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#WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Prechtel working finish on top
By JEREMY HINES
Jeb Prechtel was the first Jasper wrestler to call the school’s new coach, Alex Lee last season. He wanted to see who would be teaching him for the next few years.
So, Prechtel gave Lee a call and asked if they could practice together.
“I kind of wanted to see if I could beat up on him,” Prechtel joked.
The coach and the student wrestled that first day and Lee scored a few takedowns on the young grappler. Prechtel wanted to learn how he got those takedowns and how he could stop them in the future.
“He called me that night and was asking what he was doing wrong and what he needed to do better,” Lee said. “He expects to beat everyone. He doesn’t care if you’re the coach or Jordan Burroughs. He expects to win. I knew right then this was a special wrestler. It bothered him that he didn’t know some things and he stayed up trying to figure them out. Once you tell him, you don’t have to tell him again. He’s is a very good learner.
Prechtel is currently ranked No. 3 in the state at 160 pounds. The senior is undefeated at 30-0. And, almost shockingly, he is coming off of his very first sectional championship last week.
Prechtel is almost the poster child for bad tournament luck throughout his career.
In his freshman season he ran into a very talented Gavinn Alstott in the Southridge sectional final. He fell to Alstott and then, for the next two seasons, he lost to eventual state champion J Conway in the sectional finals.
“Winning a sectional actually felt really good,” Prechtel said. “Having J Conway in sectional the last two years has really be a learning experience for me. I have learned how to take losses early in the post season. Now I’m wrestling with a lot more confidence.”
Prechtel has one goal this year – a state title.
“Jeb is determined,” Lee said. “He works tirelessly. I’m fully confident that he will reach his goal. I really expect to see him wrestling under the lights.”
According to Lee, Prechtel is a student of the sport. He soaks up as much wrestling knowledge as he possibly can and he’s a relentless worker.
Despite his work ethic and hunger for wrestling knowledge, Prechtel had a weakness he didn’t know how to overcome. He almost feared close matches.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of mental battles in my wrestling career,” Prechtel said. “I lost in semistate one year by one point. I was always scared of one-point matches. That was something I’ve tried very hard to overcome. It was a mental block with me.”
So Prechtel talked with his coaches in high school and his coaches at Maurer Coughlin Wrestling Club. He desperately sought answers to how he could overcome his mental block with those one-point matches.
“I told them, I just don’t know how to fix this,” Prechtel said. “I’ve lost my two most important matches of my career by a point. I don’t know how to overcome this.
“So they told me that I’m going to have one point matches. They said I have to go out there and just know that I trained harder than the other guy and I worked harder than he did. I have to have the confidence in those close matches that I am the better wrestler and I am going to win.”
So, this year he’s had that mindset in every match he’s wrestled. He said he treats every match as if it’s the state championship.
“Every match I’m zero and zero and I’m wrestling for a championship,” he said. “This year I have a totally different mindset. It started at the end of the offseason. I’m more confident. In my mind, I know I outwork anyone. I can push myself further than I have before.”
Lee knows that the sky is the limit for Prechtel because of the amount of work he is willing to put in.
“He’s been a captain of this team for three years,” Lee said. “He’s an awesome leader. He leads verbally. He leads by example. He works harder than anyone I have ever coached.”
When he’s not wrestling, Prechtel enjoys hunting, fishing and snow skiing. He plans to wrestle in college and study business management, but he is currently undecided on where he will go.
High School Wrestling Weekly Season 4 Episode 12
Rex Brewer and Dane Fuelling take a look back at last weekends wrestling sectionals and look ahead to regionals, and are also joined by special guests IHSAA Asst. Commissioner Robert Faulkens and Cowan coach Tony Abbott.
#MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Football’s his future, but Jellison giving his all to wrestling as Elkhart senior
By STEVE KRAH
Brayden Jellison is a two-time Elkhart Sectional champion at heavyweight.
His 42-second pin in the finals Saturday, Jan. 28 helped the Elkhart Lions to a second straight IHSAA Elkhart Sectional team title.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Jellison heads to the Goshen Regional on Feb. 4 at 24-4 for the 2022-23 season after he went 35-10 and placed fourth at the Fort Wayne Semistate and sixth at the State Finals at 285 as a junior.
“I’ve definitely come a long way,” says Jellison, who went to wrestling camps at Elkhart Central as a youngster. “I struggled freshman year and sophomore year.”
Brayden was an Elkhart Central Blue Blazer as a freshman. As a sophomore, Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial combined athletic teams in preparation for the full unification of the two schools which took place 2021-22.
How did Jellison raise his mat level?
“Just the hard work in the (practice) room,” says Jellison. “I just wanted to come out here and finish off this year on top (of the podium at State Finals).”
His go-to move?
“An undertook to a single-leg,” says Jellison.
An offensive lineman in football, where he has earned all-state and all-Northern Indiana Conference honors, Jellison is committed to play that sport at Illinois State University in the fall.
Jellison says it’s his agility that has the Redbirds considering him at guard or center.
“Wrestling helps me get the footwork and more stamina built up,” says Jellison.
Elkhart head coach Zach Whickcar admires Jellison’s worth ethic and dedication to wrestling.
“It says a lot about him,” says Whickcar, a former Elkhart Central wrestler. “Football is his first love and wrestling is not easy. He comes out here and pushes himself.”
Jellison is one of the Lions’ leaders.
“He does a great job of making sure everyone is doing the right thing, everyone’s focused and that people are representing us the right way,” says Whickcar. “Obviously, he’s a great representation of what we want to be on the mat.”
Jellison will get to lead a large group at the Goshen Regional. Eleven teammates also qualified, including senior Genesis Ramirez (106), senior Josh Corona (113), sophomore Blake Mock (126), junior Cam Dews (132), sophomore Brennon Whickcar (138), sophomore Cohen Lundy (145), junior Cam Freedline (160), junior Ethan Freedline (170), sophomore Kaullin Price (182), senior Nash Shupert (195) and senior Preston Stimac (220).
