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      2969 1 1

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Amberger breaks Batesville's 31 year qualifier drought

      This Valentine’s Day Max Amberger has a lesson for all the fellas out there. Nice guys don’t always finish last.
      Amberger, whom coach Matt Linkel says is one of the nicest kids he knows, is getting the royal treatment in Batesville this week. On Saturday he became the first Bulldog wrestler to advance to the state tournament since 1993.
      “This has been a pretty awesome week for him,” Linkel said. “The wrestling program has really come to life through this. He got a police escort in town when he returned from semistate. The school has posters of him up. The administration is overly thrilled for him and are trying to get as many people as possible that want to go see him wrestle at state the ability to do so. They also announced him at the basketball game. The whole town seems to be behind him.”
      For Amberger, who’s a reserved and quiet person, the sudden popularity has been fun to take in.
      “Everyone has been congratulating me,” Amberger said. “A lot of people I don’t normally talk to have been coming up and telling me good job.”
      Amberger wasn’t exactly a favorite to reach the state tournament. The junior heavyweight is unranked in the state and was ranked just 8th in the New Castle semistate. He won his sectional, but then lost in the regional championship the next week.
      “I like being the underdog,” Amberger said. “But I knew what I was capable of. I knew I could beat some of the kids in the semistate. I was excited for the opportunity to prove what I could do.”
      Amberger took on Frankton’s Ty Everson in the opening round of the New Castle semistate. He controlled the match and won 9-1 to set up his ticket round match.
      Entering the ticket round there was a lot of pressure on Amberger. Since the beginning of the season coaches had told Amberger that it had been 31 years since a Bulldog wrestler had advanced to state – and they thought he could be the man to end that drought.
      “For a high school kid, that’s a lot of pressure,” Linkel said. “He’s handled that well. We kept telling him about how it was 31 years since anyone punched their ticket to state. But Max is always so calm and composed, I don’t think he felt that pressure. He just said he wasn’t doing this for himself, this is for his team, his friends and his family.”
      Amberger went up against Greenfield Central senior Brayden Flener in the ticket round. The two battled back and forth, but Amberger emerged with a 5-2 victory to punch his ticket.
      “I knew he was a big guy that would try and throw me,” Amberger said. “I was keeping my hips back and trying not to get thrown. I ended up putting him on his back and they called the pin – but the call got reversed because it was an illegal headlock. I was, thankfully, able to still secure the win.
      “It was a great feeling winning that match. I had a lot of friends and family there and the best moment was walking up and seeing all of them. That was one of the biggest crowds I have ever wrestled in front of.”
      Friday night Amberger is matched up with Center Grove senior Nate Johnson. Johnson is ranked No. 4 in the weight class with a 23-1 record.
      “All of my family and friends and some of my teammates are going down to watch me,” Amberger said. “I should have a lot of supporters there. I can’t wait to see how it is and to wrestle in front of that crowd.”
      Amberger is on the smaller side for the heavyweight division. He relies on quickness rather than on brute strength. But, he’s also a concrete worker during his free time for his father’s company. He has endurance and can outlast a lot of his opponents.
      “Max is a quiet, loyal kid,” Linkel said. “He’s a great team leader by example. A lot of kids look up to him. He has great grades and he works hard in every aspect of his life. He’s one of the hardest workers I know. He works in a concrete business anytime he can. I know a lot of his toughness comes from that.”
      Amberger’s favorite sport is football. He helped lead Batesville to a sectional championship as a starting lineman.
      “I love football because it’s a team sport,” Amberger said. “I always put the team first. I guess that’s just part of my personality.”
      After high school Amberger plans to either go to a trade school or join his father’s business.

      2708 1 4

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Union City’s Daniels raises his game, heading to State Finals

      Bradin Daniels became the first Union City Junior/City wrestler to qualify for the IHSAA State Finals in a dozen years when the junior won the 126-pound title at the 2024 Fort Wayne Semi-State.
      Before the Feb. 10 accomplishment, the last Indian to punch his ticket to the state tournament’s last stage was Kyle Walters at 160 in 2011-12, a season in which he want 40-4.
      As a Union City assistant coach, Walters has been in Daniels’ corner along with Indians head coach Kevin Lawrence.
      “He’s just a hard worker,” says Walters of Daniels. “He’s worked for it all season.”
      Away from the mat, Lawrence owns a construction company and Walters is a software engineer.
      Because of NBA All-Star Game activities, the site of the State Finals has been moved this year from Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to the Ford Center in Evansville.
      The first round is Friday, Feb. 16. There will be two sessions (152-285 and 106-144). First-round survivors compete Saturday, Feb. 17.
      Daniels heads to the Pocket City at 38-2 on the season.
      Union City is a Randolph County school with an enrollment around 250.
      “I did it for these guys over here,” says Daniels, who pointed to the UC faithful that came to cheer Saturday at Allen County Memorial Coliseum and saw him defeat NorthWood junior Will Hahn (pin in 2:42), Marion freshman Hixon Love (6-0 decision), Delta senior Neal Mosier (6-5 overtime decision) and Jay County senior Cody Rowles (8-4 decision). “I did it for my coaches. I did it for me. I did it for my family (including parents Devon and Samantha Daniels and brothers Gage and Blayne).
      “They all knew I had it in me. This year it changed.”
      Says Lawrence, “it was more the way he wrestled. He’s more patient now then he was before. He now knows that all he has to do is win a match. He doesn’t necessarily have to do it all in the first period.
      “He can wrestle a three-period match now and go six minutes.”
      Daniels said he became serious about wrestle in sixth grade.
      “I placed second at Middle School State and I was like ‘Wow!,’” says Daniels. “My freshman year I missed weight at sectional and last year I got in my head because I had to face the No. 1 seed.”
      Daniels gave himself a pep talk going into 2023-24.
      “I told myself there’s nothing stopping me this year,” says Daniels. “You’re going to go and win it whether you like it or not.”
      Gage and Blayne Daniels both wrestled for UC.
      “They’re over there rooting me on,” says Bradin. “They tell me that no matter what else is going on, just wrestle.”
      Other season highlights for the youngest Daniels boy include winning his second Tri-Eastern Conference championship (pinning Winchester junior Isaiah Spurlin in the finals) and placing first for the second straight Bill Kerbel Invitational at New Haven (beating Northfield freshman Elijah Gahl by 13-0 major decision for the crown).
      Daniels also earned his first Jay County Sectional title (besting Rowles 4-0 in the championship bout). He placed second at the Jay County Regional (losing to Rowles by fall in the finals) then won the Fort Wayne Semi-State.
      As a sophomore, Daniels was a sectional runner-up and came in fourth at regional and did not place at semi-state.
      Bradin came in third at the past two East Central Indiana Classic tournaments.
      “He’s always had the ability,” says Lawrence. “Little things here and there he was able to put together this year.
      “That’s been the difference.”
      The past two seasons, Daniels competed at 126. He began the current season at 132, but continued to lose weight and went back to 126.
      Union City’s Matt Taylor placed fourth at the State Finals in 1991.
      Besides Taylor in 1990 and Walters in 2012, other state qualifiers include Kyle Anderson in 2007, Zach Woodbury in 2004, Jim Garrett in 1992 and Rob Bousman in 1987.

      2003 2

      Lake Central’s Mason Jones Drives Into Potential State Finals Run with Renewed Confidence

      By Anna Kayser
      One year after losing in the quarterfinals and wrestling his way back to fifth place at 106 pounds at the IHSAA State Finals, Lake Central senior Mason Jones is looking to leave it all on the mat.
      Throughout his high school career, he hasn’t taken too many losses. Eleven as a sophomore, two a year ago – the second coming in that pivotal quarterfinal match that would inevitably propel him into his final high school campaign – and none thus far as he gears up for semi-state this coming weekend.
      If you’re counting along, that means Mason Jones has racked up a lot of wins through three years as a varsity wrestler for Lake Central. There was just more to learn in the losses.
      “I feel like I took away from just my overall season last year that there was always more I could do, more I could work towards especially when I came up short,” Jones said. “Last year at state, it felt like everything stopped and that it was all over. I had to take some time, sit down and remember that it wasn’t over, there was still more to go.”
      Jones now enters his final run at a state title ranked No. 1 in his semi-state 106 pounds and No. 2 in the state, trailing only Delta freshman Jensen Boyd. The rankings are one aspect that has helped him build that strong mental foundation.
      “I’d say it is a bit of a confidence boost, seeing that after all this time – all the work that I’ve put in to get to where I am now – I’m getting a bit of recognition,” Jones said.
      Looking back on last year’s state run, his mental game is strides ahead of where it was last February. Following his quarterfinals loss, his coaches expressed the importance of confidence and staying true to his wrestling style even under the bright lights.
      After getting his first state finals experience under his belt last year, he now steps into an opportunity this year with a more collected demeanor.
      “His mental game wasn’t 100 percent there yet [last year], but the biggest difference this year is the confidence,” Lake Central head coach Luke Triveline said. “He’s putting in work in the offseason, he put in the work in the offseason, he’s doing his conditioning, he’s got good practice partners, obviously our team is doing well. And he’s really putting in the effort to mentally believe in himself and put him in a position to make a state title run.
      That confidence is just a sliver of his mental game, something that was torn down after that loss in the quarterfinals and something he’s built back up to become one of the best wrestlers in the state.
      “My dad is always telling me, ‘On any given day, anybody can win and anybody can lose. You have to go out there and give it 100 percent every time you step onto the mat’” Jones said. “I go out there knowing that I just have to outwork whoever I’m wrestling, otherwise there’s no guarantee that I get my hand raised.”
      There’s a balance between being humble and not taking a season record or ranking for good, and Jones works hard to keep that balance in check.
      “We just try to keep them humble, keep them hungry and keep them working to do what a state champion does,” Triveline said. “There’s only one state champ in each weight class, so you’ve got to be able to do more and push yourself more than you think you’re even capable of.”
      Now, Jones is focusing on giving all he can to finish out his high school career on his terms, leaving everything he has on the mat as opposed to walking away thinking he could have given more.

