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#WrestlingWednesday: Eiteljorge is kinda cool
By JEREMY HINES
There’s cool, and then there’s Jack Eiteljorge cool.
The Carmel senior wrestler may even be too cool.
“Jack’s the guy I want to do my heart surgery because he’s as cool as a cucumber,” Greyhound coach Ed Pendoski said. “He doesn’t get rattled by anything. But, that’s one of the things we are trying to work on this year. I want him having emotion. We’ve talked to him about how sometimes you have to have emotion, whether it be positive or negative.”
Just how cool is Eiteljorge?
“He’s so cool that you could sit him down and tell him that someone just walked into his house and killed his dog, Bacon. His reply would be, ‘Oh, OK.’,” Pendoski said. “You could tell him that Taylor Swift is in the hot tub and wants to make out with him, and he’d say ‘Oh, OK’.”
Eiteljorge is currently ranked No. 2 in the state at 160 pounds. He is a three times sectional and regional champion, but he has never punched his ticket to state. Pendoski thinks opening up and getting a little emotional may be the edge that Eiteljorge needs to finally get to state - and possibly win.
“Going into this year, after the Super 32, we had just had two pretty bad losses,” Pendoski said. “We really started dialing in on our mental part. He’s done a good job reacting to that. The phrase we use a lot is that mental toughness is the ability to manage the thoughts in your head. We went back to that simple platform. We talked to him about getting excited. We said let’s get angry. Let’s be happy. Show something.”
The plan has worked. Eiteljorge is 33-2. He has pinned or tech falled all of his opponents in the state tournament except for one, and that match he won 18-8.
“I’ve been trying to show emotion,” Eiteljorge said. “Coach wants me to, and he has a lot of muscle so I listen to him. He feels that sometimes I’m like a robot on the mat. He wants me to just start having fun.
I’ve really been working on that part. It’s a big change from past years. Making myself be less methodical is the key. I have to go out there and make the matches fun.”
Eiteljorge isn’t one of the kids that found immediate success in the sport of wrestling. When he was young and just started going to CIA, Pendoski’s wrestling academy, he was the guy getting beat up on.
“Jack was in a group with some very, very good wrestlers,” Pendoski said. “He was the beginner. The partners he was with had been around for years and were winning championships. I think Jack went two or three months before he even scored a point. But, he was the guy that would stick around after practice and do pull-ups or pushups.”
Eventually he won his first club level state tournament. Pendoski says that was a turning point for him.
“That’s the day I knew this little ankle-biter would be OK one day,” Pendoski said. “It was nice to see a guy that started from the beginning, worked his tail off and then started to see the results.”
Eiteljorge lost in the first round of semistate his freshman year. As a sophomore and a junior he lost in the ticket round.
“This year my goal is to win state,” Eiteljorge said. “My goal is not just to get to state. But, I still know there will be a pressure on me to get past the ticket round. If I win that match, I’ll certainly feel a weight has been lifted.”
Eiteljorge isn’t one to talk about personal successes, he’s too cool to brag. But, he’s more than willing to gush about his teammates.
“I have really good teammates,” he said. “They are awesome. I love hanging out with them. Carmel’s team chemistry is what helps us be a top program. We are always improving. We have a casual, playful environment. We have fun. But when it’s time to get serious we focus and get the job done.”
Next season Eiteljorge will wrestle for the University of Indianapolis.
“The University of Indianapolis is going to be real happy with the product they are getting with Jack,” Pendoski said.
#WrestlingWednesday: The Man Behind the Mic, Kevin Whitehead
Brought to you by EI Sports
By JEREMY HINES
Thirty-two years ago a spur of the moment idea by Kevin Whitehead resulted in a monumental change to the Indiana high school wrestling state finals.
Back then, Whitehead was a table helper at the finals. He had filled in occasionally on the microphone, announcing some matches for Homer Hawkins, the main announcer at the time. Whitehead thought something was missing going in to the finals. So, he grabbed a notebook and a pencil and went on the mat asking each wrestler for information about themselves.
"I was interested in finding out a little more about the kids," Whitehead said. "So I went kid-to-kid and asked them what year they were in school, what their records were, how many falls they had and such."
At the time, all of the wrestlers in the championship round were lined up across the mat and everyone's name was announced along with their opponent. The two would run across the mat and shake hands. That was it.
But now that Whitehead had all of this extra information scribbled down in his notebook, Hawkins asked if he would like to announce introductions.
"After I announced everyone, Homer looked at me with a smile and told me to keep the microphone and announce the championships," Whitehead said. "I haven't given it up since."
Now the introductions of the finalists are a large part of the finals. Whitehead announces each wrestler, and reads off their list of wrestling accomplishments as the wrestler joins his coaches under a spotlight. After one wrestler is announced, the spotlight moves to his opponent across the mat. Then, the two wrestlers meet at center circle and shake hands.
Whitehead has been the announcer at the state finals since 1984. He lives in Kentucky, but looks forward each year to his annual trip to Indianapolis for the finals.
During his time as the announcer for the finals, Whitehead said he has witnessed major changes in the state format.
"The tournament has gotten bigger in just about every way it can," Whitehead said. "There were fewer wrestlers when I started. When I first got involved the tournament had just expanded. When I was in school there were 12 weights and four wrestlers in each weight. There were 24 semifinal matches and that gave you the finalists and the consolations. After 48 matches, it was over.
"Now we hit match 48 by about 7:30 on Friday night."
Whitehead remembers when the finals moved to Market Square Arena and when the Friday night sessions were added. He has watched as the talent level in Indiana has gotten better, and interest in the sport has greatly increased.
"Wrestling has really grown in the state in terms of the caliber of wrestling, the number of matches, the fan interest and the amount of schools that are represented," Whitehead said. "Right now it sort of gets taken for granted that we have guys wrestling for, or going to wrestle for schools like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska and Penn State. That was unheard of not so many years ago. You might have one or two outstanding guys that would break the mold, but the quality of wrestling has increased multi-fold and that's very gratifying. That is the driving force as to why there were 33,000 people going there and watching it this year."
Whitehead has announced over 8,000 matches in his long career. He doesn't have a favorite match, but said the atmosphere this year at the state finals was great. He misses the old scoring system for the team title, and believes that created a big interest throughout the tournament.
That was what separated the great sessions from the average sessions," Whitehead said. "The team race was great when you had a few teams battling for the team title. That really hasn't happened since we went to the new format."
One of Whitehead's best memories from the finals came in the 80s. The weather was exceptionally bad and the finals got bumped from Market Square to the New Castle Fieldhouse.
"They had to wrestle it all on one day," Whitehead said. "It started early and ran late. The crowd was huge and New Castle was absolutely packed. When it was over, we all knew we can through a tough time with the weather for wrestling. We had this sense of community afterwards."
As far as announcing, Whitehead said when he calls out for the wrestlers to clear the mat for the second time, that's when things start to get serious. He says he doesn't have any go-to catch phrases from behind the microphone, but he does love the unique names. He prints the finals brackets off as soon as they are available and practices how he will say the names.
Whitehead wrestled for Franklin Central in the early 1970s. He never got past regional but was a Marion County runner-up and a sectional runner-up.
He retired from the Kroger Corporation after a long career spent in packaging development. He lives in Louisville now and spends time golfing with his son when he gets a chance, working around the house and tending to his vinyl record collection.
"I have a 45 vinyl collection with about 3,000 records," Whitehead said. "I started collecting in the 60s, but I really started in earnest when I found a great Goodwill Store near Indiana State University. At the time, vinyl was junk. But now it's very collectible."
Whitehead said he has no intentions of quitting his announcing gig at the state finals. He plans on announcing for as long as he's allowed to do so.
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#WrestlingWednesday: Going once, going twice, you're pinned by Freije
By JEREMY HINES
It is said that a good auctioneer can almost hypnotize bidders into spending money. The seemingly random words used by the auctioneer are well rehearsed and designed to lull bidders into opening the pocketbooks and splurging on the products presented before them. Auctioneers talk fast – and that too has a purpose. The speedy delivery gives a sense of urgency to the bidders. If they don’t act now – they may miss out on that item they just have to have. A good auctioneer demands the attention of the room and can quickly have the audience doing exactly what they want them to.
Indianapolis Roncalli senior Tyce Freije is a good auctioneer. In fact, he’s the best at his young age. And, just like he does on the auction block – Freije dazzles audiences on the wrestling mats as well.
Freije is currently ranked No. 6 in the state at 152 pounds. He is a two-time state placer and is coming off a season where he finished fourth at 138 pounds. Off the mat he is the reigning International Junior Auctioneer champion.
“I’m a fourth-generation auctioneer,” Freije said. “My grandpa and my dad both have an auctioneering business right by my house. We host an auction at least once a month. We sell everything from cars to tractors, lawn mowers, antiques, toys and guns. I really enjoy it and I will be pursuing it in my future.”
Freije excels at whatever he does. He’s a stellar student, a good leader, he is an experienced member of the 4H community in addition to wrestling and auctioneering.
“Everything the kid touches he works at it until he beats it or becomes the best,” Roncalli coach Wade McClurg said. “He’s very business-like and mature in his approach, whether it’s in auctioneering, wrestling, his faith, showing pigs, school, etc. He’s a winner and the ultimate competitor in everything he does.”
Freije’s wrestling style is an in-your face, I’m coming at you, try to stop me approach. He’s physical and strong. He’s also tough. As a sophomore he broke his hand and refused to have surgery because he didn’t want to miss the entire season. He didn’t get to wrestle until the sectional, but he ended up making it to the ticket round of semistate before losing to eventual state runner-up Alex Mosconi.
“Tyce loves the fight and is a super tough guy,” McClurg said. “He’s a strong and physical wrestler that goes at a high pace and has a big motor. He’s especially passionate about his wrestling. He enjoys the process of a training cycle and improving his game.”
Freije’s goal this season is to become a state champion. He wrestles with Alec Viduya, a former state champ, in the Roncalli room often. In fact, the two recently wrestled in their inter-squad match and Viduya won in triple overtime. The two are able to push each other in practice, which in turn helps them during matches against other opponents.
Freije credits his family for a lot of the attributes that make him the person he is. He learn auctioneering from his family and he says he also comes from a family of wrestlers. His uncle, Bob Freije, wrestled and coached at Brownsburg.
“My parents have taught me growing up that I have to earn everything I want,” Freije said. “If I want success, I have to earn it. I have to work harder than everyone else to have a shot at it. They really drilled that mentality into my head, and I know that’s why I’ve been able to find success in things. I am willing to work to achieve my goals.”
Freije also tries to help younger wrestlers understand that if you want results, you have to put in the work.
“He’s an exceptional leader for our program,” McClurg said. “He does things the hard way which is the right way.”
After high school Freije plans to attend college and wrestle, but he hasn’t decided where yet. He also plans to go into the family auctioneering business.
#WrestlingWednesday: Van Horn looking to corral a state title
By JEREMY HINES
Burk Van Horn remembers being with his dad and brothers driving down the highway on their way to Nebraska, and seeing several cars trying to get their attention. Turns out, Van Horn had accidentally left the gates open on the familyâ€™s cattle trailer they were hauling, and some of the cattle was walking toward the opening.
â€œThe cows were just about to jump out when we stopped,â€ Van Horn said. â€œWe had stopped to eat and I checked on the cattle, but forgot to close the gates.â€
Van Horn is a little more careful these days, both with cattle and on the wrestling mat. Heâ€™s currently ranked No. 2 at 160 pounds. He started the season out ranked No. 1 at 170 pounds and later moved to 160 and was given the top ranking there, before the latest polls had Evansville Mater Deiâ€™s Joe Lee moving up to 160 and claiming the top spot.
The Franklin Community senior has had a stellar career in high school, but it wasnâ€™t until last season that he really stepped up his game. As a freshman Van Horn advanced to semistate. As a sophomore he was defeated in the first round of regional. But, as a junior, he not only made it to the state tournament â€“ he wrestled his way under the lights at Bankerâ€™s Life Fieldhouse. Van Horn lost a 3-0 heartbreaker in the state finals match to two-time champ Jacob Covaciu.
â€œMy sophomore year I had a bad match at regionals,â€ Van Horn said. â€œBut that helped me to become better and motivate myself more. I started to break down matches more. That loss was a setback, but it made me want to go further.
â€œThen, last year when I saw my draw at state, I really felt like I could get under the lights. Just getting there wasnâ€™t my goal. I wanted to win, not get second.â€
Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said losing in regional as a sophomore was a turning point in Van Hornâ€™s career.
â€œIt was a crappy match and things happened that was a little out of his control with the officiating,â€ Hasseman said. â€œAt that time, when something didnâ€™t go his way, Burk could get a little discombobulated. But since that time, and probably because of that time, he has learned to keep on rolling and to take the good with the bad. Heâ€™s going to make mistakes. Heâ€™s going to get bad calls. Thatâ€™s wrestling. But he has to stay focused and keep wrestling and not make a grave error when heâ€™s frustrated.â€
Van Horn has mixed emotions about the rankings this year. He likes the fact that he was ranked No. 1 at two different classes. He likes that he has a target on his back and a lot of guys are trying to knock him off. But he doesnâ€™t like when kids get intimidated just because of his ranking.
