumet’s modern state tournament path has led them through the Griffith Sectional, Hobart Regional and East Chicago Semsitate.
    In other words, a lot of tough Region wrestlers.
    “It’s pretty tough,” says Fowler of northwest Indiana grappling. “You never know what you’re going to get."
    “You may get a guy who’s big, burly and knows about three moves but he’ll still go with you.”
    Wadkins notes that most Region wrestlers in the upper weights are juniors and seniors and Fowler held his own as an underclassman. Fowler has honed his skills with senior 195-pounder Aaron Lizardi and senior 285-pounder Keiloun Martin being his regular workout partners. He also spars regularly with assistant coach Andy Trevino. A state champion at 140 for Calumet in 1991, he has assisted Wadkins for more than a decade.
    “He’s an asset in our room,” says Wadkins of Trevino. “Coaching wrestling is a young man’s game. They’re able to get on the mat with the kids."
    “We’ve been very fortunate. Calumet grads or those connections to the program have shown a lot of devotion and have been good about giving back.”
    Alec Noworul (Class of 2014) and Lamberto Garcia 15 are giving back as middle school coaches who also help out at high school workouts.
    A.J. gives knowledge to his younger teammates by showing them the many moves he knows.
    “It’s kind of like a big brother system,” says A.J., who is also sometimes joined in practice by actual brothers Nathan and Noah. Sister Felicia is the oldest of the Fowler kids and the only girl. Wadkins says she might be the toughest. Youngest Kade (Class of 2026) has yet to get too involved in wrestling.
    Like his older brothers, A.J.’s matches keep his mother on the move. “She still has anxiety,” says A.J. Fowler. “She has to walk around after every match.”
    Calumet has competed this season with 22 wrestlers and filled most weight divisions, even when being undersized in some of them.
    Most wrestling stories don’t begin like K.J. Roudebush’s did. Then again, most wrestlers aren’t wired quite like the three-sport star from Tipton, either.
    Roudebush got into wrestling as a punishment, and because a household lamp was broken.
    “It’s really a funny story,” the Tipton senior said. “I was in fifth grade and my oldest brother was in college so my middle brother and I were downstairs wrestling around. Right when dad got home from work we were still wrestling and my brother and I had gotten mad at each other and one of my mom’s lamps got broken. My dad wasn’t happy. He said if we wanted to continue wrestling at home, we were going to join the wrestling team. I went to the wrestling team and I just fell in love with it.”
    Roudebush is currently ranked No. 10 in the state at 195 pounds. He lost in the ticket round last year at the New Castle semistate to current No. 1-ranked junior Silas Allred of Shenandoah.
    Roudebush doesn’t make excuses for that loss.
    “Silas is something special,” he said. “I went out on the mat and he just dominated me. I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t tired or anything, he was just better than me.”
    This season Roudebush wants to go one step further than he did last year. He wants to advance to the state tournament.
    For Roudebush, wrestling is a part-time gig. Unlike most highly ranked Indiana wrestlers, Roudebush doesn’t wrestle in the offseason. Summers are for baseball and the fall is for his first love, football. Roudebush plays quarterback on Tipton’s offense and splits time between linebacker and defensive end on defense.
    “K.J. is in the top 10 of his class,” Tipton coach Mark Barker said. “He’s such an intelligent guy and he’s a leader in every sport he does. To me, he’s one of those exceptional people that don’t come along that often. If he focused solely on wrestling, I really think it would be hard for anyone to beat him.
    “But I like multi-sport athletes. The more sports you do the better you’ll become at all of them. That’s the way things have always been here at Tipton.”
    Currently Tipton has just seven wrestlers. For Roudebush, that’s perfectly fine.
    “Being on such a small team could really suck, but we get a lot more attention from the coaches,” Roudebush said. “Our individual time with the coaches is through the roof. We’ve never had a big team. I think the most I’ve seen here is 10 wrestlers. Because of that, we don’t win a lot of matches as a team, but when you look at our head-to-head and don’t count forfeits, we’ve won close to 40 duals. We also have a very close bond with each other. I wouldn’t trade that for a bigger program with more practice partners.”
    The Tipton team has adopted a philosophy through necessity. The goal is for every wrestler in the lineup to pin their opponent. If they do that, they have a shot at winning dual meets.
    “We know what we are up against going into the match,” Roudebush said. “Coach tells us we’re starting out down 24-0, or something like that. We know every single one of us have to pin in order for us to win. It’s awesome. All of a sudden, Bam! We pin everyone and pull off the surprise win. We love that challenge. When we get people on their backs, we keep them there.”
    In practice Roudebush alternatese from wrestling with the team’s heavyweight, sophomore Nate Morgan to wrestling with their 145-pounder Blake Hicks.
    “Nate is stronger than me and that makes me really focus on my technique,” Roudebush said. “Blake is a scrapper. He’s good on top and he can put the legs in. He has a mean crossface cradle and he’s tough. It helps me a lot getting to wrestle with guys with different body types and strengths.”