      1831 3

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Thornton ready for another trip to state

      Columbus North junior Justice Thornton is a patient person. In his view, patience is a key to success.
      Thornton uses his patience when competing against his family in his favorite board game, Monopoly. He learns what his opponents are trying to do, then he figures out a way to counter their strategy. He’s got a pretty good success rate against his older brother and his two sisters.
      But Thornton is not just patient on family game night. He uses the same approach on the wrestling mat where he is a three-time Conference Indiana champion as well as three time sectional and regional champion.
      “Monopoly is a game about thinking,” Thornton said. “You have to figure out how you’re going to play. It really correlates to wrestling. In wrestling, you have to figure out what your opponent does and you have to use that against them.”
      According to Columbus North coach Matt Joyce, Thornton uses his smarts to be successful on the mat.
      “He is extremely competitive, in a good way,” Joyce said. “He really enjoys wrestling. He’s a really smart wrestler. He knows where he can wrestle well. He’s really broadened his technique too as he’s gotten older.”
      Thornton agrees.
      “There are some wrestlers that are really fast and athletic,” he said. “There are some guys that are just absolute powerhouses. I like to think my strength is in my technique. I’m not the fastest or the strongest, but I win with technique.
      Justice qualified for state last year. He did not advance past the Friday night round. This year he’s hoping to change that. He has his sights set on standing on top of the podium.
      Last season Justice was wrestling in semistate against Brady Ison. It was a close match. Ison went for a front headlock and it ended up causing Justice to black out for 30 seconds. He then had to injury default to fourth place.
      “We had to take Justice to the hospital to get checked out,” Joyce said. “He was OK, but that set him up for a tough Friday night, drawing a No. 1 semistate champ in the first round. This year he’s going out there and trying to take care of business.”
      Thornton is one of nine Columbus North wrestlers competing in the Evansville semistate Saturday. Thornton, Cohen Long and Asher Ratliff all enter the competition as regional champions. Thornton is currently 31-1 on the year at 138 pounds. Long, a freshman, is 28-8 at 132 and Ratliff, a sophomore, is ranked No. 9 at 157 with a 35-2 record.
      “Asher is the starting quarterback for the football team and just broke the school’s single season take-down record,” Joyce said.
      Nolan Riley, Josiah Green, Luke Spurgeon, Evan Saevre, Keller DeSpain and Jose Ramirez will also be competing at the semistate for Columbus North.
      Last season Thornton was the lone Bulldog to advance to state.
      “I really hope I have some teammates with me this year,” Thornton said. “Asher has a decent draw for semistate. Cohen wrestles a kid he lost to earlier in the season but we’re going to help him prepare for that. Luke is someone I practice with a lot. I hope some of these guys have a great day Saturday.”
      As for his own goal, Thornton isn’t satisfied with just making it to state.
      “My goal is to win the ticket round on Saturday,” he said. “Then I want to go into that championship match. It will be close, but hopefully I can get my hand raised there. Then I’ll go ahead and win on Friday night of the state finals and then on Saturday I want to be the one standing on top of the podium when it’s all over.”

      2232 4

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Volz rewriting Eastern Hancock record books

      Eastern Hancock senior Cameron Volz isn’t looking for attention. But, when you climb the state wrestling rankings, lose by one point to a returning state champion and have the opportunity to do something no other wrestler in his school has accomplished in 22 years, you can’t hide from the spotlight.
      Volz was asked if there was anything about him that would be interesting to readers. He thought for a second, then asked his mom.
      “Well, you broke the school record for career wins,” his mom said.
      But Volz didn’t want to talk about that.
      “No mom, not that. I don’t care about that,” he said. “That’s not what I want people to know.”
      After thinking for a moment, Volz came up with his answer.
      “I really just want people to know that I have a big heart,” he said. “I want to leave a footprint in people’s lives.”
      He’s certainly leaving his mark on Royal wrestling. Volz is currently ranked 14th in the 132-pound class. He’s ranked No. 2 in the New Castle semistate. He owns the school record for wins, but he’s not even sure how many he has (somewhere around 140 he estimates). He is also vying to become the first Eastern Hancock wrestler to place in the state tournament since 2002.
      “Cameron is a hard worker,” Eastern Hancock coach Sam Pfaff said. “You have to be in order to become the level of wrestler Cameron is. He’s got a great mind set. He’s like a true student of the game. He’s always watching film, learning, and asking questions.”
      That studying helped Volz close a gap with New Castle’s Tylin Thrine – the returning state champion and the No. 2 ranked grappler in the weight class. During the regular season Thrine handled Volz, winning 5-1. But in the Centerville sectional final the match was much closer.
      Volz scored a first-period takedown in the match. In the end, Thrine prevailed by a single point, 4-3.
      “We went into this one with a little bit of a different attitude,” Pfaff said. “We said, you’re the underdog here – you have nothing to lose. Throw everything you have at him. I told him he can’t be afraid, and to let it all fly. We spent all week working in different positions and trying to iron some things out. In the match we got the early takedown, but Tylin in his freakish athletic fashion, got right back to his feet.”
      Volz doesn’t believe in moral victories. According to him, he hates losing. But he knows matches like he has had with Thrine can only help him in the future.
      “I’m grateful for those opportunities,” Volz said. “Those opportunities make me better and hopefully I make him better as well.”
      Volz brings a vast skillset to the mat.
      “Cameron is incredibly athletic and very fast,” Pfaff said. “He has incredible technique. He has to wrestle with confidence though. Going back to the Thrine match, he showed he is a better wrestler when he goes out there without fear and doesn’t worry about the end result. When he does that, he’s really, really solid and can hang with just about anyone.”
      Cameron’s freshman brother, Bradyn, won the 113-pound weight class in sectional. Cameron loves working with Bradyn on the mat, as well as with the Eastern Hancock youth program.
      “I like coaching,” Volz said. “I feel like I’m pretty good at it. I know a lot about wrestling and I try to show that to the younger guys.”
      In his personal life, Volz has dealt with a lot of adversity. The adversity isn’t something he wanted to delve into for this article, but Pfaff said it’s something that shaped Volz into who he is today.
      “He’s had some personal stuff in his life that he’s had to overcome,” Pfaff said. “That has really figured into the mindset he brings to wrestling. There are some things he’s had to experience in life that have shaped his view. That’s helped him in a way. He’s experienced adversity in his personal life and he’s able to bring that to the mat. When things get tough, he knows how to push through and gut them out.”
      The last Eastern Hancock wrestler to place in state was Keith Oliver in 2002.
      “I definitely want to change that this year,” Volz said. “But if I can’t, hopefully my brother can. He’s my project and I love seeing him succeed.”
      Volz will wrestle Saturday in the Richmond regional.

      1979 1 3

      McCutcheon’s Dynamic Duo: Dallinger and Chicoine Build Each Other, Maverick Program Up

      By Anna Kayser
      The wrestling room at McCutcheon High School has two mats, with practice squads split down the middle by weight. Two mats, working truly in tandem toward both common and individual goals, is the perfect metaphor for the first two returning state placewinners since 2006. 
      Aiden Dallinger and Cole Chicoine are seniors battling at opposite ends of the Maverick lineup – Dallinger at 120 points and Chicoine at 215. Last season, they became the first McCutcheon state placewinners since 2014 and the first to place earlier than their senior year since junior Travis Dale in 2006. 
      “Kids need to see an example, and when they see a kid from their school achieve at some of the highest levels, they start to think they can do it too,” McCutcheon head coach Adam Metzger said. “It’s been a huge launching point for our program, and we get to use them as examples in many ways.”
      Having not one, but two seniors as focal points for the program has been huge not only in the development of younger wrestlers, but for Dallinger and Chicoine to work as a team in building each other up. 
      “I think just because we progressed at the same pace, we’re both reaping the same achievements at the same time,” Dallinger said. “I feel like it’s easier when we accomplish them, and it means more because we do it together.” 
      Both wrestlers have grown in parallel lines to each other since coming into the program as freshman. Young for their age with a lot of room for growth on the mat, they’ve taken each step together. Now, as they’re making their way through the postseason of their senior years, they’re able to cheer each other on. 
      Their gap in weight classes comes at an advantage. Although the benefits don’t come from on-the-mat head-to-head training, advice is constantly given and received in a way that makes each of them better. They’re able to take the time to be in each other’s corner without having to worry about their own imminent match. 
      “It definitely helps him keeping me accountable,” Chicoine said. “If I lose a match, I know he’s going to say something about it. If I do something sloppy, he’s going to say something about it… We push each other because we’re both pretty competitive. And since we’re both there, it’s not like one of us is going to fall off because we know the other one’s going to be on our backs about it.”
      As sophomores, they each lost in their respective ticket rounds to narrowly miss state bids. Together, by holding each other accountable, they turned those losses into personal success and leadership opportunities. 
      “They’ve done all of the things we’ve asked them to do in the offseason, they bought into the program that we’re trying to sell them, and they’ve just continued to develop in the mat,” McCutcheon head coach Adam Metzger said. “They’ve [gone from] underdeveloped freshmen to vocal leaders who are just constantly trying to show our kids the path it takes to be successful and get to wrestle at the next level.”
      With everything they’ve been able to do in tandem, working as a team to help each other achieve their goals, the effect on younger classes has been huge for the Mavericks. 
      In the McCutcheon wrestling room, each senior has the opportunity to lead one of the two mats and act as an extension of the coaching staff in building up the program. Their previous success is the perfect resumé for outreach and showing other wrestlers what a tangible path to reaching their goals looks like. 
      “When me and Aiden [placed at state], we showed that we put in the work and that our coaching staff knew what they were doing. It built confidence,” Chicoine said. “This year, it’s been a lot of teaching some of the younger guys that didn’t necessarily have a lot of success last year but trying to set them up for success not only this year but next year.”
      Dallinger added, “To have a high-level on both mats, able to work around and build up our team on both spectrums, I feel like it’s a pretty big advantage.”
      Success is contagious, and having seniors that are vocal, willing to teach and setting a good example not only on the mat but in the classroom – according to Metzger, Chicoine was Academic All-State and Dallinger’s SAT score was off the charts – has helped improve the Maverick wrestling program ten-fold. 
      “This is my fifth year at McCutcheon, and this is by far the biggest freshman class we’ve ever had,” Metzger said. “I think a lot of it has to do with [Aiden and Cole] – they go back to their old middle schools, they’ve worked with and talked to the kids. They do a great job of that outreach and just getting kids excited about our program.”

