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      #WrestlingWednesday: Bethel looking for more big wins in 2017

      Joe Lee won state last year, but didn’t win sectional. Brayton Lee has lost just one match in his Indiana High School career. The common denominator in both stories is a guy named Austin Bethel.
      Bethel pinned Joe Lee in the sectional final last season. The year before, he shocked most around the state by pinning Brayton Lee in the final 15 seconds of the ticket round match at the Evansville semistate.
      “A lot of people didn’t think I had much of a chance in either match,” Bethel said. “But I told myself that I’m not wrestling the name – I’m wrestling the person. I knew I needed to go out and do what I do best, which is scramble and look for five point moves. Both times I ended up with huge pins. It’s one of the best feelings in the world, looking up and seeing the surprise on everyone’s face.”
      Bethel, a senior at Mt. Vernon in Posey County, is a big-move wrestler. He has found himself down in several matches throughout his career, but in many of those matches, he’s scrambled his way to the pin.
      “With Austin’s style, possibilities are endless,” Mt. Vernon coach Tim Alcorn said. “He has big moves and finishing moves. There is nobody he doesn’t think he can beat. Catching Joe and Brayton were once in a lifetime things. But Austin could be one of the most, if not the most electrifying wrestler in the state.”
      Bethel’s career has been a curious one. He’s pinned two of the state’s premier wrestlers. He’s qualified for state three times. Yet, he has never made it past the Friday night match at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
      “It’s such a depressing feeling,” Bethel said. “I’ve been so nervous and I’ve wrestled safe. That gets me in trouble. I’m not that way normally. I’m a risk taker. For me, I’ve put imaginary pressure on myself that really wasn’t there. This year is my year to relax and put on a show. That’s what I want to do.”
      Coach Alcorn agrees that Bethel’s cautious approach to the Friday night matches at state has been his biggest mistakes.
      “Sometimes he’s too smart for his own good,” Alcorn said. “He’s very aware of his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. If I could ever get him to just close his eyes and wrestle great things will happen. He has to welcome the opportunity, not fear it. He needs to let the chips fall as they may and leave everything out on the mat.”
      Currently Bethel is the No. 6-ranked 152 pounder in the state. He has a 3.985 grade point average.
      “Austin is hands down one of the best kids I’ve ever coached on and off the mat,” Alcorn said. “He’s the most well-rounded kid this program has ever seen. If he makes state again, he will be the most decorated wrestler in our program’s history. He is a four-year letter winner in soccer and a two-year letter winner in football. He helps out the elementary program. He helps officiating. He helps working the clocks. He is a ‘what can I do coach’ kind of kid. He’ll do whatever it takes to help the team.”
      Bethel started wrestling when he was five years old. But he didn’t develop a true passion for the sport until his parents went through a divorce.
      “I needed an outlet,” Bethel said. “I needed something to turn to. I needed to release some aggression. That’s when I started to pick up wrestling a lot more. I started traveling with the sport more and I met some truly amazing people along the way that took me in and helped me to improve. Wrestling became a big part of who I was.”
      In addition to having big-move capabilities, Bethel is also excellent at analyzing opponents. He knows their tendencies. He prides himself on research.
      “He’s the greatest student of the sport I’ve ever coached,” Alcorn said. “He watches more film than anyone I know. He watches film to a fault. He over analyzes. When he graduates from college, he’ll end up being one of the best coaches in wrestling.”
      Bethel epitomizes the blue-collar approach to life, and wresting. He works for everything he has, and everything he has accomplished. He has only received one grade in school lower than an A, and that was a B plus he took in a college-level match class. Math, he says, is by far his least favorite subject.
      His dedication to hard work has been infectious to the team. Mt. Vernon has 11 seniors, filling the biggest 11 weights in the lineup. Bethel works with the other seniors, as well as the younger wrestlers – trying to make everyone on the team better.
      “He’s the backbone to our wrestling family,” Alcorn said. “There is no question about it.”
      Family is enormously important to Bethel. If he wrestles in college, he wants to be in a program that provides a family atmosphere and a team-first mentality.
      “Austin is a kid that is a Lilly scholarship finalist,” Alcorn said. “He comes from a single-parent household. He has come from having nothing, but his mother and his sisters have made something of that and never used it as an excuse. He values every single thing he has. He and his family have had to fight and claw, tooth and nail for everything. He’s the most successful, but the most humble kid I’ve ever known.”
      As much as Austin has been through, on and off the mat, the one thing he still wants to accomplish is to place in state. To do that, he feels he needs to follow his own advice.
      “You have to enjoy yourself,” Bethel said. “That’s what I’ve struggled with early on. I put too much pressure on myself. I have worried too much. You have to slow everything down and just enjoy it and not be hard on yourself. In wrestling, anything can happen and anyone can come out on top. The hardest opponent you’ll ever face is the guy standing in front of you in the mirror.”
      Bethel has proven he can beat the state’s elite wrestlers. He’s never out of a match. And, if he gets back to state, he plans on putting on a show and wrestling his style. Caution will not be an option.


      #MondayMatness: South Bend Washington heavyweight McWilliams no longer under the statewide radar