Whickcar also sees Jellison leading in the class room, where he carries a 3.7 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. He is involved in student government and is a National Honor Society member.
“That’s a game changer,” says Whickcar. “Being a great athlete is one thing, but being a student-athlete is big.”
Jellison plans to major in Sport Management at Illinois State.
“I just want to be involved in sports after college,” says Jellison.
Brayden is the son of Elkhart Central graduates Zach and Courtni Jellison and has two younger siblings at Elkhart High — junior Logan and freshman Brynlee.
Zach Jellison played basketball and wrestled his senior year of high school. Courtni was a softball player. Logan Jellison is in football and wrestling. Brynlee Jellison is in volleyball, basketball and track.
IndianaMat Gorilla Radio Episode 149
No brackets, no problem Mike and Joe talk about the upcoming secitonal
Feature Articles1801 1 3
#WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Luke x2 lead the Bears into the post season
By JEREMY HINES
It would be hard to find anyone as similar as a pair of Evansville Central seniors. They have so much in common that they even share a first name.
The duo are both excellent students. They are wrestling practice partners. They are both looking to punch their ticket to state for the first time. Both of their dads are wrestling coaches. And, coincidentally, they are both named Luke.
Luke Robards and Luke Kemper have been captains of the Bear wrestling team for three seasons. Robards is 29-2 this season and is currently ranked No. 12 at 145 pounds. Kemper is 28-2 and is ranked No. 5 at 160 pounds.
“The team refers to Luke Kemper as Luke and Luke Robards as Robards,” Evansville Central head coach Brandon Robards (Luke’s dad) said. “It’s Luke, and it’s Robards. But it got a little more confusing this year because my younger sound Beau is on the team too. We told him, dude, you’re Beau, not Robards.”
The two have been practice partners since elementary school. It’s a relationship that has helped the grapplers tremendously.
“They have been practice partners since fourth grade,” Robards said. “They battle every day in practice. They push each other to be their best and they are also each other’s biggest fans. It’s been fun to see them really beat up on each other in the room and then be each other’s biggest cheerleader in the matches.”
The Lukes are similar in many things, but their wrestling styles are quite different.
“Robards wrestles like a little fly,” Kemper said. “I don’t mean that in a mean way. He just buzzes around from side to side and then as quick as he can he gets a leg and he’s driving you to the mat.”
Kemper has a more direct style of attack.
“He’s the polar opposite of me,” the younger Robards said. “He moves forward all the time with his hands up. It’s like wrestling a complete opposite of my style.”
According to coach Robards, the two have different mentalities as well.
“Luke Robards is really focused,” the coach said. “He can be intense in the wrestling room. Luke Kemper is pretty layed back. He’s very coachable and he’s a lot of fun to have in the room.”
Kemper’s dad, Jason, is one of the assistant coaches on the squad. Jason went to state as a wrestler and his other sons, Matt and Isaiah were also state qualifiers.
“Winning a state title has always been my goal,” Kemper said. “Both of my brothers and my dad went to state. I would sit in my room and imagine myself winning a title.”
Kemper had a setback his sophomore year. After just a few matches that season, he tore his ACL. He tried to wrestle through the pain for the next few meets, but soon realized he needed to take time to recover. He didn’t wrestle again that season.
“The recovery was long and rough,” Kemper said. “There was a lot of food involved. I got up to about 185 pounds and that doesn’t bode well on a 5-7 guy.”
Now the two wrestlers have their sites set on making the state tournament. When asked how it would feel if one punched their ticket to state but the other didn’t.
“It would be heartbreaking if one of us made it and the other didn’t,” Luke Robards said. “We have been in this together since elementary. We want to finish this together.”
As far as coaching their sons, or being coached by their dads go – the system they have in place has worked out well for all of them.
“It’s been fun coaching my sons,” coach Robards said. “It’s had its challenges. It’s not easy coaching your kids. Jason and I balance it well. We do a good job of knowing when to step in and coach the other guy’s kid. It’s a good balance.”
Luke Robards agrees.
“It’s an interesting dynamic, that’s for sure,” Luke Robards said. “They have been around us our whole lives. They know how we operate, and they get us. They know where we need to improve. And, when we go home, they know when to still talk with us about things or when to back off.”
Both grapplers are looking to wrestle in college. They aren’t sure where they want to go yet. Robards wants to study pre-law and Kemper wants to go into exercise science. They know there may come a time in the future where they won’t be wrestling with each other.
“It’s a unique situation because we’ve pushed each other pretty hard since we were babies,” Luke Robards said. “It will be weird, for sure, not having each other as partners in college. I’ll miss him. But, I’m sure we will still wrestle each other in the offseason and still push each other to get better.”
High School News1029 1 3
Bulldog Breakdown: The Football Player, Part 2
By Anna Kayser
If you’re on the outside looking in as Brownsburg wrestling approaches the 2023 State Series, you may not know or see that there is a lot different about Leighton Jones now compared to last season.
For one, his bathroom mirror is covered in words written in dry erase marker.
To explain how Leighton has grown into who he is today, we have to go through what happened in the IHSAA State Championships last year.
As the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the state, Leighton was the odds-on favorite to win the championship after losing his ticket round match during his freshman year and placing third at state as a sophomore. However, the viewpoint was a lot sunnier from the outside looking in on a kid who had high prospects for his future and a solid season on the purple Brownsburg mat.
Internally, he was exhausted.
Following his official, game day visit to the University of Iowa in which they secured a statement win over Indiana University in early September 2021, nothing slowed down for Leighton. His recruitment was peaking, with multiple football and wrestling programs looking to woo him into a commitment.
However, the offers weren’t coming from football programs, not yet. Indiana had offered Leighton a full scholarship package to wrestle for the Hoosiers in Bloomington. So, he had options, but there was only one option that he was really looking for.
“In the back of his mind, he was still wanting football but knew that he was going to have more control over his own destiny with wrestling,” Marshall Jones, Leighton’s dad, said. “So that added much more pressure.”
Leighton’s quiet, describing himself ‘lead by example’ type of figure until his senior wrestling season when he really strived to fill the ‘senior heavyweight’ shoes and instill accountability in his teammates. So, when the stress started creeping up, it didn’t present itself until the toll became physical.