â€œIâ€™ve still got a lot of room to improve before I can become a state champ,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m just another kid out there wrestling. There are sometimes I wish I wasnâ€™t ranked because a lot of kids wonâ€™t wrestle me. Or, if they do wrestle, some of them just roll to their backs like little girls instead of at least putting up a fight. But it is fun walking onto the mat and knowing that youâ€™re the man.â€
Van Horn has made weight once at 160, but plans to go back to 170. At this point, heâ€™s not sure where he will wrestle in the tournament.
â€œIâ€™m going to do whatever is best for the team,â€ he said.
Burk started wrestling about the time he learned to walk. He has two older brothers that were state qualifiers.
â€œBurk is quite a bit bigger than his brothers were,â€ Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said. â€œHeâ€™s got the size and heâ€™s very talented. His whole family seems to be just genetically strong. He has good hips and is very rarely out of position on the mat. His body build also helps him tremendously.â€
Burk is the epitome of being country strong. His daily routine of wrestling and then going home and working with the cattle and his show pigs has helped him develop a habit of hard working.
â€œI show pigs and cattle year around,â€ Burk said. â€œItâ€™s a lot of hard work. If you want to win in the show ring, or in wrestling, you have to be willing to put in the hard work.â€
Van Horn is hoping all his hard work produces an end result of a state championship this season.
#WrestlingWednesday Feature: From Rivals to Training Partners
Brought to you by EI Sports
By JEREMY HINES
East Noble seniors Connor Knapp and Garrett Pepple werenâ€™t exactly friends their freshman year. In fact, they didnâ€™t even like each other much.
The two were competing for the same varsity spot at 106 pounds. It was a position they both wanted badly. Ultimately, Knapp won the weight class and Pepple spent most of the season on the junior varsity squad. Knapp went on to qualify for state as a freshman.
â€œMy goal going into my freshman year was to qualify for state,â€ Pepple said. â€œI wanted to have a good record, too. But we had a solid team and I only weighed about 100 pounds. I had multiple chances to earn a spot. Connor and I wrestled off once, and he beat me. Then I went up to 113 pounds and I won the spot, until our 120 pounder dropped down and took it from me.
â€œWhen you compete for a spot with someone itâ€™s hard to be close friends. There was a little hate between us.â€
The next year, things changed. Knapp moved up to 113 pounds and Pepple stayed at 106. The two were no longer competing for the same spot, and they started to become friends.
That season Pepple made a huge stride. He went from a JV wrestler the year before, to finishing second in the state as a sophomore. Knapp placed 4th.
â€œAt first we didnâ€™t really talk much at all,â€ Knapp said. â€œBut the next year we started to become friends. We started training together. Now heâ€™s like my brother.â€
The two seniors began pushing each other to get better. Pepple is considered a very good top wrestler, and Knapp needed work on bottom. Peppleâ€™s top work helped.
â€œGarrett is really good on top,â€ Knapp said. â€œA lot of the stuff he does is what some of the top guys I go up against are going to do. He gives me a good idea of how to counter things. Pretty much in every position there are certain things he can do that normal wrestlers wouldnâ€™t have the confidence to do. We both have our advantages and that helps push both of us.â€
As juniors Pepple placed second at 113 pounds. Knapp finished third at 120.
â€œAfter finishing second my sophomore year I was happy with that,â€ Pepple said. â€œMaybe I was even a little complacent. But my junior year, my goal was a state championship and nothing else. Placing second still haunts me. I donâ€™t want it to happen again.â€
Pepple says he has been much more focused this season. He is the No. 1 ranked 113 pounder in the state.
â€œThere isnâ€™t a day that goes by that I donâ€™t think of what it could be like to win a state championship,â€ Pepple said. â€œMy dream, my goal is to be a state champ. Thatâ€™s all I can think about. Iâ€™ve visualized myself winning so many times. I walk around my room just thinking about it for hours. I have even planned my celebration if I win. It wonâ€™t be anything cocky, but Iâ€™ll definitely celebrate if I can win it.â€
Both wrestlers are pushing each other to get better in the room. East Noble has had only one state champion before. Pepple and Knapp wants to change that.
â€œIron sharpens iron,â€ Pepple said. â€œItâ€™s great to have such a tough drill partner who is going to push you to be your best.â€
Outside of school Knapp loves to draw action pictures. Itâ€™s a talent not many know about. He is also an elementary school teaching assistant. He works one-on-one with children, and he said itâ€™s something he absolutely loves doing. As far as the future, he is still trying to decide what he wants to do.
â€œIâ€™m trying to decide on whether I want to wrestle in college or not,â€ Knapp said. â€œIâ€™d like to be a Force Recon Marine. Iâ€™ve dreamed about that my whole life. Itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve always wanted to do. Now I think, why not â€“ I have the tools.â€
Pepple plans to attend Indiana University where he wants to wrestle. He is either going into the medical field, business or education.
Pepple says the biggest turning point so far in his career was when he shattered his lower leg playing sharks and minnows in practice before his freshman season. He broke two bones, and had to have multiple screws put in along with a metal plate to stabilize it.
â€œI didnâ€™t know if Iâ€™d ever wrestle again,â€ he said. â€œBut I worked hard and came back. That showed me I can overcome anything.â€
Both wrestlers are hoping they can overcome all of the obstacles the state tournament presents, and stand together as state champions.
If you have a #WrestlingWednesday idea, please contact Jeremy Hines at email@example.com.
#WrestlingWednesday: Avon's Band of Brothers leading the way
By JEREMY HINES
The Avon wrestling team knows exactly where to look for inspiration as the season winds down and the state tournament draws near. The Orioles look to their own past.
Avon has learned first hand how wild and unpredictable the tournament can be. Wrestlers on the team have proven that it doesn’t matter if you win sectional, or regional. It doesn’t matter if you take some losses during the regular season. What matters most is surviving and advancing.
Avon senior Asa Garcia has epitomized that philosophy in his stellar career.
As a freshman Garcia lost to Ty Mills of rival Brownsburg in the sectional championship. Mills went on to beat him again in the regional, and then handed him a 5-0 loss in the semistate final. At state, however, Garcia was the one standing at the end. Mills lost to Warren Central’s Keyuan Murphy 9-2 in the semifinal round. Garcia pinned Murphy in the state championship to claim his first title.
Garcia had a fantastic sophomore year - winning sectional, regional and semistate, but he fell just short of his goal of back-to-back state titles, losing to eventual champion Alex Viduya in the state semifinal round. Garcia finished third that season.
As a junior Garcia again lost to Mills in sectional (2-0) and regional (5-1). In the semistate Columbus East’s Cayden Rooks handed Mills a semifinal defeat (1-0) and then dealt Garcia a loss in the semistate championship (3-1). But, like his freshman year, Garcia learned from his losses.
In the state finals Garcia ran through an absolute gauntlet of wrestling phenoms. He took out Beech Grove’s Ethan Smiley. He then faced Mills, who had dealt him so many previous losses. This time Garcia came out victorious 8-1.
In the championship, Garcia would once again take on Rooks - who had just beat him the week before. This time Garcia won the match 3-2 to claim his second title.
“Asa is really the heart and soul of our team,” Avon coach Zach Errett said. “As he goes, so does the team. He’s not afraid of losing. That’s really a quality that a lot of our guys have. You have to learn from your losses, and Asa has really shown he can do that.”
This year Avon has seven state-ranked wrestlers in the lineup. Garcia is No. 1 at 132 pounds this season and senior teammate Carson Brewer is ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds.
Asa’s younger brother, Blaze, a freshman, is currently ranked No. 12 at 106 for the Orioles. Sophomore Tyler Conley is ranked No. 10 at 120 and his older brother Nathan Conley (12) is ranked No. 4 at 152.
Junior Raymond Rioux is currently ranked No. 7 at 126. Sophomore Jaden Reynolds rounds out the ranked wrestlers for Avon, at No. 10 in he 138 pound weight class.
“Asa, Nathan and Carson really lead the way for us,” Errett said. “They are great leaders and they work hard. That shows the other kids what’s expected and what needs to be done in order to have success.”
Avon has three sets of brothers on the team in the Garcias, the Conleys and Jaden and Trae Reynolds. Trae, a senior, is injured and will miss the remainder of the season.
“Trae had been ranked for most of the year,” Errett said. “Then at team state he dislocated his elbow and is out for the year. I feel terrible for him. The type of kid he is, he will probably be first team academic all-state. He had either the highest or the second highest GPA in all of the juniors and seniors last year. He’s a phenomenal young man. He’s a hard worker. His senior year ended in the wrong way, but he still comes in the room and helps coach. He’s trying to help his teammates anyway he can. He’s been an awesome kid.”
For the last few years Avon has finished just behind Brownsburg in sectional and regional standings. The Orioles are hoping this year they can pull off the upset.
“Our goal is to win the IHSAA state title,” Errett said. “We know in order to do that we have to have a lot of things go right for us. In this sport, that’s unpredictable. But, we really feel we have a chance if everyone is wrestling their best.”
#MondayMatness: Current Adams Central team keeping up BAGUBAs tradition
By STEVE KRAH
When you grow up in the Adams Central Community Schools district and are inclined toward the wrestling mat, you begin dreaming about grappling for Adams Central Junior-Senior High School.
AC calls its athletic teams the Flying Jets. The wrestling team also goes by the acronym adopted by original head coach Barry Humble (1970-71 to 1990-91) — BAGUBA (Brutally Aggressive Guys Uninhibited By Adversity).
“It just means when you step on the mat, you have have a mindset of toughness, hard-nosed, gritty, tough wrestler,” says fifth-year Adams Central head coach Tony Currie. “You’re not going to back down and you’re not going to quit.”
AC wrestlers are taught to be mentally as well as physically strong. “Wrestling’s a tough sport,” says Currie. “It rarely goes just like you want it. You have to have that strong mind.
“We ask them to control the controllable — focus on you and what you can control.”
Senior 132-pounder Logan Mosser, a state qualifier at 120 in 2018, explains it.
“You have to stay focused on your goals and fight through it,” says Mosser, whose brother Anthony wrestled for AC and graduated in 2017 as a two-time state qualifier (113 in 2015 and 132 in 2017). “Remember why you’re there.”
Currie competed at the IHSAA State Finals his last three seasons wearing a singlet for the BAGUBAs — qualifier at 140 pounds in 1993, second at 145 in 1994 and third at 151 in 1995.
Since Jack Bersch in 1977, AC has produced 78 state qualifiers through 2018. The Jets have had at least one state qualifier every season except one. Troy Roe was a state champion at 105 in 1985. Besides Currie, Lynn Fletcher (112 in 1980), Ray Ashley (119 in 1984), Mark Griffiths (125 in 1990) and Andy Bertsch (135 in 1996) have been state runners-up. Adams Central has qualified for every Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals and won the 2018-19 Class 1A title in Fort Wayne, besting Prairie Heights 35-32 in the finals.
“It was a total team effort,” says Currie of AC’s third IHSWCA State Duals championship (the Jets also reigned in 2013 and 2015). “At the 1A level, every roster has three or four top-end guys. But it’s the depth. If you can run out a solid kid at every weight class, you can do well.”
Eighteen BAGUBAs competed for Adams Central and helped the team win four duals. Logan Mosser went 4-0 at 132, senior Jashawn Berlanga 3-0 at 220 and 1-0 at 285 and junior Paul Faurote 2-0 at 160 and 2-0 at 170. Fourteen others won at least one match.
Why have the Jets enjoyed success?
“A big part of that would be our coaches,” says Mosser. “All have good knowledge to spread around.”
Currie is assisted by Bobby Perry, Doug Linthicum and Doug Schultz. Volunteers include Hunter Bates, Aden Feasel, Brian Jordan and Zeke Schultz.
“(Currie) preaches hard about working hard in the practice room,” says Mosser. “It’s paying off on the mat.”
Parker Bates (170) credits experience for helping with this season’s accomplishments.
“We get really good senior leadership,” says Bates, one of 11 members of the Class of 2019 and the younger brother of 2016 graduate Hunter Bates (who placed eighth in the state at 152 as a senior and grappled two seasons at Wabash College). “They’ve grown up through the (Jet Wrestling Club, which currently includes about 75 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade).
“They’ve seen upperclassmen succeed and that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be the ones to let the town and community down. We wrestle as much for our fans and hometown as we do for our team. Our fans travel really well. It helps us a lot. It picks up the intensity and gets us more hyped-up for matches.”
Adams Central edged Jay County to win Allen County Athletic Conference tournament title. Weight class champions for the BAGUBAs were Mosser (33-1) at 132, senior Logan Macklin (20-3) at 145, Bates (26-1) at 170 and Berlanga (30-3) at 220.
AC’s IHSAA state tournament series path includes the Jan. 26 Jay County Sectional, Feb. 2 Jay County Regional and Feb. 9 Fort Wayne Semistate prior to the Feb. 15-16 State Finals.
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#MondayMatness: From deaf slave to Warsaw wrestler, Linky has taken quite a journey
By STEVE KRAH
Real adversity meets opportunity.
That’s the story of Jacob Linky.
The wrestling room at Warsaw Community High School is filled with pulsing music and coaches barking instructions as more than three dozen Tigers get after it.
One wrestler — junior Linky — goes through the workout, rehearsing his moves with his workout partner, cranking out pull-ups and running laps around the room.
But without the sounds heard by the others.
Linky lives in a world that is mostly silent.
Without his cochlear implants, Linky can’t hear much of anything.
There was one incident where smoke alarms went off all over the house where Jacob now resides with Nrian and Brenda Linky. It was 3 a.m.