      Stay humble yet ready to rumble.
      It’s an approach that has served Isaiah McWilliams well.
      The South Bend Washington High School wrestler exploded onto the statewide scene, finishing his sophomore season in 2015-16 by going 45-9 and placing fourth in the 285-pound weight division of the IHSAA State Finals.
      “Not many people were counting on me,” Isaiah Williams said. He was ranked No. 17 coming out of sectionals.
      Along tournament trail, McWilliams’ confidence was fueled with victories against Jimtown’s Nick Mammolenti (Northern Indiana Conference meet), South Bend St. Joseph’s Michael Koebel (Mishawaka Sectional and Rochester Regional), Oak Hill’s Owen Perkins and Franklin’s Quinn York (State Finals).
      Supported by his family, coaches and teammates, Isaiah made it the semifinals of the State Finals before bowing to eventual state champion Shawn Streck of Merrillville.
      After a productive prep off-season, McWilliams began 2016-17 ranked No. 2 at 285.
      But the Panther heavyweight has not taken more mat success for granted while competing for his father and Washington head coach Tony McWilliams, a 1998 South Bend Bend LaSalle graduate and former IHSAA State finalist.
      “I want to continue to get better everyday,” Isaiah McWilliams said. “If I don’t get better everyday it means I’m slacking. If you’re not getting better today that means you’re getting worse
      “I have a bullseye on my back. I have to continue to work hard to defend that bullseye.”
      A year ago, the 5-foot-7 athlete took the mat at 240 pounds and began the current season around 265. He is looking to tone down to around 255 and maintain his quickness.
      “It’s all about how much heart you have and how you are determined to win,” Isaiah McWilliams. “It’s not the size that matters.
      “Speed at heavyweight is very critical. You can move out of the way if you’re very quick. My agility help me win (against York) because at the end he tripped me and I kept moving. I rolled between his legs and go my two (points).
      “My mindset is to go out there and dominate and get out as quick as possible and wrestle smart. If I can’t go for a pin, I’ll keep working my takedowns and turns and get as many points as I can.”
      Stamina is a strong suit for McWilliams, who was a first-team all-NIC pick in football last fall (he played defensive end and fullback).
      “He can go three periods or more,” Tony McWilliams said. “Some of those big guys can’t. One of his keys has been to wear them down and get them at the end. That’s where he wins the most — the third period.”
      Dad/coach said it’s not uncommon for Isaiah to get back from a Saturday tournament and run a mile before heading home.
      “Sometimes, if he’s mad, he’ll run two,” Tony McWilliams. “That’s his idea. Some of his teammates catch on, some don’t.”
      Tony McWilliams, who saw a quick study when he first began teaching wrestling to Isaiah at age 4, adds a few other qualities when listing his son’s reasons for mat achievement.
      “He listens,” Tony McWilliams said of his son, the holder of the 4.0 grade-point average. “If you tell him something, you don’t have to tell him more than once. His knowledge is there.”
      Isaiah is a medical magnet at Washington and job shadows doctors and nurses. He sees himself one day as a sports medicine doctor or pediatrician.
      That kind of attention to details translates to wrestling.
      “He’s focused,” Tony McWilliams said. “He’s got goals and ***NO NO NO***ion. You’ve got to have that in this sport because one false move and it can be over as far as a match or even your career.
      “He pays attention. He knows what to fix and how to fix it.”
      Tony McWilliams coached seven seasons at LaSalle Academy and is now in his seventh season as head coach at Washington. A lay coach (his day job is as a union carpenter), he relishes the chance to work with his son and take other young grapplers (the Panthers have no seniors this winter) as far as they want to go.
      “This is a dream come true for a father and a son to be in this situation,” Tony McWilliams said. “It’s really awesome. I’m at a loss for word sometimes.”
      Aggressiveness is what Washington wrestling is all about.
      “We have to go on offense,” Tony McWilliams said. “We’re not going to try to be defensive wrestlers this year. We’re going to perfect our moves and we’re going to score.”
      The bar is set high for Isaiah McWilliams, but the expectations are also up there for the rest of those in green and black.
      “A state championship, that’s our main goal for Isaiah,” Tony McWilliams said. “Our staff is going to be on his butt to get it. If anybody else on the team wants to go along for the ride, that’s great.”
      Tony rejects those who say Isaiah’s success comes because he is the head coach’s son and conveys that to everyone in his program.
      “Everything that he’s doing, I tell them that they had an opportunity to do — all the summer wrestling,” Tony McWilliams said. “Isaiah wrestled 80 matches last summer (including Disney Duals in Florida and National Scholastic Duals in Virginia). With the success he’s having, a lot of people are going to be watching this team and they’re going to see you, too.
      “If you want to make a name for yourself, now’s the time to do that. Now’s the time to practice hard, wrestler hard. We’ve got to get them to buy into that.”

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      #WrestlingWednesday: Brayton Lee is All Smiles

      The very first time Brayton Lee watched a wrestling match, he ended up vomiting. He was 5 years old and sick that day his father took him to his first high school match, but even after vomiting, he didn’t want to leave. He had instantly fallen in love with the sport.
      “After I got sick I still stayed until the match was over,” Lee said.
      Now Lee is one of the top wrestling recruits in the nation. The Brownsburg junior won state last season at 138 pounds and he’s looking to do the same this year at 145.
      “I’ve coached kids that were three-time state champions,” Brownsburg coach Darrick Snyder said. “I’ve coached kids that have placed at Fargo or other preseason national tournaments. I’ve coached quite a few guys that have went on to wrestle in college in D1 or the Big Ten. But Brayton is at a different level from any of the guys I’ve coached before. I haven’t had anyone near as talented as he is.”
      Lee’s off-the-charts level of wrestling skills is one of the big reasons Brownsburg won the 3A team state title last season and is one of the favorites to do so again this year.
      “Brayton is very willing to work with his teammates,” Snyder said. “I use him as another coach. We use him to show a lot of technique because he has been coached by some of the best coaches in the country, and his wrestling knowledge is phenomenal. When Brayton graduates in a couple of years I’m losing as close to a guaranteed win as you can get, and one of my best coaches.”
      Lee isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do after high school, but he knows it will involve wrestling. He is getting letters in the mail on a daily basis from wrestling powerhouses like Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan.
      He hasn’t narrowed his college choice down yet, but he is hoping that wherever he goes will help push him to his dream of one day wrestling in the Olympics.
      “I want to be the best there is,” Lee said. “I want to wrestle in the Olympics. I want to pursue the Olympics while I’m in college. After college I really think I’ll stay with wrestling and become a coach.”
      Things haven’t always gone Lee’s way. His freshman campaign ended with just one loss, in the ticket round of semistate when Mt. Vernon’s Austin Bethel pinned him in the third period.
      “That loss my freshman year, and not achieving my goal, ran through my head all the time the next season,” Lee said. “In practices I kept thinking about it. I knew I had to put some of those memories away, but it was just adding fuel to my fire.”
      Lee bounced back. Last year, during his sophomore campaign, he dominated the field en route to the state championship. In the Avon sectional Lee wrestled a total of 48 seconds, securing a pin in the semifinals in 36 seconds and a pin in the championship in 12. He continued his dominance in the Mooresville regional, winning by pin, tech fall and then another pin.
      In the Evansville semistate Lee opened with a pin, then won back-to-back 7-3 matches before winning the final 16-7.
      Lee saved his most dominant performance for the state finals. He won the opening round with a 32 second fall, then tech-falled his next opponent 18-3. After a hard-fought 4-2 victory to reach the final match, Lee obliterated his last opponent of the season and won the state title with a 20-5 tech fall.
      “Getting under the lights was everything I thought it would be and more,” Lee said. “There is nothing like it. When I walked out, my legs were really shaky. But afterward, when I was interviewed, it was just all joy. It was amazing. I had done it.”
      For a few random Lee-isms: He doesn’t have a favorite move, but one he really enjoys doing is a left-handed headlock. He said he would rather win by technical fall instead of by pin. Chad Red Jr., is one of his best friends, and he likes to think he is close to Red as far as swagger goes – but he admits he isn’t to Red’s level yet in that regard.
      Lee’s nickname at Brownsburg is smiley. Coach Snyder said that’s one of the first things you notice about Brayton, is how he is always smiling. With as much success as he’s having on the mat, it’s no wonder he’s happy.