“[Leighton] internalizes a lot, doesn’t say too much, so we didn’t really see too much stress until a tournament up in Crown Point [in December],” Marshall said. “He was just so tentative, lost [by one point] and Leighton should have beaten him, probably should have majored him if nothing else. You could tell that he wasn’t wrestling like Chad [Red] had taught him to wrestle.”
The next weekend, he was beaten again – this time by a takedown with five seconds left in an overtime period.
“You could see in Leighton’s face, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this,’” Marshall recalled.
The pressure from both his sports colliding over the winter months was beating down on Leighton. His schedule was packed, moreso than any normal high school junior beginning the college search. It wasn’t just academics he was looking at; he was reaching for a place that would help him grow toward the next level of athletics. A place that would help him reach his goals of the NFL.
In the back of his mind, Leighton had already found the perfect spot: Iowa City. But without the offer on the table – without many offers on the table at all – he was still an overly active recruit.
“I would come home from wrestling, and I would eat and get on the phone with four different programs,” Leighton said. “By the time I got off the phone every night, it would be 10:30-11 [at night] and I would have to do the same thing over again the next night.”
Leighton was actively texting in the Jones family group chat almost every single day – someone called him, wanted to talk to him, or followed him on Twitter. It was constant.
He was being bombarded from all sides. Schools were calling about both wrestling and football, people around him were continuously reminding him of their expectation for an individual title in February, and his drive diminished with mounting stress placed on his shoulders.
“I just wasn’t having fun,” Leighton said. “I was kind of in my own head.”
In seeing all of the stress and anxiety bubble to the surface in a physical way, the Jones family sought help from a sports psychologist, recommended by a friend whose son was in a similar boat.
For six weeks through the end of the wrestling season, Leighton was taught coping skills to handle all the weight on his shoulders. He was also taught to narrow his focus in on what was right in front of him.
“Just that six-week period that we sought that professional help was huge,” Laurie said. “Leighton is a big picture kid – he would look at the big picture, he would look at the challenges ahead and he would kind of overwhelm himself. We got him seeing someone who had him focus, step-by-step, on what he needed to accomplish things and have that focus and mental strength to handle the stress.”
The family also allotted some down time, a window for Leighton to have no responsibility and hopefully avoid burnout. That free time came in the form of Sundays at home.
“We made sure he had time, especially on the weekends, just to have complete down time because if he didn’t, then he couldn’t have given too much more,” Laurie said. “Just giving him that amount of time that we had on those weekends, we tried not to talk about anything as far as any stress of any sports especially after he was done competing on Saturdays.
“On Sundays after his workout, he had very little responsibilities because we just wanted him to still be able to manage and be a kid.”
They also got Leighton back into the Red Cobra wrestling room, bringing him back to his wrestling roots with something Marshall felt like he was missing.
Leighton had the physical tools he needed to succeed on the mat, but the mentality of wrestling always dominates.
“It was just more of a mental thing of keeping his mind set and getting him to believe in what he’s capable of doing,” Red said. “Me personally, I thought he was a state champion his sophomore year, I thought he was capable of it his junior year and now we’re in his senior year. That’s our plan, that’s definitely his plan, and hopefully we’ll get that job done coming into February.”
Meanwhile, the Jones family watched as other recruits around the Midwest began to collect offers and commit to schools, creating their own timeline in their minds.
They were looking for the shoe to drop, that offer from the University of Iowa that would – finally – solidify Leighton’s future.
“That’s what [Leighton] really wanted,” Marshall said. “He fell in love with the campus the first time we stepped foot on it. Every place we went, he compared it back to Iowa.”
Come January, the official offers began to ramp up: Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, Illinois State, Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green and Ohio.
He already knew where he wanted to go, but he was made to wait for it. Iowa was locked in on him – as was Purdue, which would officially offer him around the same time – but knew he had a state championship run to focus on during the time.
As the influx of offers came in, so did the high-pressure tournaments designed to award only the best-of-the-best with a bid to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in February.
For those around him, wrestling season was leading up to a hopeful heavyweight state title – again, he was ranked No. 1 in the state. For Leighton, it was a countdown.
“I came into state and was like, ‘Alright, I have four matches left.’ And after Friday night, I was like, ‘Alright, three matches left.’ And then it was semifinals, and I was like ‘Alright, two more matches and I’m done.’” Leighton said. “I just wanted to get it over with. I was confident, but I wasn’t having confident feelings just going into the whole thing.”
Leighton won his first two state matches by three and two-point decisions, respectively. He was then defeated in the semifinals by an 8-5 decision and dropped to the third-place match.
“I think he, just like all of us, was devastated. We felt like we were the best heavyweight, and it was hard to watch him lose because I know how bad he wants it,” Brownsburg head coach Darrick Snyder said. “Honestly, I just gave him a hug and we didn’t really immediately talk about it. There’s nothing to be said, especially the guys who have trained the right way and they really want to win it.”
He bounced back from the loss with a shutout of his next opponent for third place, 6-0, adapting his goals to accomplish what ended up being right in front of him.
With wrestling season in his peripheral mirror, the waves of relief came in a rush for Leighton.
“The coaches told him they did not want to offer him during wrestling season because they knew it was hard enough, and once Iowa offers an offensive lineman… that recruit just starts to blow up,” Marshall said. “They didn’t want to do that to him while he was still on the hunt for the state championship.”
On Monday morning, less than 48 hours after his junior wrestling season came to a close, Leighton got the call he had been waiting for from the George Barnett, the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach, with one message: ‘Don’t forget why you liked Iowa.’
As promised, the programs started calling. The Jones family even had a visit set up to go visit Notre Dame, Leighton’s favorite school growing up.
Despite the increased attention and pressure to open his mind to somewhere other than Iowa, the answer didn’t change: Thanks, but Iowa’s the place.
