By STEVE KRAH
Hunter Page loves it on a wrestling mat. But he hasn’t spent too much time there when at match time so far in 2021-22.
Page, a Monroe Central High School junior 182-pounder, won the 2021 East Central Indiana Classic title Dec. 23 to move to 17-1 (13 pins and a major decision).
“I shoot first,” says Page. “I don’t wait around.”
Page, whose current current record in 85-14, was the first IHSAA State Finals placer in Monroe Central history when he came in sixth at 182 in 2021.
Brett Hodson (Monroe Central Class of 1985) and Calvin Combs (Monroe Central Class of 1988) represented MC as seniors then Logan Swallow (Monroe Central Class of 2020 made it there as a junior and senior.
“The community was completely behind Hunter last year,” says second-year Golden Bears head coach Andy Richardson. “Last year was an unusual year with restraints on the number we could have in the audience (because of the COVID-19 pandemic). At least we were able have a season. Illinois didn’t have a season.”
Richardson is watching Page have another strong campaign.
“Hunter’s just a hard worker,” says Richardson, who was a Monroe Central assistant for two years before becoming head coach. “Last year, he surprised some people.
“He’s a grinder and not real flashy. He’s a strong kid and very athletic.”
Page is also coachable, taking information and applying it.
“He’s a sponge,” says Richardson. “He’s bought into our blue collar approach. We’re going to work and we’re going to win.”
Richardson is a 1993 Muncie Southside High School graduate who was a freshman on the 1990 state championship team which featured senior Tony Abbott (now head coach at Cowan High School).
Including the U.S. Navy (he served for 11 years) and stints with Bob Brennan at Zionsville, Mike Smitson at Greenwood and Brett Clark and Gary Schliessman at Delta, Richardson has coached 26 years.
Noah Richardson, Andy’s son, is a 2017 Delta graduate and current Monroe Central assistant. He and cousin/two-time state qualifer Scottie Evans were both 100-match winners as Eagles.
Though Page can put points on the scoreboard, Andy Richardson says he is content to win close, low-scoring matches.
“We go after that first takedown,” says Richardson. “It’s something we preach — set the tone. I want (opponents) to react to us, not react to them.
“(Senior 160-pounder Jonah Jones) does that, too. I think he’s going to have some real success this year.”
Jones is a regular workout partner.
“He’s quick and technical,” says Page of Jones, who shares team captain duties with Page and senior Peyton Tinsman.
“I try to lead by example,” says Page. “I help show moves (to others).”
Page grappled at 160 and 170 as a freshman and went 32-6. He posted a 36-7 mark at 182 as a sophomore.
The 6-footer is still at 182 this year, but with more strength.
“I was in the weight room a lot this year,” says Page, who as a defensive lineman enjoying breaking through the line making 34 total tackles with eight for loss and one quarterback sack in helping Monroe Central football go 10-1 in the fall.
Page started school at Union (Modoc) and came over to Monroe Central in third grade. His first real exposure to the mat came in the Golden Bear Wrestling Club.
Page, who lives on a farm near Modoc, is considering either Architecture or Agriculture for a college major and might wrestle as well if the situation is right.
His father is Tink. His mother is Jennifer. Siblings are Lexi (20), Destiny (6) and Leo (6).
Jennifer’s boyfriend, Nick Terharr (Monroe Central Class of 2004), was the Delta Sectional champion at 171 in 2004.
“Nick helps me out with my singles,” says Page. “Andy kind of polished it up.”
Uncle Zeb Doss, who wrestled at Winchester, also offers occasional mat advice.
The lone loss this season for Page came Dec. 22 in Fort Wayne Snider Duals against Snider freshman D’Alcapon Veazy.
Monroe Central’s next match is a Jan. 4 dual at Southern Wells. The Randolph County meet is Jan. 15 at Winchester. The Mid-Eastern Conference meet is Jan. 22 at Cowan.
The Golden Bears’ postseason path includes the Delta Sectional Dec. 29, Jay County Regional Feb. 5 and Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 12 with the State Finals Feb. 18-19 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.