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      #WrestlingWednesday: Irick back bigger and better

      Hamilton Southeastern senior Andrew Irick suffered a devastating knee injury in the spring of his junior year. It might have been the best thing for him.
      Irick knew, because of the injury (he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus), he wouldn’t be able to remain in the 220-pound weight class. He also knew he needed to get stronger, but he couldn’t do much with his legs in the weight room due to the surgery on his knee and the recovery time needed. So, he started working upper body. Weight gain wasn’t an issue because he was planning to bump up to heavyweight for his senior season.
      “He probably put on 55 pounds,” HSE coach Nick Brobst said. “He’s a totally rebuilt athlete now. His wrestling reflects that. He’s bigger, way, way stronger and way more aggressive with his attacks. Wrestling in the heavyweight division makes him look even faster. He’s a much, much improved wrestler over what he was last year.”
      Last season Irick was no slouch. He had his best season of his career, ultimately finishing fourth at state.
      Irick started out as a freshman in the 182-pound class. He then moved up to 195 as a sophomore and 220 as a junior. Those early weight class competitions forced Irick to get better on his feet. That has ultimately helped him now that he’s in the heavyweight class.
      Irick’s older brother Matt wrestled for Indiana University. His other brother, Spencer, wrestles for IU now. Matt worked a lot with Andrew to help him on his feet and with takedowns. That has transformed Irick’s attack on the mat.
      “He has got a lot more aggressive on his feet,” Brobst said. “We used to joke that he wrestled using what we called the ‘Irick stall’ where he would do anything and everything to make a match last forever. Last year he started developing his own gas tank and now he doesn’t want the matches to go that long.
      “He still has that heavyweight mentality to a tee,” Brobst said. “Last year he won on Friday night at state. At weigh-ins Saturday morning his teammate was eating yogurt, fruit and a granola bar. Andrew is there eating a bag of leftover Halloween candy. He said ‘this is what I do. Leave the process alone.’ “
      Irick is currently ranked No. 2 in the state in the 285-pound class. He’s ranked just below Brownsburg’s returning state champion Dorian Keys. The two could potentially wrestle in 10 days at the Hoosier Crossroads Conference tournament.
      “Conference is important,” Irick said. “But ultimately my goal is to win a state championship and that’s the bigger picture for me right now. I want to be at my best come tournament time.”
      According to coach Brobst, Andrew goes through a whole gamut of emotions before he wrestles.
      “Andrew is probably the first kid I’ve coached in 10 years that’s just never serious,” Brobst said. “He’s a complete goofball everywhere he goes. But come meet time, he goes through this process. He’s nervous at first. Then he starts doubting himself and thinking he can’t beat the other guy. Then he decides he’s going to go out and kick that guy’s butt. Something clicks and he’s ready to go. It’s like that every match.”
      Irick is in the top 10 percent of his class academically. He has a 4.27 GPA and plans to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and wrestle at Indiana University next season. He will study biology or chemistry with the goal of becoming a doctor.
      Like wrestling, becoming a doctor runs in the family. Both of Irick’s parents are doctors, his grandfather is a doctor, his uncle is a doctor and both of his brothers are studying to be doctors.
      “It’s hard to see him as a doctor, knowing him as an 18-year old,” Brobst said. “But I have no doubt that he will be. He might go into a field where he works with kids. He’s extremely good with kids. My son is a kindergartener and thinks Andrew walks on water.”
      Irick is focused on getting back to state this year and potentially making is way to the championship match.
      “The atmosphere at state is just indescribable,” Irick said. “I can’t wait to get back there.”

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      #MondayMatness: O’Neill returns to Wabash, helps Apaches thrive

      The second time around has been extra sweet for Jake O’Neill and the Wabash High School wrestling program.
      O’Neil spent six seasons as Apaches head coach then four as an assistant at his alma mater — Ben Davis in Indianapolis — and is now in his second six as head coach at Wabash.
      With the help of several folks, O’Neill and the Apaches have enjoyed a resurgence since he was drawn back to the northern part of Indiana.
      “I like where this little school’s going,” says O’Neill. “I’m excited about it.”
      “I love this community.”
      Wabash has a population of about 10,000 and around 400 attend the high school.
      This season, the Apaches will participate in the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals for the first time. Wabash will be in Class 1A for the Jan. 5 meet in Fort Wayne.
      The Apaches’ varsity schedule also includes the Wabash County Invitational, Western Invitational, Whitko Invitational and duals with Maconaquah, Rochester, Lewis Cass, Eastbrook, Peru and Western.
      “When you have rivalries and communities meet up it only only helps the sport grow,” says O’Neill. “We had a nice gym going against Maconaquah. It was a fun atmosphere.”
      There are 27 wrestlers on the Wabash team.
      “We have a really big sophomore group,” says O’Neill. “Quantity helps. Quality is what we’re looking for.”
      In the mix are freshman Jared Brooks and sophomore R.J. Steg at 106 and 113, sophomore Ethan Higgins at 120, junior Braden Brooks at 126, junior Jaxon Barnett at 132, sophomore Anthony Long at 138, freshman Brayden Sickafus at 152, junior Traydon Goodwin at 152, sophomore Grant Carandante at 160, sophomore Justin Heckman and sophomore Bryson
      Zapata at 170, senior Blake Wiser at 182, senior Luke Voirol at 195, sophomore Grant Warmuth at 220 and senior Justin Samons and junior Blake Price at 285.
      Higgins and Braden Books competed in the off-season at the Freestyle and Greco-Roman Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
      “They got to see guys who will be on the (IHSAA State Finals) podium at the end of the year,” says O’Neill. “Training with them all summer was definitely good for them.”
      Carandante is O’Neill’s stepson. His other two children are freshman wrestler Kiersten O’Neill and sophomore basketball player Keegan O’Neill.
      Upon his return to Wabash, O’Neill established the Apache Wrestling Club. It now has about 30 grapplers in grades K-6.
      There are also about 20 sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the junior high program.
      A wall was knocked down in the weight room to double the size of the Wabash wrestling room.
      “We’re changing the culture here with the sport,” says O’Neill, who notes that the Apaches scored four points and were down to six wrestlers the season before his return. “The community is starting to see the hard work these young men and women are putting in.
      “We want to continue to get kids up on that podium at Bankers Life and get kids up on our little wall of fame at school. We’ve got to aim big. That’s how I want my wrestlers thinking.”
      Ross Haughn and Jimmy Olinger are coaching the elementary wrestlers and are part of a high school coaching staff which also includes Tyler Niccum, Jeremy Haupert and Isaac Ray. Ray wrestled at Hamilton Heights High School and at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., about 15 miles from Wabash.
      “I have a solid relationship with Coach (Kevin) Lake (at Manchester U.),” says O’Neill. “I use my resources wisely with that.”
      Chad Ulmer, who wrestled at Triton High School and Manchester U., has departed Wabash for Hendricks County, where he will serve as a probation officer and likely help coach wrestling at one of the area schools.
      At Ben Davis, where O’Neill had graduated in 1995, he joined with then-Giants head coach Aaron Moss to have plenty of mat coaching success.
      “We produced some pretty good wrestlers together,” says O’Neill.
      O’Neill was dating a Wabash girl — Aimee — and decided to look for a job that would bring him back north. He took an interview at nearby Manchester High School.
      By then, principal Jason Callahan had become superintendent of Wabash City Schools.
      “(Callahan) made it happen,” says O’Neill of the former Daleville High School wrestling coach. “A job created (at Wabash) within a couple of weeks."
      “He believed in me a bunch.”
      Jake and Aimee O’Neill have been married for five years.
      In his first tenure in town, O’Neill formed some key relationships like those with Peru coach Andy Hobbs and Northfield coach Bill Campbell (now retired).
      “They put their arms around me and helped me,” says O’Neill. “I’m proud to call them mentors and friends.”
      He’s also grateful to Pat Culp for her role in running tournaments at all levels around Indiana.
      “She’s a blessing for everybody,” says O’Neill, who is an Indiana State Wrestling Association director for Cadets. “She encouraged us to host tournaments. She played a big rule in helping us grow this program.”
      O’Neill admits that during his first tenure he was looking to go elsewhere. This time, he’s in it for the long haul.
      “My first year back at Wabash, I started approaching it looking at the big picture and setting long-term goals with the program,” says O’Neill.
      About that time, O’Neill discovered a move-in from North Carolina in his eighth grade physical education class.
      Noah Cressell qualified for the IHSAA State Finals twice and placed third at 182 pounds in 2018 — Wabash’s first state placer since heavyweight Tim LaMar won a state title in 1999.
      “That kid did a lot with helping this program grow,” says O’Neill of Cressell. “It was not just his wrestling, but his personality. He was a humble kid and everybody loved him. He was the poster boy for our program.”
      Cressell is now on the team at North Dakota State University.
      And the Wabash Apaches are back on the state wrestling map.


      #WrestlingWednesday Feature: Kadin Poe Back on the Mat

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      In an instance Kadin Poe went from a wrestling standout, to someone broken so badly he wasn’t sure he’d be able to wrestle again.
      It happened on a Monday evening in May, near Murray St., in Indianapolis. Poe and his friend Kyle Dicecco were just walking home. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a dark colored Chrysler 300 came barreling down the street, right into Poe. He hit the windshield and landed on the side of the road. The car never stopped. To this day, the driver’s identity is not known.
      But what is known is that Poe, who had qualified for the IHSAA state championships as a wrestler earlier in the year, was now in a battle for his life. He had a broken neck, a concussion, his eyes were swollen, his hands and back were scraped badly.
      “I was just walking to get my book bag from my buddy’s house,” Poe said. “He lived two streets over at the time. I was walking back with him. I stopped at the stop sign and then a car came and hit me.”
      At first Kyle tried to chase the car down to get more information. But he quickly returned to his friend, picked him up and walked him home. Poe was quickly transported to the hospital, where he spent several days.
      Doctors initially weren’t sure if Poe would be able to wrestle again, because of the severity of the neck injury. But soon he was told that he would have no permanent damage. That’s when the recovery began. Poe was going to wrestle again – and nothing was standing in his way.
      “My mom really helped me more than anything,” Poe said. “She and my coaches pushed me, even when I didn’t want to be pushed.”
      Poe had gained a lot of weight due to the recovery process. At first he wasn’t allowed to exercise, so he sit at home on medication. He quickly got up to over 150 pounds.
      “The hardest part of battling back was getting back into shape and getting my weight back down,” Poe said. “A lot of people were doubting me. Everything at that point was just tough.”
      But Poe did make it back. This season he opened the year wrestling a match at 138 pound. He pinned his opponent. But in his next match he injured his shoulder and is expected to miss two to three more weeks because of the injury.
      He is hoping he can be back sooner, and be trimmed down to 126 pounds in the process.
      “I want to win a state title within the next two years,” Poe, a junior at Decatur Central, said. “Then I want to go on and win nationals in college. I will bounce back from this.”
      Poe’s coach, Angelo Roble, believes in his wrestler.
      “I remember him sitting in the hospital with tubes running all through him,” Roble said. “But I never doubted that he would be back because he’s a tough kid. What makes him a great wrestler isn’t as much his technique, as it is his fight. He hates to lose more than he loves to win.”
      Poe believes going through this adversity has just fueled his desire to get stronger, and better on the mat.
      “It’s been a real struggle,” he said. “At first I was starting to think my career was over. And now I’m back to wrestling. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m back.”
      Roble credits Poe’s mentality for his rapid progression.
      “Anything this kid puts his mind to, he does well,” Roble said. “We do a lot of things to have fun in practice, like playing football. He always wants to be the quarterback. He wants to have the ball if he is playing basketball and in the wrestling room he wants center circle so everyone knows it’s his room. I hope that attitude carries over to everything in life. All he has to do is put in the effort and he will be successful.”