“He was like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ and we were like ‘You don’t want to go to Notre Dame? You don’t just want to go see?’” Laurie said. His answer was the same, as his mom remembers it: “No, I don’t. I feel like I’m lying to these people pretending that I’m interested. I’m not interested.”
On Feb. 26, mere days after receiving his call from Iowa and tons other from programs now eyeing him, Leighton announced his commitment with a tweet saying, “Iowa City, I’m coming home.”
From the beginning, he knew that’s where he wanted to be. On Dec. 21 when he signed his national letter of intent, he officially became a Hawkeye.
“Every place we visited just never quite checked all the boxes like Iowa did,” Laurie said. “It’s got this feel that makes you want to go back.”
It goes back to the list of accomplished Iowa football players who wrestled in high school, too. Iowa has a strong resume of building former wrestlers into forces to be reckoned with on the offensive line and seeing the success of Hawkeyes in the NFL was a sticking point for the Brownsburg heavyweight.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the NFL – that’s always been there,” Leighton said. “And then when I got offered to Iowa, I was like ‘Alright, I can make this happen. If it’s anywhere, it’s here. Right when I committed, I realized I could be something special, and they told me that too.”
Now, that eight-, nine-year old kid who Chad Red called “NFL” has a real shot at continuing to make his dreams come true – as long as he doesn’t look too far ahead of where his feet lie.
Although Leighton is now removed from regularly seeing a sports psychologist, he still puts into practice coping mechanisms to keep his stress and anxiety at a low level. The things that stuck with him will also take him through to his first year as a student-athlete at Iowa.
One of the biggest things he learned is to write all his goals on his bathroom mirror, so he has a visual each day of what is in front of him and can see all that he’s accomplishing each day.
“Once he started to focus on the small things, it was so much better,” Laurie said. “That’s going to be a tool he’s absolutely going to have to use next year and we see him still using it now. I mean, his bathroom mirror is all covered up and written on with everything he wants to accomplish this year in wrestling.”
It’s not uncommon for football players to forgo their second semester senior year to join their college programs for spring practice. That wasn’t an option on the table for Leighton, and the Iowa coaches wanted to see him accomplish his goals on the wrestling mat.
“There are a lot of kids that wouldn’t be wrestling right now – he’s on a full ride to go play football at Iowa,” Snyder said. “It would have been real easy for him to say, ‘I’m going to Iowa,’ but he wants to help us win and wants to try to win a state title.”
So, that’s where he’s headed. He’s received his meal plan and workout program in the mail from Iowa, but the first step is to tackle what awaits him at sectionals, regionals and then state at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“I can definitely tell I’m embracing it this year, my last season,” Leighton said. “I’ve put in so much work since third grade to get to this point, and I just want to finish it out on the right note.”
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#MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Rensselaer Central’s Stanley controls emotions, stacks up victories
By STEVE KRAH
Rensselaer Central High School wrestler Mason Stanley sports a career mark of 112-27 — 18-9 as a freshman, 19-7 as a sophomore, 42-8 as a junior and 33-3 as a senior so far.
He was an IHSAA State Finals qualifier as well as sectional and regional champion as a 132-pound junior. The three-time semistate qualifier also earned Hoosier Athletic Conference crowns at 132 in 2021-22 and 126 in 2022-23.
Fifth-year Bombers head coach Hunter Hickman has witnessed a change in Stanley the past two seasons.
“He’s a very passionate individual and he wears his emotions on his sleeve,” says Hickman. “Where we’ve seen the most growth from him is that he’s really started to dial that back a little bit.
“As he’s grown up he’s been able to control his emotions and that’s why he’s had the success he’s had.”
Stanley, who was born in Rensselaer and began wrestling in grade school, has turned into a force on the mat.
“He’s a very physical wrestler,” says Hickman. “He’s a very smart wrestler. He’s not a super-athletic kid but he loves to wrestle. He works hard to make himself what he is.”
Hickman and Stanley’s relationship goes back to the beginning to freshman year so the coach and educator knows the student-athlete well.
“A lot of kids let wrestling results define who they are,” says Hickman, who teaches ninth grade English and had Mason in class, too. “We’ve had a lot of heart-to-hearts over the years. We’ve had a lot of good conversations and a lot of ugly conversations.
“Wrestling is fun, but it’s not going to define who we are at the end of the day.”
Stanley has learned to be aggressive.
“Even if I know I’m the underdog or I’m not as good as the person across from me I’m going to go out there and keep attacking them,” says Stanley. “I wasn’t always this way. I started at the end of last year.
“I’ve been grinding hard in the off-season and realizing it’s the work and how bad you want it and the maturity.”
With guidance from Hickman, Stanley opted to go to 126 this season.
“126 gives me to the best chance to get on the podium,” says Stanley. “I’ve done a lot better than I thought I would (with cutting weight). I don’t think I’ve lost very much strength. I feel good when I wrestle.”
As a senior, Stanley takes his turn as meet captain and he enjoys the leadership role.
“I try to lead by example and work hard in the practice room,” says Stanley. “Kids are watching me and they see what is expected of us.
“I try to have a good attitude even when things don’t go my way.”
Stanley enjoys the team aspects of wrestling.
“We’re a really tight group. It’s a lot of fun everything we do.”
The holder of 4.0 grade-point average through the end of the fall semester, Stanley’s favorite school subject is Social Studies.
“I’ve always liked learning about history,” says Stanley, who has been especially fascinated about World War II. His great grandfather was a pilot in the war. He passed when Mason was young.
While he has not yet made a college choice, Stanley says he is leaning toward Wabash College to study and wrestle.
For the first time since junior high, Stanley chose to go out for cross country last fall.
“I can’t stand running but I really liked being with the team,” says Stanley, who was named to academic all-state honorable mention in cross country. “It’s good for staying in-shape in wrestling.”
Mason is the son of Walt and Jenny Stanley, younger brother of Colin Stanley and twin to sister Claire Stanley. Walt (Class of 1992) and Colin (Class of 2018) wrestled for Rensselaer Central. Jenny teaches at Rensselaer Central Middle School.
Claire and Mason both turn 18 in March.
