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      King sees Oak Hill earn its first semistate mat crown

      Andrew King has seen plenty in his 35 years a wrestling coach at Oak Hill High School.
       
      Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer King has enjoyed more than 450 dual-meet victories and lots of in-season and postseason championships.
       
      But the 1981 Oak Hill and 1985 DePauw University graduate had never seen the Eagles celebrate an IHSAA semistate team title until Saturday, Feb. 13 at Memorial Coliseum.
       
      “The pieces all fell together,” said King moments after his team hoisted the trophy. “It’s a great feeling for Oak Hill.
       
      “Most people don’t know where Oak Hill is.”
       
      The Grant County school of about 520 students is located in Converse, Ind.
       
      Oak Hill’s first semistate crown came on the day the Eagles had two individual semistate winners — 152-pound senior Aidan Hardcastle and 138-pound junior Brody Arthur — for the first time.
      Hardcastle (36-0 on the 2020-21 season) pinned South Adams junior A.J. Dull in 5:26, bested Huntington North senior Julian Fletcher by 13-2 major decision and edged Adams Central junior Alex Currie 2-1 before besting Carroll senior Evan Ulrick 5-2 in the finals.
       
      Arthur (38-1) scored four pins for his semistate championship — Carroll junior Jared Landez in 3:13, Lakeland junior Ben Miller in 2:11, Columbia City senior Jarrett Forrester in 2:58 prior to Daleville junior Julius Gerencser in 1:38 in the finals.
       
      Seniors Jett Thompson (second at 182) and Harper Dedman (fourth at 126) were also placers for Oak Hill. Thompson goes to Indy at 34-4 while Dedman is 27-4.
       
      Senior Julian Perez (120) and Freshman Tyson Kendall (106) also represented the Eagles at semistate.
       
      The top four in each weight division advanced to the first round of the State Finals Friday, Feb. 19 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
       
      King talked about all the time put in my his wrestlers and their parents, grandparents and siblings.
       
      “That’s why makes a great wrestling program — the families that are involved,” said King. “It’s a family affair.
       
      “I”m proud to be a part of it. That’s all I am — a part of it — and everybody plays a part.”
       
      With 76.5 points, Oak Hill finished ahead of Western (67.5), Northridge (64.5), Fort Wayne Carroll (63) and the rest of the field.
       
      During all his years of coming to the semistate, King has seen the larger schools earn team titles.
       
      “I like to say that wrestling is classless,” said King. “Whether you’re a big or a little school, we’re all in the same boat.”
       
      In 2020-21, Oak Hill, Western and Kokomo finished 1-2-3 at the Oak Hill Sectional. Western, Wabash and Oak Hill took the top three spots at the Maconaquah Regional.
       
      “We love to hate Western and Western loves to hate us,” said King. “We thrive on it. Steels sharpens steel.”
       
      Like everyone in the athletic world, Oak Hill has had to deal with COVID-19 issues this season.
       
      “I’m a lay coach so when I come to school I have an open mind,” said King. “I’m not going to get mad about it. I deal with it as it is.
       
      “I walk into the school and see my athletic director (Ryan Fagan) coming down the hallway and I cringe because he’s going to tell me which two, three or four kids are now out of for the next 10 days because of social distancing. You just do what you can each day. We’ve had our challenges with that. but our kids have been really good.”
       
      Oak Hill has been extra-diligent about keeping the wrestling practice room clean.
       
      “We’ve gone overboard spraying down the room before practice after practice and in-between practice,” said King. “You can only have one practice partner, you can’t have three, four or five (because of contact-tracing protocols).
       
      “We have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

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      Allred is headed to the Big Red

      The top ranked 195lber in the state an our top Junior wrestler, Silas Allred, has committed to wrestle for Nebraska. Allred, hailing from Shenandoah just north of Indianapolis, will join four-time state champion Chad Red on the Husker roster. 
      Allred is ranked anywhere from 5th-7th by all the national ranking services and atop 30 prospect for the class of 2020. Currently he sports a spectacular 90-2 record over his three years that includes a 5th place finish at state in 2018. His long list of national accolades includes placing 3rd at the Super 32 this past fall, a Cadet Folkstyle National title, and a 4th place finish in Cadet Greco-Roman. 
      Allred had plenty of offers from many of the top programs in the country. The programs on his final list included state schools Purdue and Indiana along with North Carolina State and Maryland. Currently he is undecided on a major, but is leaning towards a business degree at Nebraska.
      Projecting at 197lbs for his collegiate career, Allred stated he was drawn to Lincoln for a plethora of reasons.
      “I chose Nebraska because it felt like home. After visiting a few colleges, no place made me feel even close to the way Nebraska did,” Allred said in response to his commitment. “I knew in my spirit the search was over. Not to mention the coaching staff and RTC is absolutely incredible. It is the perfect fit for my athletic and academic goals.”
      Good luck to Silas as he pursues not only his state goals, but national and international goals thi off-season.

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Warren Central focusing on team

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      Warren Central wrestling coach Jim Tonte was watching a documentary on the life of South African Nelson Mandela. That documentary sparked a philosophical mantra that Tonte would use to help push his team-first mentality.
      “We really adopted the term ‘Ubuntu’,” Tonte said. “To Mandela, it meant ‘I am because we are.’ Mandela talked about everyone sacrificing for the good of the people. South Africa found success because they worked together. It wasn’t about me, it was about us.”
      Although wrestling is largely considered an individual sport, Tonte embraces the team aspect first and foremost. His teams have won four state titles (three with Perry Meridian and one with Warren Central). Individually, he has coached eight state champions.
      With over 70 wrestlers in the program Tonte feels it is vitally important to stress the team-first mentality.
      “A lot of people don’t understand or believe my philosophy,” Tonte said. “I believe in building a team and building depth. A lot say the team state isn’t as important as individual. They say you can just make one really good team. But that doesn’t make Indiana wrestling any better.
      “I remember one year we got second in state and we had Nick Walpole, who was a state champion. Nick said he would trade that individual ring any day of the week and twice on Sunday for a team title. We are a family from the little kids on. You build your elementary, your middle school and you all support each other.
      “I’m good at reenacting what other greats do. Mater Dei really had this same philosophy and year after year they would produce great teams because of it.”
      This year Tonte is hoping his team lives up to their potential.
      “From top to bottom we are as solid as we were in 2016,” Tonte said. “We aren’t as flashy as the 2016 team, but we’re as solid.”
      The Warriors return three state qualifiers from last season. David Pierson finished fourth at 106, Antwaun Graves was fifth at 145 and Jarred Rowlett qualified at 132.
      Four other returners were semistate qualifiers last year – Jevian Ross, Aundre Beatty, Brice Coleman and Aaron Taylor.
      Sophomore Carlton Perry will likely be the Warriors’ 106-pounder. Perry is currently ranked No. 12. Pierson is ranked No. 4 at 113 pounds.
      Senior Chris Stewart will be at 120 for the Warriors with Ross, a sophomore, filling the 126 varsity spot.
      Ross was an All-American at the Disney Duals over the summer, just three weeks after a stray bullet came through his house, into his bedroom and struck him in the head.
      “That was a freak, freak thing,” Tonte said.
      Beatty, a junior, will fill the 132 spot with Rowlett, a senior, moving up to 138. Coleman will wrestle 145 for the Warriors.
      Graves, at 152, is perhaps Warren’s most decorated grappler. He was a preseason national champ last season. He beat eventual state champion Jordan Slivka in the semistate and beat Kasper McIntosh, who now wrestles for the University of Minnesota, in the placement round at state.
      “When Antwaun is on a roll he can beat anyone,” Tonte said. “He’s legitmate. He’s one of those kids that learns during a match. He’s very coachable. His freshman year at team state duals he had a kid named Joe Lee (Mater Dei). Lee only decisioned him. At the time, Antwaun was our JV kid. Can you imagine Joe Lee decisioning a JV kid, and at the end of the match Joe got called for stalling. I told Antwaun then that he can be a state champion.”
      Graves is ranked No. 4.
      Taylor will be Warren’s 160 pounder.
      “He’s one of the most athletic kids I’ve ever coached,” Tonte said.
      At 170 junior Damon McClane will look to make his mark in his first year as a varsity wrestler.
      “Damon has been very successful during the offseason at all three levels,” Tonte said. “We’re hoping he will really surprise people this year. He was a JV guy for us last year.”
      Senior James Dycus will wrestle at 182 for the Warriors with senior Nathan Bishop getting the 195 spot.
      Warren’s 220 pounder and heavyweight will likely be filled by members of the state championship football team. Senior Carlos Mitchell will wrestle at 220 and either Dennis Hubbard or Alex Hernandez will fill the spot at heavyweight.
      With such a large number of wrestlers, Tonte says there could be others that break into the lineup at some point in the season.
      “We have guys like Jajuan Anderson as a back up at 145-152. He just All-Americaned at Iowa in the preseason nationals as a sophomore.”
      Tonte said part of his strength as a coach is to emphasize to everyone that they have an important role on the team. That helps when there is so much competition for position spots.
      “That’s my niche,” Tonte said. “We have to find ways for kids to stick around. If there is one thing in this sport that I’ve been pretty good at, it’s probably that. I try my best to keep kids around the program. Even the worst kid in the world is important to the program. We are going to have wrestle offs this week and we’ll have state caliber kids battling to stay in the lineup. But, in the end, they know it’s all about the team and they’ll do whatever they need to do to help the team win.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Three-sport athlete KJ Roudebush ready for the challenge