      #MondayMatness: Marsh wrestling family on different sides now that Kyle is head coach at Fairfield

      “How many of you can look me in the eye and tell me you are working as hard as you can? … Find a teammate and help him push through.”
      Those are the words of Kyle Marsh in his new role as head wrestling coach at Fairfield High School.
      The former West Noble High School wrestler and six-year assistant coach is putting the Falcons through a grueling workout — something Marsh knew well when he competed for WNHS for father Tom Marsh.
      Work ethic and attention to detail are the qualities that Kyle Marsh credits for his prep success.
      “You could push him, push him and push him,” Tom Marsh said of his oldest son. “He would take it and try to get better.”
      Before graduating from the Ligonier school in 2008, he was a two-time Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals qualifier and two-time Westview Sectional champion (all at 130 pounds as a junior and senior). He was a Goshen Regional champion as a senior and place third at the Fort Wayne Semistate his final two high school campaigns.
      A collegiate mat career at Trine University was cut short by a shoulder injury suffered just before the Thunder’s intrasquad meet.
      Kyle learned how to put in maximum effort from his father. Tom Marsh has been an assistant football coach at West Noble for more than 25 years and has led the Chargers’ wrestling program since the mid-2000’s.
      “Being around him and his teams, work ethic was built into my DNA from a young age,” Kyle Marsh said. “I know there are kids that have a hard time being coached by a dad or a parent because sometimes the sport can be taken home. I’m definitely not like that. My dad coached me for six or seven years and was constantly pushing me and motivating me and I’m very thankful that he did.”
      Kyle Marsh began wrestling in the sixth grade. When Tom Marsh caught the wrestling bug, it allowed Kyle — and his younger siblings (Kevin and Molly) — plenty of off-season opportunities like tournaments and camps.
      “It became a family affair,” Kyle Marsh said. “My sister probably would have been the best wrestler in the state. She was a placer at the (Indiana State Wrestling Association) state meet a couple of times.”
      Molly Marsh is now a junior catcher on the softball team at Indiana University-South Bend.
      After his own college athletic career was over, Kyle began coaching wrestling, middle school football and some high school football at West Noble.
      In recent years, he had discussions with his father about possibly coaching at a different school.
      Kyle Marsh wound up at Fairfield — a Northeast Corner Conference rival to West Noble — after Jim Jones retired, leaving a head coaching vacancy for the Falcons.
      After discussing the situation with his wife — the former Erica Dolezal (who had been a girls basketball coach at Goshen Middle School) — Kyle decided to apply.
      “My wife was a coach and she knows the time commitment that coaching in general takes up,” Kyle Marsh said. “She thought it would be great. I reminded her that it would be a lot more time than just being dad’s assistant. She said ought to do it.”
      Kyle and Erica have three children — daughter Brogan, son Layten and caught Caelin. The latter is name for Cael Sanderson — “the greatest wrestler.”
      When Kyle got the Fairfield job, his father was the first person he called with the news.
      Tom Marsh said an attribute for Kyle is his ability to relate to young athletes.
      “I’m more Old School,” Tom Marsh said. “It’s a lot different than 20 years ago. There are so many more options for (students) after school. Some sports getting individualized. There are a lot of one-sport athletes.
      “Kyle does a good job of getting those kids to give it a go. They relate better to the young guys better than the old guys.”
      Father and son are ultra-competitive with everything from corn hole to golf (the two are currently tied in head-to-head matches at 22-all). Trash talk at family functions are common.
      So what happens when the Falcons and Chargers step on the mat together?
      “My sister, brother and I even joke around it being hash-tagged in text messages,” Kyle Marsh said in referring to the West Noble at Fairfield NECC dual meet. “It’s #December8.”
      Michelle Marsh — wife to Tom and mother to Kyle — is expected to be there with some sort of mashup outfit combining Fairfield and West Noble.
      The date is also important at West Noble.
      “I know he wants to beat us and we want to beat him,” Tom Marsh said. “We don’t talk about any of our kids to each other. We don’t go there with each other.”
      Kyle is familiar with the returning grapplers for the Chargers.
      “I know their kids real well and I know their wrestling styles,” Kyle Marsh said. “It’s probably a slight advantage, but I’m sure my dad is doing everything he can to find about kids from over here and they will talk plenty about strategy before Dec. 8.”
      Fairfield is scheduled to open the varsity season at home Nov. 22 against Northridge.
      West Noble begins varsity action Nov. 26 at the Wawasee Super Dual.


      #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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      #MondayMatness: Jimtown's Kerrn has sights set high on the mat after super season on the gridiron

      Kenny Kerrn turned heads during his senior football season at Jimtown High School.
      He is hoping to do more of the same in his final prep wrestling campaign for the Jimmies. He ranks No. 2 in the 2016-17 Indiana Mat preseason rankings at 152 pounds.
      “There’s a lot of high expectations for me this year and a big part of that is because of my dad,” Kenny Kerrn said of Mark Kerrn, the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “He’s such a respected coach in the state. I’m kind of just in awe of seeing my name ranked second in the state. It makes me want to go in everyday and work as hard as I can and get that title under my name.”
      And his fall sport has definitely contributed to his winter sport and vice versa for the teen.
      “Wrestling helps me with football and football helps me with wrestling,” Kenny Kerrn said. “It’s a good balance.”
      As a running back for a 7-5 team that was a sectional finalist, Kenny toted the football 261 times for 1,563 yards and 26 touchdowns in the fall. In game against Concord, he set single-game school records for carries (38), yards (320) and points scored (32).
      Learning wrestling from a young age from his father and other talented coaches and JHS wrestlers, Kenny enjoyed a breakout season in the circle as a junior.
      A 2015-16 campaign which culminated with a seventh-place finish at 145 at the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals included a 45-6 record (he is 96-28 for this first three high school seasons).
      Along the way, the young Kerrn won titles at the prestigious Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka as well as in the Northern Indiana Conference, Elkhart Sectional and Goshen Regional. He was a runner-up at the Fort Wayne Semistate.
      As a team, Jimtown went 21-2 with a sectional title and runner-up finishes in the conference and the Class 2A division of the IHSWCA State Duals (the Jimmies are slated to compete in the meet again Dec. 23 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne). Mark Kerrn was named NIC Coach of the Year.
      Several of Kenny Kerrn’s wrestling teammates were also his mates on the football field.
      “It’s kind of fun to see how they act in one and another,” Kenny Kerrn said.
      While both sports are physically-demanding, the Jimmie senior who is exploring different college options that could include some combination of football, wrestling or track sees a contrast.
      “It’s totally different atmosphere,” Kenny Kerrn said. “Somedays in the wrestling room are just intense. It’s something you would never see on the football field. (Wrestling) can be hard-nose, just going non-stop for two hours. In football, there’s a little bit more of the learning aspect.
      “Coaches will stand you up and teach you the things you need to know for football. (In wrestling), it’s all hands-on and you’ve just got to drill.”
      Kenny Kerrn (@KennyKerrn on Twitter) explained the difference between being “wrestling shape” and for other sports, including his third prep sport (track).
      “You can go run seven miles everyday if you want to and still not in wrestling shape because you haven’t been down in your stance, feeling that burn in your legs. It’s a totally different thing.”
      Of course, there are parallels to the mat and the gridiron.
      “People talk all the time about how if you need help with tackle form, it’s just a double-leg takedown,” Kenny Kerrn said. “It really is if you think about it. A text-book tackle (in football) is really a blast-double for wrestling.
      “And keeping your head up (in wrestling) in just as important as it is on the football field.”
      Stay low and keep your feet moving is good advice in both sports.
      “You want that low center of gravity, keep you feet moving and explode out,” Kenny Kerrn said. “Running backs in college and the pros are explosive. They find a whole and explode. You look at the best wrestlers in the Olympics and stuff and they are staying low to the ground and they are exploding out when they’re taking shots.”
      Mark Kerrn, who is also a longtime Jimtown football assistant coach as well as being in his 25th season as head wrestling coach, said he can cite example after example of pro football players who wrestled and learned lessons that transferred well from the mat to the gridiron — things like balance as well as physical mental toughness.
      “Guys who wrestle aren’t afraid tote the rock or be a receiver or a quarterback — that limelight guy — because they have no fear of losing,” Mark Kerrn said. “Because there’s a chance that every time they go out on the mat they are going to lose by themselves and have nobody else to blame but themselves.”
      That being said, there was a brotherhood displayed during the football season that has carried over into wrestling.
      “We had one of the closest group of seniors (in football),” Mark Kerrn said. “And that’s carried over.”
      And there’s been “proud dad” moments all along the way as father has watched son.
      “It’s really been special watching him go from that 4-year-old bouncing around on the mat, jumping on people and not being able to take a stance then year by year getting better and better and better,” Mark Kerrn said. “He’s always been a competitor. But it really snapped last year. Something kicked in and he started doing some really great things.”
      The Kerrns and the Jimmies are hoping to get even more kicks this last go-round together.