    Roudebush beat Elwood’s Jalen Morgan last year 5-2 to claim the sectional title. Morgan reversed that decision in regional, winning 3-2. That put Morgan on the opposite side of the semistate bracket as Allred. Morgan advanced to the championship match, losing to Allred but still advancing to state. Roudebush was eliminated in the second round.
    “I want to go one step further,” he said. “That’s all I’m worried about. We have a tough sectional. The regional is even harder and I think New Castle is arguably one of the most difficult semistates. My focus is on getting past the ticket round. I’m worried about each match in front of me because wrestling is a different kind of sport. Anyone can win. You have to be ready at all times.”
  • Mike and Joe do a deep dive into the 2019 Team State tournament and talk about all the great wrestling. They also talk about other action from the past week including upcoming college matches around the state.
    It’s an approach that Bo Schembechler would have recognized. Wrestling requires one wrestler go into the circle for one-on-one competition. But in high school, that wrestler is part of a team.
    At Crown Point, the Bulldogs are doing like the old University Michigan football coach said. It’s about “The Team. The Team. The Team.”
    “We’ve really been preaching the team concept,” says Branden Lorek, who is in his third season as Crown Point head coach and 14th in the program. The graduate of Fenton High School in Bensenville, Ill., wrestled at the University of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. “This isn’t just about ‘I’ or ‘me.’ It’s about the team.”
    With guidance from varsity assistants Bill Hawkins and Vince Sessa, each Dog knows their job before they step on the mat, whether it’s to rack up bonus points or at least save points for the team.
    It’s an approach the wrestlers have come to embrace.
    “It took a couple weeks, but now they’re seeing it on the scoreboard,” says Lorek. “We give them pretty specific instructions. This is what we need from you — nothing less.
    “We have an amazing coaching staff that’s passionate about the sport,” says Lorek, who also counts Brennan Cosgrove as a volunteer assistant, Nick Bruno as junior varsity coach and Aaron Sessa as freshman coach.
    It’s about setting a goal and knowing the expectation.
    “Our goal is always to win the match,” says Lorek. “If things go sideways, this is what’s next and our kids understand that.”
    After several years away, Crown Point competed in 40th Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka Dec. 28-29 and placed fourth out of 32 teams.
    “The Al Smith was a nice feather in our cap,” says Lorek. “Our team is just starting to come together.
    “Our conditioning is better than ever.”
    The Bulldogs had traditionally taken the Christmas break off from competition. Two years ago, Crown Point participated in the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals and placed 12th in Class 3A. Last season brought participation in the Connersville Spartan Classic and a first-place finish.
    “We’ve found our holiday tournament home,” says Lorek of the Al Smith Classic. “We were happy with the competition and hospitality. And it’s only a two-hour drive.”
    The team was bolstered by six placers at Mishawaka — freshman Jesse Mendez (first at 126 pounds), junior Riley Bettich (second at 120), sophomore Stephen Roberson (third at 106), senior Jake Burford (third at 145), freshman Nick Tattini (sixth at 113) and senior Ethan Potosky (seventh at 195).
    Crown Point followed that up with a 36-25 Duneland Athletic Conference dual victory against Merrillville on Jan. 2. With wins, Mendez moved to 24-0, Bettich 23-1, Roberson 21-1, Buford 23-2 and Potosky 8-2. The Bulldogs visit Michigan City for another DAC dual Jan. 8. The DAC tournament is Jan. 12 at Michigan City.
    Mendez won numerous folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman titles as a middle schooler. Last summer, he competed in the USA Nationals and lost in the All-American round in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
    “It’s not a shock to us what Jesse’s doing (in high school),” says Lorek. “Jesse’s an extraordinary athlete and teammate. He’s done a great job of assimilating into the program. He listens. He’s good student. He does not get a big head. He’s always looking to get better.
    “He’s not shy about his goal or vision for the season.”
    Bettich’s first two high school seasons came at Lakeshore in Stevensville, Mich. Competing at 103 in Division 2, he was a state champion in 2018 and state runner-up in 2017.
    Like Mendez, Bettich has traveled all over the country for folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman events and the best opponents he can find. A strong student with a 3.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale, Bettich has aspirations of wrestling in college.
    “He’s been a great teammate and leader for us,” says Lorek of Bettich.
    “We were happy to see him rise to the occasion and compete (at Al Smith, where he lost 7-2 to Center Grove junior Brayden Littell in the finals).”
    Robertson is a transfer from Portage High School where he behind state champion Jacob Moran at 106 last season. The 2018-19 season marks Robertson’s first as a varsity starter.
    “He’s doing phenomenal,” says Lorek. “He’s a smart kid and a good student. He’s quiet and works hard. He’s very coachable.
    “We’re looking forward to see what he can do.”
    Buford and Potosky came up through the ranks at Crown Point.
    “Jake is having a great year,” says Lorek. “Where he ends up on the (State Finals) podium is up to him. The sky’s the limit for Jake. He’s a team leader, hard worker, good student and just a good person.
    “(Potosky) is a loyal, loyal Crown Point wrestler. After an injury in the regional championship in football, he’s starting to get back into it. His older brother (Steven) was a state qualifier (at 220) in 2014. If Ethan can get down to state, we think he can be someone on the podium.”