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      #MondayMatness: Leo’s Heath embraces the brotherhood, grind of wrestling

      Bolstered by the bond of teammates and the backing of family and coaches, Ian Heath continues to give it his all on the high school wrestling mat.
      The 132-pound junior at Leo enjoys workouts and meets with about a dozen other Lions, appreciates all the support from his parents and sister and gets guidance from a staff led by a seasoned head coach.
      “Everything you do is for your team and for your family,” says Heath.
      “We’ve got a small team. We’re super close and would do anything for each other. It makes you want to wrestle harder when you do it for guys you’ve bonded with. I really enjoy how close we are.
      “It’s like a big group of brothers.”
      Ian is the son of Shane and Kelli Heath and the older brother of Anna. Shane is Fort Wayne Police Department detective and former Norwell High School wrestler, Kelli a DeKalb County probation officer and Anna a Leo eighth grader.
      “They’ve supported me through everything,” says Ian. “Me and my dad have been on so many road trips. My mom has stayed up so many late nights washing clothes. My little sister helps clean mats at the high school.
      “It’s a family effort for sure.”
      Rod Williams is in his 30th season of coaching high school wrestling in Indiana. It’s his fifth in charge at Leo. He was head coach at East Noble and Norwell and before that an assistant at his alma mater — DeKalb (Class of 1986).
      Among his East Noble grapplers was Taylor March, who won 163 matches with a state titles, two runners-up and a third-place finish. Danny Irwin, who is now head coach at West Liberty (W.Va.) University, wrestled for Williams at Norwell.
      Danny’s brother, Matt Irwin, was in junior high when Williams led the Knights program and went on to win a state title.
      Williams wrestled for Logansport and head coach Joe Patacsil then moved to DeKalb as a senior and worked with head coach Russ Smith. He grappled at Manchester College for head coach Tom Jarman.
      “I was blessed with outstanding coaches,” says Williams, who is assisted this season at Leo by Chad Lothamer, Tad Davis and son Logan Williams.
      Heath says Rod Williams trains wrestlers to defeat the best.
      “You work to beat the top 1 percent and you’ll beat everybody else anyways,” says Heath. “We focus at Leo on proper technique that’s going to beat the best guys.”
      Heath and his mat brothers take that message of being relentless to heart.
      “(Williams) preaches that to the team,” says Heath. “That’s what we try to live by at Leo.
      “It comes back to wrestling hard the whole time."
      “It’s not about doing just enough to win. That’s not what Coach Williams wants.”
      What Williams appreciates about Heath is his willingness to always give his best effort.
      “Everybody wants to be a champion,” says Williams. “Very few people are willing to pay the price. (Heath’s) motor never stops."
      “We always say we want to be extremely stubborn on our feet, relentless on top and explosive on bottom. He never stops wrestling.”
      As for Heath’s place on the team, his head coach sees him as a leader with his work ethic.
      “He leads by example,” says Williams. “He’s very encouraging of the other guys."
      “A lot of the other wrestlers feed off his intensity.”
      Heath had his first mat experiences in first grade, but really began to take the sport seriously in middle school. He has traveled extensively since then and competed with coach Bryan Bailey the Indiana Outlaws Wrestling Club and trained with coach Kevin English and Elite Athletic Club among others.
      “In the off-season, we travel everywhere,” says Heath. “It’s a different practice every night."
      “(English) told me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and embrace the whole grind of the sport.”
      Spending so much time in so many different wrestling environments has taught Heath many ways to attack and defend.
      “I really enjoy new technique,” says Heath. “When it comes down to it,
      I have my fundamentals I stick to.
      “But I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve.”
      Heath went 41-6 as a Leo freshman and was a qualifier for the IHSAA State Finals at 120. As a sophomore, he went 44-3 and placed fifth at 126. He is off to a 5-0 start as a junior.
      At 90-9, Heath is No. 2 on the all-time victory list at Leo. With nearly two seasons left in his prep career, he seems sure to go well past 2007 graduate Chad Friend (112-13) for No. 1.
      “It’s not as important to me as getting as good as I can,” says Heath.
      “I’m not chasing records."
      “I have a passion and love for the sport. Everyday I go to practice I get to do what I love."
      “It makes it easier to get through the tough times.”
      His regular workout partners are senior Clayton Jackson (138) and junior Jacob Veatch (126) as well as Logan Williams.
      Jackson and Veatch present contrasting styles.
      “Clay is very fundamental,” says Heath. “He has very good defense. He stays in good position all the time.
      “If I’m going to score on him, it has to be perfect technique.”
      Jackson and senior Tom Busch (285) serve as team captains. Heath describes Veatch as “super funky” and flexible.
      “I have to be even more fundamental (against Veatch),” says Heath. “I have to finish quick and start if I’m going to finish the takedown on Jake."
      “I’ve got great partners.”
      The Leo schedule includes the New Haven Super 10 on Dec. 21, the North Montgomery Holiday Tournament Dec. 27-28 (duals on Friday and individual format on Saturday) and the Class 2A Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals. Four of eight Northeast Eight Conference schools — Leo, Bellmont, Columbia City and Norwell— will compete.
      “Everything you do is working toward the middle of February,” says Heath. “I take every match one match at a time. But State’s always on my mind."
      “There’s nothing compares to being on the floor at Bankers Life.”
      Heath has already experienced what it’s like on Friday night of the State Finals with the Parade of Champions leading up to first-round matches.
      “We’re all in the (Indiana) Pacers practice gym and it’s quiet,” says Heath. “You know in about 20 minutes it’s ‘go time.’ (Wrestlers are) getting their mind right before they step out there."
      “One of the coolest things I’ve got to experience is that walk.”
      He has the chance to make the walk a couple more times before heading off to college where he hopes to continue as a wrestler.
      While their time together at Leo has not been that long, the coach and the athlete actually met several years ago.
      A Herff Jones salesman, Williams was introduced to Heath when he was a toddler and around the Norwell program where Ian’s aunt was then a manager.
      One day when Williams had the Heisman Trophy with him, he and Ian posed with it for a photo.
      The youngster told the coach he was going to be a wrestler.
      “I’d like to coach him some day,” says the coach’s reply.
      All these years later, it is happening.
      “Ian is a great young man,” says Williams. “It’s an honor to coach him.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Hunt ready for one last title run

      If it were all about heart, Bloomington South’s Noah Hunt would likely be a multiple time state champion. But, in life and on the wrestling mat, sometimes heart isn’t enough.
      Hunt grew up around wrestling. He was naturally gifted in the sport and he spent many nights fine tuning his craft. But, in sixth grade, he decided he had enough. The love just wasn’t there like it used to be.
      “I was burned out,” Hunt said. “I quit.”
      Soon Hunt realized that quitting wasn’t part of his character. Being away from the sport showed him how much he actually loved it. Midway through the seventh grade season he returned to wrestling.
      “I came back with a new mentality,” Hunt said. “I was ready to go. I was ready to get better than ever.”
      Hunt pushed his body to the limits for the sport. His sophomore year that hard work started to pay dividends. He won sectional and regional and advanced to the Evansville semistate at 120 pounds. That’s when Hunt’s journey of pain, frustration and a quest for redemption began.
      In the first round of the semistate Hunt hurt his knee. He was nine seconds into his match with Eastern’s Robbie Stein. Hunt shot in and grabbed Stein’s leg. As he was lifting it in the air to secure the single, he stepped wrong and twisted his knee. He knew he was in pain, but he continued to compete.
      Hunt ended up winning that match in dominating fashion, 9-1. His knee did not feel right, and he knew it - but he had put too much work in to give up. If he was going to get to state, he had to wrestle through the pain and win the next match.
      Hunt punched his ticket to state the next round, beating Center Grove’s Zak Siddiqui 12-1.
      Hunt ended up finishing fourth at the semistate, winning two matches with a severely injured knee. He couldn’t wait to wrestle at state the next week. It was a dream come true for him - at least that’s what he thought.
      The knee injury ended up being worse than Hunt expected. Doctors did an MRI and determined he had completely torn his ACL in his left knee. As much as he begged and pleaded to be able to wrestle at state, the doctors would not release him.
      “It was a terrible feeling,” Hunt said. “I knew I could wrestle on it, and win. But I wasn’t allowed to.”
      For Hunt, the road to recovery was a long, painful one. It took six months for him to be fully back to wrestling condition. He missed the entire summer of workouts. He knew while his competition was working on improving - he was working on getting back to the level he was previously.
      Still, Hunt had a goal to return better than ever - and he did just that.
      As a junior Hunt had more regular season losses than he did his sophomore year - but by tournament time he was clicking on all cylinders. He won the sectional and regional at 126 pounds. Then, at semistate, he defeated North Posey’s Cameron Fisher, Center Grove’s Peyton Pruett and Evansville Mater Dei’s Matt Lee in succession. He lost the semistate championship to Graham Rooks, 8-3.
      Hunt won his Friday night match at state, guaranteeing him a placement in the top 8. He beat Ft. Wayne Carroll’s Joel Byman in that Friday night round, but then lost back-to-back matches to Michael DeLaPena and Jordan Slivka.
      The only thing left for Hunt to wrestle for was seventh or eighth place. There was only one problem - he had hurt his right knee in the previous match. He recognized the feeling, it was almost the same as he had the year before.
      He decided to wrestle anyway, knowing the pain he was in. This time around, Matt Lee won the match 6-3 - giving Hunt 8th place in the state.
      A few days later he got the news that he had feared - he had torn his ACL. Six more months of recovery. Six more months of watching everyone else get better. Six more months off the mat.
      “I just had to focus on what my ultimate goal was,” Hunt said. “I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I knew I had to work in order to make the most of my senior year.”
      Hunt’s mom, Melissa, didn’t want him wrestling again. She thought it wasn’t worth it.
      “She was worried about me hurting myself again,” Hunt said. “I told her I’m sorry, but I have to do it. She wasn’t super thrilled, but she knew this was something I just had to do.”
      This season Hunt is ranked No. 18 at 138 pounds. He is 32-3 and coming off a dominating sectional performance where he won the championship by eight points.
      “A state title is pretty much his goal,” Bloomington South coach Mike Runyon said. “We set that goal early on in his career and despite everything he’s went through, that’s still his goal.”
      Hunt has spent a full year of his high school life recovering from knee injuries. He said the hardest part of returning to the sport was getting his mat awareness back. Once he did that, he feels he’s ready to get the job done.
      “I never had the thought that this isn’t worth it,” Hunt said. “All I see is wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. I’ve been pushing it as hard as I can. I’ve lost a few. But, if that’s what it takes to make my goals happen, then so be it. I’m there mentally and physically now. If I beat the kids ranked higher than me, some might think it’s an upset - but I won’t. I think I can wrestle with anyone and win.”
      Bloomington South is a school rich in wrestling tradition. Pictures of past state champions line the wrestling room - a constant reminder of those that have claimed the state’s ultimate prize. Hunt says he looks at those pictures every day, and every day dreams his will be there as well. If so, perhaps no other wrestler in school history has had to overcome as much as he has to get that prize.