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      Most wrestling stories don’t begin like K.J. Roudebush’s did. Then again, most wrestlers aren’t wired quite like the three-sport star from Tipton, either.
      Roudebush got into wrestling as a punishment, and because a household lamp was broken.
      “It’s really a funny story,” the Tipton senior said. “I was in fifth grade and my oldest brother was in college so my middle brother and I were downstairs wrestling around. Right when dad got home from work we were still wrestling and my brother and I had gotten mad at each other and one of my mom’s lamps got broken. My dad wasn’t happy. He said if we wanted to continue wrestling at home, we were going to join the wrestling team. I went to the wrestling team and I just fell in love with it.”
      Roudebush is currently ranked No. 10 in the state at 195 pounds. He lost in the ticket round last year at the New Castle semistate to current No. 1-ranked junior Silas Allred of Shenandoah.
      Roudebush doesn’t make excuses for that loss.
      “Silas is something special,” he said. “I went out on the mat and he just dominated me. I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t tired or anything, he was just better than me.”
      This season Roudebush wants to go one step further than he did last year. He wants to advance to the state tournament.
      For Roudebush, wrestling is a part-time gig. Unlike most highly ranked Indiana wrestlers, Roudebush doesn’t wrestle in the offseason. Summers are for baseball and the fall is for his first love, football. Roudebush plays quarterback on Tipton’s offense and splits time between linebacker and defensive end on defense.
      “K.J. is in the top 10 of his class,” Tipton coach Mark Barker said. “He’s such an intelligent guy and he’s a leader in every sport he does. To me, he’s one of those exceptional people that don’t come along that often. If he focused solely on wrestling, I really think it would be hard for anyone to beat him.
      “But I like multi-sport athletes. The more sports you do the better you’ll become at all of them. That’s the way things have always been here at Tipton.”
      Currently Tipton has just seven wrestlers. For Roudebush, that’s perfectly fine.
      “Being on such a small team could really suck, but we get a lot more attention from the coaches,” Roudebush said. “Our individual time with the coaches is through the roof. We’ve never had a big team. I think the most I’ve seen here is 10 wrestlers. Because of that, we don’t win a lot of matches as a team, but when you look at our head-to-head and don’t count forfeits, we’ve won close to 40 duals. We also have a very close bond with each other. I wouldn’t trade that for a bigger program with more practice partners.”
      The Tipton team has adopted a philosophy through necessity. The goal is for every wrestler in the lineup to pin their opponent. If they do that, they have a shot at winning dual meets.
      “We know what we are up against going into the match,” Roudebush said. “Coach tells us we’re starting out down 24-0, or something like that. We know every single one of us have to pin in order for us to win. It’s awesome. All of a sudden, Bam! We pin everyone and pull off the surprise win. We love that challenge. When we get people on their backs, we keep them there.”
      In practice Roudebush alternatese from wrestling with the team’s heavyweight, sophomore Nate Morgan to wrestling with their 145-pounder Blake Hicks.
      “Nate is stronger than me and that makes me really focus on my technique,” Roudebush said. “Blake is a scrapper. He’s good on top and he can put the legs in. He has a mean crossface cradle and he’s tough. It helps me a lot getting to wrestle with guys with different body types and strengths.”
      Roudebush beat Elwood’s Jalen Morgan last year 5-2 to claim the sectional title. Morgan reversed that decision in regional, winning 3-2. That put Morgan on the opposite side of the semistate bracket as Allred. Morgan advanced to the championship match, losing to Allred but still advancing to state. Roudebush was eliminated in the second round.
      “I want to go one step further,” he said. “That’s all I’m worried about. We have a tough sectional. The regional is even harder and I think New Castle is arguably one of the most difficult semistates. My focus is on getting past the ticket round. I’m worried about each match in front of me because wrestling is a different kind of sport. Anyone can win. You have to be ready at all times.”
       

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      #WrestlingWednesday: The Floyds Knobs three amigos

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      In a town that literally gets its name for being tough and rugged, the Three Amigos personify what Floyds Knobs is all about.
       
      Floyd Central High School, located in Floyds Knobs, is the home of wrestlers Gavinn Alstott, J. Conway and Jonathan Kervin. The trio is known around town as the Three Amigos, primarily for their success on the wrestling mat. They are tough wrestlers that like to grind out wins and be physical. One wouldn’t expect anything less from a Floyds Knobs resident.
       
      Floyds Knobs is named after the Knobstone Escarpment located there (and Colonel Davis Floyd). The Knobstone is the most rugged terrain in Indiana. It has steep hills which are commonly referred to as knobs.
       
      As for the Three Amigos – all three qualified for state last season. Alstott finished fourth and Kervin sixth. This year, all three are ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes.
       
      “The Three Amigos is a term we coined last year and started calling them that,” Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said. “I don’t think they mind it. They all three work together and have pushed each other to get better.”
       
      Kervin is the only senior in the trio. He is currently ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds. Last season Kervin finished with a 39-4 record. He won sectional and regional and eventually finished sixth at state in the 145-pound class.
       
      “Jonathan is a really tough wrestler,” Sisson said. “He wrestles hard for all six minutes. He works really closely with is uncle, former two-time state champion Cooper Samuels. Those two have worked together for the past five years and it has really benefited Jonathan.”
       
      Kervin’s goal this season is to win a state title.
       
      “My style is sort of dynamic,” Kervin said. “I like to be a little deranged. I use my length. Last year I felt like I wrestled poorly at state. I didn’t do my normal workout to get ready. I want to get back and show what I can really do.”
       
      Alstott, a junior, finished 42-4 last season. He was a sectional and regional champ and ended up third in the Evansville semistate and would later place fourth at state.
       
      “Gavinn is a grinder,” Sisson said. “He gets out there, gets in your face and pushes the pace non-stop. He’s very business-like on the mat and in the practice room. I’m not ever going to have to see if he’s just messing around. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. No matter what he does, he puts his head down and goes to work.”
       
      Alstott’s uncle, Craig Alstott, was Floyd Central’s first ever four-time state qualifier. Craig never placed at the state meet, however.
       
      “I think Gavinn got the monkey off his back a little by placing last year,” Sisson said. “But he has his sights set significantly higher this year.”
      Off the mat, Gavinn is an excellent student and has been a team leader since his freshman season.
       
      “He’s a really good kid,” Sisson said. “He gets good grades and is good to the other kids. Even as a freshman I thought of him as a team leader. He’s just a phenomenal kid.”
       
      Conway is the quietest in the group. He had a not-so-quiet season last year, however. Conway went 23-4 on the year and claimed a sectional and a regional title. He finished runner-up in semistate but lost on Friday night at the state tournament.
       
      “He’s a really, really quiet kid,” Sisson said. “I don’t think I heard him say anything at all his freshman year. Now as a sophomore he’s coming out of his shell a little bit. On the mat he’s more open. He is already at 130 takedowns in just 18 matches this season. He’s full throttle. You let him go, and he goes.”
       
      Sisson is pleased with his team this season and hopes the Three Amigos will help lead them to great things.
       
      “There are years where you have a lot of talent, but also a lot of drama,” Sisson said. “Then there are years where you don’t have any drama, but you don’t really have any talent either. This year, I really feel like we have a lot of talent and no drama. I’m lucky this year.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Tell City ready for Team State

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      Things are quiet in Tell City, the town named after Swiss hero William Tell. Everyone knows everyone else by name. High school sports are one of the main attractions. This year, the town is abuzz about the wrestling team – and for good reason.
       
      The Marksmen will enter team state as the No. 1-seed in the Class A standings. They are currently the No. 2 ranked team in the class behind only their archrival, North Posey. Coach Neal Stahly can’t wait for the tournament to begin.
       
      “Our number one goal is to win team state,” Stahly said. “That has been our goal every since the coaches association came up with team state. We know there will be 12 fantastic teams that will be there with the same goal as we have.”
       
      Outside of team state, Stahly has high hopes for his squad. He wants everyone to make it to regional or semistate in the individual tournament.
       
      “I want the kids to wrestle to the best of their ability,” he said.
       
      The Marksmen are a senior heavy team this season. There are eight seniors on the 18-man roster. Seniors include Tavor DuPont, Shane Braunecker, Corey Braunecker, Nigel Kaiser, Ross Wilgus, Will Kirtley, Chance Bolin and coach Stahly’s son, Alec.
       
      “We are definitely a senior-heavy team this year,” coach Stahly said. “We have a good group of underclassmen as well and our sophomores are really strong. We have quite a few that are wrestling year around now.
       
      “The seniors are really close to my heart, with it being my son’s age group. They are a fun group of kids. They are tight knit. They do Christmas gift exchanges every year, with gag gifts. They just really enjoy each other’s company and they love to get out and wrestle.”
       
      The team has just one junior this season in Gage Meunier. There are six sophomores: Coy Hammack, Kelby Glenn, Brayden Lain, Collin Kessens, Tyce DuPont, Jack Skeen and J.C. Buckendahl.
       
      Currently none of the Marksmen wrestlers are ranked in the state, but coach Stahly believes that will change soon.
       
      “Coy Hammack is a returning state qualifier,” Stahly said. “He wrestles year around and it really shows. He is really becoming a leader on this team. We have been on lock down for a lot of this season so hopefully once he starts getting some matches he’ll climb into those rankings.”
       
      Hammack qualified for state at 106 pounds last season. He will wrestle 113 this year.
       
      Two Marksmen wrestlers are ranked in the always tough Evansville semistate. Shane Braunecker is ranked eighth in the semistate at 145 pounds and Kaiser is ranked sixth at 170.
       
      Shane and Corey Braunecker are twins. Corey is the class President.
       
      “They are both funky wrestlers,” Stahly said. “They’ve had a lot of success with twisting their bodies in ways they shouldn’t be able to do. Off the mat you wouldn’t be able to meet a more modest pair of twins. They are soft spoken, polite and very intelligent.”
       
      Nigel is one of the team’s best all-around athletes.
       
      “He was a cross country runner until his sophomore year when he switched to play football,” Stahly said. “He plays football, wrestles and plays baseball. He runs like a gazelle. Last year he finally started using his length in wrestling and it’s really improved him.”
       
      Stahly considers Kirtley to be the team’s vocal leader this season, but said his squad really handles leadership by majority.
       
      “Not one of them look for any individual accolades,” Stahly said. “They truly are a team. They hold each other accountable, too.  They look out for each other and make sure everyone is doing their best on and off the mat.”
       
      This is the 50th year for Tell City High School. The wrestling team has never had a state champion, which is something they would love to change.
       
      “We have actually never had a state champion in any sport,” Stahly said. “We have had medalists in various sports. In wrestling we have had six or seven medalists.”
       
      Tell city has had just two wrestling coaches over the last 20 years – which coach Stahly believes gives the team a sense of consistency.
       
      Stahly is from Michigan. When he came to Tell City he fell in love with the place.
       
      “This place is perfect. We have the Ohio River at our doorstep. We are close to Evansville, Nashville, Louisville and Indianapolis. Our county is about 75 percent National Forest – so we have a lot of hunting, fishing and camping we can do. People come to our town and they get that old-time feeling. We have a main street that is lit up at Christmas time. It’s like a throwback. It’s just a great place to live.”
       
      As for team state, Stahly looks forward to a possible matchup with North Posey.
       
      “They are the No. 2 seed and the No. 1 ranked team in class A,” Stahly said. “They are our biggest rival. They have done a tremendous job of getting their team to be a premier 1A team in the state. They are tough, hard-nosed kids that are hard as hell to pin and they don’t quit. We really look forward to that battle.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Slivka poised for another big run