“Jacob slept through the alarm,” says Brian Linky, Jacob’s legal guardian. “I woke him in the morning.”
The young man was not born deaf.
Now 18, Jacob was about 5 and in native Africa — Lake Volta, Ghana, to be exact — when he lost his hearing at the hands of his father.
“We were slaves,” says Jacob, speaking of his early childhood through interpreter Rebecca Black. “We helped my dad in his fishing business.
“I didn’t used to be deaf. My dad hit by head a whole bunch. That’s how I became the way I am.”
His father demanded that young Jacob dive into very deep waters full of dangerous creatures.
“I felt a pop in my ears,” says Jacob. “I was a kid.”
His native language was Twi, but he didn’t hear much that after his hearing was gone.
Growing up the second oldest of seven children, Jacob has a brother who was born to another family, rejected and traded to his father.
It was a life that is difficult to imagine for those in the U.S.
“My mom didn’t do anything wrong,” says Jacob. “She fed me.”
Wanting the best for Jacob, his mother placed him in an orphanage. He eventually came to live in Warsaw when he was adopted by Andy and Dawn Marie Bass and began attending the fifth grade at Jefferson Elementary in Warsaw. He received hearing aids and then implants.
“I’m thankful the Basses adopted me and brought me here,” says Jacob.
“I now live with the Linky family.”
Following grade school, Jacob went on to Edgewood Middle School in Warsaw and was introduced to wrestling.
“I knew nothing (about the sport),” says Jacob. “I played around.”
Drive and athletic prowess allow Jacob to excel on the high school mat.
“At times his feisty side comes out because of that past,” says Warsaw head coach Kris Hueber. “He’s channeled it well and we’ve been able to harness well most of the time.
“He has days where he is cranky and fired up, You know that he’s drawing from stuff that no one else has.”
After missing his freshmen season, Jacob made an impact with the Tigers as a 145-pound sophomore, advancing to the East Chicago Semistate.
“This year, I’d like to go all the way to State,” says Jacob, who spent the summer pumping iron and continues to eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and protein while packing more muscle on a 5-foot-7, 160-pound frame.
“(Jacob) fell in love with the weight room,” says Hueber. “There is not much on him that is not muscular. He’s one of those guys with his energy level he needs to be active. As an athlete, he is a remarkably gifted human being. He’s able to do things no one else in the room can do. Between strength, balance and agility, he is uniquely gifted.”
Ask Jacob what his best quality is as a wrestler and says speed. His quickness and and strength come into play in the practice room with larger practice partners — 170-pound Brandon Estepp, 182-pound junior Mario Cortes and 195-pound senior Brock Hueber.
“I don’t like to wrestle light persons,” says Jacob. “It makes me work hard to wrestle the big guys.”
Warsaw opened the 2019-20 season Saturday with the Warsaw Invitational and Jacob went 5-0 with four pins.
Sign language and lip-reading help him navigate life as a teenager and athlete. When Jacob wrestles, Black circles the mat to maintain eye contact and relay information to him.
“She always looks where my head is,” says Jacob. “She always gets sweaty.”
Who gets sweatier during a match? “Me,” says Jacob, thrusting a thumb at his chest. “I’m a harder worker.”
Black has been around Jacob since he was in eighth grade.
“I feel privileged to be involved in his life,” says Black. “He’s an amazing person. He just is.”
Hueber has come to appreciate that Jacob has the ability to be both competitive and light-hearted.
“He’s ornery still, but in a good way,” says Hueber. “He has not been able to out-grow being a kid. I love that.”
While Jacob’s background and circumstance are different than his Tiger mates, Hueber says he’s “just one of the guys.”
“(They) don’t treat him differently in any way,” says Hueber. “They love being around him because of his charisma and personality. He’s a really great teammate.”
Hueber says working with Jacob has helped others recognize their influence.
“They might be able to goof off for two minutes and snap right back,” says Hueber. “If (Jacob) misses one line of communication, there’s a lot that he’s got to recover from.”
This means that workout partners need to be focused and attentive as well — not just for themselves but to also help Jacob. Hueber notes that Jacob has to concentrate and keep focused on his interpreter in class (his current favorite class in English and he is looking forward to Building Trades in the future) and practice.
“There are probably times when he’s looking for a break,” says Hueber.
“He’s on and he’s full-wired all day. That’s taxing mentally for sure.”
Brian Linky works in payment processing at PayProTec in Warsaw and Brenda Linky is the special needs coordinator for Warsaw Community Schools. The Linkys have two sons who played basketball at Warsaw — Zack (now 28 and living in Calfiornia) and Ben (now 22 and attending Indiana University).
Taking in Jacob means they have a teenager in the house again.
“He’s been nothing but polite,” says Brian Linky. “He’s hard-working around the house (mowing the lawn, making his bed, walking the dog and cooking his own meals). He has friends over. He’s very happy.”
As for the future, Jacob is considering joining the football team next year (he has never played the sport). He turns 19 in May.
A brother, Christian, lives in Virginia and communicates with Jacob and family in Africa through text.
“We’re going to save up so we can visit our parents in Africa,” says Jacob.
Right now, he is doing life as an Indiana teenager and wrestling is a big part of it.
Real adversity meets opportunity.
#WrestlingWednesday: Bellemy looking to make an impact in the Hoosier State
By JEREMY HINES
LeVon Bellemy isn’t running – he’s surviving.
He’s surviving a life growing up in one of the most dangerous parts of the country, Davenport, Iowa – part of the notorious Quad City area. He’s surviving a life where his family either ends up in prison or shot – and sometimes both. He’s surviving, because that’s what he does.
He’s not running, he’s fighting. He’s fighting to show a person can overcome circumstance. He’s fighting to show there is hope. Sometimes the greatest warriors are the ones that can travel the more difficult road and escape their demons. That’s what Bellemy is doing – and that’s how he ended up in Ellettsville, population 6,677.
When asked what he is trying to overcome, Bellemy says simply “everything.”
Bellemy’s story is a unique one. His athletic ability has saved him time and time again back in Davenport, as has the guidance of family, particularly his uncle Clyde Mayfield. Uncle Clyde gave LeVona job in his health food store – and he made sure LeVon knew the value of hard work and discipline. Under Clyde’s direction, Bellemy excelled in school and athletics.
In Davenport, with a crime rate 116 percent higher than the national average, hard work and discipline wasn’t quite enough. When LeVon's brother was shot in May, something had to change. That’s when his cousin, Pauli Escebedo stepped in and offered Bellemy an escape. LeVon moved to Ellettsville to live with Pauli and her husband, Indiana wrestling coach Angel Escebedo.
“They have been great to me,” Bellemy said. “Angel is a good guy who is trying to better me. He lets me know what I’m doing wrong and right.”
When Bellemy moved to Indiana, sports were an afterthought.
“I was focused on getting out of there and finding something better,” he said. “Things got hectic at home, and very bad for me there. I wasn’t worried about football or wrestling. I was worried about getting out.”
Bellemy has made an immediate impact on Edgewood High School. As a star running back he rushed for over 1,700 yards and scored 27 touchdowns this season. Edgewood improved from 3-7 last year and 1-9 the year before that to finish with a record of 8-4 in 2018.
“I can’t think of a more opposite place for LeVon to land,” Edgewood wrestling coach Greg Ratliff said. “He’s going from Davenport to Ellettsville. It is a small town. Everyone knows everyone else. The second LeVon got here the rumors started swirling about who he was. Everyone wanted to meet the new guy.
“Both the wrestling and the football team got to know him quickly and made him feel at home. We let him know that here, he is family. He has fit in extremely quickly.”
Football is Bellemy’s first love. He’s getting Division I college looks and plans to play at the next level. But, Bellemy is also a gifted wrestler.
Bellemy wrestled as a freshman in Iowa, but then decided to try his hand at basketball as a sophomore.
“I hated basketball,” he said. “I knew I had to go back to wrestling. Wrestling is football without the ball. It helps you so much with football, as far as mentally and physically. Mentally you are the toughest kid on the block if you wrestle. Wrestling gets your mind right. It teaches you not to give up. Physically, with the double leg and the driving through people, it helps you tackle and run over people.”
Bellemy returned to the mat for his junior season. He ended up placing seventh in Iowa’s biggest class in the state tournament.
“My goal in Indiana is to win state,” Bellemy said. “That’s my only goal in wrestling. I’ve been doing my research. I’ve been studying the competition.”
Ratliff can see that happening.
“He is a pure dynamite athlete, honestly,” Ratliff said. “I got to see a little bit of him wrestling this summer. Sometimes I was thinking, man, this kid is wrestling against LeVon well, but then I would look at the scoreboard and see LeVon would be up 10 points or more. He’s explosive. I’m yelling for him to just get an escape before a period ends, and before you know it he’s getting a reversal and nearfall points.”
Daily life in Ellettsville is a lot different than what Bellemy was used to in Davenport.
“The thing to do here is to sit in the IGA grocery store parking lot and talk,” he said. “That’s really the main thing we do. We sit in that parking lot for hours and talk. In the summer we will go swimming, but other than that – that’s all we do.
“Ellettsville is a small town. There is a big difference with the people and how they act. It’s a whole new atmosphere. There are no negatives around here.”
But, for as much as LeVon needed Edgewood, Edgewood has needed LeVon.
“He gets along with everyone here,” Ratliff said. “He can talk to anyone. He talks to the athletes, the band students and those not involved with anything. He is a positive influence on everyone he comes in contact with. He’s a hard worker and others see that. They see how he can overcome anything and be a success. That motivates everyone.”
LeVon didn’t run away from Davenport because he feared the fight. In fact, his family talked him into leaving because they knew that’s exactly what he would want to do – fight for his family. His family told him that to win the fight, he had to get away.
“I feel like I have to succeed,” Bellemy said. “I know the situation my family at home is still in. My only way out is through school and sports. It drives me every single day. I have nothing to do but find the best way to provide for my family and fight for them.”
#MondayMatness: Hobart's Black persists through adversity
By STEVE KRAH
Brendan Black has learned to deal with adversity during his many years on the mat and itâ€™s made him a better wrestler.
Now a Hobart High School senior, Black was introduced to the sport at 3.
In his third season of competition, he made it to the freestyle state finals.
â€œI completely got my butt whipped,â€ Black, the Indiana University verbal commit, said. â€œIt was bad.â€
By third grade, Black placed third at the same tournament and has ascended from there.
Even the rare setbacks have helped him.
â€œEvery time Iâ€™ve gotten a bad loss, itâ€™s made me want to work harder and get better,â€ Black said. â€œWhen I lost to (Griffithâ€™s) Jeremiah Reitz my sophomore year, I can tell that every time I lost to him, I was back in the gym right after the tournament. I did not take a break. I was so mad at myself.â€
So Black got back at it, drilling his moves, lifting weights and building up his cardiovascular system.
â€œAs long as Iâ€™m getting something in, I feel that is bettering me,â€ Black said. â€œAs a senior, Iâ€™ve gotten a lot stronger and Iâ€™ve just been putting in the work. If I lose right now itâ€™s not going to affect me. Itâ€™ll show me where I need to put work in.â€
A two-time freestyle state champion, Black said that kind of wrestling has made him better in positioning.
â€œ(Freestyle) helps me on my feet,â€ Black said. â€œIâ€™ve always been a good wrestler on top and bottom. On my feet was my downfall.
â€œIn freestyle, if you donâ€™t turn them within 10 seconds, they put you right up to your feet.â€
The athlete who has added muscle definition since last winter has already been on the IHSAA State Finals mats three times, placing third at 132 at a junior in 2016, qualifying at 120 as a sophomore in 2015 and finishing eighth at 120 as a freshman in 2014.
Among his key wins in 2016-17 are a pin of Merrillville junior Griggs and decisions against Bloomington South sophomore Derek Blubaugh and Portage junior Kris Rumph.
Black went into Mishawakaâ€™s Al Smith Classic ranked No. 1 in Indiana at 138. An injury caused him to forfeit in the semifinals and he was held out of the recent Lake County Tournament at Hanover Central. He is expected to be back for the Brickies in the postseason.
Hobart head coach Alex Ramos, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, sees Black as both tenacious and savvy as a wrestler.
â€œHe never gives up,â€ Ramos said. â€œHe goes out there knowing heâ€™s going to be in a six-minute fight and he treats it like that every time.
â€œI donâ€™t think he undervalues any opponent. Heâ€™s always got his head in the right place.â€
Scrapping in practice each day with teammates and coaches up to 170 pounds, Black has stood up to many mat challenges.
â€œGetting beat down does make you better,â€ Ramos said. â€œYouâ€™ve got to see where your limit is and figure out how to push past it. I think (Brendan) tries that every day.
â€œHe pushes himself to that limit so he can become a better wrestler, a better person.â€
Black, an honor roll student, is still searching for a college. He wants to pursue a degree in construction management with the goal of owning his own construction company.
He has served as an apprentice to his uncle and is currently interning on the construction crew at Hobart Middle School.
â€œI canâ€™t sit behind a desk all day,â€ Black said. â€œI want to work with my hands and out doing something. Constructionâ€™s the way to go for me.â€
The current Hobart High team is built from a foundation started in the Hobart Wrestling Club â€” annually one of the biggest wrestling organization in Indiana â€” around second or third grade.
â€œThey figure it out early,â€ Ramos said. â€œThey donâ€™t come back if they donâ€™t enjoy it. So we find those wrestlers that really love the sport.