    The Duneland schedule is weighted toward the team concept with more points being awarded during the dual-meet position than the conference tournament.
    Lorek says finishing high in the DAC and adding points to the athletic department in the all-sports trophy chase is point of pride at Crown Point.
    “It teaches the kids that this is bigger than them,” says Lorek. “They are part of something special.
    “Hopefully that teaches them a life lesson. They can be a leader or a part as long as they belong to something.”
    Delton Moore has already accomplished a great deal during his athletic career at Manchester High School.
    But the Squires senior wants to do more.
    The featured running back on the Manchester football team in the fall, he ran and ran. He racked up 334 yards in a game against neighboring Wabash. He wound up with 1,701 yards and 17 touchdowns.
    The early part of the season has been a transition in getting into wrestling shape.
    “It’s never as easy as it would be from the outside looking in,” says Moore. “Wrestling condition is a whole different type of condition than football. Football is more strength training. Wrestling is more endurance training.”
    On the wrestling mat, Moore carries a career mark of 111-28 and season record of 17-2 (his two losses are both to Rochester senior Zane Gilbreath) heading into the Jan. 5 East Noble Invitational. He was an IHSAA State Finals qualifier at 170 pounds in 2018. He earned Peru Sectional and Peru Regional titles as a 160-pound sophomore and placed third at the Fort Wayne Semistate as a junior. He has been in the varsity lineup since his freshmen year, starting out at 145 and moving up.
    Competing this season at 170 (with some bouts at 182), Moore reached the 100-win mark during the Dec. 1 Wabash County Tournament.
    All four of Randy and Jenny Moore’s boys — Clayton (Class of 2015), Quentin (2017), Delton (2019) and Ashton (2020) — have wrestled for Manchester.
    Clayton Moore was a two-time state qualifier. Quentin Moore was a four-time semistate qualifier.
    Delton’s usual workout partner has been 182-pounder sophomore Trescott Duffy.
    “I try to pick the toughest,” says Moore. “He’s a hammer. He works really hard. I’m focusing on getting him ready for his next few years.
    “He’s like a sponge. He soaks everything up.”
    Younger brother Ashton, a 195-pounder, sometimes spars with Delton. Home on his break from Ancilla College, older sibling and Quentin has also drilled with Delton.
    “I’ve been practicing pretty hard,” says Delton Moore. “I was looking a little slower and heavier on my feet so I’ve been working on our feet quite a bit and building the endurance.
    “You can never have too good of endurance.”
    Manchester head coach Byron Sweet cites Delton’s best qualities.
    “He has a lot of athletic ability and is very explosive,” says Sweet.
    “He’s one of those guys who work hard. He has great attendance at morning workouts.
    “He does a lot of work in the weight room and extra time to get better.”
    Those weight sessions have helped condition Delton’s body and mind.
    “You start grinding in the morning and keep going,” says Moore.
    “Calluses start building up.”
    Sweet notes that Moore is pretty solid on his feet and has been competing this season with freshman 120-pounder Dylan Stroud for the team lead in takedowns.
    Delton spends part of the school day at Heartland Career Center in Wabash and works part-time for Chad Lambright at C&C Machining in North Manchester. After graduation, Moore hopes to follow Lambright to a new operation in Plymouth.
    Besides wrestling, football and machining, Delton has been involved in the Campus Life program with Youth for Christ throughout his high school days.
    To not be consumed by sports, a rule in the Moore house allows the boys to be in no more than two until they are seniors. Delton plans to add track and field in the spring.
    Sweet trains his high school wrestlers with a college mindset. He grappled at Manchester College (now Manchester University) 2005-08 and was an assistant to Spartans head coach Matt Burlingame, who is now an assistant to Sweet at Manchester High.
    “We go for multiple takedowns to break (an opponent),” says Sweet. “We tell our kids to never be scared to let a kid up if you think you can take him down again.”
    Burlingame wrestled at Virginia Tech. Quentin Moore brings his experience to the practice room as does Will Mikesell, who grappled for Sweet at North Miami High School.
    Sweet was at North Miami for six years prior to Manchester High. He became an assistant to Jeremiah Maggert and then took over when Maggert left for Jimtown High School.
    Sweet is a 2002 West Lafayette High School graduate. As a 152-pound senior, he lost to Mishawaka’s Jim Schultz in the “ticket” round at the Merrillville Semistate. Schultz went to state three times (qualifier at 152 in 2001, third at 152 in 2002, third at 160 in 2003).
    The coach uses that as an example for his athletes. You can’t control the draw so wrestle the best you can at the previous level.
    Sweet has had five state qualifiers during his career as a head coach — four in his six seasons at North Miami and Moore last winter at Manchester. North Miami’s Alan Mock went at 106 in 2012 and 113 in 2013, Levi McKee at 145 in 2013 and Evan Beach at 285 in 2015. With nine underclassmen in 2018-19, including 126-pound sophomore Elijah Burlingame, consistently in the lineup, Sweet has watched his Squires climb into the Class 1A team rankings. Manchester won Rochester’s John McKee Memorial Invitational Dec. 22.