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      Jordan Slivka may not be the fastest wrestler in the state, the most powerful or the most dynamic – but, he just might have the most heart.
      “He’s probably the most mentally tough wrestler I’ve ever had,” Cathedral coach Sean McGinley said. “He loves the big matches. As coaches we ask ourselves who we want to have out there, down one going into the third period. I’d put Jordan Slivka in that spot over anyone.”
      Slivka, a senior for the Irish, showed just how much ice is in his veins in the state tournament last season. The Irish needed a win in the worst way if they were going to have a shot at winning the team state title. Slivka just told them to relax, he was going to win.
      That’s what he did. He claimed his first individual state championship by beating Yorktown’s Christian Hunt 1-0. That win also sealed Cathedral’s team state title.
      “Winning state felt amazing,” Slivka said. “I envisioned it before I won it. I told myself in the locker room before my match that I knew it was going to come down to my match. I said I was going to win it, and I knew that’s what I was going to do.”
      Slivka has made a career out of winning the close matches. In the state tournament Slivka is 16-3 in matches determined by three points or less.
      “I come out in each of my matches with a game plan,” Slivka said. “I don’t try to rush things and I don’t try to force points. I have the mentality that nobody can take me down, nobody can escape me and nobody can ride me. I’m confident that I own people on the mat.”
      This season Slivka has continued to shine in the close matches. Recently in a dual meet with Indianapolis Roncalli Slivka bumped up to 170 to face No. 5-ranked Elijan Mahan. In that match Slivka injured his ribs and had to take two injury time outs, but he didn’t want to quit. He eventually escaped with a 6-4 victory which helped lead the Irish to the team win as well.
      “He just gutted that win out,” McGinley said. “He was in a lot of pain. You really see his mental toughness in matches like that. As the seasons go on you just see how many of those close matches he wins, and you know he’s the guy you want out there in those situations.”
      Slivka also edged No. 7-ranked (160) Peyton Asbury and No. 5-ranked (160) Nathan Conley by 1-0 scores. He beat No. 3-ranked Brooks Davis 3-2 and No. 4 ranked Peyton Pruett 5-2. He did lose one close match this season, falling to Conley 3-2.
      Slivka started out in the Shenandoah school district. He went to Shenandoah until his freshman year. His dad was one of the coaches who helped turned that program around. His father, John, is a former state champion in Georgia.
      “My dad, in that Shenandoah room made sure we were all tough,” Slivka said. “One of the drills we had was we would get in our stance and dad would walk around a bunch and snap our necks down. We kept going long after we were tired. It taught me to be tough.”
      Slivka’s older brother, Johnny, was also a solid wrestler for the Raiders. Jordan even has a game plan for wrestling his older brother.
      “If we do takedowns, Johnny might beat me,” Jordan said. “But in a full match I have him now. He’s a little out of shape. The first and second period he might get me, but come the third, he’s mine.”
      Slivka is ranked No. 2 at 160 pounds behind Portage senior Donnell Washington. The two wrestled earlier in the season with Washington claiming the 8-3 victory.
      “I am 1 and 1 against him,” Slivka said. “He beat me this year and I beat him last year. I’ve taken losses before and have been able to come back from them. I hope this is no different.”
      Slivka’s goal this season is to win another state title. He admits it will be very hard to top last year’s title – with the team state championship being on the line as well.
      “I have no clue how you top that,” Slivka said. “Only thing I can think of is doing it again and scoring more points.”
      Next year Slivka will wrestle for Ohio University.
      “My plan is to be as good as I can be in college. It’s the next challenge.

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Sibling rivalry leads to Wilkerson's success

      By JEREMY HINES
      thehines7@gmail.com
      There are times when things get so heated in the wrestling room at Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville that brothers Chase and Chris Wilkerson have to be seperated. Like most brothers, they hate to lose to each other. When they practice together, things can start to get a little testy.
      Those moments certainly aren’t the norm. Chase, a junior and Chris, a sophomore are each other’s biggest fans. They practice together, condition together and talk strategy together. When one brother is struggling, the other is there to pick him up.
      “They really have a neat dynamic,” Marauder coach Chad Masters said. “Every big match, they are both on the sidelines coaching each other. They are both the first one there to congratulate each other. They console each other after tough losses. They are two of the best kids I’ve ever met. They are the type of people you want in the room and you know they’ll be successful in whatever they do.”
      This year Chase is ranked No. 11 in the state at 120 pounds and is ranked fourth in the New Castle semistate. Chris is not state ranked, but is No. 6 in the New Castle semistate at 132 pounds.
      Before his last middle school season started, Chris weighed 170 pounds. He had always wrestled the bigger guys due to his size. But, when he started really focusing on improving, he started to get in better shape as well. He wrestled at 145 pounds by the end of his eighth grade season. Then, in high school, he got down to 132 pounds and he maintained that weight all summer long. This is his second season at that weight class.
      Last season ended in trying fashion for Chris. He was the No. 2 seed in the Warren Central sectional. He won his first two matches then ran into senior Tim Wright. During that match Wright’s head slammed into Chris’s face. The force from the blow knocked a tooth out of Chris’s mouth, and caused other damage. He had to injury default out of the tournament and go to the hospital immediately. That injury ended his freshman campaign.
      “That was the worst feeling in my life,” Chris said. “Just hearing that I couldn’t continue. It was the first time I had cried in years. It was awful knowing that all the hard work I had put in, and nobody was going to see that pay off.”
      That’s when Chase stepped in.
      “Chase helped me to cope with knowing I was out,” Chris said. “He was telling me to bounce back harder. He told me to work harder. And, he did the same. Seeing him work as hard as he did started pushing me to get better as well.”
      Chase lost to New Castle’s Trevor Ragle in the first round of semistate 4-1. Ragle went on to advance to the state tournament. Before the Ragle match, Chase had fallen short against other ranked guys as well.
      “This year started out the same way,” Masters said. “He wrestled Zane Standridge and lost in the last 20 seconds. He knew he could wrestle the ranked guys, but he wasn’t sure he was able to beat them. It seemed like every time something would go wrong and he’d lost the match at the end.”
      The turning point for Chase came 14 days after the Standridge match. Chase was wrestling a familiar foe, Greenfield’s Gavin Rose. The two were once practice partners at Mt. Vernon, but Rose left for the neighboring Greenfield school. He had defeated Wilkerson in the past, but this time was different.
      Chase scored four points on two reversals to beat Rose 4-2. That match showed Chase he could win the big match.
      “That was a big turning point with Chase,” Masters said. “It showed Chase that he could not only wrestle with these guys, he could beat them. It showed he could beat anyone.”
      The two wrestled again Saturday in the championship of the Hoosier Heritage Conference tournament. The match went to triple overtime before Rose pulled off the 2-0 victory.
      Chris also had a big match in the HHC tournament. He was taking on Yorktown’s Alex Barr, the No. 1 seed in the 132 pound weight class. With 10 seconds left in the match Barr had a 1-0 lead and was on top of Chris. That’s when Chris made his move, he scored an escape point and Barr fell toward the out of bounds line. When Chris saw Barr down, he dove at his legs and was awarded the takedown to go up 3-2 with three seconds left. On the restart he let Barr up to secure the 3-2 win.
      “I couldn’t contain my emotions,” Chris said. “I had to let it out. That was such a crazy match and I was just so excited to win it.”
      The brothers have very different styles on the mat. Chase likes to go for the takedowns and be aggressive offensively. Chris is a patient wrestler who minimizes his mistakes.
      Both brothers have a goal to reach the state tournament.
      “I definitely think I should go to state this year,” Chase said. “It’s going to be rough for sure, but I feel like I can make it.”
      One of the keys to getting to state might just be having a sibling to push you. It’s working for the Wilkerson brothers right now.
      “Having a brother is definitely an advantage,” Chase said. “You grow up beating the crap out of each other. But, whenever you need someone to work with - we are there for each other and we want each other to succeed. When he does well, I feel as good as if I had done well myself.”

      3262 2 3

      #WrestlingWednesday: Mullets and Mustaches, Oh My!

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      The Man. The Myth. The Mullet. The Mustache.
      Outside of the famous Willie and Red’s smorgasbord (best fried chicken and prime rib in the area), senior wrestler Jake Combs is the biggest attraction in Hagerstown.
      He’s popular because he’s a phenomenal three-sport athlete, because he has a mullet and mustache that would make Billy Ray Cyrus jealous and because he has become the first Tiger wrestler since 2003 to advance to the state finals.
      “I can’t put it into words, honestly, what going to state means to me,” Combs said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about ever since I lost here last year. It just feels amazing.”
      Combs had a huge contention of fans Saturday at the New Castle semistate. When he won his ticket round matchup against Frankfort senior Ezekial VanDeventer, it seemed as if the whole gym erupted in applause.
      “Wrestling is unlike any sport in many ways but the family aspect that comes with it is truly humbling,” Hagerstown coach Anton Payne said. “I feel the entire TEC (Tri Eastern Conference), our sectional and regional teams were pulling for Jake today. The crowd from Hagerstown was huge but when Jake won there were hundreds, if not thousands of people screaming and jumping out of their seats.”
      Combs doesn’t have the typical wrestling story of athletes that are going to the state finals. He didn’t wrestle as a young kid. He didn’t wrestle in middle school. He didn’t even wrestle as a freshman or sophomore, despite coach Payne practically begging him every year to give it a try.
      Payne finally wore Combs down before his junior season.
      “Jake started wrestling for the first time 15 short months ago,” Payne said. “I tried my best to get this young man out since junior high, but it wasn’t until his junior year, in November that he said he would try a practice to see if he likes it.”
      Combs fell in love with wrestling. Early on it was evident that he was strong as an ox, but he didn’t have any technique to go along with that raw strength. As the season progressed, Combs continued to learn the sport and by tournament time, he was good enough to advance to semistate. That success created a hunger.
      Combs started working as hard as he could to learn more about wrestling. He went to open gyms in the summer. He traveled to Carmel and other places looking to soak in as much knowledge as possible. It paid off.
      “I told Jake that we would have to work hard,” Payne said. “I told him we would have to push through adversity. We would have to wrestle through pains. We would have to stay on the mat as much as possible in the off season. We would have to work on our explosiveness. We would have to gain more mat confidence and we would have to be 100 percent committed. Jake’s response was ‘let’s do it.’ “
      This season Combs is 38-5 and was perhaps the surprise of the 182-pound class in the New Castle semistate. He knocked off Greenfield’s Scott Stanley by fall in the first period to advance to the ticket round. In the ticket round he dominated VanDeventer, pinning him 1:53.
      But Combs wasn’t done yet. In the next round he had the task of taking on No. 14-ranked J.D. Farrell of Fishers. Combs won that match 3-1 to advance to the semistate championship.
      Combs lost in the finals to Elwood’s No. 12-ranked Jalen Morgan 5-0.
      To Combs, wrestling is fun. That’s part of the reason he grew his world-class mullet and mustache – which some accredit to his quick rise to success in the sport. Combs isn’t sure which one gives him these special powers, though.
      “You know, I’m thinking it’s the mullet,” Combs said. “It’s newer. I’ve had the mustache for a while. But, you know what, it has matured a lot, so maybe it’s that, too. It might be both.”
      In Hagerstown they have made fan support T-shirts for Combs. The shirts just have an outline of a mullet and a mustache. Combs loves them.
      “Wrestling is such a serious sport and I’m just trying to bring a little flavor to it.”
      Friday Combs will get to showcase that flavor at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in front of the state’s most die-hard wrestling fans. He will take on Oak Hill’s No. 16-ranked Bradley Rosman in the first round.
      “Jake has accomplished what he said he would do last year after semistate,” Payne said. “But we are not satisfied yet.”

