By JEREMY HINES
Ed Hamant loved everything about the team state tournament. The longtime Greenfield-Central assistant coach never got to see one of his team’s compete in team state. He tragically passed away last year.
Hamant coached the Cougars for 40 years. During that time Greenfield never made it to team state. This year the Cougars were the vote-in team for class 3A.
“For us, getting here has been a long, long time coming,” Greenfield coach Josh Holden said. “The big thing on our mind is that this is something Ed Hamant loved. Ed coached for 40 years at Greenfield. He loved the individual state tournament but the team state really had a special place in his heart. He always dreamed of taking a team to it but never got to. When we were selected to compete a lot of people got really excited because they knew Ed would have loved to see this.”
Greenfield is a bit of a mystery team, according to the rankings and the team state selections. The Cougars are ranked No. 3 in 3A, but they were the last team to get selected to the field in team state.
“We are in an interesting situation,” Holden said. “Are we the eighth best team or are we one of the top three that can go in and make some noise? We have to look at ourselves as one of the top teams. We are excited to be there. We feel blessed and humbled and even honored that people would vote us in and we just want to compete and showcase what we can do.”
The Cougars aren’t one of those squads loaded with ranked wrestlers. In fact, Greenfield has just two individuals ranked at all.
Junior Clay Guenin is ranked No. 3 at 170 pounds. He’s the top ranked grappler at that weight in the New Castle semistate.
“Clay is about 6’4,” Holden said. “Our whole team looks like basketball players. Clay hates to lose. He’s probably the most intense kid in our room. He does basic things on the mat, but he does them very well. He’s so aggressive and hard-nosed that you can’t wear him down. He’s an arm bar kid. He’s old school and he pins almost everyone he goes up against.
“Clay is also a 4.1 student. He’s an all-around great kid. We have an entire group of outstanding men and women on this team.”
The only other ranked grappler on the Cougar squad is Isaiah Holden, the coach’s son. Isaiah, a senior, is ranked No. 18 at 152 pounds.
For Isaiah, wrestling is not his only focus. He is very involved with choir. He’s in show choir. He was the lead in a school musical last year. He also is known around Hancock County as the Greenfield Spider-Man. He dresses up as Spider-Man and performs at birthday parties.
“Isaiah is just one of those special kids that has his hands in a little bit of everything,” coach Holden said. “He’s the best teammate I’ve ever been around. I don’t say that because he’s my son, I just truly believe that. If he had the choice between winning state himself or one of his teammates winning, I am sure he would pick for his teammate to win all day, every day.”
Holden has coached at Greenfield for 20 years and he believes this is the best team Greenfield has had during that span.
“I don’t know what the difference is, exactly,” Holden said. “We’ve had good teams in the past. We only have two ranked wrestlers and I have five freshmen in my lineup. I really thought we would struggle this year. But this is such a fantastic group of wrestlers. They make good decisions and work hard. If you asked my team right now how many of them get up in the morning and make their bed, I would bet 99 percent of them do. Everything they do is the right way.”
Holden also says this is the most fun he’s had coaching.
“I told my kids at the beginning of the season that I don’t know what my future holds, but I want to make this a special year,” Holden said. “And we’re doing that. We’re getting ready for team state for the first time ever. We’re going to the Connersville tournament and we’re hoping to win that. There are all kinds of first that we’re trying to get. This has been the most fun year I’ve had coaching.”
Nobody in the Cougar lineup has ever qualified for state. Two years ago Greenfield advanced seven wrestlers to regional, but a Covid spread caused the school to close down all activities and prohibited the Cougars from competing from that point.
The decision was disappointing to the wrestlers, but it also taught them a lesson.
“We know now that you’re never promised tomorrow,” Holden said. “You can’t look to next year or next week. You have to be ready. You don’t always have as much time as you think. You never know when it will be your last match so you have to go out and treat everyone as if it could be.”