      2223 1

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Fairfield’s Maran bound for regional again — this time as a lighter competitor

      Breckan Maran, a 190-pound junior at Fairfield High School, is heading to the Goshen Regional for the third time in his prep wrestling career.
      For the first time since 2017, the Falcons will be represented by more than two grapplers.
      It’s fitting that Maran has more teammates sharing the experience with him in 2024. The meet on Saturday, Feb. 3 will also feature juniors Matthew Senn (138), Dirk Rumfelt (157) and Aldahir Ortiz-Sanchez (165) and senior Ryan Noel (175).
      His head coach — 1992 Fairfield graduate Gene Willard — has noticed how Maran cares about the others around him.
      “Breckan always has been a team player,” says Willard of an athlete who ended the football season weighing 216. “At the beginning of the season he thought he was going to go at 215. The week before we started competing, he said, ‘I want to go 190. Am I OK?’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘(senior) Ethan (Hochstetler) can go 215 and (sophomore) David (Almiray) is the heavyweight and I can fill 190.
      “Mentally, (Breckan) is very tough but that’s the team aspect of it. He just holds things together.”
      Says Maran, “Going to semistate last year and regional the year before and knowing a lot about wrestling, I’d say my teammates look up to me.”
      Willard, who is in his second season as Falcons head coach and eighth in the program after stints at Whiteland Community and Lakeland, said there was an adjustment period to the lighter weight, then Maran began rolling again.
      “He’s been looking really good,” says Willard, who saw Maran win the 190 title at the 2024 Northeast Corner Conference meet after placing second at 220 in both 2022 and 2023.
      The coach also recognizes a leadership style. It’s one he had himself as a Fairfield athlete.
      “Breckan is one that leads by example,” says Willard. “If you ask most unless he’s around he’s around his friends he’s very soft-spoken.
      “If someone needs correction or motivation he’s there to support them. He holds everything near and dear to his heart. Sometimes he puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed and carry the team when he doesn’t have to.”
      The past two wrestling postseasons, Maran competed at 220.
      As a sophomore in 2022-23, he placed second at both the Elkhart Sectional and Goshen Regional and lost in the second round at the Fort Wayne Semistate.
      As a freshman in 2021-22, he finished second in the Elkhart Sectional and did not place at the Goshen Regional.
      Maran is 29-5 during his junior wrestling season at Fairfield High School.
      Two of those defeats came at the Elkhart Sectional as he was pinned in 3:00 by Elkhart junior Kaullin Price in the semifinals and beaten 6-3 by NorthWood senior Keith Miller — a wrestler he had beaten by a point during the regular season — in a consolation match.
      “I couldn’t quite come back,” says Maran of the second-round fall. “That’s my thought on the mental side.”
      The Elkhart Sectional is sending champion Donovan Blair of Wawasee, runner-up Price of Elkhart, third-placer Miller of NorthWood and fourth-placer Maran to the Goshen Regional.
      “We knew that was going to be a tough weight class coming in,” says Willard. “He got caught (against Price) and that happens.
      “Hopefully, (Breckan) will be able to rebound and the Elkhart Sectional can advance all four 190-pounders to semistate.”
      Maran started wrestling as a seventh grader. In the eighth grade, he was 207 pounds. He started playing tackle football in the third grade. There was a time that he was too big to carry the ball by Prairie Football League rules and was assigned to a spot on the line.
      As a high schooler, he runs over and around tacklers as a fullback and also uses his gifts to bring ball-carriers down as a middle linebacker.
      “That’s part of his mentality: If you don’t get out of the way I’m going to go through you,” says Willard, who coached a freshman Maran in that sport. “He’s always worked his butt off.
      “His work ethic got him where he is today.”
      Says Maran, “I’m pretty quick and I’ve got some decent muscles. With wrestling, I just like the physicality.”
      One of the strongest kids in the school, Maran enjoys his time in the weight room. You can often find him there during the spring when he’s not staying in-shape with wrestling workouts and some competitions. He placed fourth at 220 at the 2023 Frosh-Sophomore State meet.
      “Before I dropped the weight by bench (press) was 325, my squat was 475 and my clean (and jerk) was 265,” says Maran. “Since I’ve cut down to like 187 I haven’t tried to max.”
      Tom and Tosha Maran have two sons — Braedon and Breckan. Brandon Maran played football and basketball at Fairfield.

      51341 1

      2023 IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open September 10th

      September 10, 2023

      Registration is now full
      Click here to register on IndianaMat
      Click here to view current paid entries
      Petition Information
      Petitions are closed
      Brackets and Streaming
      TrackWrestling brackets and streaming

      Stud List
      Click here for the top wrestlers already registered
      Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
      4000 Parnell Ave
      Fort Wayne, IN 46805
      Event Schedule (Tentative)
      Saturday September 9th  Weigh-ins
      VIP Weigh-ins 2-3pm
      Normal Weigh-ins 5-7pm Sunday September 10th  Wrestling Session 1 
      9:00 am-2:00 pm EST
      Weights: 109, 123, 141, 147, 168, 193, 288 Wrestling Session 2
      1:00-6:00 pm EST
      Weights: 116, 129, 135, 153, 160, 178, 218  
      Weigh-In Information
      Saturday September 9th 
      VIP Weigh-ins 2-3pm
      Normal Weigh-ins 5-7pm No Satellite Weigh-ins Weigh-ins will be in a singlet or NFHS approved two-piece uniform No weight change fee Weigh-ins are WHOLE pounds, tenths will count! For example if you weigh 153.3 you will NOT wrestle the 153lbs weight class!   
      VIP Weigh-In Information
      Saturday September 9th 
      VIP Weigh-ins 2-3pm $20 cash only paid at the door No limit to number of VIP weigh-in athletes  
      Entry Fee
      $40 Registration by September 6th at 10:00pm EST or 825 paid entries, whichever comes first. No membership card is required to wrestle You must pay online by credit card ONLY! There will be no refunds of paid entries. Online registration ONLY will be accepted this year. Registration will be cut off at the first 825 paid entries or September 6th at 10pm ET whichever comes first. Please note we have sold out the past four years. The Tournament Committee will retain the right to add up to an additional 25 wrestlers, at their discretion, via a petition process, after the entry cutoff. Information about the petition process will be posted within a day after registration closes. Once we reach the entry limit registration will be shut down. After that point the ONLY way to enter is through a petition.  
      Memorial Coliseum Procedures
      No charge for parking on Saturday for weigh-ins. Please tell the attendant you are there for wrestling weigh-ins Coolers will be allowed in the athlete lunch area only. Athletes can bring coolers in through the Athlete Entrance ONLY!  
      Tournament Gear and Apparel

      3X Gear is the official gear distributor for the IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open. They will be on hand with a full selection of tournament apparel and other wrestling apparel and supplies.
      $20 per person can be purchased at the door Sunday morning or before session 2.
      Age Groups
      Students currently enrolled in 7th-12th grades will be wrestling in one division.

      Top 4 will receive medals and the top 4 will qualify for Super 32 early entry
      Joe Caprino
      Wrestling Information
      -Wrestling will take place on Sunday September 10th, 2023
      -Weight Classes: 109, 116, 123, 129, 135, 141, 147, 153, 160, 168, 178, 193, 218, 288
      -Wrestlers in 7th-12th grade may participate
      -Double elimination wrestle-backs to 4th place
      -Period lengths Championship 2:00-1:30-1:30 Consolation 2:00-1:00-1:00 
      -Overtime will be 1 minute sudden victory neutral and 30 second ride-out
      -We will seed all wrestlers with specific criteria so please include your state or national credentials when registering 
      -2022/2023 NFHS rules will be utilized, except the overtime modification
      -Wrestling will be on full mats
      -Singlet or approved NFHS uniform is required
      -College out of bounds rules will be utilized.
      -Headgear is not required, but recommended
      -Mouthpieces are required if you have braces
      -NFHS hair rules will apply
      Seeding Information
      MatScouts Willie Saylor will seed up to 16 in each weight class. All others with criteria below will be separated beyond the seeded wrestlers.
      Each wrestler that qualifies will be given a "Separation Criteria" from the list below. The criteria are ranked in order.
      1. Nationally ranked in FloWrestling or MatScouts rankings
      2. State Champion/IHPO Champion
      3. State 2-3/IHPO 2-4
      4. State 4-5
      5. State 6-8
      6. State Qualifier/IHPO Top 6 or 8
      7. Other Credentialed athletes that deserve separation
      With these groups we will determine seeds.  Here is an example
      If we have 2 wrestlers with #1 criteria, 4 with #2, 2 with #3, 2 with #4 and 5 with #5 this is how it will work.
      The top two seeds will be the two wrestlers with #1 criteria in a random order
      Seeds 3-6 will be the wrestlers with #2 criteria in a random order
      Seeds 7-8 wrestlers with #3 criteria in a random order
      Seeds 9-10 wrestlers with #4 criteria in a random order
      Seeds 11-14 wrestlers with #5 criteria in a random order
      The seeds will be determined randomly by TrackWrestling. 
      Host Hotel
      Information coming soon
      College Coaches
      We will offer a special college coaches package for $50. 
      You may pay in advance or pay if you are not attending the event and want the entry database using this button
      Click here to purchase
      The package will include:
      Registration list of all high school aged wrestlers with name, address, grade, weight, accomplishments, GPA, and college test scores* Preliminary entry list sent after registration closes Note: Due to coliseum policies you will need to purchase a ticket separately.  
      *Tournament entry information with addresses and contact information will be sent the week after the event and will have all high school aged wrestlers that opted to have information released to coaches.
      Past Results
      2022 Results(732 wrestlers from 10 states)
      2021 Results(716 wrestlers from 12 states)
      2020 Results(707 wrestlers from 16 states)
      2019 Results(610 wrestlers from 11 states)
      2018 Results(605 wrestlers from 12 states)
      2017 Results(607 wrestlers from 10 states)
      2016 Results(647 wrestlers from 11 states)
      2015 Results(580 wrestlers from 11 states)
      2014 Results(586 wrestlers from 14 states)
      2013 Results(598 wrestlers from 10 states)
      2012 Results(444 wrestlers from 8 states)
      2011 Results(254 wrestlers from 9 states)
      2010 Results(171 wrestlers from 9 states)  
      IHSAA Rules
      Regarding Coaching at the IHPO
      15-2 During School Year Out-of-Season
      15-2.1 Individual Sports (Cross Country, Golf, Gymnastics, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Wrestling)
      a. Students may participate in non-school contests as individuals or as members of a non-school team in non-school contests provided that participation during school time is approved by the school principal or his/her designee.
      b. Coaches, from a member school coaching staff, may coach students in that sport if NOT under the organization, supervision and operation of the member school.
      c. Member schools may not organize, supervise or operate athletic practices or interschool athletic contests.
      d. Member schools may not provide school-owned uniforms (jerseys, shirts, shorts, pants, singlets, or swimsuits, etc.) worn by the student in non-school contests.
      Estimated Future Event Dates
      *We try our best to be the weekend after Labor Day
      September 7-8, 2024
      September 6-7, 2025
      September 12-13, 2026