      2542 6 1

      #WrestlingWednesday: LIttell hungry to get his shot

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      Brayden Littell’s high school wrestling career hasn’t exactly gone as planned. The junior has just one loss in high school, a one-point defeat at the hands of two-time state champion Asa Garcia. He has defeated another Indiana state champion, twice. Yet, Littell has yet to wrestle a single state tournament match.
      Littell grew up wrestling in the Center Grove school district. He wrestled with the Trojans in elementary school and middle school. As a freshman, however, he enrolled at Perry Meridian.
      During that freshman season Littell defeated Roncalli’s Alex Viduya twice. Viduya went on to claim the state championship at 113 pounds. Littell never made it to the tournament. He had a falling out with the Perry Meridian team and transferred back to Center Grove, mid-season. The transfer rules forced him to sit out the rest of the season.
      “There wasn’t too much going on with my situation at Perry Meridian,” Littell said. “I guess you could say it was more of some pet peeve type of stuff. The Perry program is great, but the way the practices and the program went, I didn’t think it was what was right for me and my family.”
      When the IHSAA ruled Littell ineligible for the remainder of his freshman season, he took the news pretty hard. He sat in the stands and watched Viduya, a guy he had beaten twice that season, claim the state title.
      “That was painful,” Littell said. “I’ll be honest, I cried a lot. I wanted Alex to win it though. If I wasn’t out there, he’s the guy I was cheering for.”
      Things went from bad to worse for Littell his sophomore year. He suffered a knee injury playing youth football (tore his ACL) when he was in elementary school. It always bothered him, but he was able to wrestle with it. By his sophomore year the knee started hurting so badly he couldn’t wrestle. He went to his doctor and was told that not only was his ACL torn, so was his MCL and he had damage to his meniscus. He would need a season-ending surgery.
      “I felt defeated when I found that out,” Littell said. “First I lost my freshman season and then I was told I wouldn’t be able to wrestle as a sophomore either. I thought I’d be able to push myself and get back in time for the tournament, but my doctors didn’t want that.”
      For two years Littell has been hungry to showcase what he can do on the mat. For two years he watched others have the success he felt could and should be his. Two years of physical and mental pain escalated to a boiling point in the young wrestler, and now, as a junior he’s able to unleash on his opponents. He is currently 17-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds. He has pinned every wrestler he has faced up to this point.
      “Braydon is a special type of athlete,” Center Grove coach Maurice Swain said. “He has a combination of speed, power and great technique that you just don’t see in most high school athletes. And, he loves the sport. His speed is off the charges. His power is off the charts.”
      Littell is the type of wrestler that lives for the big moments. He gets excited when he gets to wrestle the better opponents. He will likely get the chance to see Crown Point’s No. 3-ranked junior Riley Bettich at the Al Smth tournament.
      “I’m super excited to wrestle him,” Littell said. “I’m pumped for it.”
      More so, he’s excited for the chance to show Indiana what he has to offer on the mat.
      “I feel, for sure, like I have something to prove to the state,” Littell said. “I feel people sort of forgot about me. I want to show them what I can do. I’m hungry. Sitting out two years and watching others go on to have success has just forced me to work harder. It motivates me.”
      Littell isn’t alone. Coach Swain is also excited to showcase his star junior.
      “We think the world of Brayden here,” Swain said. “I think he’s just a special athlete. I’m excited to see him compete and excited for the state of Indiana that has heard his name but not got a chance to see him wrestle. I’m excited for them to see what he can do.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Jennings County getting a major upgrade

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      Howard Jones is, without a doubt, the face of Jennings County wrestling. Jones has coached the Panthers for over four decades (41 years to be exact). And during those 41 years he’s always had to do things the hard way. That’s all about to change.
       
      Jennings County has started the construction of a one-of-a-kind wrestling facility. Jones believes this might be the only dedicated wrestling venue for a high school in the Midwest, and possibly even the entire country.
       
      The new, five-million-dollar venue will feature seating for over 800 fans. It will have four full-size mats down with the ability to remove some seating and go up to six full size mats. The 24,000 square feet venue will also have two locker rooms and a coaches’ office.
       
      “We expect this to make our wrestlers feel like first-class athletes,” Jennings County Athletic Director Cory Stevens said. “They are going to have a facility that no other wrestlers in the region or in the state will have. We hope this attracts others to use it as well, for camps and things of that nature.”
       
      For Jones, this is a dream come true. His wrestlers have practiced in a balcony overlooking the basketball gymnasium. The school has two balconies on each side of the gym, and the wrestling team was often so large that it had to split the team up and use both sides.
       
      “I was lucky enough to have real good assistant coaches over the years,” Jones said. “I would go on one side and the assistants would go on the other. Sometimes we would divide by weight class. Sometimes we would divide by varsity and junior varsity.”
       
      The wrestlers would also have to move the 800-pound mats that were stored in various places throughout the school down to the gym floor for invitationals or dual meets.
       
      “Needless to say, it was an inconvenience, at the minimum,” Jones said. “We didn’t get the lighter mats until about four years ago. We always had to end practice early if there was a girls or a boys basketball game.”
       
      Jones didn’t much believe that the program was getting its own venue when he was first told about it. He had heard similar talk before. One time the school was going to build a 4.7-million-dollar facility that would house three basketball courts, a weight room, a track and a wrestling room. Ultimately that got voted down by the community.
       
      This time around school superintendent Teresa Brown told Jones that it was going to happen.
       
      “One day she told me ‘Coach Jones, we’re going to get you that wrestling room.’,” Jones said. “I didn’t believe her. That was about three years ago. Then, at the first of the year, she steps into the gym and said to me ‘Don’t you doubt me coach Jones, don’t you doubt me’.”
       
      Jones has had a hand in the design of the facility. He has looked at places like Purdue for inspiration and has tried to emulate what he knows works.
       
      “It’s been a very emotional time for me,” Jones said. “I have thought our kids deserved something better, but maybe not this elaborate, for years. I questioned why it was going to be so good. The principal at the time said ‘Howard, why can’t we have the best for our kids?’ That made sense to me. I think this state-of-the-art facility will be what’s best for our kids.”
       
      For Jones, the principal’s statement got him thinking.
       
      “I’m pretty conservative with things,” Jones said. “When he said that to me, I started thinking differently. I started thinking why not. The school wants to be greedy for the kids and it really shows.”
       
      The wrestling facility isn’t the only thing to get a major upgrade at the school. The baseball and softball fields got a multi-million-dollar upgrade. The weight room doubled in size. The football field got new turf. The tennis courts are getting a facelift. But, the largest change, is the wrestling renovation.
       
      According to Stevens, this might not have ever happened if it weren’t for the influence Jones has had on the students and the community through wrestling.
       
      “They say it has a lot to do with me, but it’s really for the kids,” Jones said. “The kids deserved better and we’re getting there. The educators care for the kids. But since this announcement I’ve had hundreds of people call or contact me about how much wrestling has done for them. That was done without this kind of facility. It’s not that we create champion wrestlers. It’s important that we realize we’re creating champion kids.”
       
      This has been an emotional journey for Jones. Former wrestlers are working on the building of the new facility and even the companies that put in the bids for the construction were ran by some of Jones’ former wrestlers.
       
      “Each of our six elementary schools have former wrestlers of mine that are coaching,” Jones said. “All but one of my assistants were coached by me. The middle school – all but one of the coaches was coached by me. It makes me very proud. One of the things that probably puts things in perspective for me the most is that I had a principal at one of the elementary schools come up to me and said ‘Howard, I’m tired of going to principal meetings and hearing about your wrestling program.’ But wrestling is a fraternity, not just within the school, but it creates a strong bond for life.”
       
      Stevens hopes to see other schools build similar facilities for their programs in the future.
       
      “We hope this inspires other schools to do something similar,” Stevens said. “Everyone is going to benefit from this – not just the high school, but the younger kids as well. Wrestling is a sport that does great things for kids. The more we can inspire other kids, the better. I was not a wrestler, but I see the value the sport offers for kids today.”

      1842 2 4

      #WrestlingWednesday: Irick back bigger and better

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      Hamilton Southeastern senior Andrew Irick suffered a devastating knee injury in the spring of his junior year. It might have been the best thing for him.
       
      Irick knew, because of the injury (he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus), he wouldn’t be able to remain in the 220-pound weight class. He also knew he needed to get stronger, but he couldn’t do much with his legs in the weight room due to the surgery on his knee and the recovery time needed. So, he started working upper body. Weight gain wasn’t an issue because he was planning to bump up to heavyweight for his senior season.
       
      “He probably put on 55 pounds,” HSE coach Nick Brobst said. “He’s a totally rebuilt athlete now. His wrestling reflects that. He’s bigger, way, way stronger and way more aggressive with his attacks. Wrestling in the heavyweight division makes him look even faster. He’s a much, much improved wrestler over what he was last year.”
       
      Last season Irick was no slouch. He had his best season of his career, ultimately finishing fourth at state.
       
      Irick started out as a freshman in the 182-pound class. He then moved up to 195 as a sophomore and 220 as a junior. Those early weight class competitions forced Irick to get better on his feet. That has ultimately helped him now that he’s in the heavyweight class.
       
      Irick’s older brother Matt wrestled for Indiana University. His other brother, Spencer, wrestles for IU now. Matt worked a lot with Andrew to help him on his feet and with takedowns. That has transformed Irick’s attack on the mat.
       
      “He has got a lot more aggressive on his feet,” Brobst said. “We used to joke that he wrestled using what we called the ‘Irick stall’ where he would do anything and everything to make a match last forever. Last year he started developing his own gas tank and now he doesn’t want the matches to go that long.
       
      “He still has that heavyweight mentality to a tee,” Brobst said. “Last year he won on Friday night at state. At weigh-ins Saturday morning his teammate was eating yogurt, fruit and a granola bar. Andrew is there eating a bag of leftover Halloween candy. He said ‘this is what I do. Leave the process alone.’ “
       
      Irick is currently ranked No. 2 in the state in the 285-pound class. He’s ranked just below Brownsburg’s returning state champion Dorian Keys. The two could potentially wrestle in 10 days at the Hoosier Crossroads Conference tournament.
       
      “Conference is important,” Irick said. “But ultimately my goal is to win a state championship and that’s the bigger picture for me right now. I want to be at my best come tournament time.”
       
      According to coach Brobst, Andrew goes through a whole gamut of emotions before he wrestles.
       
      “Andrew is probably the first kid I’ve coached in 10 years that’s just never serious,” Brobst said. “He’s a complete goofball everywhere he goes. But come meet time, he goes through this process. He’s nervous at first. Then he starts doubting himself and thinking he can’t beat the other guy. Then he decides he’s going to go out and kick that guy’s butt. Something clicks and he’s ready to go. It’s like that every match.”
       
      Irick is in the top 10 percent of his class academically. He has a 4.27 GPA and plans to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and wrestle at Indiana University next season. He will study biology or chemistry with the goal of becoming a doctor.
       
      Like wrestling, becoming a doctor runs in the family. Both of Irick’s parents are doctors, his grandfather is a doctor, his uncle is a doctor and both of his brothers are studying to be doctors.
       
      “It’s hard to see him as a doctor, knowing him as an 18-year old,” Brobst said. “But I have no doubt that he will be. He might go into a field where he works with kids. He’s extremely good with kids. My son is a kindergartener and thinks Andrew walks on water.”
       
      Irick is focused on getting back to state this year and potentially making is way to the championship match.
       
      “The atmosphere at state is just indescribable,” Irick said. “I can’t wait to get back there.”