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      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Fort Wayne Snider 182-pounder Veazy continues to turn heads

      If he wasn’t already on the statewide wrestling radar, De’Alcapon Veazy made more than a blip when he went 35-6 and placed fourth at the 2022 IHSAA State Finals as a 182-pound freshman.
      First introduced to the sport early in his elementary days, Veazy has achieved on the national level in the past two years. He was second at the 16U Freestyle Nationals, third twice at the Greco-Roman Nationals, fifth at the UWW Cadet/17U Greco-Roman Nationals, sixth at the 16U Freestyle Nationals and eighth at the 17U Freestyle Nationals.
      As a Fort Wayne Snider sophomore, Veazy began the 2022-23 season with 20 straight victories and placed second at Mishawaka’s 32-team Al Smith Classic, losing 3-2 to Crown Point senior Orlando Cruz (who placed second at the 2022 State Finals) in the championship match Dec. 30.
      Veazy’s secret sauce?
      “I love to learn and I love to work,” says Veazy. “I learn from mistakes and listen to my coaches.”
      Sam Ocampo is in his first season as Snider head coach after helping out at New Haven in 2021-22. He is a 1996 graduate of Bellmont, where he was a state qualifier at 126 as a junior and placed fourth at 130 as a senior. The Braves earned a state team title in 1994, a state team runner-up finish in 1995 and were state team semifinalists in 1996.
      Bellmont won the Al Smith Classic 10 times 1992 to 2002.
      “There was an expectation,” says Ocampo. “Either you perform or you get pushed out.
      “I don’t think I ever got the mental part because of that. It was just ‘next person, next person’ and were multiple-people deep (at each weight class).”
      Ocampo, who also runs Beast Mode Wrestling Academy in Auburn, says he wants to instill work ethic and discipline for the Snider Panthers, including Veazy.
      “He has a great mentality, knowing I’m going to get it done, nothing’s in my way” says Ocampo. “He’s put in a lot of time and experience to get where he’s at.
      “He’s very dominant. He’s aggressive and goes after it. When you’re the aggressor everybody has to react to you. If you’re the person that’s non-aggressive then you have to react and adjust to what (your opponent does).”
      Veazy appreciates Ocampo’s approach.
      “He likes to work on positioning and technique,” says Veazy. “He’s real big on the small details. Our team has improved (a great deal).
      “He pushes us hard, keep our minds right.”
      Ocampo pushes sportsmanship and leadership.
      “I try to lead by example,” says Veazy.
      As a fullback for a Snider football team that went 11-2 in the fall, Veazy honed skills that also help him wrestling.
      “It helps me be explosive on my feet and with my cardio,” says Veazy. “I’ve been working on trying to move my feet and my hands more.”
      Competing multiple times in a day in a tournament setting, wrestlers do different things between matches.
      “I just try to stay warm and try to think about staying in good position,” says Veazy. “I think about what I’m going to do in the match to win.”
      He also studies film to see what he’s doing well and where he can improve.
      After high school, Veazy sees himself going to college to study Business and wrestling or playing football.
      De’Alcapon (pronounced D-Al Capone because “my mom likes weird, interesting names”) is the son of Eric Veazy and Skye Grigsby. His brother is Everett Green and little sister La’Raya Veazy. Eric and Everett are Snider assistants along with Brian Tun, Conner Gimson and Drake Rhodes. La’Raya is also a young wrestler.
      Sam and Amy Ocampo have 10 children — seven girls and three boys. Sophomore Julianna Ocampo won the 106-pound title at the Al Smith Classic — the first female champion in the 43-year history of the event.
      Veazy and the other Panthers are inspired by Julianna.
      “She’s going to fight through everything,” says Veazy.
      Snider’s remaining regular-season schedule includes a dual at Fort Wayne Carroll Jan. 10, the Wild Bill Invitational at Fort Wayne Concordia Jan. 14, a home dual against Leo Jan. 18 and the Summit Athletic Conference meet at Snider Jan. 21.
      The state tournament series for the Panthers features the New Haven Sectional Jan. 28, Carroll Regional Feb. 4, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 11 and the IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.


      #MondayMatness: Eli Working on Another Podium Finish

      David Eli got an up-close look at the big stage as a sophomore.
      The Elkhart Memorial High School wrestler placed seventh at 182 pounds at the 2014-15 IHSAA State Finals.
      A year wiser and stronger, Eli has his sights set on loftier heights in 2015-16.
      Working with a Brian Weaver-led coaching staff that includes former successful Memorial wrestlers, Eli is honing his skills for a tournament run.
      Eli spent the time between high school season attending Indiana State Wrestling Association Regional Training Center workouts at Penn and going to freestyle and folkstyle tournaments.
      Just before the start of the current Crimson Charger slate, he went to Las Vegas and went 8-2 in two divisions of the “Freak Show.” Competing at 200 pounds, he won the varsity division and placed fourth in the elite.
      That experience combined with plenty of time in the weight room led the a season filled with grueling training sessions and more victories on the mat.
      “We’ve been working real hard,” Eli said after a recent win at 182. “I feel like I’ve got conditioning on some guys.”
      Weight workouts — especially with his legs — have added the muscle to help put away opponents.
      His regular workout partner at Memorial has been senior 170-pounder Nick Ritchie and both have benefitted from pushing one another.
      “For David to get down to the State Finals again this year, he needs opponents that can push him to his limitations,” Weaver said. “Nick Corpe, Shane Hendrickson and Tieshawn Johnson can push David to his limitations, get him where he needs to get.”
      Corpe and Hendrickson are EMHS assistant coaches and Johnson is a 2014 Memorial graduate.
      Corpe was a state champion for the Chargers at 171 in 2004-05 and went on to compete at Purdue University.
      Hendrickson, a 2010 Memorial graduate and two-time semistate qualifier and Northern Lakes Conference champion, wrestled for Trine University.
      Johnson, who placed fifth at the 2013-14 State Finals at 195, wrestled at Indiana Tech.
      “It really helps me out, them coming into the room and working with me,” Eli said.
      Corpe has been impressed with Eli’s work ethic and athleticism.
      “He doesn’t miss any practices,” Corpe said of Eli. “He just keeps getting better.
      “He digs for his ties and gets to his positions. When he hits his moves, he’s explosive. He stays in control of the match.”
      While Eli has been successful with blast double, high crotch and headlock combinations, Corpe wants him to add to his arsenal.
      “To win a state title, you need more than one shot,” Corpe said. “You’ve got to be able to scramble and know your positions. On top, he’s good. He’s a strong kid. But it usually comes down to the feet game. You need to compete with everyone on your feet.”
      Eli has taken this to heart.
      “I can be one-dimensional,” Eli said. “I’m working on scoring from more positions.
      “No matter who I’m wrestling, I’ve got to make sure I’m finishing my shots. Everything needs to be crisp.”
      Hendrickson said it is the basics that make Eli so good.
      “He is one of the more fundamentally-sound wrestlers I’ve ever seen in high school,” Hendrickson said of Eli. “That’s what we continue to work on. Fundamentals — David has gone them down. That’s why he’s ranked so high. That’s why he’s going to do damage at the state tournament.”
      Hendrickson sees Eli stay in what he calls “power positions.”
      “He’s always in a good stance,” Hendrickson said. “He doesn’t expose his side or his hip as much as he can help it.”
      Weaver, who placed seventh at the State Finals at 130 in 1996, said Eli and other high school (folkstyle) wrestlers have benefitted from freestyle wrestling.
      “There are more angles to freestyle and you can lock hands,” Weaver said. “(Freestyle) helps with mat awareness. Anytime you expose your back to the mat, it’s two points. A freestyle match can go very quick. You have to keep yourself in very good position the entire match.”
      Some folkstyle matches become a contest of playing near the edge of the mat. That’s not the case in freestyle.
      “Freestyle does not allow you to play the out-of-bounds line,” Weaver said. “(The official) will blow the whistle and take you right back to the center. They don’t want the lag time.
      “I’m hoping that Indiana will go to the college rules where if you have any limb inside the circle, it’s still live wrestling. It will eliminate playing the out-of-bounds line game.”
      Taking his knowledge of freestyle and his work ethic, Eli is aiming high this season.
      Next up for Eli and the Chargers is a dual against Northridge Tuesday, Jan. 19, and the NLC Tournament Saturday, Jan. 23 — both at Memorial.

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Olympians Building with Core Group of Lightweights

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Columbus East senior Coy Park has wrestled at 182 pounds his entire high school career. But when coach Chris Cooper told Park it would help the team if he dropped to 170, Park did just that.
      “Coy said he would cut the weight and get down to 170,” Cooper said. “When I told him it would help the team, there was never any question in his mind. He was going to do whatever he needed to do to help us succeed. Coy is without question our team leader. He leads by example and he can be vocal. He’s 100 percent about the team all the time.”
      That mindset has driven the Olympians to success this season. Every wrestler on the team will do whatever it takes to make the team better. Cooper feels that his squad can be a legitimate contender to win the team state title as long as they keep getting better.
      Leading the way for the Olympians is a core of young ranked wrestlers at the lower weights. Freshman Cayden Rooks is the No. 1-ranked 106-pounder in the state. Freshman Jake Schoenegge is ranked No. 14 at 113. Graham Rooks, who finished third last season at 106 pounds, is now ranked No. 4 at 120. Sophomore Dawson Combest is the 14th ranked 126 pounder in the state.
      “Those guys kind of give you some hammers in your lineup,” Cooper said. “They are the kind of guys that live and breathe wrestling. They are the kind of kids that have been in big meets before, and big situations. That experience, even at a young age, helps everyone on the team.”
      The only other ranked wrestler on the Columbus East squad is senior heavyweight Sean Galliger. Galliger is ranked No. 5.
      Rounding out the lineup is sophomore Corbin Pollitt at 132, senior Jake Martindale at 138, freshman Hunter Dickmeyer at 145, senior Ben Wilkerson at 152, junior Austin Wilson at 160, sophomore Lane Goode at 182, junior Seth Turner at 195 and junior Austin Sheckles at 220.
      Senior Quade Greiwe was a semistate qualifier last season for the Olympians, but had a season-ending ACL injury earlier this year.
      The Olympians started the season out with a loss to sectional rival Jennings County, 37-28. Cooper is hoping the team has improved significantly since that time.
      “We are fired up for the state tournament to begin,” Cooper said. “We are not the best team in the state today. We didn’t start out as the best team in the state. But we hope to be one of, if not the best team in the state come tournament time.
      “Jennings County is tough. They beat us already. They are returning sectional champions. But we hope we are a different team now and up to the challenge.”
      The Olympians last won the Jennings County sectional title in 2013. In 2014 Columbus East finished fifth behind Greensburg, Jennings County, Madison and Columbus North. Twenty points separated the top five teams that season.
      Last year Jennings County ran away with the championship – outscoring Columbus East 268-148.
      Cooper has stressed the importance of summer wrestling to his team – which has bought in to his philosophy. The kids wrestled over 30 matches during the offseason and also bonded as a team. Now they are also buying into Cooper’s philosophy that they have to improve each and every day.
      “I think that’s one of the biggest keys to success,” Cooper said. “You have to use every day to get better. Every day you have to make a conscious effort to improve in something.”
      The Olympians have tried to make their schedule very difficult, especially early on.
      “We want to find out early what our flaws and our weaknesses are,” Cooper said. “That’s why we start with such a tough schedule. Then we can work on those flaws, and as the season progresses we really show how battle tested we are.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Cornwell looking to finish on top

      Kyle Cornwell was ready to give up wrestling for good. Almost every time he stepped on the mat, he would eventually watch his opponent have his hand raised in victory. The losses piled up, and the frustration mounted along with it.
      “I’ve had some mental blocks in wrestling,” Cornwell said. “In sixth grade I was something like 1-26. I was so frustrated with myself. I didn’t think wrestling was for me. I really wanted to just throw in the towel.”
      That’s when Cornwell got a little encouragement from his family and one of his closest friends.
      “My dad (Jade Cornwell) and friend Jalen Morgan talked me into sticking with wrestling,” Kyle said. “Jalen told me we have to start training. We’re not going to get better without putting in the work. So, we started training. We trained and trained and trained. By my 8th grade year we went to a preseason national tournament in Iowa and Jalen finished third in his weight class and I won mine.”
      That tournament success vaulted Cornwell’s wrestling career. He fell in love with the sport and is now ranked No. 1 in the state at 220 pounds and will wrestle for Indiana University next season. The Elwood senior’s training partner is still that same kid that told him in sixth grade to stick with wrestling. Morgan is ranked fourth at 182 pounds.
      “Jalen and I have been friends since fourth grade,” Kyle said. “We wrestle every day at practice. He has more speed than I do, so that helps me, and I am stronger than him, so that helps him.”
      Last season Cornwell finished fifth at 220 pounds. He was a state qualifier in the same weight class in 2017.  He is happy to be ranked No. 1 this season.
      “It’s really a relief to be ranked No. 1,” Cornwell said. “Yeah, you have a target on your back a little, but I’ve been ranked behind Mason Parris for a while and it’s nice to have that top spot now. You have to be confident to be that No. 1 guy or you are going to lose. You don’t go to a match with your head down. You know who you are and that you can beat anyone.”
      Cornwell wrestled Parris last season in the New Castle semistate championship. That match didn’t work out well for Cornwell, as Parris pinned him in 1:14.
      “It was a really good experience to wrestle Mason,” Cornwell said. “He’s one of the top kids in the nation. It opened my eyes to what I need to be like and what I need to be training for. It really helped me step up to that next level.”
      Cornwell committed to improving in the offseason, with a focus on pushing the pace and scoring. His mission is to score as many takedowns and points as possible. He wrestled over 100 matches during the offseason and feels right now he’s at the best he’s ever been.
      “Kyle has a funk to him that he’s been getting into for the last few years,” Elwood coach Fred Short said. “He likes to do the scrambling like they do in college. In high school it’s a little weird to see when you’re not used to it. He is a lot slicker now than he was last year. I think a lot of that is because of wrestling with Jalen and really having to be quick against him.”
      Cornwell’s goals this season were to go undefeated and win a state championship.
      Elwood, as a team, is down this season. The team had 10 wrestlers early on but are down a few since that time. Coach Short, who has been a wrestling coach in some capacity since the early 1980s, is retiring after this season.