      #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.

      1996 5

      IndianaMat Awarded National Website of the Year

      Back in early December of 2008 three guys conjured up an idea to give Indiana a website dedicated to the sport of wrestling. Looking around other states we saw what could be and knew Indiana fans would absolutely love a similar website. We had no clue where the adventure would take us, but as they said in the Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come.
      Eric McGill and Chad Hollenbaugh were telling me to pull the trigger, I balked at it. I said it would be too much time and effort. They pestered me into submission. Eric, even while going to college in New York, said he’d do the rankings. Chad said he’d write articles on events he attended. Others joined up with us within in the next few days.
      We quickly added people to our “staff” that volunteered their time. Dane Fuelling was on top of the team rankings, while we had guys like Zach Pierson, Mike Reiser, and Dustin Bentz handle semi-state rankings. I also extended the olive branch of peace with longtime messageboard rival Dingo Brigade aka Cameron Drury to write some articles.
      The first big time exposure was at the Triacoff that year. Chad Hollenbaugh made up some lineup cards with almost every team’s projected line-up with their IndianaMat rankings. These cards were a hit as they ran out of them twice during the event. Even more importantly it got IndianaMat a lot of exposure in da region and across the state.
      Chad came up with the 800lb Gorilla slogan, saying that no one can stop an 800lb Gorilla and he was spot on with that. We received some backlash from groups of people, people with a lot influence within the state. We kept plugging along, even while others thought we’d be a flash in the pan. We kept doing what we thought was right and soon those doubters became supporters.
      We have changed up the look of the website many times with our biggest and best change coming in 2014 when we did a total redesign to incorporate wrestler and team profiles along with many other unique features. Go ahead and find a website with those types of features and you will come up empty handed. These types of features along with an extremely dedicated staff and loyal supporters have made this website the best in the country. What we have here in Indiana is very unique and it amazes me it has been eight years this December. Think about that, incoming freshmen were in first grade, seniors were in 4th grade. That means most of the wrestling community ONLY knows IndianaMat!
      This past weekend at the Olympic Trials we were recognized as the National Wrestling Media Association’s Website of the Year. Being recognized by our peers as we were this past weekend was very humbling. Hearing things said about our website and talking to others opened my eyes to what we have done not only on a state level, but a national level. It really makes the work, the long hours, the trials and tribulations worth it when you hear the things we did this weekend.
      There are many thanks that need to go out and I hope I don’t miss anyone. The first big thanks goes to my wonderful wife and family. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to leave for a weekend in Pittsburgh, Iowa City, Fargo, or wherever I decide to go. Without that support and understanding this website would only be a fraction of what it is today. The next time you see her tell her thanks as she is as big of a part of the success of this website as anyone.
      Second in line is Chad Hollenbaugh. He’s the type that will take little to no credit, but about 90% of the ideas we have for the site come from him. His articles are top notch and you can always sense the educator in him when he adds the closest river or town nickname to his articles. He is a behind the scenes type of guy, but his impact on this website is undeniable.
      Eric McGill, while he has stepped aside, is still one of the biggest influences on the website. He took on the rankings task from the beginning while being at an Ivy League school over 500 miles from Indiana. The task of doing rankings is an immense undertaking especially from scratch. Eric is still one that has great ideas and offers advice on the future of this website. He did an outstanding job on the rankings and set the standard for Mike when he took over.
      Since the beginning of the website Mike Reiser did the Merrillville Semi State rankings. A few years ago he added to his list of tasks the statewide rankings. I didn’t know what to expect, Eric did an outstanding job and following him was not going to be easy. Mike has hit a home run with the rankings since he has taken over. The accuracy of his rankings is mind boggling and his knowledge of kids throughout the state borders on being insane. One of my favorite stories is from last year when I was at an event and I texted Mike, “hey this kid should probably be ranked, probably 14-16 area.” He replies, “he is ranked 14th.” Mike has not only done an outstanding job on the rankings, he has become one of my closest friends and I am very appreciative of all his work.
      There are many, many others that deserve credit for the success of this website. Dane Fuelling has done a stand up job with the team rankings. His knowledge of the top 30 teams in the state and their lineups is beyond comprehension. His rankings are up to the minute and have been an outstanding contribution to the site. Dustin Bentz has been with us from the beginning as the dirty south rankings guy. Add to that his awesome semi state preview that combines his wit and wisdom with his knowledge of the southern hemisphere of the state. Zach Pierson started as our New Castle rankings guy and did a great job until he moved out of state. He passed on the job to Howard Cottey and he has stepped in nicely the past two years. Zach has one of the best lines from doing rankings I have ever heard. He said, “don’t worry about getting them right, if they are wrong someone will tell you!”
      Our rankings are awesome, but what I think sets us apart from the other sites is our articles. Cameron Drury’s articles are top notch. He can make the most boring match sound like an epic match between two titans. On top of that his articles have a feeling of genuine love and respect for all the athletes on the mat. We have also added two weekly features over the past couple years. Jeremy Hines came to me asking about doing a weekly article. It didn’t take long for him to start churning them out. This past season we also added another talented writer to the staff in Steve Krah. He has over 30 years of experience in the business and his articles are of the highest quality. All three of those guys have talents I only wish I had and their efforts are greatly appreciated.
      One thing I know that has put us over the top is our top notch photography. Whenever I upload pictures to Facebook I prepare myself for hundreds upon hundreds of notifications. Paul Tincher is a very talented photographer and has helped tremendously to get us to the highest level. I know the kids, parents, coaches, and others absolutely adore his photos. It makes it a lot easier for us to get photos for our magazine or any other graphic we need when we have as many great photos to choose from as we do.
      There are many behind the scenes things that go on with the website that most do not realize. We have two other computer nerds that have helped keep the site online and running. Nick Weisjahn and Andy Oberlin have been very helpful especially since we converted to the new site. They have an immense knowledge that have helped keep the site up to date and as good as possible.
      Lastly, we wouldn’t be where we are without our fans and supporters. You are the ones that make this site so great. Many of you have contributed rankings information, results, posts on the forums, amongst other things. Without that support we do not have the presence we do. Whether you agree with class wrestling or not, you can’t disagree that our state has some of the most passionate fans in the country. Thank you for all your support as this award was something that is for the whole state of Indiana.
      Here is the award presentation and acceptance speech. Note I do a lot better with a keyboard.