    Sweet doubles as junior high coach to help build the program from the younger levels.
    “It’s important for the head coach to show he cares at every level,” says Sweet. “We want to make it where wrestling is one of the most solidly consistent sports at the school.
    “We’re on the right track. We’ve just got to keep working.”
    Brayden Littell’s high school wrestling career hasn’t exactly gone as planned. The junior has just one loss in high school, a one-point defeat at the hands of two-time state champion Asa Garcia. He has defeated another Indiana state champion, twice. Yet, Littell has yet to wrestle a single state tournament match.
    Littell grew up wrestling in the Center Grove school district. He wrestled with the Trojans in elementary school and middle school. As a freshman, however, he enrolled at Perry Meridian.
    During that freshman season Littell defeated Roncalli’s Alex Viduya twice. Viduya went on to claim the state championship at 113 pounds. Littell never made it to the tournament. He had a falling out with the Perry Meridian team and transferred back to Center Grove, mid-season. The transfer rules forced him to sit out the rest of the season.
    “There wasn’t too much going on with my situation at Perry Meridian,” Littell said. “I guess you could say it was more of some pet peeve type of stuff. The Perry program is great, but the way the practices and the program went, I didn’t think it was what was right for me and my family.”
    When the IHSAA ruled Littell ineligible for the remainder of his freshman season, he took the news pretty hard. He sat in the stands and watched Viduya, a guy he had beaten twice that season, claim the state title.
    “That was painful,” Littell said. “I’ll be honest, I cried a lot. I wanted Alex to win it though. If I wasn’t out there, he’s the guy I was cheering for.”
    Things went from bad to worse for Littell his sophomore year. He suffered a knee injury playing youth football (tore his ACL) when he was in elementary school. It always bothered him, but he was able to wrestle with it. By his sophomore year the knee started hurting so badly he couldn’t wrestle. He went to his doctor and was told that not only was his ACL torn, so was his MCL and he had damage to his meniscus. He would need a season-ending surgery.
    “I felt defeated when I found that out,” Littell said. “First I lost my freshman season and then I was told I wouldn’t be able to wrestle as a sophomore either. I thought I’d be able to push myself and get back in time for the tournament, but my doctors didn’t want that.”
    For two years Littell has been hungry to showcase what he can do on the mat. For two years he watched others have the success he felt could and should be his. Two years of physical and mental pain escalated to a boiling point in the young wrestler, and now, as a junior he’s able to unleash on his opponents. He is currently 17-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds. He has pinned every wrestler he has faced up to this point.
    “Braydon is a special type of athlete,” Center Grove coach Maurice Swain said. “He has a combination of speed, power and great technique that you just don’t see in most high school athletes. And, he loves the sport. His speed is off the charges. His power is off the charts.”
    Littell is the type of wrestler that lives for the big moments. He gets excited when he gets to wrestle the better opponents. He will likely get the chance to see Crown Point’s No. 3-ranked junior Riley Bettich at the Al Smth tournament.
    “I’m super excited to wrestle him,” Littell said. “I’m pumped for it.”
    More so, he’s excited for the chance to show Indiana what he has to offer on the mat.
    “I feel, for sure, like I have something to prove to the state,” Littell said. “I feel people sort of forgot about me. I want to show them what I can do. I’m hungry. Sitting out two years and watching others go on to have success has just forced me to work harder. It motivates me.”
    Littell isn’t alone. Coach Swain is also excited to showcase his star junior.
    “We think the world of Brayden here,” Swain said. “I think he’s just a special athlete. I’m excited to see him compete and excited for the state of Indiana that has heard his name but not got a chance to see him wrestle. I’m excited for them to see what he can do.”
    Ewan Donovan has made a bigger and bigger impact on the wrestling scene as the Hebron High School grappler has gotten bigger.
    Now a 195-pound senior, he hopes to end his prep career in a big way.
    “I’m really looking forward to the state series,” says Donovan, who among Indiana’s top-ranked grapplers in his weight class. “I really want to get going. I really want to make some noise.
    “It’s the heart. I have a desire to be the best. I never want to settle for mediocrity. I push myself.”
    Ryan and Shayne Donovan have four children — Heaven (20), Ewan (17), Myah (14) and Hadley (10).
    Ewan is the line boy. He has been encouraged by his father in all that he does, including wrestling. Ryan Donovan was an assistant at Hebron when his son took up wrestling around the fifth grade.
    “He always told me the best I can be in anything I do in life,” says Ewan Donovan of his father. “He’s been huge in my wrestling career.”
    A four-year varsity competitor, Donvan was a 160-pounder as a freshman. He worked out and bumped up to 182 as a sophomore. Working even harder, he went to 195 as a junior.
    Donovan has sweated with the trainers at Sports Medical Institute in the off-season to increase his power, speed and strength.
    “They shaped me into a better athlete,” says Donovan. “I really couldn’t have done it without them.”
    He also put in long sessions at Calumet-based Regional Wrestling Academy led by Alex Tsirtsis and practiced his moves around northwest Indiana.
