By STEVE KRAH
A can’t-quit attitude has helped Hayden Brady amass impressive numbers as part of a decorated wrestling program at Garrett High School.
With a 9-1 start to the 2022-23 season at Goshen’s RedHawk Super Duals, 5-foot-10 1/2, 126-pound senior Brady is now 102-17 for his career (including 35-6 as a 106-pound freshman state qualifer, 27-4 as a 113-pound sophomore state qualifier and 31-6 as a 120-pound junior fourth-place finisher at the IHSAA State Finals).
He moved past Andrew Wertman (98-65), Trevor Moe (100-31), Beau Schendel (100-19) and Brayden Moreau (100-29) on the Railroaders’ all-time win list.
The Garrett victory call is topped by Brayden Shearer (152-37), followed by Clayton Fielden (141-26), Bryce Schendel (133-25), Beck Davis (127-38), Dylan Demarco (125-46), Zac McCray (125-29), Lance Moe (119-31), Bo Davis (116-39), Hayden Lee (114-7), Blake Davis (112-24) and Chandler Shearer (106-35).
Tenth-year Railroaders head coach Nick Kraus says Brady has the chance to finish his prep mat career as high as No. 3 on the victory list and No. 2 in winning percentage.
Brady has amassed 63 career pins. The school record — held by Fielden — is 84.
“I don’t pay attention to any of that,” says Brady. “I just go out and do my job.”
Kraus was introduced to Brady’s tenacity in the grappler’s first season at Garrett. The coach recalls Brady placing third a Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic as a freshman.
“He had some technique, but it was mostly heart,” says Kraus. “His only loss that year was to (Crown Point’s) Sam Goin (who went on to place fifth at 106, fourth at 126 and first at 152 in the past three State Finals).”
On the second day of the 32-team tournament, Brady earned victories in double overtime and ultimate tiebreaker.
Says Brady, “It was two back-to-back matches that it took me a lot of heart to win.
“He was just fighting and landing on top,” says Kraus. “He is a student so his wrestling has come a long way.
“He was always pretty good when he was in the top position, but neutral (was not special) and he’s recognized that and really, really tried getting better at it. That’s what makes him him.”
Where does he get the drive?
“I’m very, very competitive and just motivated and always striving for better,” says Brady. “I never want to settle for anything less than what I can achieve.”
Kraus encourages Brady to use multiple moves if the match situation allows it.
“If it’s a pretty winnable match — and a lot of them are pretty winnable for Hayden — we might say ‘why don’t you work on this for this match?’ or ‘why don’t you try doing this takedown?’”
This is done so when Brady is in a spot that he won’t be predictable for those scouting his tendencies.
SETL are letters that are associated with Garrett wrestling.
It’s the acronym for a motto that came from Bill Kraus who died when his son was 16 and wrestling in high school.
“My dad had a pretty distinctive voice,” says Nick Kraus. “He’d say ‘Show ‘Em The Lights’ and you knew it was his voice.
Looking for something to brand to program with something of meaning, Nick — who was a Garrett assistant for two years before becoming head coach — adopted SETL.
“It’s kind of funny because my technique wasn’t the best when I was younger,” says Kraus. “I thought you had to pin somebody in wrestling. Beating somebody by points wasn’t much of an option. If I got off the mat and I didn’t win by pin I was kind of disappointed.”
Kraus racked up 31 pins his senior year.
“That’s what we did — ‘Show ‘Em The Lights,’” says Kraus, who counts Mike Poppe, Alex Arney, Tyler Lanning, Josh Buuck and Carlos Aguirre as assistant coaches in 2022-23. “It’s a big part of our culture. In town, people know what it means. It’s printed on shirts. Some kids have SETL tattoos once they’ve graduated.”
Hayden Brady was first shown the mat by his father — former Churubusco wrestler Dennis Brady — and began competing as a middle schooler.
“I thought I’d give it a shot,” says Hayden. “Over the course of the year I kind of fell in love with the sport and started wrestling more and more.”
He was involved in other sports, but gave those up to concentrate on his new love.
Wrestling has given him the opportunity to compete all over the country.
“I’ve been on both coasts several times,” says Brady. “And several other places.”
Hayden was at Churubusco in seventh grade and Central Noble in eighth grade before starting high school at Garrett.
Hayden’s mother — Cassie Phillips — lives in Colorado. Older brother Harrison is in Montana and serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Sister Lillie is a Garrett sophomore and a wrestling manager.
After graduating from Garrett, Brady wants to wrestle in college and pursue an Aviation degree.
Kraus teaches middle school Physical Education and Health at Garrett.
He’s also coached football, helped out with youth baseball and taught high schoolers.
“Middle school is my favorite,” says Kraus. “Some people think that those kids are difficult to work with. I enjoy it. I’m able to get kids to come out and wrestle. P.E. is a pretty fun job. You get to play basketball, football, baseball — whatever — all day.”
He was also an MMA fighter for 11 years.
Kraus admires Brady for his character.
Looking for volunteers to coach at a junior varsity tournament on Nov. 19 at West Noble, Kraus saw Brady give up a free Saturday and don a coaching shirt and help out.
“He was amped up about it and enjoyed coaching,” says Kraus. “He didn’t have to come to that. He chose to wake up super early.
“He is willing to do that for his teammates.”
Brady, who is a team captain, has also taken the time to work with other less-skilled wrestlers and drilled with them in the practice room.
“He’s truly a team player,” says Kraus.
Says Brady, “It’s a leadership thing. I was just showing up for my teammates. Even though they may not be the varsity kids they are the future of our program.”
It’s that kind of attitude that has allowed Garrett to enjoy so much recent team success. The Railroaders won a Class 2A Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Team Duals title in 2021 and were IHSWCA 2A Team Duals runners-up in 2018 and 2020 as well as IHSAA sectional and regional champions in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Garrett also reigned in the Allen County Athletic Conference in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2019 and the Northeast Corner Conference in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The 2023 2A IHSWCA State Duals at Jay County is Jan. 7.
There’s also the Al Smith Classic Dec. 29-30, Garrett Invitational Jan. 14 and the NECC Tournament at Eastside Jan. 21 with the Carroll Sectional Jan. 28, Carroll Regional Feb. 4, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 11 and State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Garrett’s next competition is a home dual at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30 against DeKalb.
“If you get a quality dual meet, you can’t beat the atmosphere and what it does for fans,” says Kraus. “We’re renewing that rivalry. (The Barons) should be pretty good this year and I think we’re pretty good.
“Wednesday night should be fun.”