      2009 4

      Indiana Takes the Mat Against the WPIAL

      Over a year of planning and petitioning will come to fruition this week at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. Last year in late February I poked a couple people about the possibility of Indiana participating in the “Rose Bowl of Wrestling.” After many discussions with the event organizers they chose Indiana over a couple other states. As Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility, and thus the planning for this prestigious event began.
      The Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, formerly known as the Dapper Dan, has been around since 1975. The event has always featured the Pennsylvania All-Stars vs. the USA All-Stars as the main event with the WPIAL(Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) All-Stars taking on a state All-Star team in the preliminary bouts. The WPIAL is easily the toughest area for wrestling in the country. This year alone there were 17 wrestlers that qualified for the NCAA’s including NCAA Champion Nico Megaludis and runner-up Jason Nolf. Add in others like Olympic medalists Coleman Scott and Cary Kolat and you get a little sense of how good this area is in wrestling. Over the past five years the WPIAL has won two of the undercard bouts defeating Michigan and Virginia.
      Indiana has had six previous participants in the event, with all six earning victories. The first participant was Steven Bradley in 1998. In 2004 we had two participants in Alex Tsirtsis and Blake Maurer. We also had two participants eight years later in 2012 when Jason Tsirtsis and Jarred Brooks both took part. Our latest participant was Stevan Micic in 2014, he also took home the Outstanding Wrestler award for Team USA.
      This year the main event will see the 7th and 8th participants from Indiana in Chad Red at 132lbs and Shawn Streck at heavyweight. Red has been a consensus #1 in the nation guy for the past two years, while Streck has been in the top 5 during the same period. Red will take on rival Luke Pletcher whom he is 2-1 against over the past two years. Red has won the past two meetings at last year’s FloNationals and at Who’s #1. Shawn Streck will take on state champion Jacob Beistel in his match. Beistel was Southmoreland High School’s first state champion this past year. He will play football next year at Saint Francis University.
      The undercard is always a great match with the WPIAL taking on a state all-star team. Look for all of these matches to be great with some very good wrestlers from Indiana and Pennsylvania. Leading off for Indiana will be two-time 4th place finisher Geoffrey Davis of Fort Wayne Wayne. His opponent will be Aaron Burkett who is a three-time placer, finishing 6th, 2nd, and 3rd during his career at 106lbs. Burkett will wrestle for Lehigh next year and should be a career 125lber.
      At 120lbs we should have a great match with Indiana being represented by one of four state champions in Drew Hildebrandt. The four-time state medal winner will face a three-time placer in Ethan McCoy. McCoy placed 2nd at National Preps as a freshman and followed that up with 3rd as a junior and 7th as a senior in PIAA. This might not be the last match-up between these two as McCoy has committed to wrestle for Kent State next year.
      One of two Portage Indians will be the Hoosier representative at 126lbs in Gaige Torres. Torres has a long list of accolades that includes three state medals. His opponent will be Chris Eddins who finished 6th at state this year. Eddins was also a state qualifier as a junior at 120lbs.
      One of New Haven’s finest, Owen Doster will represent Indiana at 132lbs. This multi-sport superstar qualified for state as a junior and finished 5th this past season. He will take on 2015 state qualifier Mike Heinl in his bout.
      At 138, two-time state placer and Fargo All-American Evan Eldred will represent Indiana. One of Westfield’s best wrestlers will take on Waynesburg’s Shaun Wilson in his match. Wilson placed 5th this year at 138lbs.
      We have probably one of the premier matches of the event at 145lbs. Two-time state placer Jordan Vaughn of Franklin Central will face off against state champion Damon Greenwald. Vaughn placed 4th this past year and was a runner-up in 2015. Greenwald was a state champion this year after placing 7th as a junior. Greenwald will wrestle for DII’s Seton Hill next year.
      Three-time state medalist Steven “BAM” Lawrence will take the mat for Indiana at 152lbs. He placed 7th as a sophomore and followed that up with two runner-up finishes. He will have a tough opponent in state 4th place finisher Derek Verkleeren. Verkleeren’s younger brother was a Cadet World Champion this past summer.
      Due to an injury this week to Cayden Whitaker, Indiana will now have three-time medalist and Army West Point recruit Cael McCormick manning 160lbs. He will face off with state qualifier Mitch Hartman of Belle Vernon in his match. Hartman has committed to wrestle for Bucknell next year.
      The string of state champions for Indiana starts at 170lbs with top master Drew Hughes of Lowell. Hughes brings a lot of accolades both in-state and on the national scene to the event. He is a two-time Super 32 placer along with winning the prestigious IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open twice. His opponent will be two-time state placer Anthony Welsh. Welsh placed 5th and 3rd during his career and is going to wrestle at Clarion next year.
      At 182lbs we have another two-time state champion in Blake Rypel. Rypel has four state medals along with a Super 32 championship belt hanging in his room. He will have a tough opponent in state runner-up Milton Kobaly. Kobaly will head to West Virginia and wrestle for West Liberty, a DII school, next year.
      State champion Jake Kleimola had a great run at state and looks to continue his streak. The recent Indiana Hoosier commit will take on nationally ranked Drew Phipps. Phipps qualified for state all four years coming back with placements of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th during his last three years. Phipps will be attending Bucknell next year to continue his wrestling career.
      Due to an emergency surgery Sam Hipple will not be able to participate. He will be replaced by his teammate Nick Fox who placed 5th at 195lbs. He will take on PIAA runner-up Mike McAleavy who was a runner-up this year for Peters Township posting a 38-4 record.
      At heavyweight 3rd place finisher Sean Galligar of Columbus East will take the mat for Indiana. He will face off with state qualifier Hayden Rice in his bout.
      The event will being at 4pm EST and take place at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House. FloWrestling will stream the event live, so people back home can watch the action. Before the event even takes place there will be numerous activities the participants will take part in. On Friday the wrestlers will practice with the Team USA team in the afternoon. In the evening there will be a welcome banquet that will feature team introductions, dinner, and some guest speakers. Saturday morning before the event takes place all the wrestlers will get a tour of Pittsburgh. The activities will culminate with the undercard at 4pm and the main event scheduled to start at 6pm.

