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  • #MondayMatness: Hobart's Black persists through adversity




    Brendan Black has learned to deal with adversity during his many years on the mat and it’s made him a better wrestler.

    Now a Hobart High School senior, Black was introduced to the sport at 3.

    In his third season of competition, he made it to the freestyle state finals.

    “I completely got my butt whipped,” Black, the Indiana University verbal commit, said. “It was bad.”

    By third grade, Black placed third at the same tournament and has ascended from there.

    Even the rare setbacks have helped him.

    “Every time I’ve gotten a bad loss, it’s made me want to work harder and get better,” Black said. “When I lost to (Griffith’s) Jeremiah Reitz my sophomore year, I can tell that every time I lost to him, I was back in the gym right after the tournament. I did not take a break. I was so mad at myself.”

    So Black got back at it, drilling his moves, lifting weights and building up his cardiovascular system.

    “As long as I’m getting something in, I feel that is bettering me,” Black said. “As a senior, I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I’ve just been putting in the work. If I lose right now it’s not going to affect me. It’ll show me where I need to put work in.”

    A two-time freestyle state champion, Black said that kind of wrestling has made him better in positioning.

    “(Freestyle) helps me on my feet,” Black said. “I’ve always been a good wrestler on top and bottom. On my feet was my downfall.

    “In freestyle, if you don’t turn them within 10 seconds, they put you right up to your feet.”

    The athlete who has added muscle definition since last winter has already been on the IHSAA State Finals mats three times, placing third at 132 at a junior in 2016, qualifying at 120 as a sophomore in 2015 and finishing eighth at 120 as a freshman in 2014.

    Among his key wins in 2016-17 are a pin of Merrillville junior Griggs and decisions against Bloomington South sophomore Derek Blubaugh and Portage junior Kris Rumph.

    Black went into Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic ranked No. 1 in Indiana at 138. An injury caused him to forfeit in the semifinals and he was held out of the recent Lake County Tournament at Hanover Central. He is expected to be back for the Brickies in the postseason.

    Hobart head coach Alex Ramos, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer, sees Black as both tenacious and savvy as a wrestler.

    “He never gives up,” Ramos said. “He goes out there knowing he’s going to be in a six-minute fight and he treats it like that every time.

    “I don’t think he undervalues any opponent. He’s always got his head in the right place.”

    Scrapping in practice each day with teammates and coaches up to 170 pounds, Black has stood up to many mat challenges.

    “Getting beat down does make you better,” Ramos said. “You’ve got to see where your limit is and figure out how to push past it. I think (Brendan) tries that every day.

    “He pushes himself to that limit so he can become a better wrestler, a better person.”

    Black, an honor roll student, is still searching for a college. He wants to pursue a degree in construction management with the goal of owning his own construction company.

    He has served as an apprentice to his uncle and is currently interning on the construction crew at Hobart Middle School.

    “I can’t sit behind a desk all day,” Black said. “I want to work with my hands and out doing something. Construction’s the way to go for me.”

    The current Hobart High team is built from a foundation started in the Hobart Wrestling Club — annually one of the biggest wrestling organization in Indiana — around second or third grade.

    “They figure it out early,” Ramos said. “They don’t come back if they don’t enjoy it. So we find those wrestlers that really love the sport.

    “There’s excitement. We started elementary duals this year.”

    A psychology teacher at Hobart, Ramos believes that he and his assistants should serve as role models for their wrestlers and wants his young athletes to learn life lessons.

    “If I can learn from the classroom and take it out on the mat, I will,” Ramos said. “I can promise you that.”

    Ramos, who takes over the lead roll on the Hobart coaching staff from IHSWCA Hall of Famer Steve Balash, was a two-time state champion (119 in 1999 and 125 in 2000) for the Brickies and held school records for pins (143) and wins (148) at the start of 2016-17. Ramos wrestled two seasons at Purdue University.

    Expectations are always set high at Hobart — higher than the athlete even thinks they can achieve.

    “One thing we always preach in our program that it’s not just about on the mat,” Ramos said. “Wrestling is one of the most transferable sports. What you learn in the room — to never give up, find your breaking point and push past it.”

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    Great kid. I had the privilege of being one of the coaches of a team we took to Florida a few years back, that had Black on it. I didn't know what to expect after all the drama from his 9th grade year (not his fault at all). He was one of the best kids on that trip, both on the mat and off. He is a very respectful kid and I enjoy seeing him do great things.

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