â€œThereâ€™s excitement. We started elementary duals this year.â€
A psychology teacher at Hobart, Ramos believes that he and his assistants should serve as role models for their wrestlers and wants his young athletes to learn life lessons.
â€œIf I can learn from the classroom and take it out on the mat, I will,â€ Ramos said. â€œI can promise you that.â€
Ramos, who takes over the lead roll on the Hobart coaching staff from IHSWCA Hall of Famer Steve Balash, was a two-time state champion (119 in 1999 and 125 in 2000) for the Brickies and held school records for pins (143) and wins (148) at the start of 2016-17. Ramos wrestled two seasons at Purdue University.
Expectations are always set high at Hobart â€” higher than the athlete even thinks they can achieve.
â€œOne thing we always preach in our program that itâ€™s not just about on the mat,â€ Ramos said. â€œWrestling is one of the most transferable sports. What you learn in the room â€” to never give up, find your breaking point and push past it.â€
#WrestlingWednesday Feature: Bane Building Upon Last Year's Success
Brought to you by EI Sports
By JEREMY HINES
In a matter of seconds, Richmondâ€™s Alston Bane caught the attention of the Indiana wrestling community.
Last season Bane entered the state tournament as a relative unknown. He was ranked 18th at the time of the tournament. He advanced to state with a fourth place finish in the New Castle semistate, a tournament in which he was pinned by Trent Pruitt and he lost a decision to Evan Smiley.
His Friday night draw didnâ€™t seem favorable. He had to go up against the No. 2-ranked grappler in the 145 pound weight class in Yorktownâ€™s Cael McCormick. But Bane loved the draw.
â€œI had wrestled Cael several times when we were younger,â€ Bane said. â€œHe beat me in Greco each time, but anytime we wrestled and I could touch his legs, I beat him. So I had a lot of confidence going up against him.â€
Bane ended up scoring a last-second takedown with his signature dump move to beat McCormick 4-3.
He wasnâ€™t done quite yet. He went on to knock off No. 5-ranked Blake Jourdan and then avenged two earlier losses to Smiley, the No. 4-ranked guy in the weight class, to take third at state.
Baneâ€™s only loss at Bankerâ€™s Life Arena was to eventual state champion Jacob Covaciu in a close 4-2 affair.
Baneâ€™s third place finish was better than anyone else from the New Castle semistate in that weight class.
Now, a year later, a lot more people know about Alston Bane. He has bumped up to the 160-pound weight class where he is currently ranked No. 2 behind only Covaciu.
â€œPeople knew me before the state tournament last year,â€ Bane said. â€œBut I never really got a lot of recognition. A lot of people didnâ€™t see me as a threat. Now this year I have a little bit more of a target on my back.â€
Last season there was a question as to whether Bane would even be able to wrestle in the state tournament. He tore the meniscus in his knee and had to miss the North Central Conference tournament.
â€œThat was very tough on me, mentally,â€ Bane said. â€œI knew as soon as it happened what it was. It was my third time doing it. I tore the meniscus once on my left knee and it was the second time on my right knee. I couldnâ€™t walk. I was crying as I was sitting on the trainerâ€™s bench and then my dad (Richmond coach Jeremy Bane) came over and when he saw me he started tearing up, too.â€
Bane knew he had to force himself to recover, and quickly if he wanted any shot at wrestling come sectional time.
â€œI really worked hard and pushed to get my leg where I could walk on it and get stability,â€ Bane said. â€œI sat out of the NCC meet, but mentally I knew I just had to push through the pain and get my strength back.â€
The recovery process, and then his dramatic run through the state tournament have helped Bane to be much more confident this season. He believes thatâ€™s the biggest difference for him between last year and this year.
â€œMy confidence has improved a lot,â€ he said. â€œThat is a huge factor for me. I really feel now, especially after state last year, that I can wrestle with anyone.â€
Coach Bane can see the change as well.
â€œThe big thing for Alston now is his confidence and his belief in himself,â€ Jeremy Bane said.
Alston grew up wrestling with some of Indianaâ€™s elite wrestlers. He and Chad Red are good friends dating back to when they were in elementary school wrestling tournaments together. Jeremy and Chad Red Sr., coached together at Red Cobra and Lawrence Central.
â€œWe have some of the kids that we coached that are really good at the high school level now,â€ Jeremy said. â€œAlston grew up with Chad, Brayton Lee, Blake Rypel and a few others. They are all very successful now.â€
Bane, a junior, recently won his 100th match. It was one of several goals he has for himself, which culminates in winning a state championship.
Eventually Bane would like to wrestle in college. Heâ€™s a two-sport athlete who stands out on the football field for the Red Devil defense.
As a sophomore Bane recorded 67 tackles and had eight interceptions. This season he moved to strong safety and finished with 88 tackles and an interception.
â€œIâ€™ve talked to a lot of college coaches and Iâ€™ve went to so many wrestling camps,â€ Alston said. â€œCoaches make it clear that they really like kids that play multiple sports. I love being competitive and football helps me do that, and plus itâ€™s a lot of fun to play.â€
Bane finds himself having to alter his style slightly to deal with the stronger opponents he is facing this year in the 160-pound class. He tries to utilize his technique and speed more than relying on his strength.
â€œHe has unbelievable grip strength though,â€ coach Bane said. â€œHe isnâ€™t going to get outmuscled by many guys.â€
Coach Bane says that guys wrestle Alston differently this season, now that they know more about him.
â€œWe see a lot of the better wrestlers wrestling Alston with a more defensive approach,â€ Jeremy said. â€œThey try to take away his offense and they look for certain moves. But he has several ways to score the takedown and heâ€™s been pretty successful.â€
Bane is currently undefeated on the season. His closest match came in the New Castle Invitational against Lawrenceburgâ€™s No. 7-ranked Jake Ruberg. Bane won the contest 4-3 in double overtime.
â€œWe have almost identical styles,â€ Bane said. â€œSo those matches are very close.â€
Bane is currently wrestling in Spartan Classic at Connersville. This is a tournament he has never won. He was third as a freshman and lost last year to Evan Smiley.
#WrestlingWednesday: Dunasky looking to be the Golden Eagles' first state qualifier
By JEREMY HINES
Guerin Catholic has had a wrestling program for 15 years. Senior Jeff Dunasky is hoping to finally give the program its first state qualifier.
Dunasky has already accomplished many firsts for the Golden Eagles. He’s the first sectional champion the school has had in wrestling. He’s the first two-time sectional champion. He’s the first Circle City Conference champion. But, being the first state qualifier would be the icing on the cake for the Guerin senior.
“I want to do something nobody else has ever done from our school,” Dunasky said. “It would mean so much to me. It would be the reward for all the hard work I’ve put in. All the weight cutting. All the grinding out of hard tournaments. But it wouldn’t just be for me. It would be an accomplishment for my coaches and my practice partners as well. It would be something for the whole school.”
Last season Dunasky fell just short of earning a trip to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse for the state finals. He lost in the ticket round of the New Castle semistate to Warren Central’s Antwaun Graves.
“Last year when Jeff lost in the ticket round, the next Monday he was back in the room hungry to get better,” Guerin coach Andrew Fleenor said. “We watched the state finals the next week and then he wrestled at the Indy Nationals that next weekend. He went everywhere during the offseason. He made Team Indiana. He went to Fargo. He did the Disney Duals. He wrestled several places with the Indiana Outlaws. We were in Brownsburg’s room quite a bit. He trained a lot at Carmel USA with Coach Pendoski. He pushed himself to get better.”
On the mat Dunasky likes to push the pace. He is a takedown artist and has great conditioning. That has helped him climb to the No. 9 spot in the 145 rankings this season.
“He’s quick,” Fleenor said. “He pushes the pace. He has over 500 takedowns in four years. He’s really good on his feet.”
Dunasky agrees with his coach’s assessment.
“I would describe myself as fast-paced and a little bit funky,” Dunasky said. “I am comfortable in awkward situations and I like to use that to my advantage. I go hard and enjoy pushing the pace.”
Dunasky’s favorite wrestling moment in his career so far was winning his first sectional title two years ago.
“That was our school’s first sectional title,” Dunasky said. “It was a big moment for us. It was very memorable. I had people in the school and in the community congratulating me and saying they were proud of me. That really fired me up to get better. I feel like positive reinforcement leads to positive results. That’s why I really started pushing myself even harder.”
In the wrestling room Dunasky often times acts as another coach in the room, helping the younger wrestlers understand moves and wrestling philosophy.
“He definitely fills the leadership role on our team,” Fleenor said. “It’s like having another coach in the room. The team follows his lead, for sure. Without a doubt he sets the tone for our team.”
In addition to chasing the dream of being a state qualifier, Dunasky wants to leave his legacy at Guerin Catholic. He says his faith is the most important thing, but he also wants people to know that hard work can pay off.
“Jeff will be the most decorated wrestler to ever come through our program,” Fleenor said. “He will leave a legacy that other kids will strive for. He’s 114-32. He’s a two-time section champ, three time regional qualifier, two-time semistate qualifier. He won the Mooresville Holiday tournament twice. He’s our first ever conference champion and he won the Robert Porter Invite in Chicago this year.”
Off the mat Dunasky likes to dabble in many things. He enjoys playing video games, rock climbing and even ice skating.
“There are a lot of things to life outside of wrestling and I like to explore all those things,” he said.
When it comes to his future, he plans on going to college although he’s not certain if he will wrestle or not. He does want to stay involved in the sport. Like is the case with his hobbies, he also has several interests for his possible career. He has considered agriculture, criminal law or even something in technology.
“I have a lot of interests and it’s really hard to narrow those down.
#MondayMatness: Hildebrandts Working Towards the Top of the Podium
By STEVE KRAH
A bond shared between siblings is a big part of why they are among the top wrestlers in their realm â€” big sister at the national and international level and little brother near the top of the high school pinnacle.
Sarah Hildebrandt, 22, is a member of Team USA and trying to earn a spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 2011 Penn High School graduate, just completed a national team training camp in Iowa City, Iowa, the site of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling on April 9-10. She is among those going for spots at 53 kg (116.8 pounds).
Drew Hildebrandt, 18, is coming off a runner-up IHSAA State Finals finish at 113 pounds and a key role in Pennâ€™s 2014-15 team state championship. Now a senior, the Central Michigan University-bound grappler is currently ranked No. 1 in his weight class in Indiana at 120 and was just named MVP of the Northern Indiana Conference for the NIC team champions.
Sarah will have an overseas tour and a few tournaments leading up to the Olympic Trials. One is scheduled for the weekend of the IHSAA State Finals, Feb. 19-20, in Indianapolis.
â€œYo! Iâ€™m not going to that,â€ Sarah stated emphatically while visiting family for the holidays and watching her brother compete during break from training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. â€œIâ€™ve got to see my little brother.â€
Sarah, who got to coach from the corner at Mishawaka High School while her bro won an Al Smith Classic title in late December, is close to all her family members (Chris and Nancy have four children â€” Cory, Sarah, Amy and Drew).
But the lofty wrestling goals and shared mat experiences have brought Sarah and Drew even closer.
â€œWe keep in touch (texts and phone calls etc.),â€ Sarah said. â€œWe send each other silly stuff all the time. But before a competition, he will say, â€˜I love you. Youâ€™re a beast.â€™ Drew knows I can do this. Heâ€™s been in this position. He trains with me. He knows me.
â€œI love to hear from him . Heâ€™ll say, â€˜Sarah, youâ€™ve got this. Keep going.â€™ At the end of the tournament, heâ€™ll say â€˜Iâ€™m so proud of you.â€™â€
Through training and listening, Drew has benefitted from Sarahâ€™s experience as a top grappler at King University and with the national team.
Drew has adopted Sarahâ€™s front headlock and slide-by to his bag of tricks.
â€œPeople say, â€˜you have a nasty slide-byâ€™ and I say, â€˜I learned it from my sister,â€™â€ Drew said.
As a wrestler elementary school, Drew would get almost sick from anxiety before every match. With plenty of time in the spotlight since, that is no longer an issue.
But Drew and Sarah do have anxious moments.
â€œWhen sheâ€™s wrestling, Iâ€™m twice as nervous as when Iâ€™m wrestling and when Iâ€™m wrestling, sheâ€™s twice as nervous,â€ Drew said.
On breaks from the national team â€” like the one in December â€” Sarah came into the practice room and shared her knowledge with all the Kingsmen, including head coach Brad Harper and his staff.
â€œWith the moves she shows us, she really focuses on the little things,â€ Drew said. â€œItâ€™s more about the neutral position since she really doesnâ€™t do bottom of top.â€
Harper, who started at Penn the same season as Sarah in 2007-08, appreciates the technician that she has become.
â€œI told her back then that if she was going compete against boys, her technique and positioning had to be perfect,â€ Harper said. â€œShe has taken that to heart. It has shown. She has even taken it to the next level.â€
Harper, a former standout at Mishawaka High School and Purdue University who has continued to coach Sarah past her high school days, said attention to detail is what she will need to have to earn a spot for Rio.
â€œItâ€™s about a lot of reps and a lot of practice and knowing youâ€™re ready,â€ Harper said. â€œItâ€™s hitting things over and over and over. That makes her makes her a great technician. She realizes her weaknesses and strengths.â€
Sarah said its her perfectionist tendencies that help her make adjustments and gives her confidence on the mat.