      3083 3

      #WrestlingWednesday: The Man Behind the Mic, Kevin Whitehead

      Brought to you by EI Sports
      Thirty-two years ago a spur of the moment idea by Kevin Whitehead resulted in a monumental change to the Indiana high school wrestling state finals.
      Back then, Whitehead was a table helper at the finals. He had filled in occasionally on the microphone, announcing some matches for Homer Hawkins, the main announcer at the time. Whitehead thought something was missing going in to the finals. So, he grabbed a notebook and a pencil and went on the mat asking each wrestler for information about themselves.
      "I was interested in finding out a little more about the kids," Whitehead said. "So I went kid-to-kid and asked them what year they were in school, what their records were, how many falls they had and such."
      At the time, all of the wrestlers in the championship round were lined up across the mat and everyone's name was announced along with their opponent. The two would run across the mat and shake hands. That was it.
      But now that Whitehead had all of this extra information scribbled down in his notebook, Hawkins asked if he would like to announce introductions.
      "After I announced everyone, Homer looked at me with a smile and told me to keep the microphone and announce the championships," Whitehead said. "I haven't given it up since."
      Now the introductions of the finalists are a large part of the finals. Whitehead announces each wrestler, and reads off their list of wrestling accomplishments as the wrestler joins his coaches under a spotlight. After one wrestler is announced, the spotlight moves to his opponent across the mat. Then, the two wrestlers meet at center circle and shake hands.
      Whitehead has been the announcer at the state finals since 1984. He lives in Kentucky, but looks forward each year to his annual trip to Indianapolis for the finals.
      During his time as the announcer for the finals, Whitehead said he has witnessed major changes in the state format.
      "The tournament has gotten bigger in just about every way it can," Whitehead said. "There were fewer wrestlers when I started. When I first got involved the tournament had just expanded. When I was in school there were 12 weights and four wrestlers in each weight. There were 24 semifinal matches and that gave you the finalists and the consolations. After 48 matches, it was over.
      "Now we hit match 48 by about 7:30 on Friday night."
      Whitehead remembers when the finals moved to Market Square Arena and when the Friday night sessions were added. He has watched as the talent level in Indiana has gotten better, and interest in the sport has greatly increased.
      "Wrestling has really grown in the state in terms of the caliber of wrestling, the number of matches, the fan interest and the amount of schools that are represented," Whitehead said. "Right now it sort of gets taken for granted that we have guys wrestling for, or going to wrestle for schools like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska and Penn State. That was unheard of not so many years ago. You might have one or two outstanding guys that would break the mold, but the quality of wrestling has increased multi-fold and that's very gratifying. That is the driving force as to why there were 33,000 people going there and watching it this year."
      Whitehead has announced over 8,000 matches in his long career. He doesn't have a favorite match, but said the atmosphere this year at the state finals was great. He misses the old scoring system for the team title, and believes that created a big interest throughout the tournament.
      That was what separated the great sessions from the average sessions," Whitehead said. "The team race was great when you had a few teams battling for the team title. That really hasn't happened since we went to the new format."
      One of Whitehead's best memories from the finals came in the 80s. The weather was exceptionally bad and the finals got bumped from Market Square to the New Castle Fieldhouse.
      "They had to wrestle it all on one day," Whitehead said. "It started early and ran late. The crowd was huge and New Castle was absolutely packed. When it was over, we all knew we can through a tough time with the weather for wrestling. We had this sense of community afterwards."
      As far as announcing, Whitehead said when he calls out for the wrestlers to clear the mat for the second time, that's when things start to get serious. He says he doesn't have any go-to catch phrases from behind the microphone, but he does love the unique names. He prints the finals brackets off as soon as they are available and practices how he will say the names.
      Whitehead wrestled for Franklin Central in the early 1970s. He never got past regional but was a Marion County runner-up and a sectional runner-up.
      He retired from the Kroger Corporation after a long career spent in packaging development. He lives in Louisville now and spends time golfing with his son when he gets a chance, working around the house and tending to his vinyl record collection.
      "I have a 45 vinyl collection with about 3,000 records," Whitehead said. "I started collecting in the 60s, but I really started in earnest when I found a great Goodwill Store near Indiana State University. At the time, vinyl was junk. But now it's very collectible."
      Whitehead said he has no intentions of quitting his announcing gig at the state finals. He plans on announcing for as long as he's allowed to do so.


      #MondayMatness: Red Finishes Stellar Career

      It was one of the most highly-anticipated championship matches in the 78 years of the IHSAA State Finals.
      There was a buzz around the Indiana wrestling community for months.
      On Saturday, Feb. 20, before 12,602 leather-lunged fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, New Palestine’s Chad Red and Evansville Mater Dei’s Nick Lee — ranked No. 1 and 2 in the nation and holding four previous state titles between them — stepped under the lights with the 132-pound title on the line.
      Here they were, what long-time State Finals public address announcer Kevin Whitehead called “two of the finest high school wrestlers on the planet.”
      The crowd and the television audience was treated to a tussle between the two Big Ten Conference-bound grapplers.
      Red had never lost a match as a high schooler and yet he found himself behind 4-0 early in the match. He cradled his way back into the lead and wound up with his hand being raised after a 6-5 victory.
      “I just feel like I wrestled through that match calmly and, other than giving up that four. I wrestled pretty good,” Red said. “(Lee’s quick 4-0 lead) definitely caught me off-guard. I noticed I had to move a lot more. Once I started moving a little more, I started changing the momentum of the match. Once I locked up that cradle, I started changing the momentum of the match and the crowd got a little more quiet. It was back to us wrestling. I had to control the lead.”
      The New Pal Dragon sprinted off at 183-0 with state titles at 106, 120, 126 and 132.
      Red is only the third Indiana high schooler to go unbeaten throughout his career and the ninth four-time IHSAA state champion, joining Crown Point’s Jason Tsirtsis (2009-12), Griffith’s Angel Escobedo (2002-05) and Alex Tsirtsis (2001-04), Mater Dei’s Blake Maurer (2001-04), Indianapolis Cathedral’s Lance Ellis (1986-89), South Bend Central’s Howard Fisher (1949-52), Muncie Central’s Willard Duffy (1930-33) and Bloomington’s Estil Ritter (1924-27).
      Lee, who was at the top of the podium at 132 in 2015 and third at 126 in 2014, finished his junior season at 16-1.
      He’s been on big stages and won championships all around the country, but Saturday in Indianapolis was special.
      “This is crazy,” Red said. “This is one of my favorites, if THE best.”
      Ellis, the first Indiana grappler to run the table, was there to present Red with his medal and later reflected on the moment.
      “That was good for our sport, good for Indiana wrestling,” Ellis said. “What Chad Red did is amazing. He’s put himself in the record book as probably the greatest high school wrestler in Indiana history.”
      What makes Red so good?
      “A lot of things,” Ellis said. “It’s the time he puts in on the mat, the dedication, athleticism, just the will to win. He’s just a phenomenal wrestler. The bond he has with his dad (Chad Red Sr.) is special. Once you start winning, it becomes contagious.”
      But what it boils down to for Ellis is that Red has what it takes to go into an early deficit, in front of a huge crowd with many rooting against him and still dig deep and come out on top.
      “It comes down to mental toughness,” Ellis said. “And you’ve got to give (Nick) Lee all the credit in the world. For him to go after Red and challenge himself says a lot about him. Most people would do that. No one would do that. He’s a competitor.”
      Ellis said as impressive as the showdown was now, it will be even more important years from now when Red and Lee can look back on even bigger titles at the national and international levels.
      What did Lee think about the experience?
      “You don’t get to wrestle the best kid in the country all the time,” Lee said. “You don’t take it for granted. You go out there and give it 100 percent. The hype is the hype. There’s always hype every year in every weight class. The opportunity to wrestler somebody with that many great credentials is just exciting for me.”
      The moves that built the 4-0 lead?
      “An inside tie to a Fireman’s (Carry) and I got him to his back, so two (points) for a takedown and two for a near fall,” Lee said. “You can’t panic when you get down and he didn’t panic and he took the lead. That’s something you can admire in wrestlers at this level. They’re always in the match no matter what the score is.”
      Red will take his talents to the college mat at Nebraska while Lee has committed to Penn State.
      Who knows, but these two could meet again many times in the future?
      As for the immediate future for Red, he does not plan to be back in the wrestling room on Monday.
      “I’m going to take a long time off,” Red said. “I’m about the chill-ax right now, kick my feet up and sit back.”
      But Red will be back in the spotlight again soon enough when he takes on the Pennsylvania 132-pound champion March 26 at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic.