      #WrestlingWednesday: Perry Meridian Loading Up for a Deep Run

      Last season Perry Meridian advanced 14 wrestlers out of sectional with 11 champions. They finished 13th in the state – and that leaves a terrible taste in their mouths.
      “We weren’t pleased at all with our finish last year,” said Falcon’s head coach Matt Schoettle. “We really felt like we should have been a top 5 team. We had some guys that should have made it to state that didn’t.”
      Last year was Schoettle’s first year as head coach for Perry Meridian. He had been an assistant coach for 18 years under Jim Tonte, who took the job at Warren Central. Tonte’s Warriors won state in his first year at the helm.
      “I learned everything from coach Tonte,” Schoettle said. “He has three state titles at Perry Meridian and then another one now at Warren Central. I learned dedication and commitment from him and how hard you have to work to get what you want.”
      This year’s Falcon squad is poised to make a run for the team title. The team returns state placers Sammy Fair (5th at 106) and Noah Warren (7th at 160). Fair is a sophomore and Warren is a junior this season.
      “Sammy is an awesome kid,” Schoettle said. “He will run through a brick wall for you. He’s a great student, a hard worker and every year he wins our extra workout award because he doesn’t quit. I look for very good things out of him this season.”
      As for Warren, Schoettle believes he has a real shot of winning a title this season.
      “Noah is kind of a clown on the team,” Schoettle said. “I’m an intense guy and he knows how to lighten the mood. His dad is my middle school coach. He works hard, doesn’t get in trouble but he knows how to make people around him have fun. He’s a great leader and he had an outstanding summer.”
      The Falcons graduated three state qualifiers. Brett Johnson finished 3rd at 152. Daniel Brookbank was 7th at 132 and Chris Ridle was a state qualifier at heavyweight. But, as it have done so often in the past, Perry Meridian believes they have athletes to step up and get the team to that next level.
      “I have three or four guys that were semistate guys last year that I think have state place-winner kind of talent,” Schoettle said. “Sunny Nier will be either 120 or 126. Kain Rust will go 138 or 145. Kain has multiple ISWA state titles and he could have a really good year. Jack Serview and Christian Warren could also get to state this year.”
      Incoming freshmen Brayden Littel and Brayden Lowery are also expected to have good seasons for the Falcons.
      The team has a lot of depth this season. Tuesday they held an intersquad match and there was a lot of competition at each weight class. There were 12 guys in the 138 bracket alone.
      “I told them that this bracket might be tougher than our first few tourneys,” Schoettle said.
      Perry Meridian’s goals are lofty. They want to win the dual team state title and the regular team state title.
      “We talk about it every day,” Schoettle said. “We have the team that can compete. We have to stay healthy, keep guys fresh and continue to work on improving and conditioning. As with any team, we will also need to get a few breaks. There are a lot of good teams out there this year, but we know we can compete with any of them.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Sibling rivalry leads to Wilkerson's success

      There are times when things get so heated in the wrestling room at Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville that brothers Chase and Chris Wilkerson have to be seperated. Like most brothers, they hate to lose to each other. When they practice together, things can start to get a little testy.
      Those moments certainly aren’t the norm. Chase, a junior and Chris, a sophomore are each other’s biggest fans. They practice together, condition together and talk strategy together. When one brother is struggling, the other is there to pick him up.
      “They really have a neat dynamic,” Marauder coach Chad Masters said. “Every big match, they are both on the sidelines coaching each other. They are both the first one there to congratulate each other. They console each other after tough losses. They are two of the best kids I’ve ever met. They are the type of people you want in the room and you know they’ll be successful in whatever they do.”
      This year Chase is ranked No. 11 in the state at 120 pounds and is ranked fourth in the New Castle semistate. Chris is not state ranked, but is No. 6 in the New Castle semistate at 132 pounds.
      Before his last middle school season started, Chris weighed 170 pounds. He had always wrestled the bigger guys due to his size. But, when he started really focusing on improving, he started to get in better shape as well. He wrestled at 145 pounds by the end of his eighth grade season. Then, in high school, he got down to 132 pounds and he maintained that weight all summer long. This is his second season at that weight class.
      Last season ended in trying fashion for Chris. He was the No. 2 seed in the Warren Central sectional. He won his first two matches then ran into senior Tim Wright. During that match Wright’s head slammed into Chris’s face. The force from the blow knocked a tooth out of Chris’s mouth, and caused other damage. He had to injury default out of the tournament and go to the hospital immediately. That injury ended his freshman campaign.
      “That was the worst feeling in my life,” Chris said. “Just hearing that I couldn’t continue. It was the first time I had cried in years. It was awful knowing that all the hard work I had put in, and nobody was going to see that pay off.”
      That’s when Chase stepped in.
      “Chase helped me to cope with knowing I was out,” Chris said. “He was telling me to bounce back harder. He told me to work harder. And, he did the same. Seeing him work as hard as he did started pushing me to get better as well.”
      Chase lost to New Castle’s Trevor Ragle in the first round of semistate 4-1. Ragle went on to advance to the state tournament. Before the Ragle match, Chase had fallen short against other ranked guys as well.
      “This year started out the same way,” Masters said. “He wrestled Zane Standridge and lost in the last 20 seconds. He knew he could wrestle the ranked guys, but he wasn’t sure he was able to beat them. It seemed like every time something would go wrong and he’d lost the match at the end.”
      The turning point for Chase came 14 days after the Standridge match. Chase was wrestling a familiar foe, Greenfield’s Gavin Rose. The two were once practice partners at Mt. Vernon, but Rose left for the neighboring Greenfield school. He had defeated Wilkerson in the past, but this time was different.
      Chase scored four points on two reversals to beat Rose 4-2. That match showed Chase he could win the big match.
      “That was a big turning point with Chase,” Masters said. “It showed Chase that he could not only wrestle with these guys, he could beat them. It showed he could beat anyone.”
      The two wrestled again Saturday in the championship of the Hoosier Heritage Conference tournament. The match went to triple overtime before Rose pulled off the 2-0 victory.
      Chris also had a big match in the HHC tournament. He was taking on Yorktown’s Alex Barr, the No. 1 seed in the 132 pound weight class. With 10 seconds left in the match Barr had a 1-0 lead and was on top of Chris. That’s when Chris made his move, he scored an escape point and Barr fell toward the out of bounds line. When Chris saw Barr down, he dove at his legs and was awarded the takedown to go up 3-2 with three seconds left. On the restart he let Barr up to secure the 3-2 win.
      “I couldn’t contain my emotions,” Chris said. “I had to let it out. That was such a crazy match and I was just so excited to win it.”
      The brothers have very different styles on the mat. Chase likes to go for the takedowns and be aggressive offensively. Chris is a patient wrestler who minimizes his mistakes.
      Both brothers have a goal to reach the state tournament.
      “I definitely think I should go to state this year,” Chase said. “It’s going to be rough for sure, but I feel like I can make it.”
      One of the keys to getting to state might just be having a sibling to push you. It’s working for the Wilkerson brothers right now.
      “Having a brother is definitely an advantage,” Chase said. “You grow up beating the crap out of each other. But, whenever you need someone to work with - we are there for each other and we want each other to succeed. When he does well, I feel as good as if I had done well myself.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday Feature: Hurford Wraps up Successful NJCAA Career

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Former Culver Community wrestling standout Matt Hurford is making a name for himself in the junior college ranks.
      Hurford recently finished as runner-up in the National Junior College Athletic Association championships. The Ellsworth Community College sophomore has placed runner-up in the championships both of his years at the school.
      Ellsworth is a two-year college program. So now Hurford is weighing his options and hoping to wrestle Division I for the remainder of his collegiate years.
      “I’ve got several Division I coaches talking to me,” Hurford said. “I’ve just got to decide what I’m going to do and what the best fit for me is going to be.”
      At Culver Community High School Hurford ended his senior year on a high note. He won state at 182 pounds, beating Perry Meridian’s Jake Massengale 9-4 in the final.
      “That was probably the highlight of my wrestling career so far,” Hurford said. “I was so happy after that.”
      Ellsworth coach Cole Spree was pleased to have Hurford on his team the past two seasons.
      “He’s the hardest worker we have,” Spree said. “That is ultimately the key to his success. His work ethic and what he expects from himself is second to none. There are times in the room where he gets beat by the other guys, but that’s only because he practices so hard, he warms up so hard, he can wear himself out because he only knows one speed.”
      Spree said he loves to recruit Indiana wrestlers. Ellsworth is located in Iowa Falls, Iowa.
      “I’ve got one other kid from Indiana on my team right now (Merrillville’s Isaac Rentas),” Spree said. “A lot of Indiana kids don’t want to go far away. But the kids from Indiana are usually very grounded and seem to all come from very good programs and they know their wrestling.”
      Hurford admits he has work to do in order to be able to compete at the level he would like to in Division I.
      “I think my strength and my hard work are my two biggest assets,” he said. “But I still have to improve technique-wise.”
      Hurford wasn’t always a good wrestler. He started competing in second grade and struggled quite a bit up until about seventh grade.
      “I think seventh grade is when things really started to click for me,” Hurford said.
      Wrestling has been an uphill climb for Hurford since the beginning. He didn’t get recruited heavily out of high school, despite winning the state championship. But it didn’t stop him. Instead he went to Ellsworth to improve, and has done so. Spree contributes Hurford’s success to the amount of time he spends working to get better.
      “Matt doesn’t have freaky speed,” Spree said. “He doesn’t have anything that would make you say ‘wow.’ But he’s got that attitude that no matter what is put in front of him, he’ll go around it, or through it, or over it. He’ll do whatever it takes. That’s why he will continue to be a success.”
      If you have a story idea for #WrestlingWednesday, email jerhines@cinergymetro.net with your suggestion.