    “There’s definitely a special breed around The Region,” says Donovan.
    “It’s a really good environment.
    “I love the feeling of all the mat rooms around here.”
    Donovan enjoyed a strong junior season, losing just two matches.
    Unfortunately, one of those setbacks — against Calumet's A.J. Fowler — came in the “ticket round” at the Merrillville Semistate. Fowler has
    moved up to 220 in 2018-19.
    Donovan has wrestled bouts at 195 and 220 this season and was on-pace to become Hebron’s all-time victory leader, topping the 81 wins of 2014 graduate Giovanni Phan.
    Hawks head coach Todd Adamczyk, who has Donovan in a weightlifting class, and has watched the biggest wrestller on the current squad add to his successes.
    “He goes above and beyond and does all the extra things,” says Adamczyk, who is his 12th season in charge at Hebron. “Like most freshmen, he had a rough transition middle school to high school. But he made up for it the next couple years.
    “He’s the whole package right now.”
    Adamczyk’s advice has stuck with Donovan.
    “He says you need to push yourself when you’re training,” says Donovan. “Your mind is telling you stop, but you have to push yourself to keep going.
    “Wresting is definitely a lifestyle and it’s year-round and you have to be fully-committed. It teaches you life and about putting in the hard work and trying to be the best you can be at everything.”
    That work ethic extends to the classroom for Donovan, who carries a grade-point average in the 3.7 range (on a 4.0 scale). His favorite subjects are History and English.
    After high school, he hopes to continue his wrestling career while attending college as a double major for business and environmental. This will help him as he is next in line to run the family farm. The Donovans grow corn and soybean on more than 2,000 acres around Hebron. Hebron had wrestling for two years in the early ’80s then the program faded away. Adamczyk brought it back, first as a club sport, then two years with a junior varsity schedule. The first varsity season with 2009-10.
    There were growing pains, but the Hawks have come a long way since then.
    “When we first started, we asked ‘are we ever going to get there?,’” says Adamczyk. “We don’t fill every weight class. There’s only 320 kids in the school. We do the best with what we’ve got.”
    Adamczyk wrestled at Hammond High School for head coaches Karl Deak and Bill Malkovich. His Hebron staff includes former Crown Point grappler Troy Bush (who is also middle school coach at Hebon) and Hebron grads Ryan Perez and Raul Fierro. Perez is also on the roster at Calumet College of St. Joseph.
    Kyle Cornwell was ready to give up wrestling for good. Almost every time he stepped on the mat, he would eventually watch his opponent have his hand raised in victory. The losses piled up, and the frustration mounted along with it.
    “I’ve had some mental blocks in wrestling,” Cornwell said. “In sixth grade I was something like 1-26. I was so frustrated with myself. I didn’t think wrestling was for me. I really wanted to just throw in the towel.”
    That’s when Cornwell got a little encouragement from his family and one of his closest friends.
    “My dad (Jade Cornwell) and friend Jalen Morgan talked me into sticking with wrestling,” Kyle said. “Jalen told me we have to start training. We’re not going to get better without putting in the work. So, we started training. We trained and trained and trained. By my 8th grade year we went to a preseason national tournament in Iowa and Jalen finished third in his weight class and I won mine.”
    That tournament success vaulted Cornwell’s wrestling career. He fell in love with the sport and is now ranked No. 1 in the state at 220 pounds and will wrestle for Indiana University next season. The Elwood senior’s training partner is still that same kid that told him in sixth grade to stick with wrestling. Morgan is ranked fourth at 182 pounds.
    “Jalen and I have been friends since fourth grade,” Kyle said. “We wrestle every day at practice. He has more speed than I do, so that helps me, and I am stronger than him, so that helps him.”
    Last season Cornwell finished fifth at 220 pounds. He was a state qualifier in the same weight class in 2017.  He is happy to be ranked No. 1 this season.
    “It’s really a relief to be ranked No. 1,” Cornwell said. “Yeah, you have a target on your back a little, but I’ve been ranked behind Mason Parris for a while and it’s nice to have that top spot now. You have to be confident to be that No. 1 guy or you are going to lose. You don’t go to a match with your head down. You know who you are and that you can beat anyone.”
    Cornwell wrestled Parris last season in the New Castle semistate championship. That match didn’t work out well for Cornwell, as Parris pinned him in 1:14.
    “It was a really good experience to wrestle Mason,” Cornwell said. “He’s one of the top kids in the nation. It opened my eyes to what I need to be like and what I need to be training for. It really helped me step up to that next level.”
    Cornwell committed to improving in the offseason, with a focus on pushing the pace and scoring. His mission is to score as many takedowns and points as possible. He wrestled over 100 matches during the offseason and feels right now he’s at the best he’s ever been.
    “Kyle has a funk to him that he’s been getting into for the last few years,” Elwood coach Fred Short said. “He likes to do the scrambling like they do in college. In high school it’s a little weird to see when you’re not used to it. He is a lot slicker now than he was last year. I think a lot of that is because of wrestling with Jalen and really having to be quick against him.”
    Cornwell’s goals this season were to go undefeated and win a state championship.