      3382 3 5

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Johnson peaking at the right time

      Brandon Johnson is proof that it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish that counts.
      As a freshman 220-pounder, Johnson’s start certainly wasn’t pretty. The Lawrence North grappler entered sectionals with a 4-9 record, with three of his wins coming via forfeits. There were only five wrestlers total in his weight class that year in the Arsenal Tech sectional. Johnson was the only one not to advance to regional. In the two matches he wrestled, he was pinned twice.
      Johnson’s miserable first high school season could have broken most athletes.  To go on the mat time and time again and to lose almost every match starts to mess with one’s psyche.
      Johnson isn’t like some athletes, however. He didn’t put his head down and throw in the towel. He became obsessed with getting better.
      “After his freshman year Brandon absolutely worked his tail off,” Lawrence North coach Jacob Aven said. “He went to every tournament possible. He went to CIA. He did ever extra club practice he could.”
      That work led to some improvement by his sophomore season. Johnson finished the year with a 17-18 record. He lost in the first round of regional.
      As a junior, Johnson has had more success than failure. It’s his first year with a winning record. He placed third in sectional, then followed that up with a third-place finish in the Pendleton Heights regional. For the first time in his career, Johnson qualified for semistate. Going into semistate Johnson was 36-4 on the year and actually climbed his way up to a No. 10 ranking spot.
      Then came the greatest weekend of wrestling in Johnson’s career. He shocked many in attendance Saturday by not only qualifying for state, but by winning the New Castle semistate.
      “He was just locked in all day,” Aven said. “It’s hard to imagine, thinking back to that freshman year that he would be going into the state tournament as a semistate champion. But he has things you can’t coach. He has heart and he clearly wanted to get better.”
      Johnson is proof that in wrestling, hard work can pay off. He dedicated himself to the sport. When he lost, he learned. When he won, he studied what made him successful.
      “I’ve practiced a whole lot,” Johnson said. “I’ve went to camps and tournaments. I’ve trained as hard as I can. I’ve always made sure I’ve wrestled kids that are better than me. I’ve wrestled my coaches. It’s been a very difficult journey. The only thing I do is wrestle.”
      Johnson’s semistate performance started with a 16-1 technical fall victory over North Vermillion junior Aidan Hinchee. In the ticket round Johnson beat Franklin Central’s Talan Humphrey 17-7.
      That set up a semifinal match against No. 4-ranked Austin Hastings of Noblesville. Hastings had already beaten Johnson twice this season – and in convincing fashion. The first meeting Hastings pinned the Wildcat in just 28 seconds. The second time the two wrestled Hastings won by major decision, 14-6.
      This time, however, Johnson was different. He was having the tournament of his life and he would not be denied a trip to the championship. Johnson won the match 9-2.
      That set up a finals showdown against Mt. Vernon’s Devin Kendrex. Like Hastings, the No. 7-ranked Kendrex had beaten Johnson twice already this season.
      “After Brandon qualified for state I told him the job wasn’t over,” Aven said. “I told him that my junior year I qualified for state and then after that I was just happy to be there and I ended up placing fourth. I pulled him aside and said hey, the job’s not finished. If you want to do something at state it’s going to be a lot easier if you go in as a semistate champion. We said to wrestle hard, and to keep moving forward.”
      Johnson was ready to finish the job. He did just that. He defeated Kendrex 5-3 to claim the semistate title.
      “I think this weekend was a real eye opener to where he can be,” Aven said. “I’m hoping he has a deep run in the tournament and then puts the same work back in next year. We will get to see how great he can really be.”
      Johnson’s journey hasn’t been easy. There have been a lot of road blocks in the way. But he didn’t give up and now he has a semistate championship to show for it.
      “During practice you have those little moments where you don’t know if you want to go on,” Johnson said. “But you do. You power through. You feel like you want to give up but you just keep going. That’s wrestling. Wrestling has given me that mentality. You truly can accomplish something if you put in the work.”

      2106 1

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Three-time state finalist Farnell enjoying the ride with Maconaquah Braves

      Maconaquah High School wrestler Logan Farnell has earned his third trip to the IHSAA State Finals.
      The Braves 160-pound senior has absorbed something from his other visits to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and the state tournament series leading up to them.
      “I learned just to enjoy the moment, have fun and wrestle my match,” says Farnell, who finished second to Rochester’s Brant Beck at the Peru Sectional Jan. 28 and reigned at the Peru Regional Feb. 4 and Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 11 and is scheduled for his State Finals first-round bout on Friday, Feb. 17.
      Gates open at 12:30 p.m. The Parade of Champions begins at 1:30. The first round for weight classes 106-145 starts at 2 with 152-285 beginning at 5:30.
      Friday’s winners advance to Saturday, Feb. 18. Doors open at 8 a.m. The quarterfinals/semifinals session starts at 9 a.m. After the fieldhouse is cleared, doors open at 3:30 with the consolations at 4:30 and finals at 7:30. All times are Eastern.
      Farnell, who is comfortable on his feet or on the mat, scored a 17-1 technical fall then three pins to earn his latest semistate title. He took first place at semistate and went on to place sixth at the 2022 State Finals. He was a semistate runner-up then lost in the first round at State in 2021.
      He posted a 1-3 record as a freshman then went 40-4 as a sophomore and 46-3 as a junior and is 45-1 as a senior. His 129 career wins ranks him third all-time at Maconaquah. At the top of the list are state qualifiers Chase Wilson (Class of 2014) with 167 and Joe Schrock (Class of 2004) 143.
      Farnell is also a three-time Three Rivers Conference meet winner.
      His commitment to wrestle and study University of Indianapolis was set a couple of months ago.
      “I wanted to get it done before the season so I can relax and have fun,” says Farnell, who will join the Jason Warthan-coached Greyhounds and study physical therapy.
      “I thought it would be fun and my mom has gone through physical therapy,” says Logan for his reasons of choosing that major. “I want to help people. I want to give back to the community. I feel that’s a way I can do it.”
      Bob Freije, who is in his 19th year as Maconaquah head coach, has been training Farnell since the wrestler was in elementary school.
      “He’s a work-in-progress like everyone should be,” says Freije of Farnell. “He keeps learning more and more and more because knowledge is power.
      “That’s really leading to all his success.”
      Freije appreciates Farnell for what he means to the team.
      “He’s a good leader and mentor to his peers,” says Freije. “He’s very humble. Everything you want in a student-athlete.”
      Logan, who also plays baseball, is one of Danielle and Michelle Farnell’s five children.
      Dalton Farnell (Class of 2020) is the oldest brother and a former wrestler and baseball player at Maconaquah.
      Ethan Farnell is a 170-pound sophomore wrestler for the Braves who lost in the second round at semistate. He also plays football.
      Caitlyn Farnell is a freshman wrestling manager. Aidyn Farnell is a middle school wrestler.
      The Farnell brothers were two of seven grapplers making the trek from Bunker Hill to Fort Wayne Saturday.
      Junior Brayden Raber (113) placed fourth and earned a State Finals berth. Sophomore Austin Ringeisen (182) bowed out in the second round. Falling in the first round were senior Camron Montgomery (285) and Wyatt Price (145) and junior Alex Ousley (126).
      Robert A. Freije is the son of 2008 Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Robert H. Freije, who went 322-120 in 26 seasons (1978-2003) at Plainfield and Brownsburg.
      “I learned a lot from my father,” says the younger Bob Freije, who has 371 dual wins on his ledger. “Growing up around that and knowing that family atmosphere and trying to connect. You mold them and make them as good as they can be.
      “Don’t be a cookie-cutter. I got that from my dad. Every one of his wrestlers were different. Having him as my mentor has made me the type of coach I am.”
      Frieje is a physical education teacher at Maconaquah and runs the whole wrestling program, including the Battling Braves club. His assistant coaches are Derrick Page and Bill Tabler.

      2017 4

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Pacers ready to take the next step

      David Wolf was surprised to learn a few years back that Switzerland County High School even had a wrestling program. Now, in addition to being the Chief of Police in Vevay, the county seat, he’s also the wrestling coach.
      His goal with both jobs is to make a difference in his community. He’s certainly doing just that.
      Before Wolf, the Pacers had never had a single wrestling sectional champion. This year the team had three. Two of those wrestlers went on to win the school’s first regional championships. Wolf is hoping the success keeps coming.
      “It feels awesome to see what these guys are accomplishing,” Wolf said. “I don’t do this to praise myself. I do it for the kids. To see them reach their goal is amazing. We sent six kids to regional this year. We had never had more than two go before. It’s just awesome.”
      Wolf’s strategy has been simple. Make the team a family. He coached his own twin sons, who went on to be the first two Pacer wrestlers to ever qualify for semistate. Now three of the four coaches on the staff have kids that wrestle on the team.
      “Our number one thing is that we want to create that family culture,” Wolf said. “We want to be positive figures to the team. I want to be a positive influence and we want to look out for each other.”
      This season the Pacers have four wrestlers qualify for the Evansville semistate. Freshman Peyton Richards goes in as a regional champ at 120 pounds.
      Peyton’s mental mindset is on a whole new level,” Wolf said. “His drive, his will to work, it’s hard to match. I haven’t seen anyone that mentally prepares the way he does. He wakes up at 5:30 every morning and practices in his basement. He leads by example.”
      Sophomore Gabe Rose won regional at 138 pounds.
      “Game is a little bulldog,” Wolf said. “He is mentally prepared. He is physically prepared. The kid doesn’t like losing and it drives him to do better. He lost to a kid earlier in the season and since then they have wrestled two more times and Gabe won in the first period. He is on a mission.”
      Freshman Ethan Rose (Gabe’s brother) finished second in regional to qualify for semistate.
      “Ethan is an animal,” Wolf said. “If he ever makes it to 106 pounds he can be a state contender. He walks around at about 96 pounds and eats everything he wants. He has to drink two bottles of water to qualify. He’s outsized, bad, but he’s a fighter.”
      Sophomore Dakota Fields placed third at 113 pounds in the Jeffersonville regional.
      “Dakota quit wrestling for a few years and just came back this year,” Wolf said. “He didn’t wrestle as a freshman. He came back and has been a huge asset to this team. He’s a hard worker and he’s an all-around great kid.”
      Part of the reason for the Pacers’ success is the youth program in the area.
      “We are finally getting kids in high school that have come up through our youth programs,” Wolf said. “My assistant coaches started the youth programs and it has helped us tremendously.”
      The Pacers are a very young team and Wolf has hopes that in the next couple of years the team can qualify for 1A Team State.
      “We don’t lose anybody after this year,” Wolf said. “We are a freshman and sophomore led team.”
      The team’s success has not gone unnoticed in the community.
      “With this success the recognition is really growing,” Wolf said. “People keep coming up to me in town and they talk about how awesome our team is doing. The community is growing and recognizing our success. More and more people are coming to our home meets.”
      Before this year, Switzerland County had never had a winning season in wrestling. They finished this season with a dual meet record of 24-6.
      As the Chief of Police, Wolf deals with a lot of problems on a daily basis. In the short time it took to interview for this article multiple people in the community came up asking for his help with things related to his job as a policeman. He tries to handle each issue in a positive manner and be a good influence on the community, just like he does with his team. He learned from the former police chief, James Richards. Richards was the Chief of Police for 16 years. Now he’s an assistant wrestling coach for Wolf.
      “We want to be positive figures to these kids,” Wolf said. “I’m excited for these guys. I’m excited for the future of the program. My coaches invest 100 percent in this program. We really think we are going to turn some heads in the next few years.”