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      #MondayMatness with Steve Krah: Rensselaer Central’s Stanley controls emotions, stacks up victories

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


      #WrestlingWednesday: North Montgomery looking for more this year

      One and a half points. That’s all that separated North Montgomery from winning the Crawfordsville sectional championship last year.
      The Chargers were defeated by Southmont, their arch rival by a score of 242-240.5. It was the closest score between the top two teams in all of the state last year in sectional action.
      “Southmont is our county and they are our biggest rivals,” North Montgomery coach Maurice Swain said. “Our kids have been seeing those guys since elementary school. We’re hoping this year we can turn that score around.”
      North Montgomery is certainly poised to win a sectional title – and possibly more. The Chargers return a senior-laden team led by their 170-pound wrecking ball Tanner Webster. Webster is currently the No. 2 ranked grappler in the weight class, just behind his good friend Burk Van Horn.
      “Tanner is one of those kids that is always on the wrestling mat,” Swain said. “When I first came here he was in fifth grade and would wrestle in the varsity room. He was always working with our high schoolers. He always wants to get better. The goal this year for him is to win a state title.”
      Webster vividly remembers the excitement of advancing to state last year and ultimately placing sixth at 170 pounds. But now that he’s had a taste for the big stage, he’s setting his sights on bringing home top honors.
      “Last season just going to state was very cool,” Webster said. “It relieved a bunch of stress I felt to get there. But this year I want to win it all, and I want to have several of my teammates at state with me as well.”
      The Chargers have eight seniors on the team, and seven of those seniors are in the lineup.
      “Even the guys that aren’t seniors have been in our program for a long time,” Swain said. “At North Montgomery we don’t get move-ins. We have to develop our wrestlers.”
      Sophomore 106-pounder Seth Johnson is the team’s only other state-ranked wrestler. Johnson is currently No. 5.
      Cade Graves, Isaac Fruits and Cole Slavens are all ranked in the New Castle semistate. Graves is No. 7 at 152, Fruits is No. 5 at 182 and Slavens is No. 5 at 195.
      “I really think this is the best team North Montgomery has ever had,” Webster said. “Coach Swain has done an awesome job here. We know we can do some damage. From the bottom of our lineup to the top this is the best we’ve ever been.”
      The Chargers have the same goals every year. They want to win their County meet, their conference meet and do well in the state series. Southmont is standing in their way in all three goals.
      “Our county meet was postponed, but we are excited to see those guys,” Webster said. “We feel like we are better than we were and we hope to prove that.”


      #WrestlingWednesday: Alara Boyd Aiming for Gold

      Alara Boyd firmly believes that she can compete with any female wrestler in the world. That confidence has Boyd, a sophomore at Yorktown High School, setting her sights on winning a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
      “I for sure feel I’m there, skill-wise, with anyone in the world,” Boyd said. “I want to be a world champion. But more than that, I want to win the Olympics in 2020. I know what I have to do to get there. I have to keep working. I have to keep practicing and I have to keep improving.”
      The idea of Boyd wrestling in the Olympics is not a far-fetched one by any means. Boyd recently earned a bronze medal at the World Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia. Her lone loss came at the hands of Japanese gold medalist Atena Kodama, who tech-falled her opponent in the gold medal match.
      “I took a few shots I shouldn’t have taken against Japan,” Boyd said. “They put me on the shot clock and I started to get a little anxious. That really hurt me.”
      Boyd bounced back to win the bronze medal, defeating Canada’s Kirti Saxena 8-1.
      “My family and friends were super excited for me,” Boyd said. “When I got back they were all telling me how proud they were of me. I thought I wrestled well, but I want to win the world championships next time.”
      Boyd is a first-year cadet. She has two more years in the division.
      Boyd began wrestling when she was 4-years-old. She fell in love with the sport right off. Her dad, Jimmy Boyd, was her coach.
      As with most female wrestlers in Indiana, the majority of Boyd’s opponents are boys. Her practice partners are all seasoned veterans. Yorktown’s Christian Hunt, Josh Stephenson and Alex Barr all take turns wrestling Boyd at practice.
      Boyd has had success against the guys. Last year, as a freshman, she posted a winning record for the Tigers. She wrestled at 132, 138 and even 145 in some meets.
      In 2015 Boyd won the ISWA Freestyle and Greco Roman state championships, wrestling against a field of all male competitors.
      “Alara is very, very physical, even by the boys’ standard,” Yorktown assistant coach Kenny O’Brien said. “She’s very strong. She’s fantastic from an underhook. Her physicality is overwhelming at times. She’s extremely good on top in freestyle and she has one of the best leg laces in the world.”
      O’Brien also attributes some of Boyd’s success to her fight. It doesn’t matter who is in front of her, she will fight for the victory.
      “Her toughness and her fight are her best attributes,” O’Brien said. “If a girl or a guy hits her, she’s hitting back. She doesn’t back down from anyone. She’ll never back down from anyone. She’ll get right in their face and hit them back if they mess with her.”
      Boyd’s trip to Tblisi, Georgia was her first endeavor outside of the United States.
      “Things were a lot different there,” she said. “The people were overall pretty friendly. They live a lot differently than we do here. They don’t have all the luxuries we have, but it was neat to experience their culture. You see what they have went through, and you see all of the hard working people over there. It was neat to experience.”
      Boyd is currently undecided on whether she will wrestle for Yorktown during the high school season or concentrate more on training for the Olympics. She said she will most likely still wrestle for the school.
      In addition to be an Olympic hopeful, Boyd also wants to wrestle in college. Although she’s undecided on what she wants to study. Currently she’s leaning toward dentistry.


      #MondayMatness: Youngest Fiechter William looking to make noise in final season for Southern Wells

      For the better part of the past two decades, high school wrestlers in the Fiechter family have been regularly getting their hands raised in victory while wearing Southern Wells colors.
      Five Fiechter brothers — Vince (Class of 2004), Troy (2009), Darin (2010), Benjamin (2013) and William (2020) have accounted for more than 600 mat triumphs.
      All have eclipsed the 100-victory mark and rank among the winningest wrestlers in Raider history.
      Four have represented Southern Wells at the IHSAA State Finals.
      Vince Fiechter (118-18) placed fourth at 125 pounds in 2004.
      Darin Fiechter (134-28) was a state qualifier at 130 in 2010.
      Benjamin Fiechter (135-20) was state qualifier at both 126 in 2012 and 132 in 2013.
      William Fiechter (117-21) was a state qualifier at 138 in 2019, losing an 11-10 overtime match in the first round.
      “State was shock for sure,” says Fiechter. “Looking back, it was good for me. I learned to never take anything for granted. If I would have placed last year, there wouldn’t be as much fire or motivation to really push hard this year."
      “I’ve definitely got a fire under me and I’m working hard because I want to get over that Friday night match.”
      Troy Fiechter (121-28) was a four-time semistate qualifier.
      In addition, William set the school record with 92 takedowns in 2018-19 and ranks high in career takedowns as well as season and career wins.
      “There’s a 15-year age gap between my oldest brother Vince and me,” says William. “(My brothers) were really good at teaching me. They did not force their techniques on me. I think I’ve picked up something from every single one of them. They’ve always pushed me to be a hard worker."
      “They’ve always made me understand that there’s way more in life than wrestling. But wrestling can definitely help me out in life.”
      The youngest Fiechter is back for his senior season in 2019-20 and competing at 145. Through the Dec. 7 Wabash County championships, William is 11-0 for the 2019-20 season. He went 5-0 in the county meet at Northfield with four pins and a major decision.
      What William appreciates about wrestling is its individuality.
      “I can be my own person,” says William Fiechter. “I get what I put in. I enjoy the challenge of it."
      “I definitely have a lot of people around me who push me to be a better man and a better wrestler. There’s also a lot of motivation knowing that wrestling will help me later in life. It definitely makes you tougher.”
      Fiechter regularly works out in the practice room with friends he grew up with, including Jed Perry, Josh Beeks and Jacob Duncan.
      How do they help each other get better?
      “Just knowing that we can’t let up every single day,” says Fiechter.
      “Even if you don’t feel like wrestling, those are the days you probably become a better wrestler."
      “You have a practice partner who’s going to push you no matter what.”
      Southern Wells head coach Ryan Landis has been working with the Class of 2020 since they were fifth graders.
      “This is a special group of seniors,” says Landis. “They’ve stuck together. They push each other to get better. It’s a real fun group to coach.”
      Fiechter, who has competed some with the Adams Central club and as an independent in the high school off-season, offers a scouting report on himself.
      “Being around the sport quite a bit has helped my technique,” says Fiechter. “I’m definitely not as aggressive as I should be probably. I’m trying to learn a little more aggression. I’m pretty quick so that helps.”
      Pondering his future, William is considering college or perhaps becoming an entrepreneur.
      “I’d like to end up on the farm someday,” says Fiechter.
      The hands of the Fiechters have also been kept busy farming. The family, which is led by former wrestler and 1981 Adams Central High School graduate Lynn Fiechter (a state runner-up at 112 in 1980) and wife Ronda, works around 5,000 acres — mostly corn and soybeans with some swine.
      The closest town to the farm is Keystone. Southern Wells High School is near Poneto.
      Summer days might find the Fiechters boating or water skiing. The Fiechters are also a musical family and have recorded CD’s of their favorite gospel songs. William plays the guitar and ukulele.
      “Mom and dad are very good singers and passed down to some of us kids,” says Fiechter. “We were blessed with the ability that we should sing. It’s something we enjoy. It brings us closer together.”
      Fiechter appreciates Landis for showing him the way both off and on the mat.
      “The example he’s set has had a big impact on me,” says Fiechter. “He has this saying: Be brave when you’re scared; Be strong when you’re weak; Be humble when you’re victorious. That’s one that’s stuck with me.”
      Landis, a 2000 Southern Wells graduate, was an assistant for his first three years after high school and has been Raiders head coach since 2004.
      “I don’t know where that came from,” says Landis of the saying. “But it’s something we’ve adopted these last three or four years.
      “It’s awesome. It’s great. It’s what wrestling is about. It’s about finding that last bit of strength in your body when you don’t think you can do it. It’s about being humble when you are victorious, knowing that if you don’t keep working hard somebody’s going to come up and kick your butt.”
      Landis has coached all of the Fiechter brothers.
      “The personality is all completely different,” says Landis of the Fiechters. “But the No. 1 characteristic is that they’re the hardest-working kids in the room. Growing up on the farm, they just work hard in everything they do."
      “William is the most down-to-earth kid you’ll ever talk to. As much success as William has had on the mat, he’s a kid that you still have to pump confidence into him. He’s very humble. He’s very hard-working. He’s fun to be around.”
      Landis sees William as a solid mat technician.
      “He’s very fundamentally-sound,” says Landis. “He’s not a wild, crazy scrambler. Everything’s cautious and in position. He’s hard to score on. A couple takedowns and an escape and he’s in control of the match.”
      There are several key dates on the South Wells calendar. Besides the Wabash County Championships Dec. 7 at Northfield, there’s the Allen County Athletic Conference Duals Dec. 13-14, Connersville Spartan Classic Dec. 27-28, ACAC Championships Jan. 24 at Woodlan, Jay County Sectional Feb. 1, Jay County Regional Feb. 8, Fort Wayne Semistate Feb. 15 and State Finals Feb. 21-22.