Hickman, a 2013 Rensselaer Central graduate, is in his fifth season as Bombers head coach after two as an assistant — the first when he was a student and wrestler at Wabash College. He grappled two years at Virginia Military Institute, underwent shoulder surgery as a sophomore and transferred to Wabash.
Assistant coaches in 2022-23 include Matt Anderson, Kent Korniak, James Oliver, Kim Schmid and Bryce Tanner plus middle school coach Elliott Zimmer and volunteers Kyle Carter and Eli Hickman.
Tanner is a 2012 West Central High School graduate and a former semistate qualifer.
Everyone else is a Rensselaer Central alum. Oliver runs the Bomber Wrestling Club, which is mostly for Grades K-8.
Schmid was brought on to have a woman to coach the girls on the Bombers squad. She has two younger wrestling daughters.
Carter attends Colorado State University. Eli Hickman, Hunter’s brother, plays baseball at Concordia University Chicago.
The Bombers have participated in three straight Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Class 1A State Duals, placing sixth in 2020-21, eighth in 2021-22 and eighth in 2022-23.
Rensselaer Central has won 13 sectional titles all-time, including five straight from 2017-18 to 2021-22. The program’s first regional team title came in 2021-22.
A dozen individuals placed in the top six as the Bombers wound up third at the 10-team Hoosier Athletic Conference meet held Jan. 14 at Western.
RC champions were Stanley (126) and senior Jordan Cree (285). Sophomore Beck Doughty (106), junior Larz Hughes (152) and senior Trenton Simmons (195) came in second.
Third-place finishers were senior Kolton Ploughe (120), senior Caleb Oliver (132), sophomore Avery Stanley (145) and sophomore Jack Jordan (160).
Senior Austan Pullins (182) placed fourth while senior Elias McAdow (138) and senior Dominick Maddox (170) came in fifth.
Cree is 38-1 this season and 124-31 for his career. He was a state qualifier at 220 in 2021-22.
Mason Stanley counts Avery Stanley as a cousin and McAdow as a regular practice drill partner.
There are 34 boys and nine girls on the 2022-23.
“We’ve been able to retain everybody this year,” says Hickman. “Nobody’s quit.
“It’s been a really good year.”
Rensselaer Central team. Sophomore Kylie Spencer (126) qualified for the Indiana High School Girls Wrestling State Finals Jan. 13 at Mooresville.
The Bombers went 26-7 in dual meets.
The IHSAA state tournament series sees Rensselaer Central go through the Winamac Sectional Jan. 28, Logansport Regional Feb. 4 and East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 on the way to the IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Hickman has a theory about competing in semistate.
“You’ve got to set yourself up the week before,” says Hickman. “The best way for us to qualify for state is to win our regional.”
On Feb. 17, gates for Session I open 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time/11:30 a.m. Central Time with Parade of Champions at 1:30 ET/12:30 CT, weight classes 106-145 at 2 ET/1 CT and 152-285 at 5:30 ET/4:30 CT.
On Feb. 18, gates for Session 2 open at 8 a.m. ET /7 a.m. CT with quarterfinals/semifinals at 9 ET/8 CT. The fieldhouse will be cleared of all spectators following the semifinals.
Gates for Session 3 open at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT with consolations at 4:30 ET/3:30 CT and championships at 7:30 ET/6:30 CT.
High School News1424 1 4
Bulldog Breakdown: The Football Player, Part 1
By Anna Kayser
At the beginning of his recruitment process with the Iowa Hawkeye football program, Leighton Jones was handed a piece of paper.
“There were about 15 or 16 wrestlers who have made All-Big Ten [on that paper]. All-Big Ten isn’t easy at all to do,” Leighton said. “It wasn’t just all the guys that wrestled, it was all the guys that placed or were state champs.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, the rest became history.
Leighton’s career has been building toward the opportunity to add his name to the list of Iowa football players with wrestling in their blood. Both sports went hand-in-hand from the very beginning, and together helped his skills grow to the level of a future Division I football player.
Picture him at four-years-old – something that’s a far cry from the current 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive lineman who sports a Brownsburg singlet from November to February. That age is really where this story begins, when he was handed a mini jersey and set of waist flags for an upcoming fall season of flag football.
Even at that age, a competitive nature snuck through his quiet persona. Football season then transitioned into wrestling season – as it would for the next 14 years of his life – and Leighton took his first steps onto a mat as part of Brownsburg’s youth wrestling club.
“A lot of people were scratching their heads and calling me silly,” Leighton’s dad, Marshall Jones, said. “But you’ve got to start them early, right?”
Once he started, there was no stopping for Leighton. Four years later at about eight years old – his second-grade year, as he describes it – he was locked into playing football. The same soon followed with his love of wrestling, when he met Chad Red of Red Cobra Wrestling Academy in Avon during his third-grade year.
“He absolutely loved it from day one, so we knew it was something that was going to take off,” Laurie Jones, Leighton’s mom, said. “I think just being involved in all these activities, they gave him immediate friends from early on and he’s such a social kid. All of these teams – I’ve got pictures where some of the boys he’s with right now, they’ve been wrestling together since Leighton was five or six. That’s how deep it runs.
“Forming these relationships was easy for him and then all of the sports time, that’s how he identified himself. We knew that he might actually be really good at both of these things.”
Even from a young age, one could probably guess what role Leighton would play on the Brownsburg high school wrestling team. He was already bigger than a lot of kids his age, especially those in the wrestling room.
“So, he either had to go against a lot of older guys or he just didn’t have training partners,” Marshall said. “His best friend’s dad and I kind of agreed that we would keep the boys together to play youth football because they didn’t have anyone else to drill against. With wrestling, there was no one else.”
That’s where the shift to Red Cobra came into play. He would step into the room and immediately be wrestling kids the same size as him, regardless of whether or not they were a few years older.
The strides he made at the academy level were immeasurable, due to his hard work and dedication to the sport. From the beginning, Red saw something special.
“I was just continuously seeing him growing, every year he continued to get better from day one coming in,” Red said. “I would always call him NFL just because he was a big kid, but he moved extremely well for his size and again, he had a great work ethic – never complained, always worked… he was always up at the front, one of the leaders of the pack.”
