By Anna Kayser
Mere seconds after securing his second consecutive IHSAA State Wrestling title in February, No. 2 Jake Hockaday ran over to his coaches’ corner, hugged assistant coach Kyle Ayersman… and flipped him down onto the mat.
“We planned that far before,” Hockaday said. “I had to win it first, but right after I won I called him over and we had to do that. That was the first time [I had ever done that], I saw it on TikTok, so I thought I had to hit it.”
With his Saturday night victory over No. 1 Ashton Jackson of LaPorte, Hockaday became Brownsburg’s second two-time state champion following now-Minnesota standout after being the first freshman in school history to win it all in 2022. As part of a cohort of a program-record four finalists, Hockaday’s win followed freshman 106-pounder Revin Dickman’s title, marking the first time in school history that Brownsburg has crowned multiple champions in a year.
As someone all too familiar with the spotlight on the center mat at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Hockaday’s confidence shined. He looked strong and light on his feet all still sets that are vital to coming out on top following a grueling wrestling season.
“First of all, we were thinking of going 113 [before the season], but I decided to make the jump to 120 to not cut and just train as hard as I could all year,” Hockaday said. “I felt pretty good not cutting a lot of weight. I felt like I was quick, I was strong, and I had a huge advantage over the other guys who were cutting weight.”
Hockaday looked strong, light on his feet and in his mind – all skillsets that are vital to coming out on top following a grueling wrestling season. Leading up to his 2022 run to become Brownsburg’s first freshman in school history to win a state title, that confidence wasn’t always there.
At the Avon Sectional a year ago, Hockaday rolled through the bracket to the title match against conference rival Luke Rioux of the host school, an opponent he was beyond familiar with. He lost that match, 10-6.
“He looked like a deer in headlights, he had no facial expression, and his face was just pale,” head coach Darrick Snyder said. “He had the pressure of the world on him. So we did a lot of work with him the next few weeks about getting his head right and trying to get him to understand that those feelings are normal.”
As the No. 1 ranked wrestler at 106 pounds during the 2022 season, all eyes on the Brownsburg side were on him to win the title as a freshman. All eyes on opposing sides, however, were to take him down.
“It was kind of hard being ranked No. 1, everyone was kind of giving me their all,” Hockaday said. “After that [loss] we had to turn the jets on, and I had to get my mental right. That’s really all we looked forward to, winning the state title.”
The mental side of wrestling is something that Snyder and his coaching staff continue to put an emphasis on with their wrestlers, setting them up for success as they start to wrestle on the biggest stages not only in Indiana, but in the country.
This past season, they took a number of wrestlers to the Walsh Ironman tournament to face some of the best nationally ranked competition.
“The longer I coach, the more time we spend on the mental side of [wrestling],” Snyder said. “For a lot of our kids, it’s not physical. They’ve got the skills and the ability… a lot of times it’s just dealing with the pressure.”
Snyder preached the same thing throughout the state series, so much so that when asked about it, Hockaday nearly recited it word-for-word: It’s just a wrestling match, that doesn’t change regardless of the scenario.
“It’s helped me realize that it’s a match – I’ve wrestled thousands of them,” Hockaday said. “The only thing that’s changing is they put it in a cool venue and call it the State Finals. Really, I just had to wrestle my match and win.”
And it paid off. He took what he learned last year with that lesson this season and used it to his advantage again, staying confident in himself no matter what the situation.
He’s an electric wrestler when he’s on his game, and now there’s very little that makes him forget it.
“I learned that I can’t wrestle [other] people’s style,” Hockaday said. “I just have to stay calm, breathe, force my style and not do anything stupid.”