By STEVE KRAH
Many wrestlers who enjoy success on the Indiana high school scene can look back at many years of training and competition.
Some have been known to start even before they begin kindergarten.
Such is not the case with Concord High School’s Armen Koltookian.
His mat career began after he quit the freshmen boys basketball team.
The athletic Koltookian got into the Minutemen’s varsity lineup in 2019-20 and posted a 7-4 record. He went 20-12 and was a Goshen Regional runner-up at 182 pounds as a sophomore in 2020-21 then really broke out.
Stepping into the circle at 195, Koltookian won 37 of 43 bouts while earning second place to Mishawaka’s Christian Chavez at the Northern Lakes Conference meet and earning Elkhart Sectional, Goshen Regional and Fort Wayne Semistate titles as a junior in 2021-22.
“He caught a lot of people by surprise last year,” says first-year Concord head coach Anthony Snyder. “He’s a great kid and a great leader. He comes in every single day with a positive attitude and wants to learn.”
Koltookian was edged 3-2 by eventual eighth-placer Samuel Saunders of Terre Haute North Vigo in the first round of the IHSAA State Finals.
Improvement on the mat came through open-room training at Mishawaka and Jimtown and made a few visits to Midwest Xtreme Wrestling in Mishawaka and Midwest Regional Training Center in New Carlisle.
With the help of Concord’s Fitness and Performance Center director Scott Pherson, Koltookian got stronger by increasing his weight room numbers in the deadlift and clean-and-jerk.
After another standout football season for the Craig Koehler-coached Minutemen in the fall (he was named all-NLC), NCAA Division II Hillsdale (Mich.) College gridiron verbal commit Koltookian opened the 2022-23 wrestling season at 5-1 with four pins at 195 then moved up to 220. In the Raider Invitational at Northridge Saturday, Dec. 10, he went 4-1 and is 9-2 on the season.
“Wrestling definitely helped me improve as a football player, physically and mentally,” says Koltookian, a standout linebacker who also shined at H-back on offense. “I got tougher and I got a whole lot better with my hand-eye coordination and hand-fighting through the line.
“I saw numerous things that improved from wrestling football. So I'd recommend any football player that's thinking about it to get out and try it.”
Both grueling sports, wrestling and football require mental toughness.
How does Koltookian deal with this?
“I always like to remember that I've got bigger things in my life going on,” says Koltookian. “I always focus on the future and the success that comes with grinding through these times.
“It also helps a lot to have a lot of teammates that support me — Lance Army (Class of 2023) being one of them. He's our heavyweight and he always supports me and is there to wrestle with me, push me and keep me mentally in-check.”
Armen, who carries a grade-point average of 3.96 on a 4.0 scale, is the son of Aram and Shelley Koltookian and the younger brother of Zaven Koltookian, a 2022 Concord graduate now on the football team at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.
Snyder, a 2008 Mishawaka graduate, leads the Concord program after spending the past five seasons guiding Bremen. The Lions won one dual meet in 2017-18 and 13 in 2021-22.
Snyder’s staff include Concord alum and veteran wrestling coach Brian Pfeil (the 1991 graduate went 97-18 and placed fifth at 189 as a senior) as well as Brandon Barcus, Andrew Cortez, Tyler Norment and Bryce Track. Barcus was with Snyder at Bremen.
“I’ve surrounded myself with people who I though could help me build what I view this program can be,” says Snyder. “They all have the same vision as I do.”
Snyder made the move for a few reasons.
“It’s a better opportunity,” says Snyder. “It’s closer to home. It’s on my way to and from work (as a production leader at Lippert Components in Goshen). There’s a lot of support from the administration.
“It’s just nice to be at a big school that wants wrestling to succeed and get to that next level. I feel like we can make it into a contender in the northern part of Indiana if not the state.”
Before Bremen, Anthony was on Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mark Kerrn’s staff at Jimtown.
Uncle and IHSWCA Hall of Famer Darrick Snyder (currently the head coach at Brownsburg) was Anthony's coach at Mishawaka.
Snyder helped establish the Concord Wrestling Club which around 45 members. The Concord Junior High School team has begun practices with more than 60 participants.
At the high school level, the Minutemen’s next meet is a dual Tuesday, Dec. 14 at Mishawaka. Not in the Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka this year, Concord is part of the 16-team McKee Memorial Invitational at Rochester Saturday, Dec. 17. The NLC meet is Jan. 14 at Wawasee with the Elkhart Sectional Jan. 28, Goshen Regional Feb. 4, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 11 and IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.