      #MondayMatness: Carroll's Byman setting an example on and off the mat

      Joel Byman is an example for current and future wrestlers at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne.
      Not only is the senior 126-pounder a fine grappler for the Tim Sloffer-coached “Super Chargers,” he is ranked No. 1 in a class of about 500 and has been accepted to Harvard University.
      Byman has never gotten a B in his life.
      “I once got an A-minus,” Byman said. “Calculus is a lot of fun and I enjoy (Advanced Placement) Spanish.”
      He looks forward to the rigorous academics of the Ivy League.
      “It opens so many doors for the future,” Byman said. “I’ll probably study economics. I want to get a degree I can use to get into another country. My ultimate goal is to be a missionary or pastor overseas.”
      While he is not planning to wrestle at Harvard at this point, Byman does not rule out continuing his mat career should it become an option.
      When he’s not wrestling or helping a teammate with his studies, Byman might be playing the trumpet in the Carroll jazz band or the piano at church.
      Sloffer, who is in his first season as Carroll head coach but involved with the program since his elementary school days, is proud to say that Chargers wrestling is “sending good characters, good men out into the world” and Byman is a prime example.
      “He’s a leader in everything he does,” Sloffer said. “He leads by example. He excels in everything that he does.
      “I would never bet against him.”
      While they all won’t be at the top of their class or go on to Harvard, Sloffer said Byman is leaving a legacy for his younger teammates and future Chargers.
      “I think the kids see that,” Sloffer said. “Our juniors (who will be seniors next year) will remember what these seniors did and Joel’s the biggest part of that. We have a group of seniors (including Stone Davidson, Lucas Hook, Jessie Lawson, Tristan Lerch, Tyler McKeever and Travis Sloffer ) which have done a nice job this year.
      What does Byman do best on the mat?
      “I’m pretty good on top with keeping control, especially in tight matches,” Byman said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t be anywhere without Him. Also, my family and my teammates (junior Grant Byman is also a Carroll wrestler), the way they encourage me is just awesome.”
      Byman was one of 11 Carroll wrestlers to qualify for the 2016 Fort Wayne Semistate and got better in the off-season at the Disney Duals in Florida.
      He’s having a solid senior season for a squad which spent the Christmas holiday break by placing eighth in Class 3A at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals in Fort Wayne (up from 12th the year before) and fifth at the 32-team Al Smith Classic in Mishawaka (up from 10th).
      “We’ve progressed each year,” Byman said. “We want to take our team to another level and set an example for future years.”
      Coach Sloffer agrees with that assessment.
      “Things are really starting to look up for us,” Sloffer said of a high school program which is supported by the Carroll Wrestling Club, which includes grapplers from Arcola, Cedar Canyon, Eel River, Hickory Center, Huntertown, Oak View and Perry Hill elementaries as well as Carroll and Maple Creek middle schools plus high schoolers. “It’s just been a big effort from a lot of people, really for generations.
      “We’re just trying to make a better program and get the parents involved.”
      Carroll, who counts Sloffer, Joe Caprino, Kyle Wood, Logan Lee and Justin Smith on the coaching staff, has earned six straight sectional and four consecutive regional championships and is seeking its first semistate team crown.
      Crowds at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum Expo Center and Mishawaka’s “Cave” impressed Byman.
      “It’s crazy to see how many people are supporting wrestling and are excited about it,” Byman said. “It’s awesome.”
      Byman said a typical Carroll practice includes plenty of live wrestling.
      “That’s really helped us get in shape,” Byman said.
      Sloffer said Byman was attracted to wrestling as a Carroll Middle School eighth grader because of the challenge it presented.
      “Wrestling is the toughest sport there is,” Sloffer said. “Even if he has a loss, he’s not one you have to worry about. He’s going to come back and get re-focused.
      “Wrestling will be a part of who he is.”

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      #MondayMatness: After missing a junior season, Peru’s Sturgill focused for last high school go-round

      Trey Sturgill can hear his coach’s words of advice ringing in his ears.
      “He’s always told me to never live with regret,” says Sturgill, a 113-pound senior competing for Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andy Hobbs at Peru High School. “I’m
      determined. I’m driven. My job is to get the job done and be the best person I can be.”
      Sturgill, who Hobbs likes to call “Pancake” after a mat move of the same name, says he excels from the top position.
      “I’m a dog on top,” says Sturgill. “I like to get the pins.”
      So far, 65 of 96 career victories have come by fall. Sturgill (30-3 in 2019-20) won the 113 title at the Three Rivers Conference meet Saturday, Jan. 25 at Maconaquah.
      “He’s got a pretty good skill set,” says Hobbs of Sturgill. “He’s very savvy.”
      Sturgill missed all of junior season with an injury he can trace back to the freshmen-sophomore state when he was a freshmen. He continued to wrestle through his sophomore year, qualifying for the 2018 IHSAA State Finals at 106.
      “I really wanted to make my state run,” says Sturgill.
      The pain got to be too much and examination revealed Trey had four torn tendons and a broken shoulder. He them fixed and began physical therapy.
      “I wanted to be stronger for my senior season,” says Sturgill, who was cleared to wrestle the week after the 2019 State Finals. His off-season included meets in Michigan and Ohio. “My shoulder is doing fantastic right now.”
      Sturgill has multiple workout partners at Peru from 106 to 138.
      “We have a pretty open room,” says Sturgill. “Each kid’s different. It helps me with my defense and what to look for in a real match.”
      Trey is not the first member of his family to step into the circle.
      His father, Bill Sturgill, wrestled for Northfield High School and was a semistate qualifier.
      Trey was hooked on the sport when Bill took his youngest boy to a Peru Wrestling Club event at 3.
      Brother Peyton Sturgill, who graduated from Peru in 2016, was a two-time state qualifier. Half brother Kane Rockenbaugh (Peru Class of 2013) was a semistate qualifier. Mother Rana has been there to cheer them on.
      Peyton Sturgill is on his way to earning his college degree and becoming a math teacher. Trey Sturgill has sights set on teaching high school physical education.
      “I’m still deciding on wrestling (in college),” says Trey. “We’ll see how this season goes.”
      Away from wrestling, Sturgill likes to play disc golf at courses in Peru or Wabash.
      “I like getting out and enjoying the fresh air and nature and being with my buddies,” says Sturgill.
      Hobbs, a Tipton High School graduate, is in his 34th season as a wrestling coach and 25th season as head coach at Peru.
      “I’ve enjoyed every year of it,” says Hobbs, who has 453 dual meet victories and leads a Tigers program with the motto is “ No Magic, Just Hard Work!!!.”
      The veteran coach teaches his grapplers to “never walk past a piece of trash on the ground” and to “be humble enough to prepare and bold enough to compete with the very best!”
      “You control what you can control and don’t worry about the other guys,” says Hobbs, who has produced 41 state finalists — 39 at Peru and two while coaching at Princeton. “You drop the hammer and take more shots.“
      “Those are the ways you have success in the sport.”
      Hobbs, who is also a health teacher, believes in having and following a plan.
      “We’re specific with everything,” says Hobbs. “With nutrition, we avoid process sugar and drink a lot of water.
      “We get sleep, wash hands and wear hat and a coat. Everybody’s got to
      learn that curve.”
      Hobbs’ coaching staff features Daric Fuller (two-time state qualifer), Zak Leffel (two-time state qualifier), Colin Quin (two-time sectional two-time sectional champion), Jordan Rader (three-time state qualifier and 2018 state runner-uo at 170), Kegan Kern (four-time semistate qualifier and Al Smith Classic finalist) and Chris McKinney (conference and sectional champion). Fuller (history), Leffel (math), Quin (P.E.) and McKinney (chemistry and physics) are teachers. Rader is an Indiana University student. U.S. Air Force vet Kern is Miami County Sheriff. Kern owns his own law firm. McKinney served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army.


      #WrestlingWednesday: Mappes Aiming for Gold

      Center Grove senior Gleason Mappes comes from a very tough family. His three brothers were all outstanding wrestlers and his dad was a state champion. But, his mom has taken more wrestlers to school then the rest of the family combined.
      “She is our team bus driver,” Center Grove coach Cale Hoover said. “She’s the toughest one in the family. She’s extremely competitive.”
      Gleason Mappes is the last in a long line of great wrestlers in his family. His dad, Donald, was a 1978 state champ at Roncalli. His brother Sean won state in 2012 for Center Grove. His oldest brother Shelby placed third in state and his brother Rhett is currently recovering from a knee injury, but is part of the University of Indianapolis wrestling team.
      “Gleason is the last of four very good wrestlers,” Center Grove coach Cale Hoover said. “I’ve coached them all. I’ve had at least one Mappes in the room for the 12 years I’ve been here.”
      Gleason has been able to learn from his family’s strengths. He’s a three-time state qualifier and a two time placer. He has finished fourth the past two seasons.
      “Coach tells me I have a little bit of the attributes of all my family,” Gleason said. “Sean was a very funky wrestler. I try to be funky like that. He also has naturally good hip position and I’ve tried to emulate that as well. Shelby was more of the type of wrestler that just wanted to go in and beat you up until you give in. He’s really good on his feet and good at riding. I’m working to be that good on my feet as well. All of them were mentally tough.”
      Mappes has worked on improving his takedown ability since last season.
      “My main goal is to make an offense that is dynamic and that can’t be stopped,” he said.
      Mappes says the biggest thing his family has taught him is that you move on, no matter what.
      “You don’t get hung up on things that happened,” Mappes said. “You keep moving on. You don’t dwell on those things because they will just hold you back. If you dwell on what you could have done, you aren’t going to go much further.”
      Coming from such a strong wrestling family, Gleason doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t wrestle. But, he hasn’t had the number of career matches that are normal for a wrestler of his caliber.
      “Gleason entered high school with less than 100 matches in his career,” Hoover said. “He wrestled three years in middle school and a handful of club matches. He was a short little fat kid, but you could tell he was gifted and that he had a lot of talent.”
      As a freshman Gleason had a rough season. He lost 20 matches that year. Gleason is the only wrestler in at least five years to lose 20 matches and make it to the state finals.
      Reaching state lit a fire under Gleason. He came out the next year with a 37-11 record and finished fourth at 160 pounds as a sophomore. Then, as a junior he was 41-3 and finished fourth at 160 pounds.
      “Gleason has a tremendous upward climb,” Hoover said. “I really have no idea where his ceiling is. He isn’t even close to it yet.”
      Mappes is hoping to be Center Grove’s first four-time state qualifier. Ultimately, he is wanting a chance to wrestle under the lights.
      “That’s my goal,” Mappes said. “I want to finish under the lights.”
      After high school Gleason is going to wrestle for the University of Indianapolis and he will study nursing. Losing him from the Center Grove room will be tough on the Trojan family, especially on coach Hoover.
      “I just feel so fortunate to coach him,” Hoover said. “When I first came here he was in first grade. I’ve known him most of his life. I know for sure I’ll be dominating their family for the wrestling Hall of Fame.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Purdue Polytechnic ready for their first full season

      After five years of watching others compete in Indiana’s wrestling state tournament, Purdue Polytechnic will finally get its chance to participate.
      Polytechnic started six years ago but this is the first year the school is fully sanctioned to compete in the Indiana High School Athletic Association tournaments.
      The Techies are hoping to find quick success on the mat this season.
      “This year we have some kids that we think will do pretty well in the state tourney,” Polytechnic coach Cory Graham said. “We want to get into team state and eventually work toward a team state title.”
      The school has just over 500 students. The wrestling team has 42 grapplers and fills every weight class.
      “If you look at most high schools, the kids come from the same location,” Graham said. “Here we have kids traveling from all over the Indianapolis area. We have kids from Greenwood, the west side and all over the city. We are a very diverse school, but we come together and work toward a common goal.”
      Although there are a good number of wrestlers on the team, the Techies are very inexperienced on the mats compared to other schools they will compete with.
      “We started with 16 kids when we started the program,” Graham said. “We’ve grown every year. I only have a couple of kids that come with some decent experience. We started a middle school program, but we only have six kids that have come up from that.”
      Currently the Techies have 22 freshmen and 12 sophomores on the team. They have just four seniors, two male and two female.
      “I’m excited about that,” Graham said. “This is a great opportunity for these kids to get experience and learn.”
      The only ranked wrestler in the program currently is sophomore Silas Foster. Foster is ranked No. 18 at 138 pounds.
      “My personal goal is to get a state title,” Foster said. “I want to wrap up our schools first state championship and then I want to go out and get two more in my junior and senior seasons.”
      Foster has gone to the New Castle semistate as a spectator several times. He has witnessed the emotion of the ticket-round matches and the thrill of the champions being crowned.
      There are seven female wrestlers on the Techie squad. Seniors Katelynn Hernandez is ranked No. 3 in the girls’ polls at 132 pounds. Her senior classmate, Carmen Castillo, is ranked No. 10 at 182.
      “I’ve had three girls that have been runners-up in the girls state tournament,” Graham said. “I’ve had six placers at girls state. We have four kids wrestling in college right now.”
      On the boys side, senior 152-pounder Canaan Miller is the team’s leader.
      “In the room he’s really vocal and he works well with the young guys,” Graham said. “He has wrestled all four years for us. He’s pretty tough. We bumped him up against Daleville to wrestle the NO. 9-ranked kid at 160 and he wrestled him pretty well. He’ll scrap with anyone in the state.”
      Although the wrestlers on the team come from all different parts of the Indy area, they have been able to bond.
      “We’re a very positive, upbeat team,” Graham said. “All the kids are super funny. They cool part of this team is that a lot of them played football together and they have like a brotherhood mentality. We are really close. It’s like a family but we can flip the switch when it comes time to practice and compete.”
      The Techies are hoping to build on whatever success they have this year, and in the near future they are hoping to become a strong wrestling program with multiple accolades.
      “It has been a long process to go through to become sanctioned by the IHSAA,” Graham said. “After fighting the battle for five years, we finally got in. A lot of our kids didn’t understand how the tournament even worked, especially my new kids. They are excited to be a part of this and to learn from it.”

