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.”