    Elwood, as a team, is down this season. The team had 10 wrestlers early on but are down a few since that time. Coach Short, who has been a wrestling coach in some capacity since the early 1980s, is retiring after this season.
    As South Bend Washington senior Ethan Forrest pinned his fourth opponent of the day and had his hand raised in victory, a roar rose up at Lake Central High School’s Harvest Classic.
    “I could see my team jumping up and down,” says Forrest. “The whole place was insane.
    “It was awesome.”
    It was the most noise first-year Panthers head Cory Givens had heard at a high school wrestling tournament this side of the IHSAA State Finals.
    “It was very exciting,” says Givens. “It was mind-blowing how loud it was. It was crazy.”
    Forrest won the title at 182 pounds and was voted by coaches as the meet’s outstanding wrestler. A few years later, he went 4-1 at Washington’s Blood, Sweat & Tears Super Dual.
    Putting in the sweat that it takes to excel in the circle and in life is what Forrest does.
    Born without most of his left leg, Forrest just keeps pushing.
    “He’s just like every other kid,” says Givens. “You wouldn’t know there’s anything different about him.”
    Forrest does not see having one full leg as a setback.
    “That’s all I know,” says Forrest, who put all he had into playing linebacker and defensive end on the football team, where Givens is the
    defensive coordinator. “It’s a lot of foot work, reading plays and a lot of hand-eye coordination.”
    Forrest also enjoys golf and plans to go out for track in the spring and run with the help of a blade prosthetic. He spends half of the school days building a house in Construction Trades II. He is a dairy clerk at the Martin’s Super Market on Mayflower Road in South Bend. Since he entered high school, his dream has been to pursue a career as an electrician.
    Givens saw in Forrest someone to help guide the Panthers on the mat.
    “Ethan’s a great kid,” says Givens. “He’s very athletic-looking and very intelligent. I selected him as a captain for how hard he works at practice  and pushes everybody else. A captain to me is more than just a star on your jacket or a senior. It’s someone who I think will be a good leader — on and off the mat.
    “I see those qualities in Ethan.”
    Forrest has taken Givens’ advice to heart.
    “You play like you practice,” says Forrest. “Practicing hard is going to get you where you want to go. Stay determined and focused on your goals.”
    Forrest, a tri-captain with senior Dion Hall (152) and junior Todd Hardy (126/132), defines his leadership role.
    “It’s keeping good team chemistry and making sure practice runs smoothly,” says Forrest. “I want to be an example for the rest of the team.”
    Rules allow for him to use his prosthetic in competition if he weighs in with it. He chooses not to use it in meets, but he will wear it in practice when necessary.
    “I put it on for my partner so he can get good looks, too,” says Forrest.
    “That goes back to how he is a leader and his unselfishness,” says Givens.
    Junior Anthony Frydrych (195) is Forrest’s primary workout partner.
    “That extra weight and muscle makes me work a little bit harder,” says Forrest.
    He stands 6-foot-1, but Forrest is about four feet off the ground in his wrestling stance.
    “Because of my leg I can usually get a lot lower on my opponents,” says Forrest. “And there’s less for them to grab.”
    Givens explains Forrest’s strengths, which includes upper-body power and a solid Fireman’s Carry.
    “Ethan is very good at countering attacks,” says Givens. “He’s going to be a couple of feet lower than everybody else."
    “Everybody seems to attack him differently. People aren’t sure how to go at him."
    “He has a really good low center of gravity. He doesn’t have to hit that level change. He’s already at his level change. It’s a lot of watching (opponents) making mistakes.”
    Ethan Edward Forrest II is the son of Ethan Forrest Sr. and April Hall. His father is a policeman. His sister is Emily Forrest, played volleyball at Washington and is now a sophomore at Indiana University South Bend. He has two younger brothers. Hockey player Austin Hanson is a freshman at South Bend John Adams High School. Phillip Northern is a seventh grader at LaSalle Academy in South Bend. His sport of choice is baseball.
    Eric’s mother also works at the Mayflower Martin’s as does sister Emily and aunt Missy Olmstead. Grandmother Susan Hall and uncle Rich Holland are also employed by the company.
    Emily Forrest is a former Washington wrestling manager and still attends matches to cheer and take photos along with Ethan’s mother.
    Ethan came to wrestling as a Washington freshman. He was at 138 pounds that first year then put on size and muscle in the off-season working out with his father and uncle — bodybuilder and trainer Eric Forrest — and bumped up to 170 for his sophomore and junior seasons.
    Givens is a 1999 graduate of John Glenn High School. He has long appreciated wrestling and renewed his love for the sport when his son was old enough to compete. Harryson Givens, 11, has been coached by his father since he was 5. Daughter Alora (8) is a constant at practices and meets.
    Cory says wife Anne has become a wrestling convert. She didn’t like the sport at first, but can’t get enough of it now.
    Glenn head wrestling coach Andy King convinced best friend Givens to coach at the junior high level.
    “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without him,” says Givens of King.
    A football coach for nearly 20 years with stops at Glenn, South Bend Clay and Washington, Givens was convinced to apply for the head wrestling coaching position when it came open at Washington.