      2205 4

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Goshen’s Detwiler has turned himself into strong mat competitor

      Goshen High School junior wrestler Laish Detwiler is 75-11 over the past two seasons (35-9 in 2021-22 and 40-2 so far in 2022-23) and is heading into his second IHSAA Fort Wayne Semistate Saturday, Feb. 11.
      Detwiler has been involved with the mat sport since seventh grade. But something changed his sophomore campaign.
      “Last year I started taking this seriously,” says Detwiler. “I wrestled throughout middle school but I wasn’t very good. Last year I just put my mind to getting better.
      “I don’t have that much time left in high school and I just have to change something. I just had to push myself and start working harder.”
      Detwiler, who competed as a light 195-pound freshman and 170-pound sophomore, is now at 182 as a junior.
      This season he is 2-1 against NorthWood senior Kaden Lone with a 4-2 loss in the Northern Lakes Conference finals, a 3-2 win in the Elkhart Sectional championship match and a 3-1 loss in the Goshen Regional finals. Lone (38-4) is a three-time semistate qualifier who placed seventh at the 2022 State Finals.
      “He’s a hard worker,” says RedHawks coach Jim Pickard of Detwiler. “He had never played football until this year and by the end of the year was a two-way starter (making 41 total tackles at defensive end and 23 carries as a running back). He’s become very athletic. He’s learned a lot and put some time in.”
      Detwiler drew Jay County junior Bryce Werk (30-6) as his first-round semistate opponent. The winner of the match faces the winner of Maconaquah sophomore Austin Ringeisen (39-2) and Fort Wayne Carroll sophomore William Jeffries (25-7).
      The 182 field also features Fort Wayne Snider sophomore De’Alcapon Veazy (34-1) and Monroe Central senior Hunter Page (35-0).
      Detwiler will be at Memorial Coliseum with five teammates — junior Cole Hinkel (39-5 at 113), senior Camden Wiese (32-6 at 126), senior Nolan Castaneda (32-11 at 138), junior Jonathon Flores (32-10 at 160) and senior Marcus Castaneda (31-10) at 170.
      In the 2021-22 state tournament series, Detwiler competed at 170 and was a runner-up to Jimtown senior Landon Buchanan at the Elkhart Sectional and Goshen Regional.
      At the Fort Wayne Semistate, Detwiler beat Fort Wayne Bishop Luers’ Mason Daring then lost in the “ticket round” to Eastern of Greentown’s Brodie Porter, who went on to top Buchanan in the semistate finals.
      Porter and Buchanan placed second and fifth, respectively, at the 2022 State Finals.
      “His losses last year were very quality,” says Pickard. “He’s turned it on this year.”
      Leadership is another of Detwiler’s assets.
      “A lot of it is leading by example and making sure I’m always doing the right thing,” says Detwiler. “I’m pushing my teammates when they’re having an ‘off’ day and making sure they’re still getting through their workouts.”
      After going 15-10 overall and 4-4 in the NLC in 2022-23, Pickard has 517 career dual victories and is in 30th season at Goshen.
      “It’s still that different connection with the kids that you get,” says Pickard of why he continues to coach. “I enjoy it. I think I’ve built a decent program here.”
      He served as an assistant principal for eight or nine years while leading GHS wrestling and took on athletic director duties toward the end of the 2021-22 season.
      With Josh Abbs, Tom Gangwer, Taylor Grim, Matt Katzer, Eric Kilmer, Greg Mueller, Travis Pickard and Troy Pickard as assistant coaches this season, the RedHawks are using a new hashtag on apparel and social media — #fightforsix.
      “It encompasses it all,” says Jim Pickard. “Don’t give up. Go for six full minutes and when you can go for six points (for a pin).”
      Detwiler has taken his head coach’s guidance to heart.
      “Coach Pickard has given me a lot of advice,” says Detwiler. “The main thing he tells me is to keep my head up and keep working hard in practice no matter what.”
      Besides wrestling and football, the 5-foot-10 Detwiler enjoys lifting weights.
      “I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” says Detwiler. “I wasn’t very strong my freshman year and then I started hitting the gym my sophomore year and it translated into getting better.”
      Grim is also a strength and condition specialist at Goshen and has his athletes doing traditional lifts like squat, bench press, deadlift and clean and jerk.
      “He’s really helped us with technique a lot,” says Detwiler of Grim. “He’s always in there pushing us to make sure we’re on-task.”
      Detwiler is a strong student. He carries a 3.7 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and is considering pursuing wrestling and sports medicine in college.
      Laish — a name that comes from the Old Testament — is the second of Aaron and Renita Detwiler. Sister Emma is a college freshman. Brother Judah is 9.
      “My dad got me into wrestling,” says Laish of his father’s mat experiences in Pennsylvania and Virginia. “He wrestled his whole life so he is a big inspiration for me.”

      3537 1 4

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Prechtel working finish on top

      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.


      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Football’s his future, but Jellison giving his all to wrestling as Elkhart senior

      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.

      3059 1 3

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Luke x2 lead the Bears into the post season

      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.”

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      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Rensselaer Central’s Stanley controls emotions, stacks up victories

      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.

      2428 3 4

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: It’s all about family for Smith/Banks bunch, Plymouth Rockies

      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.


      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: O'Neill thrives in new role

      Ike O’Neill spent his first year of high school wrestling competing at the junior varsity level. He wasn’t overly strong or fast and his technique was average. There weren’t any real indicators that O’Neill would be a stellar grappler.
      O’Neill may not have had many believers that freshman season, but he would soon change that. O’Neill would prove that wrestling was no different than everything else he did in his life. O’Neill has a worker’s mentality and was willing to do more than anyone else to get the results he wanted.
      That attitude has led him to be a stellar student. His grade point average is 4.3. It also led him to become an Eagle Scout. O’Neill has proven time and time again that whatever he sets his mind to, he masters.
      “Ike is every wrestling coach’s dream, to be honest,” Westfield coach Phil Smith said. “He is a phenomenal student. He’s an Eagle Scout. He’s a phenomenal leader. He’s one of those kids where everything about him is work ethic and being tough.”
      As a sophomore O’Neill cracked the Westfield varsity lineup and eventually qualified for semistate. According to Smith, that’s when they knew that O’Neill could be special.
      Last season, as a junior, O’Neill qualified for state. It was a bittersweet moment for the Shamrock. While Ike wrestled on mat 4 in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate his older brother Thadeus was wrestling on mat 3. As Ike was wrestling, he could hear the crowd’s reaction and knew his brother had lost his match. So, when Ike won, it just didn’t feel right. He cared about his brother and knew what he was going through.
      Thadeus has been able to push Ike to get better in a lot of things. Mainly because the brothers are insanely competitive with each other. Thadeus was going for his Eagle Scout award, so Ike wanted to try and get his first.
      “Thadeus and I were always on the same sports teams growing up,” Ike said. “We did everything together. Naturally we started to compete with each other. If he beat me at wrestling, I wanted to go home and beat him at ping-pong or pool. It has developed into competing in everything.”
      On the mat Ike has a toughness that some people might not expect.
      “My teammates like to poke a little fun at me,” Ike said. “They say I look unathletic in a singlet. I’ve heard it a lot in high school. My friends say I’m the most unathletic kid to ever qualify for state. I just laugh it off.”
      Coach Smith says that a lot of people are surprised by Ike’s physicality and strength.
      “From his freshman year, on the surface, we didn’t know what he could do,” Smith said. “But we think every kid is capable if they put in work. With Ike, he didn’t have flashes of pure wrestling technique that really inspired us – but I think we always knew with him, it was a toughness thing.
      “He’s not the most flashy guy. But after he wrestled someone, his opponents usually come off the mat shaking their heads and thinking, wow, he’s a lot stronger than I thought.”
      Ike’s dad, Terry, was the longtime coach at Westfield. In fact, he was Smith’s high school coach. But Terry never forced Ike into wrestling.
      “He always gave us the option to wrestle,” Ike said. “Now, he says that, but if we stopped, I’m not sure how kindly he would have taken it. But he never wanted us to burn out in middle school. He let us control the pace that we developed.”
      Currently O’Neill is ranked No. 6 in the 145-pound class. His goal this season is to place at state.
      “Where Ike was at and where he is now is amazing,” Smith said. “He’s not the most gifted athlete but he certainly outworks everyone around him and his wrestling technique has really responded. That’s a testament to the kind of kid he is. He’s a no-mess around guy. He’s always there. He’s always trying to improve. He’s been our captain for two years now. He’s found his rhythm and it’s fun to sit back and see how good he can get.”