      5716 11

      2016 State Finals Information Center

      State Finals Hashtag: #INStateFinals16
      Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis | Website
      Admission: $8 per session or $20 both days.
      Match Results: TrackWrestling.com
      Friday, Feb. 19, 2016
      Wrestler Check-in Time | 3:00-4:30pm ET
      Wrestler Weigh-in | 4:30pm ET
      Doors Open for General Public | 5:00pm ET
      First Round | 6 pm ET.
      Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016
      Wrestler Weigh-in | 8:30am ET
      Doors Open for General Public | 8:30am ET
      Quarterfinals | 9:30 am ET with semifinals to follow. Fieldhouse will be cleared after this session
      Doors Open for General Public | 4:00pm ET
      Consolations | 5 pm ET.
      Finals | 7:30 pm ET.
      TrackWrestling Link
      IndianaMat brackets(with rankings)
      Video via TrackWrestling's Trackcast
      $10 fee to watch all weekend
      TrackWrestling Link
      Streaming and Broadcast Information
      State Finals Pick’ems
      Mat Burns Pick the Champions
      Rankings by the Numbers
      IHSAA State Preview

      2766 3

      #WrestlingWednesday Feature: Eldred Just Trying to be the Best for Six Minutes

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Evan Eldred’s dad taught him a valuable lesson when it comes to wrestling. He taught him that Evan doesn’t have to be the best wrestler in the state.
      Ironically, that advice has molded Edred into a semistate champ and the No. 3-ranked 138 pounder this season.
      “The best advice I’ve been given in wrestling is when my dad tells me that I don’t have to be the best,” Evan said. “I just have to be better than my opponent for six minutes. It doesn’t matter who I’m wrestling or what they’ve done. I took that to heart. If I go out there and do my best, it doesn’t matter if the guy across from me is the best in the state or whatever, you can’t let that make you nervous.”
      Eldred has been nearly flawless this year on the mat. He’s 39-1, with his lone loss coming at the hands of No. 1-ranked Brayton Lee in a close 5-3 match.
      “Last year I started my season off with a close loss to Brayton Lee,” Eldred said. “This year I ran into him at conference and had a close match with him. It was probably the best thing for me because it made me realize I’m close, but I wasn’t to where I needed to be.”
      Eldred is a superb student. He has a 3.78 GPA, was Academic All-State honorable mention, and will wrestle next season for the Indiana Hoosiers.
      Eldred’s older brother, Dillon, attends IU and Evan always dreamed of going there as well.
      Westfield coach Terry O’Neil knew about Eldred’s desire to go to IU, so when he had a chance meeting with Hoosier coach Duane Goldman, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about his talented senior.
      “I crossed paths with Coach Goldman at the Indiana wrestling coaches clinic,” O’Neil said. “I told him we had a kid whose brother goes to IU and that is where he really wants to go as well. I told him that Evan has flown under the radar and told him about Evan’s wrestling and academic resume. He called Evan that night.”
      O’Neil has the highest praise for Eldred.
      “I’m pretty biased,” he said. “But if I had only one 138 pounder in the state to pick to be on my team, he would be my choice. I know he can compete with anyone.”
      O’Neil says he has never coached a kid with the ability to learn and utilize technique as well as Eldred.
      “Several factors go into making Evan special,” O’Neil said. “You can show him a technique on a Tuesday and he will use it in a match on Wednesday. His ability to recognize technique is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a high school athlete.
      “Another factor is that he never lets the moment get to him, no matter how important the match is or how big the stage is. He is even tempered and able to maintain an incredible focus.”
      Eldred had goals to be Westfield’s first four-time state qualifier. He qualified as a freshman at 120 pounds, but then fell short his sophomore season, losing in the ticket round of semistate. He bounced back last year and placed sixth at 132 pounds.
      Not making it to state his sophomore year was heartbreaking for Eldred, but it showed Coach O’Neil just how good of a kid Evan was.
      “Evan’s older brother Dillon wrestled for us,” O’Neil said. “He was two years older than Evan. When Evan did not make it to state as a sophomore he was very upset. But when his brother qualified for the first time for state as a senior, the same year, Evan was so proud and so happy for him. His joy for his brother superseded any of his disappointment about not making it himself.”
      Evan has worked extremely hard to improve every season. The best semistate finish he had up until this year was fourth. This year he broke through by winning the New Castle semistate. He’s hoping this is also the year he gets to wrestle under the lights in the championship match.
      “My dad has been taking me to the wrestling finals since I was about five years old,” Eldred said. “He would always tell me that someday I could be there. Every single year I went I just dreamed about what that day would be like.
      “My best wins in high school would be a tie between last year winning on Friday night and knowing I was going to be a state placer – and when I placed at Fargo Nationals two years ago. But getting under the lights would blow both of those two wins away.”