    “I’m not the most skill or knowledgeable guy in this sport,” says Givens, who counts Trey Newhouse and Jason “Gunny” Holechek as assistants. “But there’s a desire to do good things with these kids. We’re going to tackle this thing together.”
    Washington has a smallish squad and placed 10th at the Harvest Classic while forfeiting six weight classes.
    “To do that, it means we’re pinning guys,” says Givens.
    The first thing Givens did when his hire was made official was contact Isaiah McWilliams, who was a three-time state placer for Washington (fourth in 2016, second in 2017 and second in 2018) and now a freshman on the Wabash College wrestling team.
    “I can’t say enough good things about that kid,” says Givens of McWilliams, who came came to run practice during Thanksgiving break. “These kids don’t understand how important he is to the school and to the wrestling program.
    “As an outsider, it’s mind-blowing how many spectacular athletes have walked through these halls.”
    Ethan Forrest is working hard to make his mark on Washington mat history.
    LeVon Bellemy isn’t running – he’s surviving.
    He’s surviving a life growing up in one of the most dangerous parts of the country, Davenport, Iowa – part of the notorious Quad City area. He’s surviving a life where his family either ends up in prison or shot – and sometimes both. He’s surviving, because that’s what he does.
    He’s not running, he’s fighting. He’s fighting to show a person can overcome circumstance. He’s fighting to show there is hope. Sometimes the greatest warriors are the ones that can travel the more difficult road and escape their demons. That’s what Bellemy is doing – and that’s how he ended up in Ellettsville, population 6,677.
    When asked what he is trying to overcome, Bellemy says simply “everything.”
    Bellemy’s story is a unique one. His athletic ability has saved him time and time again back in Davenport, as has the guidance of family, particularly his uncle Clyde Mayfield. Uncle Clyde gave LeVona job in his health food store – and he made sure LeVon knew the value of hard work and discipline. Under Clyde’s direction, Bellemy excelled in school and athletics.
    In Davenport, with a crime rate 116 percent higher than the national average, hard work and discipline wasn’t quite enough. When LeVon's brother was shot in May, something had to change. That’s when his cousin, Pauli Escebedo stepped in and offered Bellemy an escape. LeVon moved to Ellettsville to live with Pauli and her husband, Indiana wrestling coach Angel Escebedo.
    “They have been great to me,” Bellemy said. “Angel is a good guy who is trying to better me. He lets me know what I’m doing wrong and right.”
    When Bellemy moved to Indiana, sports were an afterthought.
    “I was focused on getting out of there and finding something better,” he said. “Things got hectic at home, and very bad for me there. I wasn’t worried about football or wrestling. I was worried about getting out.”
    Bellemy has made an immediate impact on Edgewood High School. As a star running back he rushed for over 1,700 yards and scored 27 touchdowns this season. Edgewood improved from 3-7 last year and 1-9 the year before that to finish with a record of 8-4 in 2018.    
    “I can’t think of a more opposite place for LeVon to land,” Edgewood wrestling coach Greg Ratliff said. “He’s going from Davenport to Ellettsville. It is a small town. Everyone knows everyone else. The second LeVon got here the rumors started swirling about who he was. Everyone wanted to meet the new guy.
    “Both the wrestling and the football team got to know him quickly and made him feel at home. We let him know that here, he is family. He has fit in extremely quickly.”
    Football is Bellemy’s first love. He’s getting Division I college looks and plans to play at the next level. But, Bellemy is also a gifted wrestler.
    Bellemy wrestled as a freshman in Iowa, but then decided to try his hand at basketball as a sophomore.
    “I hated basketball,” he said. “I knew I had to go back to wrestling. Wrestling is football without the ball. It helps you so much with football, as far as mentally and physically. Mentally you are the toughest kid on the block if you wrestle. Wrestling gets your mind right. It teaches you not to give up. Physically, with the double leg and the driving through people, it helps you tackle and run over people.”
    Bellemy returned to the mat for his junior season. He ended up placing seventh in Iowa’s biggest class in the state tournament.
    “My goal in Indiana is to win state,” Bellemy said. “That’s my only goal in wrestling. I’ve been doing my research. I’ve been studying the competition.”
    Ratliff can see that happening.
    “He is a pure dynamite athlete, honestly,” Ratliff said. “I got to see a little bit of him wrestling this summer. Sometimes I was thinking, man, this kid is wrestling against LeVon well, but then I would look at the scoreboard and see LeVon would be up 10 points or more. He’s explosive. I’m yelling for him to just get an escape before a period ends, and before you know it he’s getting a reversal and nearfall points.”
    Daily life in Ellettsville is a lot different than what Bellemy was used to in Davenport.
    “The thing to do here is to sit in the IGA grocery store parking lot and talk,” he said. “That’s really the main thing we do. We sit in that parking lot for hours and talk. In the summer we will go swimming, but other than that – that’s all we do.
    “Ellettsville is a small town. There is a big difference with the people and how they act. It’s a whole new atmosphere. There are no negatives around here.”
    But, for as much as LeVon needed Edgewood, Edgewood has needed LeVon.
