By STEVE KRAH
Goshen High School junior wrestler Laish Detwiler is 75-11 over the past two seasons (35-9 in 2021-22 and 40-2 so far in 2022-23) and is heading into his second IHSAA Fort Wayne Semistate Saturday, Feb. 11.
Detwiler has been involved with the mat sport since seventh grade. But something changed his sophomore campaign.
“Last year I started taking this seriously,” says Detwiler. “I wrestled throughout middle school but I wasn’t very good. Last year I just put my mind to getting better.
“I don’t have that much time left in high school and I just have to change something. I just had to push myself and start working harder.”
Detwiler, who competed as a light 195-pound freshman and 170-pound sophomore, is now at 182 as a junior.
This season he is 2-1 against NorthWood senior Kaden Lone with a 4-2 loss in the Northern Lakes Conference finals, a 3-2 win in the Elkhart Sectional championship match and a 3-1 loss in the Goshen Regional finals. Lone (38-4) is a three-time semistate qualifier who placed seventh at the 2022 State Finals.
“He’s a hard worker,” says RedHawks coach Jim Pickard of Detwiler. “He had never played football until this year and by the end of the year was a two-way starter (making 41 total tackles at defensive end and 23 carries as a running back). He’s become very athletic. He’s learned a lot and put some time in.”
Detwiler drew Jay County junior Bryce Werk (30-6) as his first-round semistate opponent. The winner of the match faces the winner of Maconaquah sophomore Austin Ringeisen (39-2) and Fort Wayne Carroll sophomore William Jeffries (25-7).
The 182 field also features Fort Wayne Snider sophomore De’Alcapon Veazy (34-1) and Monroe Central senior Hunter Page (35-0).
Detwiler will be at Memorial Coliseum with five teammates — junior Cole Hinkel (39-5 at 113), senior Camden Wiese (32-6 at 126), senior Nolan Castaneda (32-11 at 138), junior Jonathon Flores (32-10 at 160) and senior Marcus Castaneda (31-10) at 170.
In the 2021-22 state tournament series, Detwiler competed at 170 and was a runner-up to Jimtown senior Landon Buchanan at the Elkhart Sectional and Goshen Regional.
At the Fort Wayne Semistate, Detwiler beat Fort Wayne Bishop Luers’ Mason Daring then lost in the “ticket round” to Eastern of Greentown’s Brodie Porter, who went on to top Buchanan in the semistate finals.
Porter and Buchanan placed second and fifth, respectively, at the 2022 State Finals.
“His losses last year were very quality,” says Pickard. “He’s turned it on this year.”
Leadership is another of Detwiler’s assets.
“A lot of it is leading by example and making sure I’m always doing the right thing,” says Detwiler. “I’m pushing my teammates when they’re having an ‘off’ day and making sure they’re still getting through their workouts.”
After going 15-10 overall and 4-4 in the NLC in 2022-23, Pickard has 517 career dual victories and is in 30th season at Goshen.
“It’s still that different connection with the kids that you get,” says Pickard of why he continues to coach. “I enjoy it. I think I’ve built a decent program here.”
He served as an assistant principal for eight or nine years while leading GHS wrestling and took on athletic director duties toward the end of the 2021-22 season.
With Josh Abbs, Tom Gangwer, Taylor Grim, Matt Katzer, Eric Kilmer, Greg Mueller, Travis Pickard and Troy Pickard as assistant coaches this season, the RedHawks are using a new hashtag on apparel and social media — #fightforsix.
“It encompasses it all,” says Jim Pickard. “Don’t give up. Go for six full minutes and when you can go for six points (for a pin).”
Detwiler has taken his head coach’s guidance to heart.
“Coach Pickard has given me a lot of advice,” says Detwiler. “The main thing he tells me is to keep my head up and keep working hard in practice no matter what.”
Besides wrestling and football, the 5-foot-10 Detwiler enjoys lifting weights.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” says Detwiler. “I wasn’t very strong my freshman year and then I started hitting the gym my sophomore year and it translated into getting better.”
Grim is also a strength and condition specialist at Goshen and has his athletes doing traditional lifts like squat, bench press, deadlift and clean and jerk.
“He’s really helped us with technique a lot,” says Detwiler of Grim. “He’s always in there pushing us to make sure we’re on-task.”
Detwiler is a strong student. He carries a 3.7 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and is considering pursuing wrestling and sports medicine in college.
Laish — a name that comes from the Old Testament — is the second of Aaron and Renita Detwiler. Sister Emma is a college freshman. Brother Judah is 9.
“My dad got me into wrestling,” says Laish of his father’s mat experiences in Pennsylvania and Virginia. “He wrestled his whole life so he is a big inspiration for me.”