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      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Fort Wayne Snider 182-pounder Veazy continues to turn heads

      If he wasn’t already on the statewide wrestling radar, De’Alcapon Veazy made more than a blip when he went 35-6 and placed fourth at the 2022 IHSAA State Finals as a 182-pound freshman.
      First introduced to the sport early in his elementary days, Veazy has achieved on the national level in the past two years. He was second at the 16U Freestyle Nationals, third twice at the Greco-Roman Nationals, fifth at the UWW Cadet/17U Greco-Roman Nationals, sixth at the 16U Freestyle Nationals and eighth at the 17U Freestyle Nationals.
      As a Fort Wayne Snider sophomore, Veazy began the 2022-23 season with 20 straight victories and placed second at Mishawaka’s 32-team Al Smith Classic, losing 3-2 to Crown Point senior Orlando Cruz (who placed second at the 2022 State Finals) in the championship match Dec. 30.
      Veazy’s secret sauce?
      “I love to learn and I love to work,” says Veazy. “I learn from mistakes and listen to my coaches.”
      Sam Ocampo is in his first season as Snider head coach after helping out at New Haven in 2021-22. He is a 1996 graduate of Bellmont, where he was a state qualifier at 126 as a junior and placed fourth at 130 as a senior. The Braves earned a state team title in 1994, a state team runner-up finish in 1995 and were state team semifinalists in 1996.
      Bellmont won the Al Smith Classic 10 times 1992 to 2002.
      “There was an expectation,” says Ocampo. “Either you perform or you get pushed out.
      “I don’t think I ever got the mental part because of that. It was just ‘next person, next person’ and were multiple-people deep (at each weight class).”
      Ocampo, who also runs Beast Mode Wrestling Academy in Auburn, says he wants to instill work ethic and discipline for the Snider Panthers, including Veazy.
      “He has a great mentality, knowing I’m going to get it done, nothing’s in my way” says Ocampo. “He’s put in a lot of time and experience to get where he’s at.
      “He’s very dominant. He’s aggressive and goes after it. When you’re the aggressor everybody has to react to you. If you’re the person that’s non-aggressive then you have to react and adjust to what (your opponent does).”
      Veazy appreciates Ocampo’s approach.
      “He likes to work on positioning and technique,” says Veazy. “He’s real big on the small details. Our team has improved (a great deal).
      “He pushes us hard, keep our minds right.”
      Ocampo pushes sportsmanship and leadership.
      “I try to lead by example,” says Veazy.
      As a fullback for a Snider football team that went 11-2 in the fall, Veazy honed skills that also help him wrestling.
      “It helps me be explosive on my feet and with my cardio,” says Veazy. “I’ve been working on trying to move my feet and my hands more.”
      Competing multiple times in a day in a tournament setting, wrestlers do different things between matches.
      “I just try to stay warm and try to think about staying in good position,” says Veazy. “I think about what I’m going to do in the match to win.”
      He also studies film to see what he’s doing well and where he can improve.
      After high school, Veazy sees himself going to college to study Business and wrestling or playing football.
      De’Alcapon (pronounced D-Al Capone because “my mom likes weird, interesting names”) is the son of Eric Veazy and Skye Grigsby. His brother is Everett Green and little sister La’Raya Veazy. Eric and Everett are Snider assistants along with Brian Tun, Conner Gimson and Drake Rhodes. La’Raya is also a young wrestler.
      Sam and Amy Ocampo have 10 children — seven girls and three boys. Sophomore Julianna Ocampo won the 106-pound title at the Al Smith Classic — the first female champion in the 43-year history of the event.
      Veazy and the other Panthers are inspired by Julianna.
      “She’s going to fight through everything,” says Veazy.
      Snider’s remaining regular-season schedule includes a dual at Fort Wayne Carroll Jan. 10, the Wild Bill Invitational at Fort Wayne Concordia Jan. 14, a home dual against Leo Jan. 18 and the Summit Athletic Conference meet at Snider Jan. 21.
      The state tournament series for the Panthers features the New Haven Sectional Jan. 28, Carroll Regional Feb. 4, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 11 and the IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

      1811 2 1

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Thrines making this year memorable

      Brevan and Tylin Thrine know this is it. This is the only chance they will get in high school to wrestle together. The New Castle brothers are hoping to make this a year to remember.
      Brevan is a senior and Tylin a freshman. They are the heart and soul of a rejuvenated New Castle team. Both wrestlers just took home championships in the annual Connersville Spartan Classic.
      Brevan (145 pounds) won his first two bouts by technical fall before beating Columbus North’s Asher Ratliff 11-2 in the semifinal and cruising to an 8-2 victory over Wester Boone’s Mason Adams in the championship.
      Tylin wrestled in the 126 pound class. In the field was undefeated, No. 14-ranked Jesus Aquino-Morales from Union County and No. 7-ranked Griffin Ingalls of Fishers. Ingalls was a state qualifier in the weight class last season.
      Tylin, who is ranked No. 12, put on his most dominating performance of the season. He pinned his first two opponents setting up a battle with potential regional opponent Aquino-Moral. Tylin pinned the Patriot junior in just 39 seconds.
      That set up a finals match against Ingalls, a senior. Thrine dominated the final, winning 15-7.
      “It was pretty cool winning that,” Brevan said. “I heard we might be the first brothers to do it in the same year. Ty wrestled great. He is so naturally athletic. In my head I knew how tough his opponents were but I also knew he could win it.”
      The Thrine brothers are quite different with how they approach matches. Brevan tends to get nervous before matches and approaches them all with a strategy in mind.
      “Brevan is a great wrestler,” New Castle coach Gary Black said. “He’s a strategist. He’s cautious at times and he’s smart.”
      Brevan is 5-4. At 145 pounds he’s constantly facing opponents that have a length advantage on him.
      “I really am working at staying more consistent,” Brevan said. “I have to stop taking cross shots. I’m built well. I’m strong enough to compete at 145 but I have to stay physical and fast because of my height.”
      Being physical and fast are two of the traits Tylin brings to the table. He’s less cautious than Brevan. He is incredibly athletic and tends to be ultra aggressive on the mat.
      “He’s just a freak athlete,” Brevan said of his brother.
      “Tylin is super explosive,” Black said. “He’s probably the most athletic wrestler I’ve ever been around. They are both athletic, but Tylin wrestled with no fear at all. He’s not afraid to get after it with anyone.”
      The brothers both have a goal this year of placing at state. Last year Brevan qualified for state but lost 12-8 to Center Grove’s Wyatt Kresja in the first round. In his sophomore season Thrine took on Warren Central’s David Pierson in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate. In the first minute Thrine attacked the leg and appeared to get a takedown, but the move was determined to be an illegal slam. Pierson could not continue and therefore was declared the winner. Pierson went on to win the New Castle semistate that day.
      “That match broke me a little bit,” Brevan said. “I wasn’t trying to do anything illegal. I had a leg, picked it up and came down and they said he landed before my knee touched. It was hard having my season end that way, but it has helped motivate me.”
      Brevan is New Castle’s captain this season. Coach Black said Brevan is the team leader verbally and by example.
      “Brevan is just a really great kid,” Black said. “Recently we were at the ECIC tournament and Brevan, on his own, went up to the Jay County coaches and asked if he would be able to wrestle a handicap wrestler they have on the team in an exhibition match. He gave that kid a great memory. I was more impressed with that than I was with anything else he did that day.”
      In that tournament Brevan pinned Jay County’s No. 4-ranked Cameron Clark.
      Brevan is ranked No. 17 at 138 pounds. He has wrestled 145 all season and is not certain what weight he will compete at come tournament time.
      After high school Brevan wants to be a lineman, working on power lines. He has already went to camps and had training for the job.
      Tylin doesn’t wrestle year around. He was a state qualifier in middle school in several events in track. He’s a talented football player in the fall and he wrestled in the winter. In the past he has relied on athleticism to help him win his matches. Now that he’s in high school, he’s dedicating more time to the sport and getting better technique.
      “I want to place in state all four years,” Tylin said. “I want to keep getting better. It helps that I get to wrestle with Brevan a lot in practice. He’s strong and fast. He’s hard to go against him. You don’t see many people built like him and he presents a lot of challenges for me. So that helps me get better.”
      Coach Black believes the brothers will both punch their tickets to state this season.
      “I think they will both make it to state,” Black said. “It’s rare for brothers to go there together and they want to make that happen.”


      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Chesterton’s Torres keeps his composure while piling up victories

      Stay Calm and Wrestle.
      It’s an approach that has worked well for Chesterton High School senior grappler Aidan Torres.
      “I always try and keep my composure and don't let little things get to me,” says Torres, who is 27-0 in 2022-23 after winning the 145-pound title at Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic Dec. 29-30. “If the ref makes a bad call, leave it to the coaches to argue it. Don’t let it get in my head.
      “I’m always to try to keep my composure and never lash out.”
      In reigning at Mishawaka, top seed Torres earned a first-period pin and major decision on the first day and technical fall, 4-1 decision and first-period pin on the second day.
      Torres, an Indiana University commit who turns 18 in January, bested Westfield senior Ike O’Neill in the finals and helped Chesterton placed 10th in the 32-team event.
      A three-time IHSAA State Finals placer, Torres placed sixth at 126 in 2020, eighth at 132 in 2021 and third at 145 in 2022.
      He is the son of Leelo and Jennifer Torres. He has three older brothers — Nicholas, Isaac and Hunter. Seventh grader Noah is his younger brother and wrestler.
      Andy Trevino is in his second season as head wrestling coach at Chesterton.
      Trevino took over the program from Chris Joll, who led Chesterton to state runner-up team finishes in 2017 and 2021 and produced 10 sectional, two regional and two semistate championship squad. There were 47 individual state qualifiers and five state champions.
      To compete with the best in the state, Trevino says a team has to have its share of year-round wrestlers mixed in with multi-sport athletes.
      “You embrace the grind and enjoy the process,” says Trevino. “You’ve got to learn by making mistakes. If you’re afraid to do anything you’re never going to get better.
      “Kids have to learn grit and battle through some things. The better kids are working harder. There’s a lot of them.”
      The 2022-23 coaching staff also features Brian Bolin, Mike Engberg, Scott Mundell and Brock Peele.
      Trevino was a 140-pound state champion for Calumet in 1991 — his senior year. Trained by Warriors head coach Jim Wadkins, he was also a state qualifier at 119 in 1989 and placed fourth at 125 in 1990. His career record was 127-7.
      He earned four letters and 70 victories and was a two-time Big Ten placer, NCAA Championship qualifier and team captain at Indiana University for Hoosiers head coaches Joe McFarland and Duane Goldman.
      As a coach, Trevino was an assistant at Lake Central, head coach at East Chicago Central and assistant in wrestling and football at Calumet before coming to Chesterton, where he is also a physical education teacher.
      Trevino, who has known Torres for a long time having also worked with him at the club level, assesses the athlete.
      “He’s a hard-working kid that at a young age decided to love the sport,” says Trevino of Torres. “He’s a student of the sport and he’s always looking to better himself.
      “He’s very knowledgable in wrestling. He flows very well. He transitions from move to move. He makes it look simple.”
      In serving as a leader for the Trojans, Torres does his best to keep it positive.
      “Wrestling’s a very hard sport and it’s a love-hate relationship for sure,” says Torres. “I try to keep everybody happy and always be excited about hard work, getting better.”
      Says Trevino, “He’s not real vocal, but what he does everybody sees it because as a team leader he’s doing it first and he’s doing it right. He can speak to the team and he’s sat them down and explained to them that there’s no magic to wrestling or being good at anything other than being consistent, training more often, being on the mat more often and believing in yourself.
      “That’s what he does all the time.”
      Torres has taken to the mental training promoted by Engberg.
      “He makes sure you’re in the right mental state,” says Torres. “Before a match if there’s any negative thought in my head I instantly replace it. You can’t cut out all doubt, but you can easily replace it with a positive thought like nobody’s worked as hard as me.
      “So any doubt I have we’re trying to flush it right now.”
      Torres plans to pursue Environmental and Sustainable Energy Studies at IU.
      “I took AP Environmental Science last year and I got my college credit,” says Torres. “I thought it was super interesting.
      “I’m thinking that there will be a lot of job openings too, because of how our world is leaning towards renewable energy.”
      Chesterton has Duneland Athletic Conference duals against Michigan City Jan. 4 and at Valparaiso Jan. 11.
      The DAC meet at LaPorte is Jan. 14, followed by a dual against LaPorte Jan. 18. Then comes the Lake Station Super 8 Jan. 21.
      The state tournament series for the Trojans features the LaPorte Sectional Jan. 28, Crown Point Regional Feb. 4, East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 and IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