      2281 2

      #WrestlingWednesday: Hunt ready for one last title run

      BY JEREMY HINES
      thehines7@gmail.com
      If it were all about heart, Bloomington South’s Noah Hunt would likely be a multiple time state champion. But, in life and on the wrestling mat, sometimes heart isn’t enough.
      Hunt grew up around wrestling. He was naturally gifted in the sport and he spent many nights fine tuning his craft. But, in sixth grade, he decided he had enough. The love just wasn’t there like it used to be.
      “I was burned out,” Hunt said. “I quit.”
      Soon Hunt realized that quitting wasn’t part of his character. Being away from the sport showed him how much he actually loved it. Midway through the seventh grade season he returned to wrestling.
      “I came back with a new mentality,” Hunt said. “I was ready to go. I was ready to get better than ever.”
      Hunt pushed his body to the limits for the sport. His sophomore year that hard work started to pay dividends. He won sectional and regional and advanced to the Evansville semistate at 120 pounds. That’s when Hunt’s journey of pain, frustration and a quest for redemption began.
      In the first round of the semistate Hunt hurt his knee. He was nine seconds into his match with Eastern’s Robbie Stein. Hunt shot in and grabbed Stein’s leg. As he was lifting it in the air to secure the single, he stepped wrong and twisted his knee. He knew he was in pain, but he continued to compete.
      Hunt ended up winning that match in dominating fashion, 9-1. His knee did not feel right, and he knew it - but he had put too much work in to give up. If he was going to get to state, he had to wrestle through the pain and win the next match.
      Hunt punched his ticket to state the next round, beating Center Grove’s Zak Siddiqui 12-1.
      Hunt ended up finishing fourth at the semistate, winning two matches with a severely injured knee. He couldn’t wait to wrestle at state the next week. It was a dream come true for him - at least that’s what he thought.
      The knee injury ended up being worse than Hunt expected. Doctors did an MRI and determined he had completely torn his ACL in his left knee. As much as he begged and pleaded to be able to wrestle at state, the doctors would not release him.
      “It was a terrible feeling,” Hunt said. “I knew I could wrestle on it, and win. But I wasn’t allowed to.”
      For Hunt, the road to recovery was a long, painful one. It took six months for him to be fully back to wrestling condition. He missed the entire summer of workouts. He knew while his competition was working on improving - he was working on getting back to the level he was previously.
      Still, Hunt had a goal to return better than ever - and he did just that.
      As a junior Hunt had more regular season losses than he did his sophomore year - but by tournament time he was clicking on all cylinders. He won the sectional and regional at 126 pounds. Then, at semistate, he defeated North Posey’s Cameron Fisher, Center Grove’s Peyton Pruett and Evansville Mater Dei’s Matt Lee in succession. He lost the semistate championship to Graham Rooks, 8-3.
      Hunt won his Friday night match at state, guaranteeing him a placement in the top 8. He beat Ft. Wayne Carroll’s Joel Byman in that Friday night round, but then lost back-to-back matches to Michael DeLaPena and Jordan Slivka.
      The only thing left for Hunt to wrestle for was seventh or eighth place. There was only one problem - he had hurt his right knee in the previous match. He recognized the feeling, it was almost the same as he had the year before.
      He decided to wrestle anyway, knowing the pain he was in. This time around, Matt Lee won the match 6-3 - giving Hunt 8th place in the state.
      A few days later he got the news that he had feared - he had torn his ACL. Six more months of recovery. Six more months of watching everyone else get better. Six more months off the mat.
      “I just had to focus on what my ultimate goal was,” Hunt said. “I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I knew I had to work in order to make the most of my senior year.”
      Hunt’s mom, Melissa, didn’t want him wrestling again. She thought it wasn’t worth it.
      “She was worried about me hurting myself again,” Hunt said. “I told her I’m sorry, but I have to do it. She wasn’t super thrilled, but she knew this was something I just had to do.”
      This season Hunt is ranked No. 18 at 138 pounds. He is 32-3 and coming off a dominating sectional performance where he won the championship by eight points.
      “A state title is pretty much his goal,” Bloomington South coach Mike Runyon said. “We set that goal early on in his career and despite everything he’s went through, that’s still his goal.”
      Hunt has spent a full year of his high school life recovering from knee injuries. He said the hardest part of returning to the sport was getting his mat awareness back. Once he did that, he feels he’s ready to get the job done.
      “I never had the thought that this isn’t worth it,” Hunt said. “All I see is wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. I’ve been pushing it as hard as I can. I’ve lost a few. But, if that’s what it takes to make my goals happen, then so be it. I’m there mentally and physically now. If I beat the kids ranked higher than me, some might think it’s an upset - but I won’t. I think I can wrestle with anyone and win.”
      Bloomington South is a school rich in wrestling tradition. Pictures of past state champions line the wrestling room - a constant reminder of those that have claimed the state’s ultimate prize. Hunt says he looks at those pictures every day, and every day dreams his will be there as well. If so, perhaps no other wrestler in school history has had to overcome as much as he has to get that prize.

      2752 3

      #WrestlingWednesday: Hall is back for more as a sophomore

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      In a town named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, a new wrestling star is rising in the south east corner of Indiana.
      South Dearborn sophomore Bryer Hall was a relative unknown last season. He put together a successful freshman season, and by the end of the year had worked his way up to No. 16 in the state rankings at 126 pounds. When the state tournament rolled around, people started to take notice of the newcomer.
      Hall rolled through his sectional as a freshman, winning every match by pin. He was just as dominant in the Richmond regional. He won his first round with a pin in just over a minute. In the second round he took on ranked senior Trevor Ragle (47-4) and pinned him in just 1:09. Then, in the final he went up against another talented wrestler in Centerville freshman Gabe Phillips, who is currently undefeated on the year and ranked No. 5 at 138. Just a little over two minutes into the match Hall injured Phillips shoulder, and Phillips was unable to go on. That injury ended the season for Phillips.
      Then, to start out the semistate, Hall injured another wrestler with almost the same move. It wasn’t anything intentional, but the injuries rattled Hall.
      “I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” Hall said. “It was upsetting that I ruined someone’s season and they could have went pretty far in the tournament. I thought it would be tough to go back and use the move because I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. But once I started wrestling again, instincts just took over and I had to get that thought out of my mind.”
      Hall won his ticket round semistate match 16-8 and then secured his biggest victory of his young career. He defeated former state champion Alec Viduya 11-5 to advance to the semistate championship.
      “We were hopeful that Bryer could get to state as a freshman,” South Deaerborn coach George Gardner said. “But we thought it might be a long shot when he had to go up against returning state champion Alec Viduya. But Bryer really took it to him in that match and handled that match much better than I thought he would.”
      Hall didn’t have enough in the tank to defeat Ethan Smiley in the final, who cruised to an 11-2 victory.
      Hall ended up placing sixth in state. He had wins over Kyle Lawson and Brycen Denny, but lost big to Cayden Rooks (tech fall) and Christian Meija (17-5).
      This season Hall is hoping to not have those big letdowns.
      “He ran out of gas in the semistate,” Gardner said. “Hopefully that won’t happen again.
      This year Hall is undefeated. He has stepped on the mat 33 times and each time had his hand raised in victory. He has moved up three weight classes and is currently ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds.
      “It felt pretty good to get noticed in the rankings for my hard work,” Hall said.
      Hall’s style of wrestling is difficult for others to scout. He calls himself a funky wrestler.
      “I am hard to figure out,” Hall said. “I’m just naturally funky. I move where my hips feel they should go.”
      That funkiness is especially helpful in scramble situations.
      “Bryer is a tremendous scrambler,” Gardner said. “He doesn’t have a signature takedown. He just makes things happen. He’s really hard to scout because he doesn’t do the same thing very often.”
      Hall could potentially see Warren Central’s Antwaun Graves in the New Castle semistate semifinal. If so, that is a match that could be particularly interesting. Hall won the regular season battle 4-3.
      “Anything can happen Saturday,” Gardner said. “He has to go out and wrestle his best each match.”
       
      Hall said his biggest wrestling accomplishment so far was placing fourth at Fargo over the summer at 138 pounds. He is hoping to top that with a state title this year.
      “My goal is to go undefeated and win state,” Hall said. “Last year I was nervous. This year I’m coming in a lot more confident.”
       

      2601 4

      #WrestlingWednesday: Hadley is first from Lapel to wrestle at state

      By JEREMY HINES
      thehines7@gmail.com
      In middle school Harrison Hadley weighed 60 pounds but had to wrestle in the 75 pound weight class because that was the smallest class available. Today, he’s the big man on campus at Lapel High School.
      Hadley, a junior 106-pounder for the Bulldogs, became the school’s first wrestler to ever reach the state finals when he defeated South Dearborn’s Eli Otto 13-5 in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate.
      “I definitely feel like I’m the big man on campus right now,” Hadley said. “The elementary school made this big banner for me and everyone signed it. People are going up to me in the halls and around town telling me congratulations and wishing me luck. The school recognized me for advancing. It’s pretty cool right now.”
      Lapel has been a school since before the 1870s. At first Lapel was a one-room school house, but over time the location has changed and school buildings have come and gone. The school’s history is one of the oldest in the state. To be the very first athlete to accomplish going to state is something first-year coach Jake Stilwell doesn’t believe has fully sunk in for Hadley yet.
      “This is huge for Lapel wrestling,” Stilwell said. “There have only been five semistate qualifiers in school history. For our program, this is absolutely huge. The younger kids see that state isn’t something impossible now. They see it can be done.
      “It’s never occurred here before and most people didn’t think it could happen. Now they see Harrison has done it, and it gives them hope. I don’t even know if Harrison has grasped what has happened. It will take a little time for this to all settle in.”
      After Hadley won the ticket-round match he immediately wanted to watch film on the match to see what he could have done differently. That’s what he does every match, win or lose.
      “I like to see what type of positions I exposed myself to,” Hadley said. “I look at how I could have improved. I look for things that will take me to the next level. I always critique myself, even if I tech fall or pin a kid.”
      Stilwell wanted Hadley to take a moment to take in the importance of what he had accomplished at semistate.
      “He was very excited when he won,” Stilwell said. “But when he came off the mat he likes to dive right into what just happened and look for ways to improve. We had to stop him and remind him about what he just accomplished. He was excited, but wasn’t showing that emotion. He was still just trying to think of what he could have done differently.”
      According to Harrison, the person most excited after the ticket round was his mom, Sonya.
      “She was crying and everything,” Hadley said. “She was telling me how proud she was of me. I’ve never really seen her like that. It was a great moment.”
      Hadley enters the state tournament with a record of 39 wins and only three losses. Two of those losses came last week at semistate. Hadley fell to Perry Meridian’s Alex Cottey in the semifinal round, then lost to Warren Central’s David Pierson in the consolation match.
      Hadley, who likes to race 600cc mini sprint cars in his free time, has wrestled 106 pounds his entire high school career. As a freshman he came into the season weighing just 99 pounds. He’s put on about five pounds per year, but is easily able to get down to weight for the wrestling season.
      Hadley is hoping his victory could help the team. He says it’s great to go to state, but it would be much sweeter going there with teammates also competing.
      “I see some schools take nine or 10 guys to state,” Hadley said. “I think that would be awesome. Just seeing Cathedral’s team and how well they did at semistate and the bond those guys have, it’s fun to watch.
      “Our program has struggled. We have never been that strong. But, if we can start advancing more kids it will really help build things up.”
      Last year Lapel had just eight wrestlers. This year there are 17 on the Bulldog roster.
      “Lapel is a school that has some good athletes,” Stilwell said. “The challenge is to get those kids to go out for wrestling. I really think Harrison’s success is going to help with that.”
      Hadley will take on Brownsburg freshman Kysen Montgomery (38-7) in the Friday night match.
      “For me, wrestling is an escape from everything,” Hadley said. “It’s something that helps me focus on my goals. It helps me in life situations and helps build my character. Right now my major goal is to be able to wrestle in college.”

