(Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
By STEVE KRAH
Christian Carroll took care of business in the first three bouts of his high school career, earning pins in 13, 14 and 10 seconds against Wawasee, Peru and Hamilton Heights.
The New Prairie High School junior 220-pounder made his debut as a Cougar at the Jan. 8 Class 2A Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals at Martinsville.
A knee injury kept Carroll out of action during his freshman year at Penn (2019-20). When he transferred to New Prairie after the first semester of his sophomore year (2020-21), he was required to sit out for a year. That made him eligible at the end of this past week.
Not that Carroll is a newbie on the mat scene. With two Super 32 titles and a Junior Freestyle Nationals crown to his credit, he is among the top-ranked grapplers at his weight in the country.
He has committed to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to wrestle and study Finance in the Wharton School of Business.
“Instead of thinking about my next four years, I’m thinking about my next 40,” says Carroll, 18. Each Quaker grappler in the Wharton School is assigned an alumni mentor and his is David Pottruck. “I’ve always been curious about stocks and how to use money. I have an entrepreneur mindset.”
Christian is the youngest of Tony and Erin Carroll’s five children behind John, Jill, Ben, Cassidy and Katie. Tony Carroll works in finance with Aldi Foods. Erin Carroll is employed as a nursing home activity director at West Woods of Niles (Mich.).
Christian grew up in the Jimtown area of Elkhart and started wrestling at age 5. He began to really take the sport seriously as an eighth grader in the Penn system at Schmucker Middle School.
Over the years, Carroll has developed a mentality that is apparent to New Prairie head coach Bobby Whitenack.
“He has a passion for the sport,” says Whitenack. “He has an intensity at practice and goes hard all the time.
“He’s truly engaged every minute.”
The athlete expects extra effort out of himself.
“What you work for is what you get,” says Carroll. “There are no free lunches in this world.
“That’s why I love wrestling. There’s no politics. It’s just you and the other guy battling on the mat.”
Since joining the New Prairie program, Carroll has taken to the Whitenacks, especially Bobby and son/senior heavyweight Hunter.
“(Coach Whitenack’s) a great role model,” says Carroll. “For him, it’s more about life (than wrestling). He cares about our well-being. He preaches so much about life.
“How are you not excited to wrestle for a guy like that? He creates a family culture. That’s not a cliche.’ It’s real.”
Hunter Whitenack, who is committed to study and play football at the University of Illinois, is a workout partner for Carroll and a team leader.
“What’s awesome about Hunter is he’s in that big brother role,” says Carroll. “He’s always motivating, always positive and let’s get this job done. He guided me through the system being a new kid.
“It’s about brotherhood. He doesn’t have to risk an injury for football. He puts his team and his community above himself.”
Bobby Whitenack is a special education teacher and a 1999 New Prairie graduate. He came back from Manchester University, where he played football, to assistant Cougars head coach Wes Hobart then took over the program in 2010-11 and surpassed the 300-win plateau this season.
“I reflect on how many people who made that happen — all the adults and wrestlers,” says Whitenack of the milestone.
The coach has two sons in his lineup with freshman Hayden Whitenack at 132.
What Carroll enjoys most about New Prairie is being part of a team in wrestling and an active student.
“I release my knowledge and disperse as much as I can,” says Carroll of his relationship with wrestling mates. “We have a lot of sponges in the room. It’s a good atmosphere. There’s a certain standard in the room — leaving it all out on the mat.
“I don’t think there’s a point in holding back (in class). I have a Type A personality. Communication flows and that is a good way to learn. Fear is False Evidence That Appears Real. I’m not afraid to fail (in wrestling or life). My aspirations are so much higher.”
Whitenack appreciates Carroll’s willingness to give.
“He’s really good at helping others,” says the coach. “He can work with any kid in the room and give them pointers. It’s a peer review. It’s different from hearing from a coach. He leads by example. You can’t say it if you’re not doing it yourself.”
Away from New Prairie, Carroll works out with Chris Fleeger at Midwest RTC in New Carlisle.
“He’s a technician,” says Carroll of Fleeger, who was a three-time All-American at Purdue University, Big Ten champion and trained at the U.S. Olympic Center. “He’s instilled a lot of morals in my brain and life perspective.”
In the past year, Carroll is placed second at the World Trials. At the nationals, he won every bout by pin or technical fall except for one. In September, he competed in the Flo Wrestling Who’s No. 1 and lost a 3-2 nail-biter super match to heavyweight Nick Feldman, an Ohio State University commit from Malvern Prep in Pennsylvania.
Carroll’s Super 32 titles have come at 195 (2020) and 220 (2021).
Christian stands 5-foot-11 now, but he anticipates a growth spurt since his father and uncles are in 6-2 to 6-3 range and big guys.
Whitenack, who has about 50 on his roster, has his wrestlers attack the season in two portions.
“The beginning of season gets you ready,” says Whitenack. “We want to peak at sectional.”
New Prairie once competed in Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic, but opted for super duals like the one at Lafayette Jeff.
“Our average kids got better and that set us up to have more success in the postseason,” says Whitenack. “We want to go into sectional with the right mindset. We want everybody moving in the right direction.”
Chris Carroll is now a part of that mix.