By STEVE KRAH
It’s hard to miss Donnie Crider at a wrestling event.
At 6-foot-7 and often wearing an orange T-shirt between bouts, the Harrison High School (West Lafayette) senior stands out from his opponents.
But Crider is not just tall, he’s good enough that he went a combined 106-10 in his sophomore and junior seasons, qualifying for the IHSAA State Finals in 2016 and placing sixth in 2016 at 220 pounds.
Crider, who weighed in at 238 at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals in Fort Wayne where Harrison placed 10th, is enjoying a strong final prep go-round as a heavyweight.
While Crider is upbeat and bringing a smile to his teammates’ faces off the mat, he’s all business inside the circle.
“He’s aggressive and not afraid to get out there and be physical and take his shot,” says Harrison head coach Johnny Henry. “He sticks to his game plan.”
More of a unorthodox kind of counter wrestler early in his high school career, Crider has simplified his attack to his best couple moves on top and on bottom.
“He doesn’t try to go into funky scrambles,” says Henry, a former Benton Central High School and University of Indianapolis wrestler who took over leadership of the program this season after four years as a Raiders assistant. “We’re not trying to do 20 moves out there. He’s just matured.”
Crider has heard the talk about his style.
“Freshman and sophomore year, they thought I was funky because I used to roll around all the time,” says Crider. “Now, I’m more skilled.
“(Scrambling is) not really effective when you hit semistate,” says Crider. “They’ll catch you. I’d rather pin them fast if I can.”
The past two summers, Crider has gained experience while competing in the Disney Duals — earning Gold and Silver All-American accolades.
During the high school campaign, Crider has really emphasized using his speed and finishing what he’s started.
“I’m faster than most of the heavyweights that are out there,” says Crider. “I try to do my moves all the way through instead of stopping midway. I just keep driving.”
To give Crider different looks, a number of different coaches and wrestlers grapple with him in practice.
While he’s trying to hone his set-ups and his shots and trying to get up from the referee’s position, Donnie is working against a lot lot of muscle and different body types.
He regularly mixes it up with Harrison assistants Andy Cline, Kevin Elliott and Dustin Kult as well as bigger wrestlers like juniors Willy Alvarez and William Kern and sophomores Cade Borders, Seth Chrisman and Will Crider (his little brother).
Donnie comes from a large family. At 25, Jordan is the oldest. At 5, Clinton is the youngest. Besides Donnie and Harrison 220-pounder Will, there’s also Brian Jr., Justin and Megan.
Father Brian is 6-3 and mother Michelle 6-foot, so Donnie gets his height honestly.
Donnie also knows that an opponent can use it against him since he can be a large target for those seeking double-let takedowns and such.
Each day in practice, he works on getting low — something he also knows from being a defensive lineman on the football field.
“I make sure that when I’m in my stance I’m at their chin with my forehead,” says Crider. “I make sure I’m lower than them.”
Donnie looks to study business and likely wrestle in college after highs school.
How high he goes as a Harrison Raider will play out in the coming weeks. Harrison competes in the Sectional in , regional , semistate and State Finals -17.