      1610

      #WrestlingWednesday: Guerrier looking to go out on top

      By JEREMY HINES
      thehines7@gmail.com
      Kiave Guerrier isn’t your typical elite-level wrestler. He never went to camps growing up, or clinics. He didn’t wrestle in elementary school or middle school. He hates practicing. Yet going into sectionals he’s undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the state at 182 pounds.
      “He’s basically self-made,” Guerrier’s Evansville Central coach Mike Lapadat said. “He’s really just a part-time wrestler.”
      Guerrier’s wrestling story began four years ago when he was sitting in the school’s cafeteria eating lunch. Guerrier asked coach Lapadat how the wrestling team was going to be that season, and about an upcoming meet.
      “I was telling him that we were going to have to forfeit at 195 pounds,” Lapadat said. “He asked me why we would forfeit, and I explained to him that we didn’t have anyone at that weight. He told me he could wrestle it. I told him that would be great, but he was going to have to start putting on weight.”
      At the time, Guerrier weighed 170 pounds.
      Guerrier’s very first match that freshman year came in a dual against one of the top programs in Kentucky --  Union County High School.
      The match went several overtimes. Guerrier didn’t even know the rules of overtime. He ended up winning the match in sudden death.
      “After that match I looked at our assistant coach and said that if Kiave doesn’t go to state in his career, we should be fired. I knew right then that this kid was special.”
      Guerrier’s first love is football. He has verbally committed to the University of Indianapolis. He went out for wrestling just thinking it would help him with football. But, after that first match - he fell in love with the sport.
      “That match got me hooked,” Guerrier said. “It was a lot of fun and that feeling just really stuck with me. I really liked the sport and wanted to continue with it. I started out not knowing much about it - but I’ve tried to learn quickly.”
      For Guerrier, one of the hardest parts of wrestling is just making himself get up and go to practice each day.
      “It was always a big struggle, especially early on,” Guerrier said. “The hardest part was getting to practice. But, once I made myself get there, it became easy.”
      Despite his premium athletic ability, Guerrier didn’t see himself as a good wrestler early in his career.
      “I thought I’d be average and it could help me with football,” he said. “Then I started to push myself in practice. I’d do extra work on weekends and sometimes even after meets. Still, I would have never guessed that going into sectionals I would be a No. 1 seed and undefeated.”
      Now Guerrier’s goals are more lofty. He wants a state championship and feels he is completely capable of getting it.
      “That’s the goal,” he said. “If I keep working, I know I can win.”
      Last season Guerrier lost in the ticket round of the Evansville semistate to No. 1 ranked Nathan Walton. The score was 1-0.
      “Kiave has a very high wrestling IQ,” Lapadat said. “He can watch a move on video and then bring it to the mat. He picks up things very quickly. He studies teh sport. He knows everyone he is going to wrestle and he watches matches on them to study them.”
      Before wrestling, Guerrier had never competed in an individual sport.
      “Wrestling was the first sport that if I messed up, it was only because of me,” he said. “It’s one-on-one and there are no excuses. On the mat I know what I need to do, and how I want to do it.”
      Outside of wrestling Guerrier enjoys nature and working in the communities challenger baseball and track programs.
      “I have a lot of fun working with the kids in the challenger sports,” he said. “Some people aren’t as blessed as others, and I really love helping them out and making them laugh and watching them have fun. It’s very rewarding.”
      Guerrier wants to study engineering in college. He does not plan on wrestling past high school.
      “Knowing my career is almost over is sad,” Guerrier said. “I fell in love with the sport. Wrestling is tough to like, but once you fall in love with it, you’re hooked for life.”

      1511

      #WrestlingWednesday: Greenwood's Nick Willham looking for a trip to Bankers Life

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
      Greenwood senior Nick Willham has won two wrestling sectional titles, been one win away from advancing to the state meet and is currently ranked No. 9 at 182 pounds – but he’s got a way to go before he can become the alpha dog at the family Christmas party.
      That’s because Willham has three older cousins that have combined to qualify for the state meet 11 times, placed nine times and have a total record of 542-40. Willham’s cousins are Indiana legends Doug, Chad and Luke Welch.
      “My cousins really got me started on wrestling,” Willham said. “I remember watching Luke at the state finals, and that got me going. I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve worked out with them in the summer and they have taught me everything from getting better on my feet, to my top and bottom game.”
      Willham started wrestling in sixth grade. He has always had an athletic build and has excelled in sports – but things weren’t easy early on for the Greenwood grappler.
      “My freshman year wasn’t too hot,” Willham said. “I was like 16-27. It was very discouraging having that losing record. I got beat up every day and when that happens you start to think you don’t want to do it anymore. It sucked. Instead of giving up, it motivated me to get better.”
      Willham devoted more time to his wrestling after his rough freshman season. He worked in the offseason, went to tournaments and started developing more technique. It paid off.
      As a sophomore Willham finished with a 37-12 record. He earned his first sectional championship and eventually advanced to semistate before he was beaten by Evansville Mater Dei’s phenom, Joe Lee.
      Willham continued to improve his junior year. He finished 35-4, won sectional again, and this time made it to the ticket round at semistate before losing a 4-3 heartbreaker to Columbus East’s Andy Davidson.
      So far this season Willham is 5-0 and is currently wrestling at 195 pounds.
      “Nick has increased two weight classes every year,” Greenwood coach Jay Yates said. “We’ve cut him down a little every year. This year we’re letting him go. We’re letting him eat and letting him be strong.”
      Willham has set his sights on a state title this year.
      “I want to win everything,” he said. “Last year I scouted opponents a little bit, but that took the focus off of myself. This year I’m focusing on what I need to do. I am not scouting, I just want to wrestle my match.”
      Coach Yates said Willham is a goofy kid that likes to joke around and have fun with the team. He gives the entire team nicknames, including the coaching staff.
      “He calls me the bald eagle,” Yates said. “Obviously, because I’m bald. We have another coach named Rockwell, and Nick calls him the boulder. He even gave himself a nickname – ham.”
      But, when it comes time to wrestle, Willham takes things much more seriously. He’s hoping the renewed focus and the hard work will continue to push him toward his ultimate goal – to win a state title, and possibly, be able to push his cousins around a little bit.

      2508 4 1

      #WrestlingWednesday: Going once, going twice, you're pinned by Freije

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      It is said that a good auctioneer can almost hypnotize bidders into spending money. The seemingly random words used by the auctioneer are well rehearsed and designed to lull bidders into opening the pocketbooks and splurging on the products presented before them. Auctioneers talk fast – and that too has a purpose. The speedy delivery gives a sense of urgency to the bidders. If they don’t act now – they may miss out on that item they just have to have. A good auctioneer demands the attention of the room and can quickly have the audience doing exactly what they want them to.
       
      Indianapolis Roncalli senior Tyce Freije is a good auctioneer. In fact, he’s the best at his young age. And, just like he does on the auction block – Freije dazzles audiences on the wrestling mats as well.
       
      Freije is currently ranked No. 6 in the state at 152 pounds. He is a two-time state placer and is coming off a season where he finished fourth at 138 pounds. Off the mat he is the reigning International Junior Auctioneer champion.
       
      “I’m a fourth-generation auctioneer,” Freije said. “My grandpa and my dad both have an auctioneering business right by my house. We host an auction at least once a month. We sell everything from cars to tractors, lawn mowers, antiques, toys and guns. I really enjoy it and I will be pursuing it in my future.”
       
      Freije excels at whatever he does. He’s a stellar student, a good leader, he is an experienced member of the 4H community in addition to wrestling and auctioneering.
       
      “Everything the kid touches he works at it until he beats it or becomes the best,” Roncalli coach Wade McClurg said. “He’s very business-like and mature in his approach, whether it’s in auctioneering, wrestling, his faith, showing pigs, school, etc. He’s a winner and the ultimate competitor in everything he does.”
       
      Freije’s wrestling style is an in-your face, I’m coming at you, try to stop me approach. He’s physical and strong. He’s also tough. As a sophomore he broke his hand and refused to have surgery because he didn’t want to miss the entire season. He didn’t get to wrestle until the sectional, but he ended up making it to the ticket round of semistate before losing to eventual state runner-up Alex Mosconi.
       
      “Tyce loves the fight and is a super tough guy,” McClurg said. “He’s a strong and physical wrestler that goes at a high pace and has a big motor. He’s especially passionate about his wrestling. He enjoys the process of a training cycle and improving his game.”
       
      Freije’s goal this season is to become a state champion. He wrestles with Alec Viduya, a former state champ, in the Roncalli room often. In fact, the two recently wrestled in their inter-squad match and Viduya won in triple overtime. The two are able to push each other in practice, which in turn helps them during matches against other opponents.
       
      Freije credits his family for a lot of the attributes that make him the person he is. He learn auctioneering from his family and he says he also comes from a family of wrestlers. His uncle, Bob Freije, wrestled and coached at Brownsburg.
       
      “My parents have taught me growing up that I have to earn everything I want,” Freije said. “If I want success, I have to earn it. I have to work harder than everyone else to have a shot at it. They really drilled that mentality into my head, and I know that’s why I’ve been able to find success in things. I am willing to work to achieve my goals.”
       
      Freije also tries to help younger wrestlers understand that if you want results, you have to put in the work.
       
      “He’s an exceptional leader for our program,” McClurg said. “He does things the hard way which is the right way.”
       
      After high school Freije plans to attend college and wrestle, but he hasn’t decided where yet. He also plans to go into the family auctioneering business.

      5379 6 5

      #WrestlingWednesday: Gilbert's big dream will not be deterred

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      For as long as Sullivan freshman Lane Gilbert can remember he has dreamed about having his hand raised at the Indiana High School wrestling state championships.
       
      He’s done more than dream about it. As a young kid he would go into the wrestling room at Sullivan High School and act out having his hand raised. It didn’t matter that nobody else was around him. In his imaginary scenario he always emerged victorious. No obstacle stood in his way. No opponent could beat him. He was the champ. That dream would never be taken away.
       
      The dream was much different than real life for Gilbert. In real life, he has had far more hardships than one kid should experience. He’s overcome situations that would break others. Through it all, he’s come out stronger.
       
      To get a clear picture of just how tough Lane Gilbert is, it is important to dive into his uncomfortable past.
       
      Gilbert’s mother, Rachel, became Indiana’s first female sectional champion in wrestling. She won the 103-pound class in the North Knox sectional in 2002. Rachel was going places in life. News agencies had reported on her wrestling journey, because at the time, female wrestlers were still very new in the state. She had some colleges showing interest in her.
       
      But Rachel began facing a more formidable opponent than anyone she went up against on the mat. She started battling an addiction with drugs. Lane’s father had his own battles with drug addiction.
       
      For Lane’s father, that addiction would eventually lead to a prison sentence.
       
      Young Lane didn’t want to miss an opportunity to visit his dad, even if that meant going to the prison any time he could.
       
      “Lane worshipped his dad,” Lane’s wrestling coach and grandfather Roy Monroe said. “Lane never failed to go see him. He always wanted to see him.”
       
      Tragically, Lane’s father developed cancer while in prison and ultimately died due to the disease.
       
      “That was really rough on Lane for a while,” Rachel said. “His dad was a drug addict for a long time and Lane always held out hope that one day he would get better. Once he got sick, that was probably the hardest thing. Lane stayed strong through the whole thing.”
       
      At nine-years-old Lane did something no kid his age should ever have to do. He stood up in front during his dad’s funeral and sang a special song.
       
      “I don’t know how he did it,” Monroe said. “That’s almost an impossible thing to get through, and he did it. He toughed it out.”
       
      That’s what Lane always does. He toughs things out. He toughed it out when his mom was having her struggles. He toughed it out seeing his dad in prison, and then watching as cancer slowly took its toll. He toughed it out when his uncle Jordan, who had taught Lane quite a bit about wrestling, died in a fiery car crash. No matter what life threw at Lane, he toughs it out.
       