With his strong foundation set in both football and wrestling, Leighton’s drive and focus was locked completely into his opportunities in sports.
“That’s one thing that I’ve seen him do time and time again,” Marshall said. “He’ll go in and kind of assess [the situation], and once he has things [measured up], he locks it and it’s full steam ahead.”
Thus began a routine of constant travel for opportunities that Leighton couldn’t miss out on as he began to build the foundation for the football player and wrestler he is today. Opportunities that include, most recently, a selection to play at the US Army Bowl at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Texas just last month.
“Having your dad as a coach is pretty special,” Leighton said. “He’s always looking out for me, making sure I’m doing the right thing and always [trying] to give me the best chance at every opportunity, whether it’s taking me across the country for wrestling or going to football camps, whatever it was.”
The turning point of going down the sports-dominated road came with its challenges – challenges that often can extinguish the flame of enjoyment from young athletes early on.
For Leighton, the key to growing up and continuously having fun in the two sports that dominate his life began at home.
While Marshall is the designated coach in the household, Laurie is the force of power balancing out the scales to make sure they don’t tip too far into the pressure of being an athlete.
“My mom looked at my school stuff, my social stuff and made sure I was able to hang out with friends and have a normal childhood on top of going to tournaments every weekend,” Leighton said. “I felt like I was living a high school life in middle school just being on the road traveling non-stop. She’s made sure I was having a good time when I wasn’t in football and wrestling.”
For Laurie, school was the biggest thing. If Leighton worked as hard at school as he did on the football field or in the wrestling room, his future would be there waiting for him when the time came.
The social component, that came easy. He had developed relationships with his peers at Brownsburg from the early onset of sports, and they grew up together from the attraction to athletics.
“He has a natural desire to please and to work hard, so that work ethic he put right into school,” Laurie said. “And the relationships that he was forming spending all of these times with these families, it was just the perfect combination.”
With the well-rounded approach to Leighton’s development from an early age, it showed the future Division I football player that there was more to life than sports. It took the pressure off that side of his life, allowing him to thrive in it.
“It really went a long way and at the time I didn’t really notice it,” Leighton said. “I mean, nowadays, kids are cutting weight from like first grade and all of a sudden, they get to high school and want to quit. I feel like it kind of helped me make sure I wasn’t burnt out and just enjoyed the sport for what it was, rather than living and dying through it.”
The outside support for other aspects of his life helped Leighton’s drive stay strong in both football and wrestling. Working hard and staying focused in every aspect of his life is what sparked Iowa’s interest in him in the first place.
Following 6 AM workouts at Red Cobra, Leighton would make his way to Brownsburg football’s first-period weightlifting session. One day, that dedication to both sports went noticed and ultimately led to his commitment to the Hawkeyes.
“Iowa [defensive line] coach Kelvin Bell was there to talk to some other football recruits, just watched him work out and was really impressed with his work ethic,” Marshall said.” That [sentiment] just kept going with the [other] contacts at Iowa.”
Leighton’s hard work throughout his early high school years paid off, and his recruitment process rocketed with Iowa at the front and center. The interest shown from a number of college coaches who saw the combination of skills from football and wrestling was instrumental in how he would move forward.
“I honestly thought I was going to wrestle in college all the way until my sophomore year… I started getting recruited a lot more [in football] and that piqued my interest,” Leighton said. “I realized I could be a pretty big football recruit and go somewhere big.”
At the time, Jones was coming off a tough semifinal loss at the 2021 IHSAA State Tournament but finished strong in third place with a major decision against one of the best heavyweights in the state.
It wasn’t only his physicality that made Jones stand out, but his strong mentality.
“What was interesting, almost unilaterally regardless of the school, they almost talked to him more about his wrestling than football,” Marshall said. “I think it was that validation that, here’s a kid that’s competing at the highest levels in wrestling. A lot of the coaches were talking about his resiliency.”
In June 2021, following his sophomore year at Brownsburg, Leighton and Marshall took another cross-country trip for three total Big Ten camps in the span of a week, unofficially kicking off his recruiting process.
The trip, which took the Jones family all the way to Lincoln, Neb. for a freestyle camp and back east to Happy Valley for a Penn State football camp, made its first stop in Iowa City for Leighton’s first taste of Iowa football.
“When he went out to a camp at Iowa for an afternoon and was a defensive lineman, all the other coaches were noticing his footwork and hand skills and were like, ‘He’s a wrestler, right?’” Marshall said. “[Iowa head coach] Kirk Ferentz called him out and spoke to him personally – one out of like 200 linemen campers – and said, ‘You wrestle, right?’ That kind of became the discussion point.”
At their cores, wrestling and football are very different. Football is entirely a team mentality – as an offensive lineman, specifically, Leighton plays a crucial part in making sure plays develop the way they’re meant to. Wrestling, on the other hand – while there is still somewhat of a team component, moreso in some competitive environments than others – leans hard into an individual drive to succeed.
When you lose in football, it’s a full team loss. The emotional and mental weight that comes from wrestling is often completely different.
“I always kind of preferred football because it’s obviously easier,” Leighton said with a laugh. “When you lose, you don’t feel [that immense, individual pressure].”
Having an individual mentality instilled in him from an early age improved his growth on the football field, one of the ways the two sports go hand-in-hand.
When it comes to reaching his goals and focusing in on the individual fundamentals that will ultimately help the Iowa football team when he takes to the turf.
“I always have my goals in mind and where I’m trying to get to,” Leighton said. “That goes along with preparing more and being honest about my weaknesses and strengths, as well as the role I play on the team.”
Leighton is able to tap into that team mentality too, especially in the leadership role he plays during Brownsburg wrestling practices.
“I was always kind of a ‘lead by example’ guy, but this year my goal was to be more vocal,” Leighton said. “I mean, the senior heavyweight – most people will listen in the room, and if they don’t then you’ve kind of got to get into them a little. It’s really helped a lot, now they just kind of know [what to expect] every day when they walk into the room and to work hard.”