â€œI love to just drill,â€ Sarah said. â€œEverybody knows I have a headlock and everybody knows I have a slide-by. Everyone in the country knows and people on the other side of the world know. But they donâ€™t know the corrections I am making.â€
Sarah has also worked on her quickness.
â€œI am a very heavy-footed wrestler,â€ Sarah said. â€œIâ€™ve really focused on moving my feet, elevating the pace and moving in and out. The first time I executed it, people came up to me and said, â€˜wow! you look like a different wrestler.â€™â€
Making Sarah and other Penn athletes better wrestlers is what Harper strives to do, not only with the teaching of technique, but with his encouragement.
â€œThatâ€™s my secret sauce, itâ€™s all about motivation,â€ Harper said. â€œI try to keep them focused on the ultimate goal.â€
With his current Penn grapplers â€” like Drew â€” that goal is individual and team championships.
For Sarah, itâ€™s an Olympic dream.
Harper, who was in Las Vegas on a Friday night when Sarah qualified for the Olympic Trials and with his Penn team the next morning for a tournament in early December, likes to send motivational quotes.
A recent one to the Hildebrandts came from legendary Alabama football coach Paul â€œBearâ€ Bryant.
The quote read: â€œItâ€™s not the will to win that matters â€” everyone has that. Itâ€™s the will to prepare to win that matters.â€
The Harpers know Sarah as an athlete, but are very close with the whole Hildebrandt family. Sarah, best friend and national team training partner Jenna (Burkert) Lowry and others could be seen with Brad and wife Christinaâ€™s daughter and son â€” Mackenzie, 2, and Deuel, 5 months â€” at the Al Smith Classic.
As a motivator and accountability partner, Harper watches film of Sarah and gives pointers. He talks to her about her diet (she has gone down a weight class), her training and her mental game.
â€œWe talk everyday,â€ Sarah said. â€œHeâ€™ll ask me, â€˜have you visualized today?â€™â€
Dropping down to 53 kg (about four pounds lighter than her previous class and her lowest weight since high school), Sarah made a total change to her routine.
â€œI took the cut very, very seriously,â€ Sarah said. â€œI probably started three months out. I complete changed my diet, my cardio and my lifting.â€
She continued with wrestling workouts five days a week (twice a day three times) and went from 20 to 40 minutes of running on the treadmill and a sauna session each day.
Then a funny thing happened.
â€œThe day of weigh-in, I was being nice to people. It was a whole new experience,â€ Sarah said. â€œ(When cutting weight,) I can get a little cranky. I love being down at the other weight. I feel like I can move better.â€
While running back in northern Indiana, she noticed how training at 6,000 feet above sea level in Colorado helps.
â€œI was running 2 to 3 mph faster here,â€ Sarah said.
It has been quite a run for the Hildebrandts and that run still has miles to go.
Here is a link to a previous story on Sarah Hildebrandt
#WrestlingWednesday: Hall is back for more as a sophomore
By JEREMY HINES
In a town named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, a new wrestling star is rising in the south east corner of Indiana.
South Dearborn sophomore Bryer Hall was a relative unknown last season. He put together a successful freshman season, and by the end of the year had worked his way up to No. 16 in the state rankings at 126 pounds. When the state tournament rolled around, people started to take notice of the newcomer.
Hall rolled through his sectional as a freshman, winning every match by pin. He was just as dominant in the Richmond regional. He won his first round with a pin in just over a minute. In the second round he took on ranked senior Trevor Ragle (47-4) and pinned him in just 1:09. Then, in the final he went up against another talented wrestler in Centerville freshman Gabe Phillips, who is currently undefeated on the year and ranked No. 5 at 138. Just a little over two minutes into the match Hall injured Phillips shoulder, and Phillips was unable to go on. That injury ended the season for Phillips.
Then, to start out the semistate, Hall injured another wrestler with almost the same move. It wasn’t anything intentional, but the injuries rattled Hall.
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” Hall said. “It was upsetting that I ruined someone’s season and they could have went pretty far in the tournament. I thought it would be tough to go back and use the move because I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. But once I started wrestling again, instincts just took over and I had to get that thought out of my mind.”
Hall won his ticket round semistate match 16-8 and then secured his biggest victory of his young career. He defeated former state champion Alec Viduya 11-5 to advance to the semistate championship.
“We were hopeful that Bryer could get to state as a freshman,” South Deaerborn coach George Gardner said. “But we thought it might be a long shot when he had to go up against returning state champion Alec Viduya. But Bryer really took it to him in that match and handled that match much better than I thought he would.”
Hall didn’t have enough in the tank to defeat Ethan Smiley in the final, who cruised to an 11-2 victory.
Hall ended up placing sixth in state. He had wins over Kyle Lawson and Brycen Denny, but lost big to Cayden Rooks (tech fall) and Christian Meija (17-5).
This season Hall is hoping to not have those big letdowns.
“He ran out of gas in the semistate,” Gardner said. “Hopefully that won’t happen again.
This year Hall is undefeated. He has stepped on the mat 33 times and each time had his hand raised in victory. He has moved up three weight classes and is currently ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds.
“It felt pretty good to get noticed in the rankings for my hard work,” Hall said.
Hall’s style of wrestling is difficult for others to scout. He calls himself a funky wrestler.
“I am hard to figure out,” Hall said. “I’m just naturally funky. I move where my hips feel they should go.”
That funkiness is especially helpful in scramble situations.
“Bryer is a tremendous scrambler,” Gardner said. “He doesn’t have a signature takedown. He just makes things happen. He’s really hard to scout because he doesn’t do the same thing very often.”
Hall could potentially see Warren Central’s Antwaun Graves in the New Castle semistate semifinal. If so, that is a match that could be particularly interesting. Hall won the regular season battle 4-3.
“Anything can happen Saturday,” Gardner said. “He has to go out and wrestle his best each match.”
Hall said his biggest wrestling accomplishment so far was placing fourth at Fargo over the summer at 138 pounds. He is hoping to top that with a state title this year.
“My goal is to go undefeated and win state,” Hall said. “Last year I was nervous. This year I’m coming in a lot more confident.”
#MondayMatness: Shawn Streck Won't Stop Working
By STEVE KRAH
Shawn Streck has gotten used to climbing to the top of the podium.
Streck (@S_streck95 on Twitter) was a junior high state champion in Indiana as a seventh grader. As a Merrillville High School junior, he went 46-0 and reigned among Indiana High School Athletic Association heavyweights, pinning Richmond senior Nathon Trawick in the finals.
As a sophomore, Streck placed third in the state. He was seventh as a freshman. He has been a heavyweight his whole high school career.
Now bound for Purdue University for both wrestling and football, Streck likes the view from on high and the 6-foot-3, 270-pounder wants to keep that vantage point.
So he keeps working as he keeps bulldozing opponents at the start of his senior season.
Advice from Merrillville coach David Maldonado rings in Streckâ€™s ears.
â€œHe says if you donâ€™t always look to get better, youâ€™re going to get beat,â€ Streck said during a break at the LaPorte Invitational where he helped the Pirates go 5-0 on Saturday, Dec. 5. â€œI just think about that everyday. If I donâ€™t get better, someoneâ€™s going to catch up to me and Iâ€™m not going to be at the top anymore.
â€œDonâ€™t look past anybody and keep working.â€
With his credentials, Streck is likely to get the best every opponent has to give.
â€œIâ€™m sure there is a target on my back, but I donâ€™t think about that and just go out and wrestle my match,â€ Streck said.
Maldonado reminds Streck that there are other heavyweights in Indiana with plenty of ability so he needs to stay humble and keep improving.
â€œHeâ€™s got to stay humble,â€ Maldonado said. â€œHeâ€™s had success for so long. If he doesnâ€™t continue to work, someone is going to catch him. Itâ€™s about staying focused and staying grounded.â€
That means that Streck, who moves more like a 160-pounder than a heavyweight, keeps working on his shots, changing levels, heavy hands, conditioning and his ability to break down an opponent.
While Streck is a good enough student that he plans to major in biology at Purdue with sights on a future career in the medical field, he also has the smarts on the mat.
â€œHeâ€™s got a real good wrestling IQ,â€ Maldonado said. â€œHe knows what to do in certain positions. Thatâ€™s huge, especially in high school athletics. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
â€œHeâ€™s very coachable. I can tell him what he needs to do and he does it.â€
Maldonado said it will be Streckâ€™s work ethic that helps him tackle tasks like being a college student plus a two-sport athlete on the NCAA Division I level.
Early in the recruiting process, Streck built a relationship with wrestling and football staffs in Boiler Nation. He will also have a long-time friend with similar goals as a roommate.
Penn senior Kobe Woods, the IHSAA 220-pound champion as a junior in 2014-15, plans to wrestle and may also play football at Purdue. Streck and Woods have known each other throughout high school and have been Team Indiana teammates.
On the football field for Merrillville this fall, Streck spent his fourth season as a defensive tackle. He also filled a need for the Class 6A Pirates (7-5) when he also played center on offense.
Streck said he prefers the defensive side of the ball.
â€œOn defense, you can get there and get nasty and make big plays,â€ Streck said.
Streck likes to be a playmaker.
He likes to make things happen.
He lives the view from he top.
#WrestlingWednesday: Filipovich looking to be Lutheran's first state qualifier
By JEREMY HINES
When it’s time to step on the mat “Flip” flips the switch and goes to work. When the match is done, he flips back to being one of the nicest guys around.
Sure, Indianapolis Lutheran junior Hayden Filipovich got his nickname, in part, because of his last name. But those who know the 182-pounder best knows he can turn into a monster when he’s wrestling.
“We call him Flip,” Lutheran coach Greg Hughes said. “He certainly flips the switch on the mat. He is one of those magical kids that can go toe-to-toe with anyone. He’s relentless. He’s fearless. But, as soon as the match is over, he’s a class act. He’s a great kid, a smart, personable kid and a great leader with an infectious personality.”
Filipovich is currently ranked No. 9 in the 182-pound class. Last year he advanced to the ticket round of the New Castle semistate before falling to J.D. Farrell of Fishers 5-2. That match has fueled Filipovich to push harder this year.
“He wishes he had that ticket round match back,” Hughes said. “It came down to who was going to have that edge. I think he approached that match differently than normal. We have really focused on treating every match the same this year – whether it be a big match or an insignificant one. We don’t want him holding it back and playing safe this year. Every match he needs to go in and just let it rip. This year he puts his foot on the line and goes. All year we’ve focused on this.”
Filipovich worked out all summer with that loss in mind.
“I made a lot of mistakes in the ticket round match,” he said. “I had a lot of nerves going. But, it motivated me to get better and push harder.”
Lutheran is one of the smallest schools in the state. There are just at 250 students in the high school, and about half of those are male. Still, the wrestling team has 15 guys this season. They still struggle to fill a roster and, being in Marion County, they wrestle elite programs like Perry Meridian, Cathedral and Warren Central.
The school didn’t even have a wrestling program until Hughes started it five years ago.
“I always loved the sport of wrestling,” Hughes said. “Then God blessed me with three sons. We were looking at options for high school. Lutheran really stood out as our best choice, but they didn’t have a wrestling program. I told the school that I wanted to go there but we needed wrestling. They allowed me to start the program. Now, the kids on this team are like my sons on the mat. We have two state-ranked wrestlers. I keep saying we’re the No. 1 small school program in Marion County.
“After five years we have had some good accomplishments. It’s a true wrestling story. You win some and lose some, but we see how far we’ve come and how far we want to go.”
Leading the charge this season is Filipovich. The junior is used to success. He was the starting center and linebacker for the state runner-up football team and he has carried that winning attitude to the mat.
“One of my favorite stories about Flip happened about a year ago,” Hughes said. “I was pushing the kids pretty hard. We were running sprints at the end of a very tough practice. The kids were dragging. The sprints were slowing down. I told the kids to give me just two more. Then Flip pops up and says ‘That’s it? We need to do more. I have to be six-minute ready. Let’s go.’ He was pushing us to coach harder because he knew what he wanted to accomplish.”
Filipovich has lofty goals this season.
“Just like every other kid growing up wrestling in Indiana, I want to be a state champion,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine.”
Filipovich is undecided in what he wants to pursue in college. He’s leaning toward exercise science but admits he hasn’t made his mind up yet. Right now he’s focused on wrestling.
#MondayMatness: Isiah, Sam latest to shine as part of Prairie Heights’ Levitz legacy
By STEVE KRAH
There are some names that are synonymous with certain sports at particular schools.
Levitz is tied to wrestling at Prairie Heights High School near Brushy Prairie in LaGrange County, Indiana.
The family has long enjoyed mat success for the Panthers.
It started with Dan Levitz, who went 58-21 and graduated in 1989.
Second brother John Levitz (1994) went 133-17 and was a state qualifier at 125 in 1992 and placed fourth at state at 140 in 1994.
Third brother Mike Levitz (1996) enjoyed a 144-18 career and placed third at 145 in 1996.
Doug Levitz (2015) posted a 165-33 mark and was a state qualifier at 145 in 2015.
Jed Levitz (2018) went 178-31 and was a state qualifier at 160 in both 2016 and 2018.
Doug and Jed are the sons of John Levitz.
Two brothers — senior Isiah and sophomore Sam — are the two oldest sons of Mike Levitz and part of the family legacy. Youngest brother Matt Levitz is a 105-pound eighth grader.