      Perhaps he gets his fighting spirit from his grandfather. Roy has been a major part of Sullivan wrestling for over 30 years. He’s watched his daughter struggle with drug addiction. He lost his son in that tragic car accident. He’s experienced heartache and he remained the rock Lane needed in his life. Lane could always stay the night at Roy’s house. He could always get the right words from his grandpa. And, on the wrestling mat, he could look to Grandpa Roy for direction as well.
       
      “He’s my role model,” Lane said. “He’s nice to everyone. He’s a good coach. He’s all the things you can think of if you were to make the perfect person – that would be how I describe him.”
       
      But Lane’s toughness also comes from his mom.
       
      In a time when people frowned on girls wrestling against boys, she held her ground. In fact, she and Roy had to go to the Sullivan school board to even get approved to wrestle back in her high school days.
       
      Later, as has already been alluded to, Rachel battled a fierce drug addiction. But, for Lane’s sake – and for her sake, she fought through and emerged victorious. She is currently a Dean’s List student working to become a nurse.
       
      “I am so proud of her,” Roy said. “I’ve been a counselor. I’ve went into the jails and counselled drug addicts. I’ve seen them come in and out of addiction. The real truth is, only about one percent of drug addicts make it to where she is now. It’s so hard to overcome, but she’s done it. And she’s a great mom.”
       
      She is also very, very protective of Lane and worries almost to a fault about the decisions he makes in his own life.
       
      “After having made the decisions at a young age that I made, I saw first-hand what can happen and how quickly everything can just spiral out of control,” Rachel said. “One mistake and everything can be gone. I have that fear in the back of my mind that he’s of the age and he could make the wrong choices. I’m almost too hard on him, but I am terrified because I know what can happen and I keep my eye on him. I do trust him. He’s seen what can happen and how bad things can get.”
       
      Lane knows when his mom tells him to keep on the straight and narrow, it’s because she cares.
       
      “I have so much respect for my mom,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from her.”
       
      One thing Lane has learned is to never doubt himself. This summer when he was a third alternate for the Pan-American games, he let doubt creep into his psyche. After the first two qualifiers couldn’t attend the games, Lane got the call to participate. But, going into the event, he felt like he really didn’t belong.
       
      Boy was he wrong. Lane went undefeated in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. News of his success quickly spread throughout the town of 6,500 people. When he arrived home, he was given a police escort through the streets.
       
      “Oh my gosh,” Rachel said. “The town put on this whole show when he returned. The police and emergency vehicles all met up on the north end of town. He had no idea it was going to happen. There were fans from all over our town and they all followed him to the high school. It was so cool. He was so surprised.”
       
      Currently Gilbert is 28-1 on the season and ranked No. 5 at 113 pounds. He has carried the confidence he developed during the Pan-American games over to the season. Now he knows he belongs. Now he knows that dream he played through his head so many times growing up isn’t just a dream – it’s an attainable goal.
       
      “I’ve been coaching at Sullivan for 13 years as head coach and I’ve been there 30 years as an assistant,” Monroe said. “I’ve never seen anything like him. I look at Lane, with his skills and what he’s been through, and I just know that adversity isn’t a problem anymore. He can do whatever he sets his mind to do.”
       
      As for Rachel, well, she says nowadays she’s just like any other wrestler’s mom.
       
      “I’m still up in the stands screaming my head off,” she said. “But when I’m shouting, at least I know which moves to shout. The other moms look at me and ask what they should be yelling.”

      4237 2

      #WrestlingWednesday: Fulks ready for his first trip to Bankers Life

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      Last Saturday when Jordan Fulks pinned Terre Haute South Vigo’s Moses Hamm in the ticket round of the Evansville semistate, he did something that hasn’t been done by a Boonville wrestler in 13 years. He advanced to the state tournament.
       
      “The last guy to make it to state from our school was Sam Derosett,” Fulks said. “He coached me when I was in middle school.”
       
      Fulks, a junior, is currently ranked No. 5 at 152 pounds. He is 43-1 on the year with his lone loss coming in the semistate championship to No. 4-ranked Logan Boe.
       
      “Jordan is scrappy wrestler,” Boonville co-coach Dustin Wilke said. “He’s a good wrestler on his feet. He moves his hands and feet very well. He has a lot of pins and racks up a lot of points.”
       
      Last season Fulks finished the year with a 36-2 mark. He lost in the first round of semistate.
       
      “I had a knee injury last year that really set me back a few months,” Fulks said. “It became a motivation thing, I guess. I advanced to semistate with a knee injury and that really inspired me because I knew if I could make it that far, hurt, then when I got better I could go even further.”
       
      Fulks is a year-around wrestler. It’s the only sport he participates in.
       
      “He’s got a real drive to be successful in wrestling,” Wilke said. “I’ve known him for several years. He was in our youth feeder program. He was on our travel team. I helped coach him in middle school. When he was getting a little older, I asked him what he wants to be – and he said a state champion. He asked what he needs to do to make that happen. He’s always looking for insight and he’s always trying to improve.”
       
      Fulks believes his best attribute in wrestling is his confidence.
       
      “I’m a confident wrestler,” he said. “I go out there and I’m confident in my moves and that I can hit them. I never go out thinking I can win every match, but I think I am going to wrestle my match, every time.”
       
      Friday night Fulks will go up against Huntington North’s No. 12-ranked Cody McCune (36-2). Both wrestlers are looking to place for the first time at state. McCune advanced last year, but did not place.
       
       

      2384 1

      #WrestlingWednesday: Filipovich looking to be Lutheran's first state qualifier

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      When it’s time to step on the mat “Flip” flips the switch and goes to work. When the match is done, he flips back to being one of the nicest guys around.
       
      Sure, Indianapolis Lutheran junior Hayden Filipovich got his nickname, in part, because of his last name. But those who know the 182-pounder best knows he can turn into a monster when he’s wrestling.
       
      “We call him Flip,” Lutheran coach Greg Hughes said. “He certainly flips the switch on the mat. He is one of those magical kids that can go toe-to-toe with anyone. He’s relentless. He’s fearless. But, as soon as the match is over, he’s a class act. He’s a great kid, a smart, personable kid and a great leader with an infectious personality.”
       
      Filipovich is currently ranked No. 9 in the 182-pound class. Last year he advanced to the ticket round of the New Castle semistate before falling to J.D. Farrell of Fishers 5-2. That match has fueled Filipovich to push harder this year.
       
      “He wishes he had that ticket round match back,” Hughes said. “It came down to who was going to have that edge. I think he approached that match differently than normal. We have really focused on treating every match the same this year – whether it be a big match or an insignificant one. We don’t want him holding it back and playing safe this year. Every match he needs to go in and just let it rip. This year he puts his foot on the line and goes. All year we’ve focused on this.”
       
      Filipovich worked out all summer with that loss in mind.
       
      “I made a lot of mistakes in the ticket round match,” he said. “I had a lot of nerves going. But, it motivated me to get better and push harder.”
       
      Lutheran is one of the smallest schools in the state. There are just at 250 students in the high school, and about half of those are male. Still, the wrestling team has 15 guys this season. They still struggle to fill a roster and, being in Marion County, they wrestle elite programs like Perry Meridian, Cathedral and Warren Central.
       
      The school didn’t even have a wrestling program until Hughes started it five years ago.
       
      “I always loved the sport of wrestling,” Hughes said. “Then God blessed me with three sons. We were looking at options for high school. Lutheran really stood out as our best choice, but they didn’t have a wrestling program. I told the school that I wanted to go there but we needed wrestling. They allowed me to start the program. Now, the kids on this team are like my sons on the mat. We have two state-ranked wrestlers. I keep saying we’re the No. 1 small school program in Marion County.
       
      “After five years we have had some good accomplishments. It’s a true wrestling story. You win some and lose some, but we see how far we’ve come and how far we want to go.”
       
      Leading the charge this season is Filipovich. The junior is used to success. He was the starting center and linebacker for the state runner-up football team and he has carried that winning attitude to the mat.
       
      “One of my favorite stories about Flip happened about a year ago,” Hughes said. “I was pushing the kids pretty hard. We were running sprints at the end of a very tough practice. The kids were dragging. The sprints were slowing down. I told the kids to give me just two more. Then Flip pops up and says ‘That’s it? We need to do more. I have to be six-minute ready. Let’s go.’ He was pushing us to coach harder because he knew what he wanted to accomplish.”
       
      Filipovich has lofty goals this season.
       
      “Just like every other kid growing up wrestling in Indiana, I want to be a state champion,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine.”
       
      Filipovich is undecided in what he wants to pursue in college. He’s leaning toward exercise science but admits he hasn’t made his mind up yet. Right now he’s focused on wrestling.

      2276 1 3

      #WrestlingWednesday: Farrell prepping for and trip to Bankers Life

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      Last year, when J.D. Farrell was a junior at Fishers High School, he saw that a German foreign exchange student was struggling understanding her math assignments and he knew he had to help her.
       
      “She was struggling with translating her math work and I helped her,” Farrell said. “She didn’t have many friends and I wanted to be there for her to help with that as well.”
       
      That’s what Farrell does. He helps others. He helps his teammates in wrestling understand how to do certain moves. He helps them know what it takes to be successful on the mat.
       
      He also takes a certified nursing assistant (CNA) class and frequently goes to nursing homes to help the elderly. One day he plans to go into the medical field.
       
      “I see people that maybe are struggling, or are less fortunate, and I want to help them any way I can,” Farrell said. “In the wrestling room I don’t just want to improve myself, I want to make everyone better. Outside of wrestling I see others struggle and I feel I’m called to help them. My heart pulls me toward them. God put those people in my life for a reason.”
       
      As nice, polite and helpful as Farrell is off the mat – don’t expect mercy from him on it. He is currently 29-1 this season and ranked No. 4 at 195 pounds. His lone loss came at the hands of returning state champion Silas Allred. Last season he qualified for the state tourney but lost a hard-fought match in the opening session and didn’t place.
       
      “I use my length to my advantage,” Farrell said. “I’m very offensive with my attacks. I look at my opponent’s attacks and plan to not give up anything to them. My goal is to not give anything to my opponent or ever let the ref decide the outcome of a close match.”
       
      Allred, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the class, feeds through the same New Castle semistate as Farrell. Before the season Farrell had the choice of going up a weight to avoid Silas, but that’s not what he wanted to do.
       
      “I see Silas as an opportunity,” Farrell said. “If I see him in semistate, I wouldn’t have to face him early in the state tournament. He is very technical and a great wrestler. When I wrestled him earlier this season, I was not satisfied with how I did. I got to know him pretty well at CIA and he’s a great guy.”
       
      Farrell is a third-generation wrestler. His grandfather wrestled and loved the sport. His dad, Brent finished second in the state during his high school career and his uncle, Brad, was a fifth-place finisher.
       
      “Wrestling is in my family,” Farrell said. “My grandpa liked wrestling a lot and then my uncle and dad started and they saw a lot of success. My brother, Crew Farrell, is in middle school and he’s kicking butt right now.”
       
      Fishers’ coach Frank Ingalls sees Farrell wrestling under the lights in the state finals.
       