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      #MondayMatness: A.J. latest in a long line of Fowlers piling up victories at Calumet

      One family has had their hand raised in victory nearly 500 times while representing Calumet High School wrestling.
      Brothers Artty (Class of 1991) and Ed Fowler (1992) grappled to victories for the Warriors then the next generation added to that total. Artty and Deanna Fowler’s five oldest sons — Nathan (2010), Noah (2014), Nick (2015), Kobe (2016) and A.J. (2019) — have all won for the Warriors, especially Nick and A.J.
      With success in the IHSAA state tournament series, A.J. has a chance to pass Nick on the way to the top of the Calumet victory list. No. 1 is now held by 2010 130-pound state qualifier Mike Clark (143).
      In a household full of wrestlers, A.J. found out he had to get tough just to protect himself.
      “I’m as aggressive as a I can be,” says A.J. Fowler. “All my brothers beat me up when I was little.”
      All the Fowlers have played football and wrestled for the Warriors. A.J. ran for more than 500 yards as a fullback and also played defensive end and outside linebacker last fall. He sees his collegiate path including business management classes and either wrestling or football.
      “The two go hand-in-hand for success in both,” says Jim Wadkins, a 1980 Calumet graduate who grappled at 177 pounds for coach Rolland Beckham (who had been an NAIA All-American at Indiana State and coached at Calumet for 18 years) and has been on the wrestling coaching staff since 1984-85 (he was an assistant to Ken Stigall, who was placed third at 112 at the 1967 IHSAA State Finals) and head coach since 1990-91.
      Known for close to a decade after reorganization as Calumet New Tech High School, the Gary-based school has about 600 students. That makes it one of Indiana’s smaller Class 3A schools.
      “We’ve got a lot of two- and three-sport athletes at Calumet,” says Wadkins. 
      A.J. Fowler wrestled at 182 pounds as a freshman, 195 as a sophomore and junior and is at 220 as a senior. His resume includes two sectional titles, one regional crown, three semistate berths and a state qualifying appearance in 2018. He has a chance to join Butch Carpenter as four-time semistate qualifier for Calumet.
      The Warriors are members of the Greater South Shore Conference and face a strong schedule which includes, in addition to the conference tournament, the Warsaw Invitational, Harvest Classic at Lake Central, Chris Traicoff Memorial Invitational at Calumet, Jeffersonville Classic, Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka and Lake County Championships. Chris Traicoff started the Calumet program in 1939. The program was shut down during World War II and beyond and Beckham helped bring it back with the help of AD and boys basketball coach Traicoff during the 1960’s. He died in 1989.
      According to Wadkins, Lowell native George Belshaw introduced Traicoff to Indiana University coach Billy Thom and even though 1935 valedictorian Traicoff played basketball and never wrestled a match in at Calumet Township High School, he won an NCAA title for the Hoosiers in 1939. That same year, he came back to Calumet to start the program. Calumet’s modern state tournament path has led them through the Griffith Sectional, Hobart Regional and East Chicago Semsitate.
      In other words, a lot of tough Region wrestlers.
      “It’s pretty tough,” says Fowler of northwest Indiana grappling. “You never know what you’re going to get."
      “You may get a guy who’s big, burly and knows about three moves but he’ll still go with you.”
      Wadkins notes that most Region wrestlers in the upper weights are juniors and seniors and Fowler held his own as an underclassman. Fowler has honed his skills with senior 195-pounder Aaron Lizardi and senior 285-pounder Keiloun Martin being his regular workout partners. He also spars regularly with assistant coach Andy Trevino. A state champion at 140 for Calumet in 1991, he has assisted Wadkins for more than a decade.
      “He’s an asset in our room,” says Wadkins of Trevino. “Coaching wrestling is a young man’s game. They’re able to get on the mat with the kids."
      “We’ve been very fortunate. Calumet grads or those connections to the program have shown a lot of devotion and have been good about giving back.”
      Alec Noworul (Class of 2014) and Lamberto Garcia 15 are giving back as middle school coaches who also help out at high school workouts.
      A.J. gives knowledge to his younger teammates by showing them the many moves he knows.
      “It’s kind of like a big brother system,” says A.J., who is also sometimes joined in practice by actual brothers Nathan and Noah. Sister Felicia is the oldest of the Fowler kids and the only girl. Wadkins says she might be the toughest. Youngest Kade (Class of 2026) has yet to get too involved in wrestling.
      Like his older brothers, A.J.’s matches keep his mother on the move. “She still has anxiety,” says A.J. Fowler. “She has to walk around after every match.”
      Calumet has competed this season with 22 wrestlers and filled most weight divisions, even when being undersized in some of them.


      #MondayMatness: Family atmosphere, 'next guy in' mentality drives Penn success

      Penn has been an IHSAA state championship contender in most years since Brad Harper took over as head coach of the Kingsmen in 2006.
      In 2015, Penn won its first state team title.
      The goal every year is reach the top of the Indiana heap.
      It’s also to grow the program’s reputation in the state and beyond.
      At any given time during the high school season, there are around close to 100 wrestlers striving to get better while also forming a bond.
      “The family atmosphere — that’s huge for us,” Harper said. “That’s why we have 90 kids on the team.
      “We probably have 14 seniors and only three of them start. Why are you letting the seniors stay out? Because they want to be a part of it.”
      Long-time assistant coach Chad Hershberger, a 2000 Penn graduate, hears the word every time the Kingsmen break from a meet or a practice: “Family!”
      “That’s what we are,” Hershberger said. “We are a family from the time we step into that (practice) room until we leave. It’s 24-7, 365.”
      One of Harper’s teammates at Mishawaka High School (Brad won a state title in 1998 and was a state runner-up in 1999) was Mike Cramer, who is now associate pastor at New Life Baptist Church in Osceola.
      Cramer has been coming to Friday practices for years to give motivational talks that relate life to wrestling. Topics include hard work, teamwork, determination and — of course — family.
      Not every athlete buys into the family values that the coaching staff of 20 constantly talks about.
      But most do and thrive because of it.
      They gravitate to coaches like five men who have been at the core of the coaching staff for the past decade — Harper, Hershberger, Dave Manspeaker, Jim Rhoads and Tom Dolly.
      They also go to the many longtime volunteers to learn wrestling technique, but also to be motivated or to just have a friend and role model.
      “We mentor some of these kids,” Hershberger said. “Some of them don’t have much and they just want to be a part of something.”
      So while individuals set their own goals, the team goal is always a high one and everyone is expected to contribute.
      At some schools, they call them “program kids.”
      At Penn, it’s “next guy in.”
      “You’ve got to be ready because you never know when someone is going to go down,” Harper said.
      Getting wrestlers ready to jump into the fire is a schedule that has junior varsity wrestlers taking part in many varsity tournaments.
      “The only way that some of these kids were going to be able to step into that role is to have the varsity experience,” Hershberger said. “Are we always going to win? No. But that’s not what we ask. It’s about getting better and getting that varsity competition so when we do have injuries, that next kid is ready to step in. They are battle-tested.”
      Penn, which placed sixth in Class 3A at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals Friday, Dec. 23 in Fort Wayne, also derives success from its feeder program. Three middle schools — Discovery, Grissom and Schmucker are all on the same page with the high school.
      The Penn Wrestling Club begins with pre-kindergarten grapplers and goes all the way through high school, where it’s known as Midwest Extreme Wrestling (MXW) and wrestlers come from all over to take part in national team events.
      It begins with the Kings Kids (Pre-K through First Grade) and goes to the Noble Kingsmen (Grades 2-5) Elite Kingsmen (Grades 2-6) and Black Knights (Grades (6-8) before high school.
      Chad Harper, Brad’s brother and a member of Mishawaka’s 1991 IHSAA team champions, is club’s event coordinator and vice president on the board of directors. He said there are currently 176 active wrestlers though eight grade and there are 40 or more in the high school club.
      When the high schoolers travel to Indiana events, they tend to go as the Penn Wrestling Club. At national tournaments, they tend to represent MXW.
      MXW promotes wrestling regionally, nationally and possibly at the world level.
      “It just makes for a good wrestling room,” Chad Harper said.
      Through fundraising efforts (each wrestler has their own account), club wrestlers travel all over the nation — from Las Vegas to the Fargo Nationals to the Disney Duals in Florida and more.
      “We’re seeing competition nationwide and that’s huge,” Brad Harper said. “Our goal is not just to be good in the state, we want to be No. 1 in the nation.”
      On April 7-8, 2017, PWC and MXW will again host a national dual tournament inside Compton Family Ice Arena at the University of Notre Dame. The 2016 duals — the first wrestling meet on the ND campus since 1992 — drew eight regional teams and the hope for 2017 is 16.
      “We want to grow it every year,” Chad Harper said. “We want to help build up the Notre Dame club.”
      Fran McCann, who helps coach at the high school and club levels at Penn, was the Notre Dame head coach when the school discontinued intercollegiate wrestling.
      Heading into 2016-17, Penn’s single-season leaders were Austin Kunze (217 takedowns in 2009-10), Tim Koch (37 reversals in 1987-88), Alex Gregory (35 pins and 50 wins in 2010-11), Derrick Jones (87 near falls in 1997-98) and Trevor Manspeaker (31 technical falls in 2012-13). Career leaders were Kenny Kaiser (331 takedowns from 1985-88), Tom Ginter (62 reversals from 2002-05), Alex Gregory (102 pins from 2007-11), Jeremiah Maggart (197 near falls from 2004-07), Trevor Manspeaker (93 technical falls from 2012-13) and Zach Davis (169 wins from 2011-14).
      Penn won its first Northern Indiana Conference title in 1980. The Kingsmen went into this season with a five-year streak of NIC crowns.