      2378 2

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Cougars read for first taste of Team State

      Ed Hamant loved everything about the team state tournament. The longtime Greenfield-Central assistant coach never got to see one of his team’s compete in team state. He tragically passed away last year.
      Hamant coached the Cougars for 40 years. During that time Greenfield never made it to team state. This year the Cougars were the vote-in team for class 3A.
      “For us, getting here has been a long, long time coming,” Greenfield coach Josh Holden said. “The big thing on our mind is that this is something Ed Hamant loved. Ed coached for 40 years at Greenfield. He loved the individual state tournament but the team state really had a special place in his heart. He always dreamed of taking a team to it but never got to. When we were selected to compete a lot of people got really excited because they knew Ed would have loved to see this.”
      Greenfield is a bit of a mystery team, according to the rankings and the team state selections. The Cougars are ranked No. 3 in 3A, but they were the last team to get selected to the field in team state.
      “We are in an interesting situation,” Holden said. “Are we the eighth best team or are we one of the top three that can go in and make some noise? We have to look at ourselves as one of the top teams. We are excited to be there. We feel blessed and humbled and even honored that people would vote us in and we just want to compete and showcase what we can do.”
      The Cougars aren’t one of those squads loaded with ranked wrestlers. In fact, Greenfield has just two individuals ranked at all.
      Junior Clay Guenin is ranked No. 3 at 170 pounds. He’s the top ranked grappler at that weight in the New Castle semistate.
      “Clay is about 6’4,” Holden said. “Our whole team looks like basketball players. Clay hates to lose. He’s probably the most intense kid in our room. He does basic things on the mat, but he does them very well. He’s so aggressive and hard-nosed that you can’t wear him down. He’s an arm bar kid. He’s old school and he pins almost everyone he goes up against.
      “Clay is also a 4.1 student. He’s an all-around great kid. We have an entire group of outstanding men and women on this team.”
      The only other ranked grappler on the Cougar squad is Isaiah Holden, the coach’s son. Isaiah, a senior, is ranked No. 18 at 152 pounds.
      For Isaiah, wrestling is not his only focus. He is very involved with choir. He’s in show choir. He was the lead in a school musical last year. He also is known around Hancock County as the Greenfield Spider-Man. He dresses up as Spider-Man and performs at birthday parties.
      “Isaiah is just one of those special kids that has his hands in a little bit of everything,” coach Holden said. “He’s the best teammate I’ve ever been around. I don’t say that because he’s my son, I just truly believe that. If he had the choice between winning state himself or one of his teammates winning, I am sure he would pick for his teammate to win all day, every day.”
      Holden has coached at Greenfield for 20 years and he believes this is the best team Greenfield has had during that span.
      “I don’t know what the difference is, exactly,” Holden said. “We’ve had good teams in the past. We only have two ranked wrestlers and I have five freshmen in my lineup. I really thought we would struggle this year. But this is such a fantastic group of wrestlers. They make good decisions and work hard. If you asked my team right now how many of them get up in the morning and make their bed, I would bet 99 percent of them do. Everything they do is the right way.”
      Holden also says this is the most fun he’s had coaching.
      “I told my kids at the beginning of the season that I don’t know what my future holds, but I want to make this a special year,” Holden said. “And we’re doing that. We’re getting ready for team state for the first time ever. We’re going to the Connersville tournament and we’re hoping to win that. There are all kinds of first that we’re trying to get. This has been the most fun year I’ve had coaching.”
      Nobody in the Cougar lineup has ever qualified for state. Two years ago Greenfield advanced seven wrestlers to regional, but a Covid spread caused the school to close down all activities and prohibited the Cougars from competing from that point.
      The decision was disappointing to the wrestlers, but it also taught them a lesson.
      “We know now that you’re never promised tomorrow,” Holden said. “You can’t look to next year or next week. You have to be ready. You don’t always have as much time as you think. You never know when it will be your last match so you have to go out and treat everyone as if it could be.”

      2099 1

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Bohn uses speed, smarts to win matches for Munster Mustangs

      Munster High School wrestlers are taught about the 5 P’s — Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
      “If you properly prepare for your stuff, you won’t be as nervous,” says Mustangs junior mat standout Chris Bohn. “You won’t perform badly.”
      Bohn, 17, began wrestling as a second grader with Griffith Wrestling Club. He moved from Griffith to Munster in sixth grade.
      Prior to high school, he got much of his training with Region Wrestling Academy.
      Bohn is currently 82-6 for his career and 13-3 for 2022-23 at 138 pounds. He was 42-2 and a and IHSAA State Finals qualifier at 120 in 2021-22. As a freshman in 2020-21, he went 27-1 and qualified for semistate.
      From all the time in the circle, Bohn knows many moves.
      “I’ve got a decent-sized arsenal,” says Bohn. “I know a good amount of technique.
      “I focus on a few things.”
      Going from 120 to 138, Bohn knows he is meeting opponents this season who are stronger.
      “I rely on speed a lot at 138,” says Bohn, who stands about 5-foot-10.
      Fourth-year head coach Zach Slosser sees a fierce competitor and a smart athlete in Bohn.
      “He wants to wrestle competition,” says Slosser. “He’s not going to run away from anybody.
      “What makes him a good wrestler is his knowledge of the sport. He’s very knowledgable about positioning and all those fine details. He uses technique over strength. He’s a very smart kid.”
      Bohn is carrying a weighted grade-point average above 3.6 and counts Advanced Placement Computer Science as his current favorite class.
      “I’m good with computers,” says Bohn, who can see himself studying software engineering in college and would like to wrestle at the next level.
      With 40 grapplers on the team, the Mustangs head into the post-Christmas part of their schedule at 11-5 overall and 2-0 in the Northwest Crossroads Conference.
      “The team aspect (of wrestling) is very important because you need your teammates to help you, work out with you, motivate you and push you in practices,” says Bohn. “You can also have people hang out with and relate with.
      “It’s an individual sport because you’re the only one (on the mat), but the team is a big part of it.”
      Bohn’s primary drill partners are junior Joey Bartusiak (145) and senior Ezekiel Gomez (132).
      “Joey’s fast and he’s a pretty hard worker,” says Bohn. “He doesn’t give up.
      “Zeke is solid with technique. It’s usually a battle when we wrestle.”
      Munster makes its first appearances in the Mooresville Holiday Classic Dec. 28-29.
      “We plan to make some statements there and get some matches for everyone,” says Bohn.
      His support system includes parents Christopher Sr., and Angelic.
      During a tournament, Bohn spends time between his matches rooting for teammates and he also studies film. His father — a former high school wrestler — shoots video of all his son’s matches.
      “I’ll watch my last match to see what I’ve done well, what’ve I’ve done wrong, what I can do better,” says Bohn.
      While there is plenty of noise in the gym or arena and the headgear doesn’t make it any easier, Bohn manages to hear his coaches offering instruction from the corner.
      “I know what they sound like,” says Bohn.
      Munster has an NCC away dual against Lowell Jan. 5, the Lake County Tournament at Hanover Central Jan. 7, an NCC home dual against Hobart Jan. 7 and the NCC meet (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Kankakee Valley and Lowell) at Lowell Jan. 14.
      The state tournament series includes the East Chicago Sectional (with East Chicago Central, Gary West Side, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hammond Central, Hammond Morton, Merrillville and Whiting) Jan. 28, Hobart Regional Feb. 4, East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 and IHSAA State Finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Feb. 17-18.
      Moving through the Region at tournament time is tough.
      “It’s hard competition no matter what,” says Slosser. “You’ve always got to be on your game.”
      Slosser, who was an assistant to Mike Crary for four years before becoming head wrestling coach, also coaches football and is an administrative assistant in the Munster athletic office. He has worked hard to recruit athletes for high school, middle school and the Munster Wrestling Club.
      “I’ve been working hard to try to make a program,” says Slosser. “Two years ago K through 12, we had 47 kids in the program. Now K through 12, we have 126.
      “There were seven middle school wrestlers two years ago and that number has jumped to 45.”
      Says Bohn, “It’s not me, but in the time I’ve been here I’ve seen the program grow a lot and it’s cool to see.”
      A wrestling club was started at Munster when Slosser was 6, but it went away.
      “I said you know what? — this program needs to keep back up and running,” says Slosser, 27. “We’re just a young program fighting to get back.”
      Munster has won 11 sectional titles in program history. The last four came in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 when former Evansville Mater Dei wrestler Dan Gelarden was Mustangs head coach.
      “(Gelarden) was a  very intelligent coach,” says Slosser. “We had (the IHSAA team tournament) back then and he knew how to move the lineup the right way.”
      Slosser dealt with injuries throughout his prep mat career and was a semistate qualifier as a junior.
      He earned a Business Management degree from Calumet College of Saint Joseph’s in Whiting, Ind., in 2018.
      Slosser’s coaching staff features two of his former coaches — Tim Maldonado and Bobby Joe Maldonado — plus Jeff Jorge, Steve Marks and Matt Gille. The middle school season was in the fall. That team was coached by Juan Lopez, Bobby Joe Maldonado and Markus Ciciora. Those men also help out at the high school level.
      Slosser is pleased to see former Munster wrestlers who are now parents getting involved with the current Mustangs.
      Bohn credits nutrition as a big part of his success. He estimates he takes in about 2,500 calories a day and burns off at least that many.
      “I eat a lot of raspberries,” says Bohn. “I love raspberries. You can eat less calories and feel more energized. You just won’t feel like crap when you’re in your match.
      “Normally I’m good about (eating) unless it’s a holiday. I don’t cut. I’m going eat good food. It would be rude not to, but that’s the only time I stray away from good nutrition.”