“I was destined to become a wrestler,” says Isiah Levitz. “But the being good part, that’s more of the own person’s work and how much they put into the sport.
“Just because we’re Levitzes doesn’t always mean we’re going to be good. We still have to put in our work.”
Isiah Levitz (121-31) was a sectional and regional champion and placed sixth at the IHSAA State Finals at 152 pounds in 2018-19 and has been competing in 2019-20 at 160. He is currently 10-0.
“I’m getting better,” says Isiah Levitz. “I just need to work on being crisp, getting to my moves and working my offense. It’s more of a mindset thing for me more than anything physical.”
While some wrestlers have a teammate they drill with on steady basis, Isiah tends to work out with many Panthers in the practice room.
“I try to get my hands on everybody,” says Isiah Levitz. “I have a variety of different partners and I see a variety of different positions.”
Sam Levitz (31-4 for his career) was a sectional champion at 120 in 2018-19. Competing at 138, he is 6-2 so far in 2019-20.
Isiah Levitz and Zeke Rowdon (Class of 2019) have been Sam’s primary workout partners.
“They bring speed, agility and a lot of strength,” says Sam Levitz.
“I’ve been watching my brother. I do what he does. I’m more on the quick side and I’m decently strong. I consider myself to be better neutral or on bottom.”
Isiah says Sam benefits from his position in the lineage.
“He’s got a lot of people behind him,” says Isiah Levitz. “He gets the experience of not being the first one in the family to try and be a test subject. “He’s going to be a lot more refined. He’s got a lot of experience.”
Isiah first competed in wrestling around age 5, but it was later that he really took to the sport.
“It didn’t stick that I loved the sport until about sixth or seventh grade,” says Isiah Levitz. “I started to believe this is for me. I started putting in the work and started getting better.”
Along the way, he also started becoming a leader. But not the loud kind.
“I don’t use my vocals a lot,” says Isiah Levitz. “I lead by example and my team follows because they respect me quite a bit.”
Mike Levitz says he and Isiah have spent much of his high school career focusing on winning close matches.
“He’s not got the surprise factor the family’s known for,” says Mike Levitz of Isiah. “My nephews were always pinners."
“(Isiah’s) not a great pinner. He’s just a solid all-around wrestler. He gives it everything he’s got on and off the mat."
“Isiah has come leaps and bounds the last three or four years. He’s worked his tail off.”
Brett Smith is in his ninth season as head coach at Prairie Heights. His assistants include Mike Levitz, John Levitz, Lee Fry, Craig Hoyer, Dylan Forbes and Van Barroquillo.
“A lot of my coaches have told me to just believe in myself and have confidence,” says Isiah Levitz. “That’s really helped me with my offensive skills. I used to be pretty timid on the mat. Now I’m really aggressive because I believe in my own moves.”
The coaching advice that sticks with Sam?
“Be the best in everything you do and try your hardest,” says Sam Levitz.
Isiah impacts current and future Prairie Heights grapplers with his example and willingness to take them along for the ride and passing along to them what he already knows.
“He’s been around it long enough,” says Smith. “He knows what it takes to get better."
“He’s not afraid to pull extra kids in with him because once he leaves there’s going to be some foot marks there to replace and to walk in.”
The example also extends to the class room. Isiah is a regular on the honor roll and has been academic all-state.
Mother Abby Levitz is a nurse practitioner in LaGrange. Isiah (surgeon) and Sam (radiologist) say they are both considering careers in the medical field.
“I want to spend the rest of my life helping people,” says Isiah.
If he has to pick a favorite school subject Isiah says he would choose chemistry.
A 1997 Prairie Heights graduate, Smith has long known about the Levitz connection.
“They have just been a staple,” says Smith. “They’re hard workers.”
From working for their parents’ tree service to bailing hay to wrestling, the older Levitz boys “put their nose to the grindstone” and that’s carried over to the next generation.
“You never hear them complain about anything,” says Smith of Isiah and Sam Levitz. “They’re some of the hardest workers we’ve seen."
“If you try to get through being average, you’re going to be average or below average. If you’re working 50 percent then you’re going to get out 50 percent.”
When Smith took over the high school program, he invited John Levitz and Mike Levitz to join the coaching staff and the Panther Wrestling Club was established.
Mike Levitz asked former Panthers head coach Fry to come back.
“He’s all in,” says Mike Levitz. “He’s a godsend, Coach Fry.
“He makes you want to be better. He truly is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. The kids love him. He gets the most out of them."
“I’m very thankful that he came back in and joined the group.”
Fry, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, will be part of the inaugural Prairie Heights High School Athletic Hall of Fame class to be honored at halftime of the Angola-Prairie Heights varsity boys game game on Jan. 10.
Among those also going into the Hall is Terry Levitz. The 1971 PHHS graduate was a standout running back and still holds four football records at the school. He also played basketball, baseball and ran track. He is a third cousin to Isiah and Sam Levitz. Terry’s father and Mike’s grandfather are brothers.
Prairie Heights is scheduled to return to the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne Jan. 4. The Panthers placed second in Class 1A in 2014-15, won the 1A title in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 and placed second in 2018-19.
Some other highlights on the Panthers’ schedule include the New Haven Super 10 Dec. 21, Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka Dec. 27-28, Northeast Corner Conference Championships Jan. 25 at West Noble, IHSAA Westview Sectional Feb. 1, IHSAA Goshen Regional Feb. 8, IHSAA Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 15 and IHSAA State Finals Feb. 21-22.
“We’ve had a pretty strong run the last five or six years,” says Mike Levitz. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
#MondayMatness: ‘Aha moment’ propels Valparaiso’s Kwiatkowski
By STEVE KRAH
Colin Kwiatkowski has experienced highs and lows on the wrestling mat and the Valparaiso High School junior says he is better for it. As a 160-pound freshman, Kwiatkowski went into the Vikings varsity lineup and faced a schedule that includes the tough Duneland Athletic Conference and more.
“It was an eye opener,” says Kwiatkowski. “My freshmen years wasn’t the greatest year. My sophomore year, I started beating kids and realized I can actually do something with wrestling.”
“It was an aha moment. I can go far in this sport.”
Kwiatkowski placed first at the LaPorte Sectional, second at the Crown Regional and third at the East Chicago Semistate and qualified for the IHSAA State Finals as a 170-pound sophomore, finishing 32-9.
Not making it to the second day fueled Kwiatkowski’s off-season and has fed his desire during the 2019-20 campaign.
“Losing Friday night (at the State Finals), it hurts,” says third-year Valparaiso head coach Jake Plesac. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. He has used it as something to learn from.”
“He took the loss hard. He came in this summer willing to work hard.”
Valparaiso has a young squad this season with many underclassmen in varsity roles.
“I’m helping them,” says Kwiatkowski. “I know what they’re going through. My freshmen year was the same thing. You have to get through the ups and downs.”
With a young squad of 25, including freshmen who came up through the rejuvenated Valparaiso Viking Wrestling Club, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson middle schools, Kwiatkowski finds himself throwing kids into the varsity that could use some more experience at the junior varsity level.
“We all want to get better,” says Plesac. “Sometimes you have to take your lumps to do that.”
“Our goal for us is grow them as young adults and better wrestlers along the way.”
Last fall, Kwiatkowski was a starting linebacker and backup quarterback for the 2019 Class 5A state runners-up.
“That experience in football was like no other,” says Kwiatkowski. “It was really fun.
“But there’s big difference between football shape and wrestling shape. (In wrestling), you’re going all-out as hard as you can the whole time.”
He performed on the gridiron around 195 pounds.
“It met with (Plesac) before went to state,” says Kwiatkowski. “We came to the decision that I’d be wrestling at 182. Last year, I did a lot of cutting weight. It took a big toll on my body. This years, I’m more energized with more strength and I’m quicker.”
Kwiatkowski has been eating mostly vegetables with some lean meats like chicken.
“That stuff has helped,” says Kwiatkowski. “I’ve felt better since I’ve been on the diet.”
Where does Kwiatkowski shine brightest on the mat?
“Defense,” says Kwiatkowski. “That’s what I’m best at. I need to work more at my offense.”
“My coaches always emphasize that I need to take more shots. I agree with them.”
While several different VHS grapplers practice with Kwiatkowski to give him different looks, his main workout partner is 195-pound sophomore Pierce Pine.
“We want to hardest training we can give him,” says Plesac. “If all else fails a coach will jump in and try to give him the better workout.”
Plesac describes Kwiatkowski as a pure wrestler with raw athleticism.
“He’s relentless neutral to top to bottom. He’s a big move guy. He’s known for his throws. It makes him really dangerous. He executes (throws) more than anybody I’ve ever seen in my coaching career.”
“He has great hips and is able to use his body in a way that has made throws successful.”
Kwiatkowski, who is 31-1 this season and coming off a runner-up finish at the DAC meet, says he sometimes relies on his physical gifts more than his moves.
“My athleticism gets me out of situations where I could be using technique or other things to get out of,” says Kwiatkowski. shooting is the side of offense I need to get more out of. I need to be quicker on my feet.
“Those throws aren’t always going to be there.”
Then there’s the Colin Kwiatkowski, the person.
“The thing that makes him special is his humble personality off the mat,” says Plesac. “He’s polite to anyone and everyone. He’s a leader in the school. He’s a quiet kid.”
“When he speaks people listen. That’s what he does for our team. We’re glad he’s taken on more of a leadership role this year.”
There are 25 athletes on a squad coached by Plesac (a former Hobart wrestler and Purdue University graduate), Eric Ledbetter and Irving Hernandez.
One of the younger Vikings is Colin’s brother, Dylan Kwiatkowski. He broke his arm during the football season and just recently was able to compete in wrestling in a dual against Portage.
“He did very well,” says Colin. “He’s my buddy when it comes to everything.”
Michael and Miranda Kwiatkowski have three children — Colin, Dylan and Brooklyn. The little sister is a seventh grader at Ben Franklin Middle School and is a volleyball player.
Colin Kwiatkowski says he would like to wrestle in college or attend Indiana University to study business. His current favorite school subject is science.
“I’ve always found that interesting,” says Kwiatkowski.
As a sophomore, he was a peer tutor. During his study hall, he helped special education students, eating lunch with them and a football teammate and working with them on their assignments.
“Next year I’m going to do that again,” says Kwiatkowski. “I had a lot of fun doing that.”
Valparaiso has one more home dual meet (Jan. 22 against Crown Point) before the state tournament series.
#MondayMatness: Glogouski Following in the Family Tradition
By STEVE KRAH
Blake Glogouski wants to ascend to the top of the IHSAA wrestling hill and he wants to get there quickly.
The Fairfield High School senior sees speed as one of his weapons as he looks to add to a prep resume that already includes two trips to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (he was a state qualifier as a freshman at 106 pounds and placed fifth at 113 as junior). He wants to compete â€œunder the lightsâ€ this time around and speed will be part of the package.
â€œI always push the pace,â€ Glogouski said. â€œMy coaches always tell me to move faster than the opponent and donâ€™t slow down.â€
Falcons assistant Jesse Espinoza is taken with the intensity and toughness packed into an athlete who clocks in at 5-foot-7 and plans to wrestle at 120 on the back side of the 2015-16 season.
â€œItâ€™s hard to explain,â€ Espinoza said. â€œHeâ€™s just one of those kids. You tell him to run through a brick wall and heâ€™ll get through it.
â€œIf you are wrestling in the (practice) room and he gets hold of a leg, it doesnâ€™t matter what you do to him heâ€™s not going to let go of that leg.â€
Dan Glogouski, Blakeâ€™s father and another assistant on Fairfield head coach Jim Jonesâ€™ coaching staff, has watched his son became more of a leader to his teammates.
Maturity and off-season work, including an appearance at the Disney Duals and workouts with older brother Forrest who will again be a teammate when he is joined by Blake at NCAA Division II Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, in 2015-16, have combined to make Blake a better Falcon since he went 52-3 last winter.
â€œMentally, heâ€™s gotten better,â€ Dan Glogouski said of Blake. â€œItâ€™s from growing up, being a senior, being that leader. Heâ€™s the guy most of the kids on the team look up to.â€
Blake tends to be quiet, but when he uses his deep voice, he commands attention.
â€œHe may be little, but heâ€™s a mighty kid,â€ Dan Glogouski said of an athlete who was also an impact performer on offense, defense and special teams in football for Fairfieldâ€™s NECC big school division co-champions.
While Blake regularly works out with junior 132-pounder Dillon Yoder, he does not shy away from larger wrestlers in practice.
â€œHeâ€™s not scared of anybody,â€ Espinoza said. â€œSome kids will go after him, but after about 30 seconds or so they are done.
â€œHe kind of turns it on.â€
Blake Glogouski began the season at 126, but intends to drop down to 120 because he thinks it gives him a chance to be stronger and for the most success. Of course, he has the prerogative to change his mind.
The highly-ranked grappler said his biggest area of improvement has come in takedowns. He uses about five or six and goes with the shots that opponents canâ€™t easily stop.
With two State Finals appearances, 125 high school victories and numerous Indiana State Wrestling Association laurels coming into his senior season, Blake knows he will see the best others can throw at him.
â€œThereâ€™s definitely a target on my back,â€ Blake Glogosuki said. â€œIâ€™ve just got to work harder.â€
As Glogouski and the Falcons head into the 2016 part of the calendar, the heat will go up in practice.