Fundamentally, wrestling and being an offensive lineman pair well when developing skills. Leighton is a strong, quick athlete whose abilities on the wrestling mat translate well to the gridiron.
“Wrestling and football complement each other in such a way that you don’t get burnt out on wrestling because the training is so tough if you train year-round,” Marshall said. “[Leighton] would train year-round in wrestling that was just really complementing his footwork, his hand-fighting and his actual mental game.”
The Iowa football program is a leader in developing successful wrestlers to become some of the best offensive lineman in the game. Tristian Wirfs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tyler Linderbaum of the Baltimore Ravens are two recent, strong examples coming out of Kinnick Stadium.
When going through his recruiting process, the love of building their offensive line with former wrestlers is what drew him in on the Hawkeye program.
“Leighton fits the mold of many former Iowa offensive linemen that have come before him here in Iowa City,” Tyler Barnes, Director of Recruiting for Iowa football said via email. “He is a relentless competitor both on the football field and on the wrestling mat. He competes in both sports with a dominant mentality, and we love the chip he has on his shoulder. Leighton is one of those guys who can flip the switch once he starts competing and those are the guys opponents should worry about.”
Leighton went on an unofficial visit in July of 2021, one month after the camp that got him noticed by Ferentz. In September he visited again, this time taking in the experience he might have running onto the field in Iowa City one day.
“I went on a gameday visit to their first game in 2021 vs. [Indiana], and it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever been to,” Leighton said. “You don’t get that…anywhere else. I thought it was pretty special.
“I realized it was different, and that as long as the coaches weren’t going to leave, they were honest, and they wanted what’s best for me and would push me [to reach my goals].”
High School News1864 14
2023 IHSAA State Finals Schedule
Friday, Feb. 17, 2023
Gates open at 12:30 pm ET
Parade of Champions at 1:30 pm ET
First Round Weight Classes 106 - 145 begin at 2 pm ET
First Round Weight Classes 152 - 285 begin at 5:30 pm ET
Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023
Gates open at 8 am ET
Quarterfinals begin at 9 am ET with Semifinals to follow
Fieldhouse cleared of all spectators following Semifinals
Gates open at 3:30 pm ET
Consolations at 4:30 pm ET with State Championships to follow at 7:30 pm ET
High School Wrestling Weekly Season 4 Episode 10
Rex Brewer and Dane Fuelling take a look back at the week in wrestling, including a recap of the Girls State Finals, and also remember the life of former Bellmont wrestler and coach Paul Gunsett.
High School Wrestling Weekly Season 4 Episode 9
Rex Brewer and Dane Fuelling take a look back at the week in wrestling, to include a look back at the Team State Tournaments.
IndianaMat Gorilla Radio Episode 148
New rankings drop and lots to talk about with them. Mike and Joe talk about the previous week's action and deep dive into the rankings.
College News219 3
College Rundown – NWCA National Duals Edition
By Blaze Lowery
NWCA National Duals Recap --
The NAIA #7 Marian Knights achieved a historic victory by defeating #5 Indiana Tech for the first time in program history during the NWCA National Duals, with a final score of 21-18. Despite forfeiting at the 149lbs weight class, the Knights were able to secure a win due to Aundre Beatty’s sudden victory at 141lbs over Kyle Kantola. Additionally, the absence of Gimson resulted in Mulkey securing a win over Elijah Anthony which is usually a match the Warriors can count on.
Marian Box Scores:
#7 Marian defeated #9 Campbellsville 30-9
#3 Southeastern defeated #7 Marian (IN) 21-13
#7 Marian defeated #16 Baker (Kan.) 46-5
#7 Marian defeated #14 Morningside 34-4
#7 Marian defeated #5 Indiana Tech 21-18
Indiana Tech Box Scores:
#5 Indiana Tech defeated #16 Baker (Kan.) 43-5
#4 Doane defeated #5 Indiana Tech 19-13
#5 Indiana Tech defeated #12 Reinhardt (GA) 30-12
#7 Marian defeated #5 Indiana Tech 21-18
The DII #12 ranked Indianapolis Greyhounds secured a commendable 7th place finish at the NWCA National Duals, with a noteworthy victory over the highly ranked #2 Nebraska-Kearney. The match was decided through criteria, with Logan Bailey delivering a decisive pin to secure the win for the Greyhounds. Additionally, during their dual against Central Oklahoma, #11 Derek Blubaugh was able to exact revenge from his loss at last year's National Finals against #1 Dalton Abney in sudden victory. Even with Breyden Bailey and Jack Eiteljorge getting upsets over the Lucas brothers, it was not enough to make an impact over the Bronchos. Cale Gray also seals a dual with a 24 second pin during the Indianapolis – Gannon dual with a final score of 21 – 19.
Indianapolis Box Score:
#12 Indianapolis defeated #14 Gannon 21-19
#1 Central Oklahoma defeated #12 Indianapolis 25-9
#12 Indianapolis defeated Newberry 23-15
#5 Lander defeated #12 Indianapolis 21-18
#12 Indianapolis defeated #2 Nebraska-Kearney 20-19
Upsets on Upsets
IU pushes themselves to #17 in the country with win over #16 Maryland earlier this week by tie-breaking criteria (17-16) with #33 Graham Rooks securing a nice win over #22 Ethen Miller.
The Hoosiers also get it done with a win over the new #16 Rutgers at home with a final score of 24 – 16. Indiana matched up well against the Scarlet Knights and make it hard for their front three to pick up any bonus. Surprisingly, Nick South was down at 165lbs after wresting 184 earlier this week and ended up finding 6 points with a pin early in the third period. With South, Washington, and Bullock picking up bonus, Rutgers stood no chance in the end.
With their only dual loss being Ohio State, the Hoosiers continue to knock teams out of the rankings.
Feature Articles948 3 4
#MondayMatness with Steve Krah: It’s all about family for Smith/Banks bunch, Plymouth Rockies
By STEVE KRAH
It’s a word that appears on T-shirts.
Teams shout it as they break huddles.