      3357 4

      #WrestlingWednesday: Perry Meridian's Billerman bothersome to coaches and opponents

      Perry Meridian wrestling coach Matt Schoettle stands in front of his team of grapplers with a goal in mind. He wants to teach them a technique that will help the young men become better wrestlers and gain an advantage over their opponents. But, as he teaches, a voice resonates from within the team. It’s senior Toby Billerman and he’s smirking as he tells the coach that the moves he’s teaching simply won’t work.
      It's not that the technique actually won’t work – it’s just that Billerman has a knack for getting under Schoettle’s skin a little.
      “He’s kind of a smart ass,” Schoettle said.
      Billerman agrees.
      “He calls me that in practice too,” Billerman said. “I always give him a hard time. I mess with him some when he’s showing moves.”
      Although Billerman likes to keep the room loose and have fun, he’s a very serious wrestler. Almost to a fault.
      Over the summer Billerman put in so much work on the mat that Schoettle went to him and told him he needed to try and take some breaks.
      “His dedication and commitment are unique,” Schoettle said. “Over the summer I thought he wrestled too much. He’s been doing that for years. He just loves to practice and compete.”
      Billerman defends his workload by saying it’s something he loves to do.
      “Coach tells me all the time that I do too much,” Billerman said. “I tell him it’s OK. It’s a sport I love to do. I realized toward the end of the summer that I was doing way too much, and I tried to take a few breaks to relax and hang out with my friends. But even then, I was thinking about wrestling. It’s what I love to do.”
      That work ethic has led to an enormous amount of success on the mat for the 120-pound senior. Billerman is currently ranked No. 3 in his weight class. Last year he finished second in the same weight and as a sophomore he finished third at 106 pounds. This year he’s hoping to walk away with a state championship.
      Winning state is never easy, but the 120-pound class is loaded. There are 13 former state qualifiers in the top 20. LaPorte senior Ashton Jackson is currently sitting on top of the hill. Jackson is a two-time state champion, winning 106 in 2021 and 113 last season.
      Right behind Jackson in the rankings is returning 106-pound state champ Jake Hockaday, a sophomore from Brownsburg. There are other proven winners in the weight class as well, like Sullivan senior Lane Gilbert (ranked No. 8). Gilbert has placed the past three seasons, with his best finish coming in 2021 when he placed third at 120 pounds. Other 120 pounders, such as Kokomo junior Jalen May, Evansville Mater Dei sophomore Isaiah Schaefer, Delta junior Neal Mosier, Western junior Tanner Tishner, Columbus East senior Liam Krueger and Center Grove sophomore Eddie Goss have all placed in state before as well.
      “Ashton Jackson has to be the favorite right now,” Schoettle said. “He beat Toby a few years ago in the semis. But I would never count Toby out. He can beat anyone.”
      Billerman’s practice partner in the Perry Meridian room is senior Kenton Morton. Morton is ranked No. 16 at 132 pounds and is a two-time state qualifier.
      “They have been wrestling together for the last 13 years,” Schoettle said.
      Although winning an individual title is a major goal for Billerman, he would also love to win the Team State title.  The Falcons have a very solid squad with five ranked wrestlers in the lineup. In addition to Billerman and Morton, Hruai Liam, Zach Huckaby and Andy Warren are all ranked in their respective weight classes.
      After team state, Billerman and company will shift their focus to the individual tournament.
      “I just want to go into the tournament and have fun,” Billerman said. “I want to wrestle hard. I want to compete. And, from there, whatever happens, happens.”
      After high school Billerman will wrestle at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He is currently considering studying nursing but admits that might change.
      “Toby is a slick wrestler on the mat,” Schoettle said. “He’s got great technique and he is pretty physical. No doubt he’s a team leader and has been for a while. But he’s also a great kid. A great student and he never gets in trouble. He’s a very good role model for the younger guys.”

      2539 1 1

      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Wawasee Warriors manage to successfully mix focus on team, individuals

      Embracing the group component with many eyes on personal achievement, Wawasee High School wrestlers are having another win-filled season.
      The Warriors head into the week of Dec. 19 at 12-4 in varsity duals (including 4-0 against Northern Lakes Conference goes). Senior 170-pounder Gavin Malone is unbeaten so far in 2022-23. Seniors Hunter Miller (152) and Logan Stuckman (138) have one loss apiece and junior Kaleb Salazar (106) has two setbacks.
      Asked to name his best qualities as a wrestler, Malone says “being dedicated and hard work. I’m trying to be the best leader I can be.”
      Depending on the situation, Malone leads either by example or vocally.
      At 18, he’s been grappling since 3.
      “There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” says Malone. “Since I joined the Viper Wrestling Club I’ve developed a lot of moves that I can use in a match.”
      The Wawasee Wrestling Club has about 80 members and about 20 of them with the advanced/competition-ready Vipers.
      Malone is driven by the advice of several coaches — present and past.
      Middle school coach Kevin Taylor, who was Wawasee’s head coach for six seasons, talks about hard work and dedication.
      Former assistant Jesse Espinoza said “jam, jam, jam” — the idea of being tough on top and being the hammer rather than the nail.
      From Bumgardner, Malone heed the call to keeping pushing and focusing and staying in good position.
      From Garrett Stuckman, it’s “keep fighting and always be moving.”
      Malone says the team’s main focus at the beginning of the season is the State Duals.
      “Wrestling is an individual sport with a team part,” says Malone. “At the end we strive for our goals. I hope everybody’s goal is to be a state champion.”
      Gavin’s primary workout partner is senior Cameron Zimmerman (182) though he also drills with Miller or junior Donovan Blair (195).
      “If I can use by strength with the technique it will get me a lot further,” says Malone.
      After high school, he hopes to wrestle in college and study Criminal Justice.
      Miller, 17, has been wrestling since he was 3.
      “I have a lot of tricks in my bag, but I focus on two or three good moves in each position,” says Miller, who counts Malone and Stuckman as practice partners. (Logan is) quick and he holds pretty good position like me.
      “It makes us able to capitalize on mistakes.”
      He sees himself and Malone as by-example leaders and Stuckman and Zimmerman as vocal leaders.
      Hunter also likes the individual part of the sport.
      “My goal is to be a state champ,” says Miller. “You don’t have anybody holding you back.
      “You’ve got to get it done for yourself.”
      After high school, Miller plans to study engineering in college at either Purdue University or Trine University. He says scholarship opportunities and which school he chooses will have a bearing on whether he wrestles at the next level.
      Stuckman says he prefers to push the pace and “jam, jam, jam.”
      “It’s go, go, go,” says Stuckman, who at 17 has been wrestling for 12 years. “What makes our team stand out is we’re all good at something.
      “You have to respect us.”
      After high school, Logan says he expects to work in the family business — Stuckman’s Sanitiation.
      What makes this team of 42 (35 boys and seven girls) what it is?
      “It’s a collection of great human beings,” says Bumgardner. “It’s the way they care about each other and love each other.
      “They are extremely coachable. It’s been a lot of fun working with this group so far.”
      Bumgardner and his assistants (Jamie Salazar, Braxton Alexander, Mike Deak, Isiah Faurote, Hal Heagy, Hunter Reed, Miguel Rodriguez, Shawn Senter, Garrett Stuckman, Raymon Torres and Dillon Whitacre) have grapplers competing really hard but in a relaxed environment.
      “It’s painted on our (practice room) wall — Warrior Tough. It’s a mindset,” says Bumgardner. “We try to do everything to the best of your ability.”
      Another motto: “Score points and have fun.”
      “We’re not focused on pressure,” says Bumgardner.  “There’s a lot going on in the world today and we need to focus on being great human beings rather than letting wrestling athletics consume our identities.”
      Braxton Alexander (Class of 2019) is tied atop the career wins list with Kevin Carr (Class of 1999) at 166.
      Wawasee is scheduled to host NLC opponent Concord Wednesday, Dec. 21 then gear up for the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka Dec. 29-30.
      The Warriors make their sixth straight appearances at the IHSWCA Class 2A State Duals Jan. 7. The competition will be held at Jay County.
      In the past, the program has placed first in 2018, second in 2019, qualified in both 2020 and 2021 and came in fourth in 2022.
      Wawasee hosts the NLC meet (with Concord, Goshen, Mishawaka, Northridge, NorthWood, Plymouth and Warsaw) Jan. 14.
      The IHSAA state tournament series takes the Warriors to the Plymouth Sectional (with Bremen, Culver Academies, Culver Community, LaVille, Plymouth, Tippecanoe Valley, Triton and Warsaw) Jan. 28, Penn Regional Feb. 4, East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 and IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
      Frank Bumgardner is in his eighth season as Wawasee head coach.
      He says the Warriors schedule allows for emphasizing team at the beginning and individuals at the end.
      “There are situational awareness things we do,” says Bumgardner of the approach in dual meets where team points are so precious.
      He welcomes the challenge of the State Duals where Wawasee wrestlers will “face hammers all day long.”
      A graduate of Whitko Junior/Senior High School (2007), Bumgardner was head coach at his alma mater before coming to Wawasee.
      Bumgardner earned an Education degree Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and was teacher. He is now leading training and development at Viewrail, a Goshen-based company which designs, manufactures and installs custom stairs and railing.

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