â€œWeâ€™ll turn up the intensity in practice as we get closer to our conference tournament and on into sectionals,â€ Espinoza said.
On Wednesday, Dec. 23, Glogouski became a four-time champion at Rochesterâ€™s John McKee Invitational. He was named the meetâ€™s outstanding wrestler for the second time.
Fairfield is scheduled to host Churubusco in dual Jan. 5 with the West Noble Super Dual Jan. 9 and Goshen Invitational Jan. 16, followed by the Northeast Corner Conference meet Jan. 23 and Elkhart Sectional Jan. 30. After that comes the Goshen Regional Feb. 6, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 13 and State Finals Feb. 19-20.
#WrestlingWednesday: Wrestling has opened many doors for Katie Kriebel
By JEREMY HINES
In 1994 Indiana female wrestling was in its extreme infancy. So when Katie (Downing) Kriebel and her dad met with Pendleton coach Dave Cloud about joining the high school team – she was a little nervous.
Coach Cloud told her dad that he had never had a female wrestler before.
“Dad told him that he had never had a daughter that wanted to wrestle before, either,” Kriebel said. “So, he told him that they were in the same boat.”
Cloud agreed to let her wrestle. That would be the start of many firsts for coach Cloud where Kreibel was involved.
Kriebel was a good athlete. She played softball and trained in Judo. In fact, it was her love of Judo that got her curious about wrestling.
“I trained with the boys in Judo,” Kriebel said. “It wasn’t a big deal in Judo. But, I noticed that a lot of boys that didn’t know any Judo at all, that were wrestlers, came over and were very good right off the bat. I decided I needed to learn wrestling, too.”
She wasn’t quite prepared for the rigors of the sport as a high school freshman. In her very first practice she threw up during conditioning. She didn’t want to appear weak, so right after she vomited she started to run. She made it through the first practice, and won over some of the guys who were questioning her toughness.
“That first week of wrestling was the first time in my life that I had tried something and didn’t know whether I could do it or not,” Kriebel said. “I was hooked. Once I made it through the first week and I knew I wasn’t going to die, I loved it. I loved the challenge of it.”
Kriebel didn’t fare well early on – but she was battling more than just her opponent across the mat. Her first match was a junior varsity contest. When she walked out on the mat the opposing team and their parents were laughing noticeably at her.
“I didn’t like that,” Kriebel said. “But I was too nervous to really care. I ended up catching the kid with a head and arm that came from Judo and winning that match. Then everyone was laughing at him. I remember it not being fun at all because of everyone else’s reactions.”
Kreibel didn’t like that people made fun of her, but she also couldn’t stand the fact that the person she was wrestling would get ridiculed too.
“I came from a time when you had to pick your battles,” Kriebel said. “I definitely had every sort of response you could imagine. Some moms and dads were concerned for my safety. Some were concerned because they didn’t teach their boys to hurt girls. They were worried about touching and that sort of thing, too. But most of those issues really got resolved on their own once they started seeing me as a wrestler.”
Kreibel said that by her senior year, some of her biggest critics had become her biggest fans.
“I never intended to be a pioneer,” Kriebel said. “I didn’t have a mission for equality or rights or girl power or anything like that. I just loved wrestling. Even if it was my mission – I figured out that actions speak a lot louder than words. I could talk about why I deserved to wrestle, or I could just go out and double leg a kid and show them.”
Kriebel finished with a .500 record in high school. She made varsity as a senior and placed third in sectional in a time when only the top two went on to regional.
“Katie just had this toughness about her,” coach Cloud said. “At first I was concerned about her safety, but she quickly dispelled that. She was really, really tough. She got smashed a few times, but she always got back up.”
In fact, Kriebel was so tough she didn’t care who she wrestled or how good they were. She would face anyone.
“Katie had grit and determination,” Cloud said. “We had a wrestler win state, Donny Sands, and when we had challenges she challenged him. Nobody else dared challenge Donny. But she had a lot of courage and heart. He beat her, but she didn’t back down.”
Kriebel’s senior year was the first year girls had a National tournament – and she won it.
She went on to qualify for the junior world team her freshman year of college and placed second. That was the first year the US took a full women’s team with a coach and paid for everything. Kriebel later won the first Women’s World Cup.
She took bronze in 2005 and 2007 at the World Championships and was eventually an alternate for the 2008 Olympics.
“Wrestling gave me the opportunity to see 22 different countries,” Kriebel said. “It was pretty great to see how big the world actually is, but some things in the wrestling room is the same no matter where you’re at.”
Kriebel never dreamed she would return to her roots in Pendleton. She coached a year at Oklahoma City University and then moved to California without any plans to return to this side of the Mississippi river. Then, Eric Kriebel, a longtime assistant coach at Pendleton passed away unexpectedly. She returned home and ended up starting a summer wrestling club in Pendleton in his name. She wanted to keep his legacy alive.
She married Jay Kriebel, Eric’s nephew and the two have two girls, Camryn, 3 and Clara, eight months old.
Kriebel is the varsity assistant coach at Pendleton now. She sits beside the very coach who doubted whether she could make it as a wrestler back in 1994 when Katie and her dad approached him.
“Katie has had a lot of firsts for me,” Cloud said. “She was my first assistant coach to start dating another coach. She was my first assistant coach to marry another coach. She was my first coach to go into labor during a match.”
Cloud said that Kreibel was coaching a match three years ago when she started having back spasms. That night he got a text that just said “I’m going to have a baby now.”
Kriebel has juggled the life of a coach and a parent for three years now. She demonstrated moves to the team while she was pregnant, and even carried Camryn in a baby sling while coaching at the New Castle semistate.
“Wrestling is all Camyrn has known,” Kriebel said. “I coached while I was pregnant with her. I showed front headlocks when she was in my belly, and she was literally on top of kids’ heads. She has never not known wrestling. She even calls the guys on the team ‘her guys’. “
Kriebel is going to let her kids decide for themselves if they want to wrestle or not. She loves the sport, but she also wants what’s best for them.
“I could really talk about wrestling for hours,” Kriebel said. “It’s honest. It’s very honest. You can’t b.s. very much in wrestling. If you have grit and perseverance, integrity and pride and you are willing to put a lot of work in without getting a lot back, then eventually you will be rewarded. It takes so much. You earn your spot. You earn everything.”
Her passion for the sport is infectious. Pendleton now has nine girls on the team and is hoping to have 15 next season.
“That’s sure a big change from where I started,” Cloud said. “But that’s great. I believe wrestling is the greatest sport in the world, so why wouldn’t you want girls doing it too?”
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#MondayMatness: Confidence carries NorthWood’s Lone to mat success
By STEVE KRAH
Jake Lone has developed an edge in his junior season as a NorthWood High School wrestler.
Lone was second at the Elkhart Sectional, third at the Goshen Regional and a qualifier for the Fort Wayne Semistate as a 160-pound freshman. As a 170-pounder junior, Lone won sectional and regional titles, placed second at semistate and then eighth at the IHSAA State Finals. As a 182-pound junior, he is 30-3 after winning another sectional title. The 2019 Goshen Regional is Feb. 2.
Lone, who first competed in Indiana State Wrestling Association events at age 4, is gaining confidence.
“As the season has progressed, I think I’ve developed a little bit of an attitude out on the mat,” says Lone. “There’s a little more aggression.”
Shoulder surgery after the 2018 State Finals meant that Lone was away from competition for the spring and summer.
He was only cleared to play football for NorthWood during the week of the season opener. Switched from linebacker to defensive end, he had a sensational season while helping the 2018 Panthers aka “Black Crunch” go 11-1 under head coach Nate Andrews.
Lone was selected for Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors by the Associated Press.
Then it was back to the mat.
“I think I’ve gotten tremendously better,” says Lone of his progress since the beginning of the 2018-19 wrestling season. “I’ve been getting back in the swing of things after surgery last spring, getting my conditioning up and knocking all the rust off.”
“Having Coach Andrews is the room to push me has been great.” Andrews, who won a 171-pound IHSAA state title as a NorthWood senior in 1996, took over as wrestling head coach this winter.
He has watched Lone get better and better.
“It certainly opens up his offense when he’s lighter on his feet and when his motion is vertical and horizontal at the same time with 1-2 and 3-4 combinations,” says Andrews. “When he opens that up and puts pressure on people, he can be dangerous.
“A lot of he team aspects and leadership qualities that he learns in football he brings to the wrestling mat.”
Lone has fed off Andrews’ enthusiasm and intensity.
“What I get from him is always pushing the pace, staying aggressive, never stop,” says Lone. “It’s that never-quit attitude.”
Lone knows that there are differences and similarities in his two sports. “Football shape is short bursts,” says Lone. “Wrestling shape you have to go the full six minutes without stopping.”
While he played some wide receiver or tight end on offense, Lone really enjoyed playing on the other wide of the ball.
The hand and body fighting and one-on-one battles that a defensive linemen encounters translate to the wrestling circle.
“I love defense,” says Lone. “I was able to use by wrestling technique for tackling.”
Andrews, who counts Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dennis Lewis plus Jim Matz and Elisio Roa as assistants, says beefing up the NorthWood schedule was helpful for Lone. “He was able to see a little tougher competition,” says Andrews. The Panthers took on LaPorte, Merrillville and Knox at the LaPorte Super Duals, Churubusco, Eastside, Garrett and Jay County at the Fort Wayne Carroll Super Duals. NorthWood also faced Wawasee, Goshen and Jimtown in duals at home and took part in the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka.
Inclement weather Jan. 19 caused cancellation of the Northern Lakes Conference varsity and junior varsity tournaments.
“For our program and where we are now, we were devastated,” says Andrews. “A week ago we were really in good shape to do our best and climb another rung on the ladder as we try to build our program.” That meet was to be the last for JV grapplers.
“The kids who come out and go through this grinder of a season, they didn’t get rewarded,” says Andrews. “They didn’t get to play in their Super Bowl. It’s very, very unfortunate.”
Andrews said the focus turns to individuals still alive in the state tournament series, but he is still trying to “rally the troops” for those who saw their season come to an end.
The Panthers are young with just two seniors on the squad.
“I’m looking forward to the future,” says Andrews.
Jake has been in wrestling practice rooms since age 3. His father, Rod Lone, was head coach at NorthWood for seven seasons. After two years as a volunteer assistant at Jimtown, he has returned to NorthWood as head middle school coach. He is also a volunteer with the high school and helps the NorthWood Wrestling Club.
A former wrestler at Clinton Prairie High School and then for Tom Jarman at Manchester College (now Manchester University), Rod Lone has witnessed a rise in his eldest son’s confidence level.
“With that confidence he’s gotten more aggressive and that’s shown in his matches,” says Rod Lone. “He’s never been that fast-twitch, go-get-em kind of kid. This year, he’s finally starting to get there.”
“He’s trying to control the match instead of letting the match come to him.” Says Andrews, “He should be a pretty confident kid the way it is. He’s been on the mat a long time. He had a good sophomore campaign.”
Getting down to Indianapolis and competing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has helped fuel the self-assurance.
“After going to State last year and having all that experience, I feel I know what it’s like,” says Jake Lone.
Rod and Denise Lone’s second son — eighth grader Kaden — just won an ISWA Middle School State title at 132 pounds. He has a chance to be the first NorthWood wrestler to go unbeaten through their middle school career (sixth, seventh and eighth grade) with three Big 11 Conference championships.
Jake and Kaden work out together and use the wrestling room in the family basement.
“We go down there and roll around a lot,” says Jake Lone. “It’s fun.”
Given the size differential, Kaden has to use his quickness against his big brother.
“He can’t muscle things and just rely on strength,” says Jake Lone.
“That’s been great bond at home,” says Rod Lone. “They push each other in a very positive way.”
#WrestlingWednesday Feature: McKinney Excels on the Mat and in the Classroom
Brought to you by EI Sports
By JEREMY HINES
Matthew McKinney approaches academics with the same ferociousness he has when he steps on the mat for a wrestling match.
â€œAcademics is just another competition for me,â€ McKinney said. â€œWhether itâ€™s in the classroom or on the mat, I want to be the best at everything I do.â€
McKinney is currently ranked No. 15 out of his class of 791 seniors at Warren Central High School. His grade point average is 3.97.
â€œI really take a lot of pride in my academics,â€ McKinney said.
He also takes pride in his wrestling. He is currently ranked fourth in the state at 138 pounds. He is a two-time state qualifier. He advanced to state his freshman year at 106 pounds and again the next season at 120 pounds.
McKinney believes he outworks anyone he steps across the mat against. He religiously goes into school early three times a week and either runs or swims. He also stays late after practices and puts in extra conditioning. That hard work has paid off when it comes to the long, three period matches.
â€œI really pride myself on being able to go six minutes as hard as possible and wearing on my opponent with heavy hand fighting,â€ McKinney said.
The practice room at Warren Central is full of practice partners for McKinney. If he wants to work on speed and agility, he faces Warrenâ€™s 126 pounder Joel McGhee (ranked No. 6). If he needs to work against stronger opponents, he goes up against Trent Pruitt (ranked No. 4 at 152 pounds). If heâ€™s looking to get as much work in as possible, he has a host of partners he can go against.
