By STEVE KRAH
Rensselaer Central High School wrestler Mason Stanley sports a career mark of 112-27 — 18-9 as a freshman, 19-7 as a sophomore, 42-8 as a junior and 33-3 as a senior so far.
He was an IHSAA State Finals qualifier as well as sectional and regional champion as a 132-pound junior. The three-time semistate qualifier also earned Hoosier Athletic Conference crowns at 132 in 2021-22 and 126 in 2022-23.
Fifth-year Bombers head coach Hunter Hickman has witnessed a change in Stanley the past two seasons.
“He’s a very passionate individual and he wears his emotions on his sleeve,” says Hickman. “Where we’ve seen the most growth from him is that he’s really started to dial that back a little bit.
“As he’s grown up he’s been able to control his emotions and that’s why he’s had the success he’s had.”
Stanley, who was born in Rensselaer and began wrestling in grade school, has turned into a force on the mat.
“He’s a very physical wrestler,” says Hickman. “He’s a very smart wrestler. He’s not a super-athletic kid but he loves to wrestle. He works hard to make himself what he is.”
Hickman and Stanley’s relationship goes back to the beginning to freshman year so the coach and educator knows the student-athlete well.
“A lot of kids let wrestling results define who they are,” says Hickman, who teaches ninth grade English and had Mason in class, too. “We’ve had a lot of heart-to-hearts over the years. We’ve had a lot of good conversations and a lot of ugly conversations.
“Wrestling is fun, but it’s not going to define who we are at the end of the day.”
Stanley has learned to be aggressive.
“Even if I know I’m the underdog or I’m not as good as the person across from me I’m going to go out there and keep attacking them,” says Stanley. “I wasn’t always this way. I started at the end of last year.
“I’ve been grinding hard in the off-season and realizing it’s the work and how bad you want it and the maturity.”
With guidance from Hickman, Stanley opted to go to 126 this season.
“126 gives me to the best chance to get on the podium,” says Stanley. “I’ve done a lot better than I thought I would (with cutting weight). I don’t think I’ve lost very much strength. I feel good when I wrestle.”
As a senior, Stanley takes his turn as meet captain and he enjoys the leadership role.
“I try to lead by example and work hard in the practice room,” says Stanley. “Kids are watching me and they see what is expected of us.
“I try to have a good attitude even when things don’t go my way.”
Stanley enjoys the team aspects of wrestling.
“We’re a really tight group. It’s a lot of fun everything we do.”
The holder of 4.0 grade-point average through the end of the fall semester, Stanley’s favorite school subject is Social Studies.
“I’ve always liked learning about history,” says Stanley, who has been especially fascinated about World War II. His great grandfather was a pilot in the war. He passed when Mason was young.
While he has not yet made a college choice, Stanley says he is leaning toward Wabash College to study and wrestle.
For the first time since junior high, Stanley chose to go out for cross country last fall.
“I can’t stand running but I really liked being with the team,” says Stanley, who was named to academic all-state honorable mention in cross country. “It’s good for staying in-shape in wrestling.”
Mason is the son of Walt and Jenny Stanley, younger brother of Colin Stanley and twin to sister Claire Stanley. Walt (Class of 1992) and Colin (Class of 2018) wrestled for Rensselaer Central. Jenny teaches at Rensselaer Central Middle School.
Claire and Mason both turn 18 in March.
Hickman, a 2013 Rensselaer Central graduate, is in his fifth season as Bombers head coach after two as an assistant — the first when he was a student and wrestler at Wabash College. He grappled two years at Virginia Military Institute, underwent shoulder surgery as a sophomore and transferred to Wabash.
Assistant coaches in 2022-23 include Matt Anderson, Kent Korniak, James Oliver, Kim Schmid and Bryce Tanner plus middle school coach Elliott Zimmer and volunteers Kyle Carter and Eli Hickman.
Tanner is a 2012 West Central High School graduate and a former semistate qualifer.
Everyone else is a Rensselaer Central alum. Oliver runs the Bomber Wrestling Club, which is mostly for Grades K-8.
Schmid was brought on to have a woman to coach the girls on the Bombers squad. She has two younger wrestling daughters.
Carter attends Colorado State University. Eli Hickman, Hunter’s brother, plays baseball at Concordia University Chicago.
The Bombers have participated in three straight Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Class 1A State Duals, placing sixth in 2020-21, eighth in 2021-22 and eighth in 2022-23.
Rensselaer Central has won 13 sectional titles all-time, including five straight from 2017-18 to 2021-22. The program’s first regional team title came in 2021-22.
A dozen individuals placed in the top six as the Bombers wound up third at the 10-team Hoosier Athletic Conference meet held Jan. 14 at Western.
RC champions were Stanley (126) and senior Jordan Cree (285). Sophomore Beck Doughty (106), junior Larz Hughes (152) and senior Trenton Simmons (195) came in second.
Third-place finishers were senior Kolton Ploughe (120), senior Caleb Oliver (132), sophomore Avery Stanley (145) and sophomore Jack Jordan (160).
Senior Austan Pullins (182) placed fourth while senior Elias McAdow (138) and senior Dominick Maddox (170) came in fifth.
Cree is 38-1 this season and 124-31 for his career. He was a state qualifier at 220 in 2021-22.
Mason Stanley counts Avery Stanley as a cousin and McAdow as a regular practice drill partner.
There are 34 boys and nine girls on the 2022-23.
“We’ve been able to retain everybody this year,” says Hickman. “Nobody’s quit.
“It’s been a really good year.”
Rensselaer Central team. Sophomore Kylie Spencer (126) qualified for the Indiana High School Girls Wrestling State Finals Jan. 13 at Mooresville.
The Bombers went 26-7 in dual meets.
The IHSAA state tournament series sees Rensselaer Central go through the Winamac Sectional Jan. 28, Logansport Regional Feb. 4 and East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 on the way to the IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Hickman has a theory about competing in semistate.
“You’ve got to set yourself up the week before,” says Hickman. “The best way for us to qualify for state is to win our regional.”
On Feb. 17, gates for Session I open 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time/11:30 a.m. Central Time with Parade of Champions at 1:30 ET/12:30 CT, weight classes 106-145 at 2 ET/1 CT and 152-285 at 5:30 ET/4:30 CT.
On Feb. 18, gates for Session 2 open at 8 a.m. ET /7 a.m. CT with quarterfinals/semifinals at 9 ET/8 CT. The fieldhouse will be cleared of all spectators following the semifinals.
Gates for Session 3 open at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT with consolations at 4:30 ET/3:30 CT and championships at 7:30 ET/6:30 CT.