    “He gets along with everyone here,” Ratliff said. “He can talk to anyone. He talks to the athletes, the band students and those not involved with anything. He is a positive influence on everyone he comes in contact with. He’s a hard worker and others see that. They see how he can overcome anything and be a success. That motivates everyone.”
    LeVon didn’t run away from Davenport because he feared the fight. In fact, his family talked him into leaving because they knew that’s exactly what he would want to do – fight for his family. His family told him that to win the fight, he had to get away.
    “I feel like I have to succeed,” Bellemy said. “I know the situation my family at home is still in. My only way out is through school and sports. It drives me every single day. I have nothing to do but find the best way to provide for my family and fight for them.”
    Strength, speed and strategy have helped Victor Lee achieve success inside the wrestling circle.
    Creativity and drive have allowed him to excel away from it.
    The Marion grappler is hoping for even more mat achievements in his last high school go-round and a future filled with wrestling and film.
    A state qualifier at 195 pounds in 2017-18, Lee is currently ranked among the top competitors at 220.
    “I’m a naturally strong guy,” says Lee. “Speed is something I rely on most. I usually try to attack below the knee.”
    Giants head coach Lonnie Johnson likes the way the 5-foot-11 Lee moves on the mat.
    “He’s really mobile for a bigger guy,” says Johnson. “I want him to be a go-go-go guy and wear guys down. He’s in pretty good shape. I want him to pick up the pace a little.”
    Lee has been working hard on his stance since last season. If he has a signature maneuver it would be his high crotch.
    It’s what Ohio State University’s Kollin Moore used against University of Missouri’s J’den Cox.
    “It’s a move to be feared,” says Lee, who started his wrestling career in sixth grade, grappled in the 215 class as a middle schooler and was at 195 his first three seasons of high school.
    Gabe Watkins (285) and Corey Horne (152) have served as practice partners for Lee, each giving him a different look.
    Lee has studied the methods of Cox, who was a bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
    “He has a very strategic way of practicing and coming from different angles,” says Lee of Cox. “He tries to keep his attack percentage really high. He’s not real aggressive like (Arizona State’s Zahid) Valencia.
    “He’s very technical. I try to emulate that. I use hand fighting to tire the other guy out and keep his head down so all he’s looking at is the mat.”
    Johnson is a 1995 Marion graduate. He wrestled at 189 his first three seasons and 215 as a senior. He has coached in the Giants system for two decades and is in his third season as head coach.
    The coach has offered advice that has stuck with Lee.
    “He says to always be confident in my shots, be persistent and always finish through them,” says Lee of Johnson. “Last year, he sometimes got himself in a bind with 30 seconds to go. I want him to get up on guys 10-3 or 10-4 and then stick them.
    “He reminds me of Darryn Scott (who was a two-time state qualifier and placed sixth in the 2010 State Finals at 189) with his strength and his speed. (Scott) would go at you. (Lee) sits back and tries to pick you apart.”
    Lee won his first sectional title and qualified for his third regional in 2018. After reigning at the Oak Hill Sectional and qualifying for his third regional. He placed second to Maconaquah’s Aaron Sedwick at the Peru Regional then third at the Fort Wayne Semistate, his first appearance there.
    “I was always trying to prove myself, says Lee, who lost 6-3 to West Noble’s Draven Rasler in the semistate semifinals. Rasler then was pinned by New Haven’s Jaxson Savieo in the finals.
    Lee was pinned by New Albany’s Jaden Sonner in the first round at the State Finals, but got a taste of that big stage in Indianapolis.
    “I won’t be blinded by all those fans,” says Lee, who plans to be back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in February 2019. “I’ll be going to State with better confidence in my abilities.”

    Besides his wrestling prowess, Lee is also a solid student.
    “I’ve never had a teacher complain about him,” says Johnson. “I don’t have to worry about the attitude.
    “When it comes to that he’s maintenance-free.”
    Lee plans to major in drama and film and cinematography at Indiana University and hopes wrestling will also be a part of his college experience.
    It’s the behind-the-scenes side of the arts that Lee appreciates most.
    “I don’t do acting,” says Lee, who intends to take theater and drama classes at IU next summer. “I mostly direct and writing scripts for plays. I hope one day I can make movies.”
    Lee has made a few small films on his own and has started an Instagram account with a friend that he can see leading to film production company.
    Why the interest in film.
    “Me and mom watched movies a lot together and it just stuck with me,” says Lee, who is the oldest of four adopted by single mother Rosalind Lee. Victor is 18, Zella 17, Levi 16 and Diamond 15.
    Foster children at first, the four youngsters were allowed to choose their new first and middle names at the time of the adoption.
    During his freshmen year, Javion Mack became Victor Lee.
    “We try to make it easier on her,” says Victor of what he and his siblings do for their mother. “We do our chores and we all try to stay
    out of the house so it’s not so cluttered.”
    Levi is a 220-pound sophomore who came out for wrestling for the first time last season.
    “He’s getting pretty decent at it,” says Victor of Levi. “I spar with him sometime then give him another partner so he can speed up.”

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