      #MondayMatness: Demien Visualizes Himself on Top

      Tanner DeMien likes to see his success even before he achieves it.
      The NorthWood High School sophomore wrestler has learned to use visualization to take him to the next level. As a freshman, he placed seventh at the IHSAA State Finals at 106 pounds and his sights are set even higher this winter.
      “I see myself running through my moves and getting my hand raised,” DeMien said. “I think about previous matches and how I can fix those mistakes.”
      Fourth-year NorthWood head coach Damon Hummel said DeMien has gotten better in many aspects of wrestling, but it is between the ears where he has shown the most improvement.
      Hummel said DeMien gets the mental game.
      “He understands how to go into a tournament (with four or five matches) and mentally prepare himself,” Hummel said. “Kids have a tendency to wear themselves out by the end of the day. He prepares himself to be better at the end of the day.”
      With his wrestling I.Q., Tanner is able to diagnose his issues about as quickly as Hummel and his staff.
      “He’s been around wrestling enough that he knows what to do and what not to do,” Hummel said. “He picks himself apart more than most coaches do.”
      Between matches at a super dual, Tanner will go into a quiet place and do visualization exercises and run the halls to keep his heart rate up.
      These are lessons that Tanner has learned from the many camps and off-season programs — he toured the western U.S. with the Ohio All-Star Travel Wrestling Team for 45 days last summer — he’s attended.
      Tanner, 16, is thankful for his father, Jason, who got him into wrestling as a 45-pound peewee at around age 6, for his help and guidance.
      “He’s a big part of what I am and what I’ve accomplished,” Tanner said of father, who is also a NorthWood volunteer assistant coach. “I give my props to him. He’s been teaching me ever since I can remember.”
      The DeMiens have heard highly-decorated coaches like Dan Gable speak on the importance of visualization.
      “A lot of camps we’ve been to have really talked about the mental game,” Jason DeMien said. “It’s seeing the match before you step on the mat.”
      While rotating between 106 and 113 pounds, Tanner has also refined his moves on the mat.
      “I’ve gotten better in the top position and I’m able to turn people and put them away,” Tanner said. “It’s more about technique than a strength thing. I want to get more points for my team.”
      Jason DeMien said his son has learned to apply more pressure on top, gotten good at escapes as well as movement on his feet.
      “As he has gotten older, he’s learned to get angles and work those really hard,” Jason DeMien said.
      Tanner goes into each practice with a game plan. He knows what he wants to concentrate on and he does so with intensity and is a believer in Hummel’s insistence on repetition.
      “If I’m going drill high crotch, I’d rather do that 50 times then run five moves 10 times each,” Tanner said. “It’s just getting a couple of moves down and running them.”
      Hummel calls Tanner a “drill king.”
      “He loves to hit the move and hit the move,” Hummel said. “We talk to all of our kids about repetition.”
      Hummel and his coaching staff do not throw the kitchen sink at the Panthers. The idea is to be proficient at the things they do and not how many things they do.
      “When you get close to January, there’s not much more you can teach the kids,” Hummel said. “They’ve learned what they’ve learned. Now we need to fine-tune everything. You need to be ready for sectional at the end of the year.
      “Kids think they can do everything, but you’ve got to teach them two or three good moves. Some of these kids can get a couple nice takedowns and go to state with that if you’re good at it.
      Practice intensity goes up while duration goes down.
      “When you’ve only got one guy per weight class, you can’t beat the heck out of them everyday in 2 1/2 practices,” Hummel said. “A lot of coaches believe in a lot of moves. We believe in a smaller move base and hit them harder and faster.”
      While Tanner sees plenty of mat time during the year, he is not just a wrestler. He plays tennis for NorthWood in the fall.
      “It’s great for a kid to do that,” Jason DeMien said of the multi-sport appoach. “It gives them a break from being on the mat where your body just gets worn down. Doing something different gives your mind a break.”
      Not that Tanner didn’t use his mental skills on the court.
      “There’s a lot of carryover between tennis and wrestling,” Jason DeMien said. “Tennis is a very mental sport and agility is huge. I noticed that his mental game was so much stronger than kids who have been playing a long time.”
      Look for Tanner and his NorthWood Panther teammates Wednesday, Dec. 23, at Rochester’s McKee Memorial Invitational and Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 28-29, at Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic.

      2453 2

      #MondayMatness: Flatt Encourages Individualism for the Wildcats

      Bill Flatt does not try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
      The 17th-year head wrestling coach at South Bend Riley High School knows that each athlete is different.
      Flatt gets his Wildcats to play to their strengths and it has paid off with plenty of mat success.
      “I don’t try to put them into a mold,” Flatt said. “It’s not ‘here’s how I want all of you to wrestle.’ I emphasize their individuality.”
      Flatt encourages his wrestlers to find what style best suits them and go with that. He will be there to help them refine it.
      The veteran coach and is a former Mishawaka High School (Class of 1979) and Columbia University (Chicago) grappler. As an MHS junior, Flatt went 22-1 for Hall of Fame coach Al Smith. Flatt’s only loss came in the semistate semifinals to the defending state champion.
      After college, Flatt was an assistant to Smith for one season before taking over the Riley program.
      With all his time on and around the mat, Flatt knows that some wrestlers are better on their feet and others excel on top.
      “The guys who are good riders and pinners, when they are on bottom, I don’t want them getting to their feet and getting escapes,” Flatt said. “I want them to get the reversals to get into their best position and score from there.
      “I’m always looking to get them to their best positions, whichever that is. It may be a match-to-match situation.”
      With seniors Austen Laughlin (40-2 at 145 pounds) and Kassius Breathitt (38-4 at 152) and junior Tristan Goering (33-2 at 170) winning weight-class titles and senior RZ Teague (27-15 at 160) finishing fourth, again bolstered Riley as the Wildcats [laced third at the Mishawaka Sectional. Next up is the Rochester Regional.
      “The middle of our lineup has really set the tempo for the team,” Flatt said. That tempo helped the Cats go 17-8 in 2015-16 duals and is leading to wins in the postseason.
      “We want to just keep that momentum going,” Flatt said. “Get the points you need and get off the mat. This time of the year, it’s nothing but the W. Keep going to the right on that bracket. Go to the left and you lose another match and you’re done. So we want to keep going toward that championship bout.”
      Goering placed fourth at 160 at the 2015 IHSAA State Finals. Laughlin is a two-time State Finals qualifier and a 46-match winner in 2014-15.
      “Tristan’s run in the semistate and state finals last year was tremendous,” Flatt said. “For Austen, it’s all about confidence. He’s wrestled so much, there’s always another trick in his bag, one more thing he can do. He breaks people and just gets them to submit.”
      Ultra-competitors Laughlin, Breathitt, Teague and Goering are regular sparring partners during intense Riley workouts.
      “We hate losing,” Laughlin said. “That’s what motivates us to get better. It definitely gets heated in (the practice room).”
      When Breathitt looks at Laughlin, Teague and Goering, he sees driven athletes.
      “They’re determined,” Breathittt said. “They want to go places. They love the sport.”
      “We all work hard in here and push each other to be better,” Teague said.
      Goering said it’s a matter of iron sharpening iron.
      “Austen is one of the best on our team technically,” Goering said. “Kassius stays in really good position. RZ is a combination of the two. He’s real-rounded overall. My strengths are my athleticism, my explosiveness. I’ve been told I’m hard-nosed. I’m not the most skilled, but I go out there real hard and that tends to break guys down.”
      One bit of advice from Flatt that sticks with Goering is focusing on each period instead of the whole six-minute match.
      “If you win two minutes at a time, you will win the match,” Goering said.
      The junior also serves notice about the 2016-17 Wildcats and sees Riley having a good shot at ending Penn’s stranglehold on the top spots in the sectional and Northern Indiana Conference.
      “We’ll be better next year than we are this year,” Goering said.
      Laughlin said it is his ability to adapt to many styles and to go against teammates in practice that know how to scramble to helps him win close matches.
      While Breathitt is strong as a bottom wrestler, it’s also what he has between the ears that helps him be successful.
      “It’s that mental toughness and staying strong throughout the match no matter what happens,” Breathitt said. “You’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ve got to think that you can do it.
      “I’m pretty decent on my feet, but nobody can hold me down. I’m not staying on the mat. A sit-out hip-heist is kind of my go-to thing. I keep running those. I also have moves like Granbys and such.”
      Having drilled so much, Breathitt has confidence in his best set of moves.
      “I keep running it until they stop it,” Breathitt said. “I don’t like to change it up for other people. I like to keep doing what I’ve trained to do.”
      It’s a pretty smart group, too. Flatt said Breathitt, Teague and Goering are on the their way to academic all-state honors.
      Many Riley wrestlers compete throughout the year as a part of the South Bend Wrestling Club, which holds most workouts at Riley and South Bend Joseph.
      The current pack of Wildcats are continuing a strong tradition of South Bend’s South Side. From 1960-15, Riley racked up 53 indivudal State Finals.
      Jon Galloway (1964-65-66) was a three-time state champion for the Cats. Larry Katz (1963), Matt Wills (1991), Matt Nowak (1995) and George Malone (2007) also took state titles.
      “We just keep producing,” Flatt said. “We bring kids in, give them the idea they can be successful and try to put their name on (Riley Wrestling Wall of Fame) list.”

      2428 4

      #WrestlingWednesday with Jeremy Hines: Owen Valley striving for 2A excellence

      The Owen Valley High School wrestling team has one main goal – to make the Class 2A Team state tournament. On Sunday the Patriots will find out if they get invited to the tourney.
      “Last year getting to team state was our goal,” Patriot coach Steven Spicer said. “Nothing’s changed for this year. We have talked about it all offseason. The guys know what the goal is. They have bought in. If we get in, it will be huge for our program.”
      Last season was the first time Owen Valley’s wrestling team was ever ranked in Class 2A. Spicer felt it would come down to a dual meet between the Patriots and Monrovia for the final spot in the team state field. In that dual meet Monrovia won by three points, and got in.
      “I would make a case for our team by saying that we haven’t lost to a 2A school this season,” Spicer said. “We are undefeated in our class. Our community is behind us as well. Right now our wrestling ticket gate is higher than our basketball. The team is already very motivated, and if they get in, they will just be on fire.”
      Currently the Patriots are 11-2. Their losses come at the hands of Terre Haute South and Cascade.
      The heart and soul of the Patriot squad is junior Branson Weaver. He is currently ranked No. 11 at 138 pounds.
      “The kid is a mat rat,” Spicer said. “He loves wrestling. He wrestles year around. He went to Fargo. He’s our leader both vocally and by example. He runs our warmups. When he talks, the team listens.
      “On the mat Branson is a freak athlete. He’s explosive, strong, fast and incredibly flexible. His wrestling IQ is very high. He’s always wanting to learn and he asks every coach questions, daily.”
      Senior Eli Hinshaw is the highest ranked grappler on the Patriot squad. He is currently ranked No. 10 at 220. Coach Spicer said Hinshaw is a quiet leader on the team. Hinshaw was named All-State in football this season.
      Sophomore Emery Jackson is ranked No. 18 at 126 pounds and senior Bryce Mills is currently ranked No. 7 in the Evansville semistate at heavyweight.
      Hinshaw is the only wrestler on the team with any wrestling experience before Spicer took over the program five years ago.
      “Everyone else on the team started after I took over,” Spicer said. “Bryce started wrestling as a freshman. Eli Hinshaw started as an 8th grader. Jackson started in seventh grade.
      “But they have all bought into the offseason,” Spicer said. “They are competing against guys that have wrestled their whole lives. We’ve started doing some sort of wrestling year around and we are always looking for opportunities to get on the mat. We are lucky here that the coaches in other sports are all on board. We are a smaller school, and we all know we have to share athletes.”
      When Spicer started with the team there were five wrestlers. Now they have 24. This year he talks about how, for the first time, he has flexibility with the lineup and how that makes a big difference in dual meets.
      “Last year we were really solid, but there was no room for us to bump anyone around,” Spicer said. “We couldn’t manipulate our lineup. This year it’s been nice to have some freedom with the lineup.”
      Individually, the Patriots are hoping to have several wrestlers punch their ticket to state. Spicer believes a few of the guys can compete for a state title.
      But right now the goal is to get into team state. That’s the focus.
      “The guys deserve it,” Spicer said. “We went to the Midwest Classic. We went to Disney. We competed as a team and we don’t take anyone that’s not on our team. We could have. We could have been a little tougher that way. But we wanted only Owen Valley guys.
      “I truly believe that has made us more competitive this year. In reality, with our guys, we can put up points against any team in the state. I feel we can be competitive with anyone. We are not the most experienced team and we know that. But we want to be the better athletes. We want to be in the best shape and we have to be the toughest team out there. We are athletic, we are in great shape and we are tough and I hope we get to prove that at team state.”

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