â€œWe have around 70 guys at practice and we have three mats going on,â€ McKinney said. â€œThat gives me a lot of partners to push me. For sure thatâ€™s an advantage because you never run out of guys to wrestle. When youâ€™re wrestling live, there is always a fresh guy to come in and keep pushing you.â€
The Warrior team is absolutely loaded this season. Warren Central has ranked wrestlers in 10 of the 14 weight classes. Jim Tonte took over the program this season, after having a very successful career at the helm of Perry Meridianâ€™s program.
One thing McKinney noticed right away about Tonteâ€™s coaching style, is that he wanted the team to have a good chemistry.
â€œThe biggest difference between last year and this year is that we are a lot closer as a team,â€ McKinney said. â€œWe hang out outside of wrestling. We have more of a team atmosphere. Coach Tonte stresses team bonding. Weâ€™ve gone to the movies together, had hang out sessions. And, a lot of us have been together for four years now so we are naturally close.â€
Brownsburg defeated Warren Central in the team state championship this year. That doesnâ€™t sit well with the senior Warriors.
â€œWe have to give props to Brownsburg,â€ McKinney said. â€œThey really brought it to us. It was very humbling for our team, but weâ€™re excited for our second chance. Our goal is to win the state championship. I want to win it with my team and individually. We feel we are good enough, and that goal is always on our mind. We break every practice with a â€˜Blue Ringsâ€™ chant for the blue medal you get when you win state.â€
McKinney did not qualify for state last season. He was beaten in the ticket round of semistate. But this year he feels he can see a lot of improvement.
â€œIâ€™ve faced seven ranked guys and lost just one,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m right there with the top guys. It gives me confidence to know I can go out and beat anyone in front of me. Last year Nick Lee beat me. He took me down, cut me, took me down, cut me and then pinned me real quick. This year I went the distance with him. The score still wasnâ€™t what I wanted, but I can tell Iâ€™ve improved.â€
Coach Tonte said at the beginning of the season some people wanted McKinney to wrestle at 132 pounds this year.
â€œMatthew spent so much time in the weight room every day that he eventually filled out and made it to be a true 138,â€ Tonte said.
Tonte said it was probably a difficult transition for McKinney to have a new coach for his senior year.
â€œIâ€™ll be honest,â€ Tonte said. â€œIt was probably somewhat tough for him. He had a competitive match with one of the kids I coached last year and I know it was probably really tough on him to know I was coming in to be his coach. But he has responded very well and he realizes we care about him. Heâ€™ll run through a wall for us. Heâ€™s responded to everything we are doing.â€
McKinney is a two-sport athlete at Warren Central. He is the kicker and backup punter for the Warrior football team. He says football is a sport he does for fun, but he really enjoys being part of the program.
After high school McKinney would like to wrestle collegiately. He is not sure what he wants to study or where he wants to attend.
â€œMatthew is just one of those kids that you donâ€™t ever have to worry about his future,â€ Tonte said. â€œHis future is open for whatever he wants to do. He has a great drive, a great family and you can tell he has really been raised well. He will succeed at whatever it is he sets out to do.â€
For now, he is setting out to win the 138 pound weight class in Bankerâ€™s Life Fieldhouse.
#WrestlingWednesday: Brayton Lee is All Smiles
By JEREMY HINES
The very first time Brayton Lee watched a wrestling match, he ended up vomiting. He was 5 years old and sick that day his father took him to his first high school match, but even after vomiting, he didnâ€™t want to leave. He had instantly fallen in love with the sport.
â€œAfter I got sick I still stayed until the match was over,â€ Lee said.
Now Lee is one of the top wrestling recruits in the nation. The Brownsburg junior won state last season at 138 pounds and heâ€™s looking to do the same this year at 145.
â€œIâ€™ve coached kids that were three-time state champions,â€ Brownsburg coach Darrick Snyder said. â€œIâ€™ve coached kids that have placed at Fargo or other preseason national tournaments. Iâ€™ve coached quite a few guys that have went on to wrestle in college in D1 or the Big Ten. But Brayton is at a different level from any of the guys Iâ€™ve coached before. I havenâ€™t had anyone near as talented as he is.â€
Leeâ€™s off-the-charts level of wrestling skills is one of the big reasons Brownsburg won the 3A team state title last season and is one of the favorites to do so again this year.
â€œBrayton is very willing to work with his teammates,â€ Snyder said. â€œI use him as another coach. We use him to show a lot of technique because he has been coached by some of the best coaches in the country, and his wrestling knowledge is phenomenal. When Brayton graduates in a couple of years Iâ€™m losing as close to a guaranteed win as you can get, and one of my best coaches.â€
Lee isnâ€™t sure exactly what he wants to do after high school, but he knows it will involve wrestling. He is getting letters in the mail on a daily basis from wrestling powerhouses like Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan.
He hasnâ€™t narrowed his college choice down yet, but he is hoping that wherever he goes will help push him to his dream of one day wrestling in the Olympics.
â€œI want to be the best there is,â€ Lee said. â€œI want to wrestle in the Olympics. I want to pursue the Olympics while Iâ€™m in college. After college I really think Iâ€™ll stay with wrestling and become a coach.â€
Things havenâ€™t always gone Leeâ€™s way. His freshman campaign ended with just one loss, in the ticket round of semistate when Mt. Vernonâ€™s Austin Bethel pinned him in the third period.
â€œThat loss my freshman year, and not achieving my goal, ran through my head all the time the next season,â€ Lee said. â€œIn practices I kept thinking about it. I knew I had to put some of those memories away, but it was just adding fuel to my fire.â€
Lee bounced back. Last year, during his sophomore campaign, he dominated the field en route to the state championship. In the Avon sectional Lee wrestled a total of 48 seconds, securing a pin in the semifinals in 36 seconds and a pin in the championship in 12. He continued his dominance in the Mooresville regional, winning by pin, tech fall and then another pin.
In the Evansville semistate Lee opened with a pin, then won back-to-back 7-3 matches before winning the final 16-7.
Lee saved his most dominant performance for the state finals. He won the opening round with a 32 second fall, then tech-falled his next opponent 18-3. After a hard-fought 4-2 victory to reach the final match, Lee obliterated his last opponent of the season and won the state title with a 20-5 tech fall.
â€œGetting under the lights was everything I thought it would be and more,â€ Lee said. â€œThere is nothing like it. When I walked out, my legs were really shaky. But afterward, when I was interviewed, it was just all joy. It was amazing. I had done it.â€
For a few random Lee-isms: He doesnâ€™t have a favorite move, but one he really enjoys doing is a left-handed headlock. He said he would rather win by technical fall instead of by pin. Chad Red Jr., is one of his best friends, and he likes to think he is close to Red as far as swagger goes â€“ but he admits he isnâ€™t to Redâ€™s level yet in that regard.
Leeâ€™s nickname at Brownsburg is smiley. Coach Snyder said thatâ€™s one of the first things you notice about Brayton, is how he is always smiling. With as much success as heâ€™s having on the mat, itâ€™s no wonder heâ€™s happy.
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#WrestlingWednesday: Farrell prepping for and trip to Bankers Life
By JEREMY HINES
Last year, when J.D. Farrell was a junior at Fishers High School, he saw that a German foreign exchange student was struggling understanding her math assignments and he knew he had to help her.
“She was struggling with translating her math work and I helped her,” Farrell said. “She didn’t have many friends and I wanted to be there for her to help with that as well.”
That’s what Farrell does. He helps others. He helps his teammates in wrestling understand how to do certain moves. He helps them know what it takes to be successful on the mat.
He also takes a certified nursing assistant (CNA) class and frequently goes to nursing homes to help the elderly. One day he plans to go into the medical field.
“I see people that maybe are struggling, or are less fortunate, and I want to help them any way I can,” Farrell said. “In the wrestling room I don’t just want to improve myself, I want to make everyone better. Outside of wrestling I see others struggle and I feel I’m called to help them. My heart pulls me toward them. God put those people in my life for a reason.”
As nice, polite and helpful as Farrell is off the mat – don’t expect mercy from him on it. He is currently 29-1 this season and ranked No. 4 at 195 pounds. His lone loss came at the hands of returning state champion Silas Allred. Last season he qualified for the state tourney but lost a hard-fought match in the opening session and didn’t place.
“I use my length to my advantage,” Farrell said. “I’m very offensive with my attacks. I look at my opponent’s attacks and plan to not give up anything to them. My goal is to not give anything to my opponent or ever let the ref decide the outcome of a close match.”
Allred, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the class, feeds through the same New Castle semistate as Farrell. Before the season Farrell had the choice of going up a weight to avoid Silas, but that’s not what he wanted to do.
“I see Silas as an opportunity,” Farrell said. “If I see him in semistate, I wouldn’t have to face him early in the state tournament. He is very technical and a great wrestler. When I wrestled him earlier this season, I was not satisfied with how I did. I got to know him pretty well at CIA and he’s a great guy.”
Farrell is a third-generation wrestler. His grandfather wrestled and loved the sport. His dad, Brent finished second in the state during his high school career and his uncle, Brad, was a fifth-place finisher.
“Wrestling is in my family,” Farrell said. “My grandpa liked wrestling a lot and then my uncle and dad started and they saw a lot of success. My brother, Crew Farrell, is in middle school and he’s kicking butt right now.”
Fishers’ coach Frank Ingalls sees Farrell wrestling under the lights in the state finals.
“I’m expecting him to make it to the championship match,” Ingalls said. “He’s 29-1 right now with something like 22 falls. When we need him to bump up to 220, he still gets the job done and usually gets us six point.
“J.D. is a good Christian kid. He’s good in school. He’s a good leader. He does everything you ask him to do and he works hard in the offseason as well.”
During the offseason Farrell wrestled in many big tournaments, but he didn’t go to the Super 32. Instead, he hopped on a plane and traveled to Germany. As it turns out, Farrell finally got the nerve to ask that girl who was struggling with her math homework to be his girlfriend. He asked her toward the end of her stay in America, and she said yes.
“The long-distance relationship is tough,” Farrell said. “But I was glad I missed the Super 32 to go see her. It gave me the break I needed in wrestling, because I had been pushing so hard. When I came back I was ready to get back at it.”
Now, like so many other high school athletes, Farrell has his goal set at making it to the state finals.
“I have gone to the finals with my dad for as long as I can remember, and now I want to close my high school career out by wrestling there myself,” he said.
#WrestlingWednesday: The Floyds Knobs three amigos
By JEREMY HINES
In a town that literally gets its name for being tough and rugged, the Three Amigos personify what Floyds Knobs is all about.
Floyd Central High School, located in Floyds Knobs, is the home of wrestlers Gavinn Alstott, J. Conway and Jonathan Kervin. The trio is known around town as the Three Amigos, primarily for their success on the wrestling mat. They are tough wrestlers that like to grind out wins and be physical. One wouldn’t expect anything less from a Floyds Knobs resident.
Floyds Knobs is named after the Knobstone Escarpment located there (and Colonel Davis Floyd). The Knobstone is the most rugged terrain in Indiana. It has steep hills which are commonly referred to as knobs.
As for the Three Amigos – all three qualified for state last season. Alstott finished fourth and Kervin sixth. This year, all three are ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes.
“The Three Amigos is a term we coined last year and started calling them that,” Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said. “I don’t think they mind it. They all three work together and have pushed each other to get better.”
Kervin is the only senior in the trio. He is currently ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds. Last season Kervin finished with a 39-4 record. He won sectional and regional and eventually finished sixth at state in the 145-pound class.
“Jonathan is a really tough wrestler,” Sisson said. “He wrestles hard for all six minutes. He works really closely with is uncle, former two-time state champion Cooper Samuels. Those two have worked together for the past five years and it has really benefited Jonathan.”
Kervin’s goal this season is to win a state title.
“My style is sort of dynamic,” Kervin said. “I like to be a little deranged. I use my length. Last year I felt like I wrestled poorly at state. I didn’t do my normal workout to get ready. I want to get back and show what I can really do.”
Alstott, a junior, finished 42-4 last season. He was a sectional and regional champ and ended up third in the Evansville semistate and would later place fourth at state.
“Gavinn is a grinder,” Sisson said. “He gets out there, gets in your face and pushes the pace non-stop. He’s very business-like on the mat and in the practice room. I’m not ever going to have to see if he’s just messing around. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. No matter what he does, he puts his head down and goes to work.”
Alstott’s uncle, Craig Alstott, was Floyd Central’s first ever four-time state qualifier. Craig never placed at the state meet, however.
“I think Gavinn got the monkey off his back a little by placing last year,” Sisson said. “But he has his sights set significantly higher this year.”
Off the mat, Gavinn is an excellent student and has been a team leader since his freshman season.
“He’s a really good kid,” Sisson said. “He gets good grades and is good to the other kids. Even as a freshman I thought of him as a team leader. He’s just a phenomenal kid.”
Conway is the quietest in the group. He had a not-so-quiet season last year, however. Conway went 23-4 on the year and claimed a sectional and a regional title. He finished runner-up in semistate but lost on Friday night at the state tournament.
“He’s a really, really quiet kid,” Sisson said. “I don’t think I heard him say anything at all his freshman year. Now as a sophomore he’s coming out of his shell a little bit. On the mat he’s more open. He is already at 130 takedowns in just 18 matches this season. He’s full throttle. You let him go, and he goes.”
Sisson is pleased with his team this season and hopes the Three Amigos will help lead them to great things.
“There are years where you have a lot of talent, but also a lot of drama,” Sisson said. “Then there are years where you don’t have any drama, but you don’t really have any talent either. This year, I really feel like we have a lot of talent and no drama. I’m lucky this year.”