      “I’m expecting him to make it to the championship match,” Ingalls said. “He’s 29-1 right now with something like 22 falls. When we need him to bump up to 220, he still gets the job done and usually gets us six point.
       
      “J.D. is a good Christian kid. He’s good in school. He’s a good leader. He does everything you ask him to do and he works hard in the offseason as well.”
       
      During the offseason Farrell wrestled in many big tournaments, but he didn’t go to the Super 32. Instead, he hopped on a plane and traveled to Germany. As it turns out, Farrell finally got the nerve to ask that girl who was struggling with her math homework to be his girlfriend. He asked her toward the end of her stay in America, and she said yes.
       
      “The long-distance relationship is tough,” Farrell said. “But I was glad I missed the Super 32 to go see her. It gave me the break I needed in wrestling, because I had been pushing so hard. When I came back I was ready to get back at it.”
       
      Now, like so many other high school athletes, Farrell has his goal set at making it to the state finals.
       
      “I have gone to the finals with my dad for as long as I can remember, and now I want to close my high school career out by wrestling there myself,” he said.

      2815 1 3

      #WrestlingWednesday: Eldred ready for last run at state

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      A little brotherly love has fueled Westfield’s Carson Eldred to wrestling greatness.
       
      Eldred set a goal his freshman year to beat his older brother Evan’s school record for pins and career wins.
       
      “I asked Carson his freshman year what his career goals were going to be,” Westfield coach Phil Smith said. “We knew he was going to be pretty special. He said he wanted to beat his brother, Evan’s career pin record and wins record.”
       
      Carson broke the pins record at his school during the Mooresville tournament this season. He’s five wins away from the career wins record.
       
      “I told him after the tournament that he broke the record,” Smith said. He was like ‘uh, that’s cool.’ “
       
      His reaction points to the type of person, and wrestler Eldred is. He doesn’t get emotional during the highs, or the lows.
       
      “He can keep a stone face no matter what,” Smith said. “You don’t know what he’s going to do out on the mat. Every time he wrestles, he wants to prove something. He always wants bonus points and falls. He doesn’t get too up or too down.”
       
      Eldred seeks perfection in everything he does. His grade point average is 4.15. He hasn’t missed a day of school in four years. He has never missed a wrestling practice.
       
      “He’s honestly the best wrestler I’ve coached,” Smith said. “He’s the most gifted wrestler I’ve had, without a doubt. He absolutely hates to lose. In everything we do he hates losing. It doesn’t matter if it’s sprints, drills, wrestling the coaches or anything else. He will do whatever it takes to win at any cost.”
       
      Currently Eldred is ranked No. 4 at 120 pounds. He is a sectional and regional champion and will take on Southport’s Khua Thang in the first round of the New Castle semistate on Saturday. He is 36-1 on the season with his lone loss coming at the hands of Cathedral’s No. 1-ranked Zeke Seltzer.
       
      Part of the reason behind Eldred’s success is his early training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His father owns a Jiu Jitsu training facility and he learned from a young age some of the keys of the sport.
       
      “Jiu-Jitsu helps with my movement in wrestling,” Carson said. “I haven’t done it much in a while, but when I was younger, I trained a lot with my family. It really helps you when you’re in uncomfortable positions. You don’t panic and you can find a way out of them.”
       
      Carson is most comfortable in scrambles. His unorthodox style makes him dangerous in any position.
       
      “He can ride anyone on top,” Smith said. “He scores a lot of his points from the top position. He’s a talented mat wrestler. He finds points from the bottom position as well and has some crazy reversals. He’s really refined his craft to be a great wrestler from any position.”
       
      After the high school season is over Eldred will likely not wrestle competitively again. He will attend Purdue University where he is a direct admit to the engineering program.
      “It’s going to be a little tough,” he said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was in kindergarten. It’s been a big part of my life. It will be a hard adjustment not interacting with teammates or getting a chance to wrestle in front of fans again and have people cheering for you. It will be different. But I’m excited to focus on my schooling as well.”
       
      For now though, the focus is on getting to that state championship match.
       
      “I’m just following in my brothers’ footsteps,” Eldred said. “They both (Dillon and Evan) made it to state. I want to outdo them.”

      2790 10

      #WrestlingWednesday: Eiteljorge is kinda cool

      By JEREMY HINES
      thehines7@gmail.com
      There’s cool, and then there’s Jack Eiteljorge cool.
      The Carmel senior wrestler may even be too cool.
      “Jack’s the guy I want to do my heart surgery because he’s as cool as a cucumber,” Greyhound coach Ed Pendoski said. “He doesn’t get rattled by anything. But, that’s one of the things we are trying to work on this year. I want him having emotion. We’ve talked to him about how sometimes you have to have emotion, whether it be positive or negative.”
      Just how cool is Eiteljorge?
      “He’s so cool that you could sit him down and tell him that someone just walked into his house and killed his dog, Bacon. His reply would be, ‘Oh, OK.’,” Pendoski said. “You could tell him that Taylor Swift is in the hot tub and wants to make out with him, and he’d say ‘Oh, OK’.”
      Eiteljorge is currently ranked No. 2 in the state at 160 pounds. He is a three times sectional and regional champion, but he has never punched his ticket to state. Pendoski thinks opening up and getting a little emotional may be the edge that Eiteljorge needs to finally get to state - and possibly win.
      “Going into this year, after the Super 32, we had just had two pretty bad losses,” Pendoski said. “We really started dialing in on our mental part. He’s done a good job reacting to that. The phrase we use a lot is that mental toughness is the ability to manage the thoughts in your head. We went back to that simple platform. We talked to him about getting excited. We said let’s get angry. Let’s be happy. Show something.”
      The plan has worked. Eiteljorge is 33-2. He has pinned or tech falled all of his opponents in the state tournament except for one, and that match he won 18-8.
      “I’ve been trying to show emotion,” Eiteljorge said. “Coach wants me to, and he has a lot of muscle so I listen to him. He feels that sometimes I’m like a robot on the mat. He wants me to just start having fun.
      I’ve really been working on that part. It’s a big change from past years. Making myself be less methodical is the key. I have to go out there and make the matches fun.”
      Eiteljorge isn’t one of the kids that found immediate success in the sport of wrestling. When he was young and just started going to CIA, Pendoski’s wrestling academy, he was the guy getting beat up on.
      “Jack was in a group with some very, very good wrestlers,” Pendoski said. “He was the beginner. The partners he was with had been around for years and were winning championships. I think Jack went two or three months before he even scored a point. But, he was the guy that would stick around after practice and do pull-ups or pushups.”
      Eventually he won his first club level state tournament. Pendoski says that was a turning point for him.
      “That’s the day I knew this little ankle-biter would be OK one day,” Pendoski said. “It was nice to see a guy that started from the beginning, worked his tail off and then started to see the results.”
      Eiteljorge lost in the first round of semistate his freshman year. As a sophomore and a junior he lost in the ticket round.
      “This year my goal is to win state,” Eiteljorge said. “My goal is not just to get to state. But, I still know there will be a pressure on me to get past the ticket round. If I win that match, I’ll certainly feel a weight has been lifted.”
      Eiteljorge isn’t one to talk about personal successes, he’s too cool to brag. But, he’s more than willing to gush about his teammates.
      “I have really good teammates,” he said. “They are awesome. I love hanging out with them. Carmel’s team chemistry is what helps us be a top program. We are always improving. We have a casual, playful environment. We have fun. But when it’s time to get serious we focus and get the job done.”
      Next season Eiteljorge will wrestle for the University of Indianapolis.
      “The University of Indianapolis is going to be real happy with the product they are getting with Jack,” Pendoski said.

      990 1

      #WrestlingWednesday: East Central captures 3A title

      By JEREMY HINES
      Thehines7@gmail.com
       
      East Central wrestling entered the Class 3A team state tournament as a bit of an unknown. The Trojans certainly didn’t leave that way.
       
      East Central was the No. 5 seed entering the tournament, but thanks to a must-have pin by junior Ryan Bovard, the Trojans defeated Floyds Central 33-32 to capture the state title.
       
      “That was amazing,” East Central coach Adam Wolf said. “We’ve been working hard for a long time to get to this level. It was neat just getting invited to team state, but then to win, that was great.”
       
      The Trojans battled three formidable opponents en route to the state title. They took on Northridge in the first round, winning 40-27. In the next round East Central squeaked past Franklin 37-31 setting up the showdown in the final.
       
      “We knew going into the last round that it could come down to the final match,” Wolf said. “By the last match the whole place was going crazy and we had a junior, first-year varsity wrestler up. Ryan Bovard knew we had to have a pin in order to win. He had all the pressure on him in the world and he came through. He will never forget that moment. He’s a great kid and I’m so glad he got that moment.”
       
      The Trojans feel they are a bit unknown because a big portion of their schedule comes against Ohio and Kentucky teams. East Central is located just 30 minutes from Cincinnati.
       
      “We are from an area in Indiana that isn’t though about much,” Wolf said. “We’re not in the Indy area. We’re not up north. We’re really not known around most parts of the state so us winning was probably a surprise to many.”
       
      The Trojans have three state-ranked wrestlers. Bryer Hall is the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 170 pounds. Hall, a senior, formerly wrestled for South Dearborn, but is now with the Trojans.
       
      “Bryer transferred to us two years ago and his dad is our assistant coach,” Wolf said. “He and his family have been a huge asset to our team. Bryer is a funky wrestler. It’s hard to coach him on technique because a lot of what he does is just natural, and not normal.”
       
      Coach Wolf’s young son, Blake, is ranked No. 12 in the state at 126 pounds. Blake is a sophomore. Last year Blake went undefeated until the ticket round at semistate where he ran into Alex Cottey, the eventual state champion.
       
      “That was Blake’s only loss all season last year,” coach Wolf said. “I know a lot of our kids get slept on a little bit because of our schedule being teams in Ohio and Kentucky. Blake is one of those kids that works really hard and has beaten several kids that went on to place in other states.”
       
      Senior Kole Viel is ranked No. 7 at 220 pounds.
       
      “Kole is our football player,” coach Wolf said. “He signed to play at the University of Indianapolis. He’s wrestled since he was young though, and he’s a really solid wrestler – but he’s a stud on the football field. He’s one of our captains and he has been a big tool for us to tap into those football players and show them what wrestling brings to the table. He’s got us a lot of good athletes on the team. They look up to Kole and really respect him.”
       
      Ben Wolf, coach Wolf’s older son, is a senior this season and is ranked No. 3 at 152 pounds in the New Castle semistate. He’s a team captain as well.
       
      “Ben is a hard, hard worker,” coach Wolf said. “He’s quiet, but he leads with his actions. He’s the hardest worker in our room and he’s a really good wrestler, but he hasn’t had the best showing at semistate yet. We’re hoping this is the year he performs the way we know he can.”
       
      Dylan Lengerich and Rider Searcy are also ranked in the New Castle semistate. Both are sophomores. Lengerich is No. 5 at 120 and Searcy is No. 6 at 138 pounds.
       
      The Trojans have never had a state champion in the individual tournament, which is something the team is hoping to change this year.
       
      “The future is to go up,” Wolf said. “We want to be relevant every year. We want to be known for good wrestling. That’s our goal this year with Bryer and Blake and some of the other kids coming up.
       
      “I think, now that we’ve won the team state, our kids feel they can wrestle with anyone. It’s definitely something that gave us confidence and we are hoping to build on it.”

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