It’s a closeness and a bond they’re building as they work together.
Plymouth High School head wrestling coach Travis Smith has taken his blended brood of a wife, four boys and a girl and added the members of the Rockies program.
“We’re like a big family,” says Travis. “I don’t know how many kids stay at my house on a regular basis.
“I’ve raised my sons to be very loyal to each other. We don’t fight and bicker as a family. I discipline as needed. They don’t argue with each other. I don’t allow that.
“Because of the family environment we’ve had the privilege of being involved in together we welcome everybody else.”
It’s a welcoming atmosphere.
“We draw people to us as a family,” says Travis. “That’s why kids want to be around because of security, safety and they know they can trust us.
“We’re going to ride and die with them everyday.”
After a few years as a volunteer under Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Read, Smith took over and 2022-23 is his third season in charge at Plymouth.
Travis is married to Cortney Smith.
“She’s the glue,” says her husband.
Their family includes Gavin Banks (22), Dominic Smith (19), Caydn Smith (16), Wesley Smith (16) and Angel Smith (13).
Gavin Banks (Class of 2018) and Dominic Smith (Class of 2021) are former Plymouth wrestlers, Rockies assistant coaches and Lincoln Junior High head coach and assistant respectively.
Caydn Smith (152 pounds) and Wesley Smith (145) are juniors on the PHS squad.
Angel Smith is an eighth grader who will help launch girls high school wrestling at Plymouth in 2023-24.
Caydn and Wesley appreciate the close atmosphere of Plymouth wrestling.
Says Caydn, “We try to create strong bonds with everybody on the team.”
Says Wesley, “We all motivate each other. Nobody (outside the team) really sees that side and what we have to do to prepare for matches. Having those guys in the room are big supporters.”
Travis Smith started at Valparaiso High School and finished at North Judson-San Pierre Junior/Senior High School, grappling for the Bluejays and graduating in 2001.
“I was mediocre in school,” says Travis. “When I became a grown man and started training for (Mixed Martial Arts) and Jiu-Jitsu I got the opportunity to train with a lot of good wrestlers. That’s how I ended up being able to pass that on.”
The owner of Hybrid Combat Club — an MMA gym in Plymouth that teaches Brazlian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai and houses the Hybrid Wrestling Club — has witnessed a mat progression in his family.
“Gavin was the rough draft,” says Travis of the son he adopted when the boy was very young. “Gavin and Dominic didn’t get the resources that Caydn, Wesley and Angel have.
“(Caydn and Wesley) have been able to piggyback off the mistakes we made coming up together. I didn’t have a lot of experience when I was younger so I had to grow with them as a coach.”
With 85, Banks is in the top 10 on the Rockies all-time career wins list.
“My dad and I watched a lot of YouTube and I wrestled a lot of club matches,” says Gavin of his experience in learning the sport. “A lot of it came from at-home work.”
Gavin assesses his younger brothers.
“Wesley and Caydn are very knowledgeable, technical wrestlers,” says Gavin. “Wesley is more savvy when it comes to wrestling. He’s stingy and hard to score on. Caydn is a strong, athletic kid who can do a lot.”
Gavin says having a large arsenal is helpful, but the successful wrestlers have go-to moves.
“Being great at a few things is much better (than being OK at many),” says Gavin.
Dominic has learned that the fluidity of Jiu-Jitsu moves translate well to wrestling.
A club, junior high and high school wrestler at Plymouth, Dominic had Read as head coach his first three seasons and his dad took over his senior year.
It was his “one-more mentality” that Dominic appreciated about Read.
“Uno Mas. He said it all the time,” says Dominic. “You’ve always got one more.”
He says it was a dream to wrestle for his father.
“He’s a great coach,” says Dominic.
He recalls Gavin as a wrestler.
“The big thing that everybody remembers is how natural he was,” says Dominic. “He was always so calm. He never had a worry in the world. He was always ready. We was never going to quit.
“He was always present in a match.”
Dominic says each brother has wrestled with this own style.
“Caydn’s a very, very nasty wrestler,” says Dominic. “He doesn’t care who you are he’s going to press you. Overall, the kid is just mean.
“Wesley is a very, very technical wrestler. He’s always in good position. He’s always ready for anything coming at him.”
Caydn describes his strengths as a wrestler.
“I can just go,” says Caydn. “My cardio is really solid.”
Caydn subscribes to the idea of less is more.
“Perfect a few moves and stick to those,” says Caydn. “Just find different ways to hit those moves.”
Wesley talks about his stinginess and mat approach.
“I don’t give up a lot of points,” says Wesley. “I don’t give up on my position. Some kids don’t know when to bail and when to fight for position.”
Angel started grappling about the time she started school.
“I was born into wrestling and I was always at tournaments with my brothers so I thought I should try it,” says Angel. “I started when I was very young and I’m glad I did because it progressively did get harder.
“My brothers are very good at teaching a bunch of stuff on my feet. Wesley’s very technical on his feet. A lot of stuff that I do I’ve implemented from Wesley.”
Angel takes the quote “Don’t Quit - if you re already in pain, already hurt — get a reward” and uses it to drive her.
“I’ve always thought of that during very tough matches,” says Angel. “When I’m beat up and I feel broke. Getting a reward after that is the greatest feeling.”
Mishawaka’s 32-team Al Smith Classic which concluded on Dec. 30 saw Plymouth junior Anthony Popi (285) come in second. Wesley Smith placed third at 145 and Caydn Smith lost in the “ticket” round at 152.
In the Northern Lakes Conference meet Saturday, Jan. 14 at Goshen, top Rockies placers were Wesley Smith (36-1) first at 145, Popi (34-2) at 285, Caydn Smith (30-6) second at 160, sophomore Christopher Firebaugh (26-10) third 132, junior Alonzo Chantea (21-8) fourth 113, junior Seth Wright (22-8) fourth 138 and senior Matthew McCrum (22-9) fourth at 182.
The Rockies host the Plymouth Sectional Jan. 28. The IHSAA tournament continues with the Penn Regional Feb. 4 and East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 and concludes with the State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.