      4241 4

      2016 State Finals By the Numbers

      Once again we have shown how accurate our rankings are with another great year for the final rankings. Note that our rankings are locked before sectional and these do not take into account injuries or semi-state draws as the state series progresses. This year we had a record 175 ranked wrestlers that made it to state. The top weight classes were 120 with 15 of the 16 state qualifiers being ranked. Also 132 had 14 ranked wrestlers and 106, 126, 152, and 182 all had 13. Unfortunately bringing up the rear was 195lbs with only 10 ranked wrestlers. That shows you how crazy of a weight that was.
      2016- 175
      2015- 172
      2014- 171
      2013- 171
      2012- 170
      2011- 157
      2010- 159
      2009- 143
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 13
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Devon Casebolt-Castle
      Hunter Watts-Jimtown
      Trey McCartney-Harrison (WL)
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #2 Ty Mills- Brownsburg vs. #16 Gavin Rose- Greenfield-Central
      #5 Tanner DeMien- Northwood vs. #9 Jacob Moran- Crown Point
      #4 Kory Cavanaugh- Penn vs. #20 JC Herring- Oak Hill
      #11 Brycen Denny- Monrovia vs. #6 Sammy Fair- Perry Meridian
      #13 Lukasz Walendzak- Indianapolis Cathedral vs. #8 Asa Garcia- Avon
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 13
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Jabin Wright- Kokomo
      Hunter Whitman- Jimtown
      Donovan Johnson- Logansport
      Hayden Lohrey- Shenandoah
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #3 Skylour Turner- Warren Central vs. #16 Dalton Craig- Jennings County
      #8 Baxter Annakin- Castle vs. #12 Jordan Slivka- Indianapolis Cathedral
      #2 Alec White- New Palestine vs. #10 Alex Mosconi- Indian Creek
      #7 Austin Slates- Penn vs. #14 Geoffrey Davis- F.w. Wayne
      #20 Christian Mejia- Elkhart Memorial vs. #15 Colin Poynter- Portage
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 15
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Adam Davis- Culver Academies
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #7 Blake Mulkey- Brownsburg vs. #18 Mason Mendez- Bellmont
      #15 Jonathan Moran- Crown Point vs. #14 Ethan Smiley- Beech Grove
      #4 Hunter Langeloh- Columbia City vs. #12 Noah Hunt- Bloomington South
      #10 Caleb Bocock- Lebanon vs. #2 Jeremiah Reitz- Griffith
      #1 Drew Hildebrandt- Penn vs. #20 Isaac Castro- Lawrence North
      #6 Kyle Luigs- Evansville Mater Dei vs. #5 Blake Glogouski- Fairfield
      #11 Christian Hunt- Yorktown vs. #3 Graham Rooks- Columbus East
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 13
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Travis Davenport- Oak Hill
      Reese Rodriguez- Hammond Morton
      Bryce Niewoehner- Kankakee Valley
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #8 Marcus Mejia- Elkhart Memorial vs. #7 Logan Dilbeck- Gibson Southern
      #4 Austin Holmes- Hamilton Southeastern vs. #9 Michael DeLaPeña- Merrillville
      #3 Gaige Torres- Portage vs. #11 Johnny Loos- Franklin County
      #19 Dawson Combest- Columbus East vs. #15 Jon Becker- Bellmont
      #14 Jack Franklin- Homestead vs. #6 Isaac Gomez- Plainfield
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 14
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Nathan Conley- Avon
      Aaron Orr- Rochester
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #4 Brendan Black- Hobart vs. #17 Josh Elpers- Evansville North
      #16 Boone Welliever- Southmont vs. #8 Owen Doster- New Haven
      #11 Fernando Luevano- West Noble vs. #13 DJ Brookbank- Perry Meridian
      #5 Drake Rhodes- Homestead vs. #18 Skyler Collins- Frankfort
      #3 Elliott Molloy- Danville vs. #7 Kris Rumph- Portage
      #1 Chad Red- New Palestine vs. #9 Daniel Gunsett- Bellmont
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 12
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Nathan Housholder- East Noble
      Cole Lukaszka- Benton Central
      Gabe Lane- East Central
      Jerrod Smith- Carmel
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #3 Evan Eldred- Westfield vs. #16 Brooks Wathen- Jennings County
      #14 Riley Rasler- Prairie Heights vs. #8 Jason Crary- Munster
      #11 Tristan Dembowski- Valparaiso vs. #18 Colt Rutter- Yorktown
      #10 Cale McCoy- Northview vs. #4 Matthew McKinney- Warren Central
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 12
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Matthew Cullen- Avon
      Szhantrayle Roberson- Kokomo
      Clay Jones- Lafayette Jefferson
      Clayton Cowan- Hamilton Heights
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #8 Austen Laughlin- South Bend Riley vs. #20 Derrick Motley- North Central (Indianapolis)
      #2 Jared Timberman- New Palestine vs. #6 Triston Rodriguez- Culver Community
      #19 Tyler Crowl- Floyd Central vs. #7 Kenny Kerrn- Jimtown
      #5 Isaac Eicher- Leo vs. #10 Austin Bethel- Mount Vernon
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 13
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Jacob Clark- Avon
      Matt Burns- Hobart
      Jacob Ferris- Hamilton Southeastern
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #3 Trent Pruitt- Warren Central vs. #15 Mitch Lehman- Evansville Mater Dei
      #12 Diego Lemley- Chesterton vs. #17 Hunter Bates- Adams Central
      #13 Peyton Sturgill- Peru vs. #9 Denzyl Prentice- Penn
      #1 Steven Lawrence- Portage vs. #19 Cross Dietrich- Columbia City
      #5 Elijah Dunn- Indian Creek vs. #6 Brett Johnson- Perry Meridian
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 12
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Mitchell Mundy- Southridge
      Jed Levitz- Prairie Heights
      T.C. Perry- Southern Wells
      Sam Bublick- Carmel
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #18 Gleason Mappes- Center Grove vs. #9 Tavonte Malone- South Bend Adams
      #10 Jarod Swank- Penn vs. #7 Burk VanHorn- Franklin
      #5 Cayden Whitaker- Martinsville vs. #13 Oszkar Kasch- Crown Point
      #8 Tony Busse- Bellmont vs. #2 Alston Bane- Richmond
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 12
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Jacob Hendrich- Northview
      Nick Ritchie- Elkhart Memorial
      Zach Davis- F.W. Concordia Lutheran
      Steven Trammell- Lawrence Central
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #2 Nathan Walton- Brownsburg vs. #6 Tristan Goering- South Bend Riley
      #15 Tanner Webster- North Montgomery vs. #3 Jacob Gray- Delta
      #9 Thomas Dull- Terre Haute North vs. #8 Ismael Cornejo- Portage
      #5 Bryce Baumgartner- Bellmont vs. #13 Dezmen Goddard- Warren Central
      #4 Hunter Mote- Delphi vs. #12 Kameron Fuller- Jeffersonville
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 13
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Bristen Dial- Brown County
      Grant Goforth- Indian Creek
      Russell Gibbs- Lake Central
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #2 Andrew Davison- Chesterton vs. #16 Spencer Irick- Hamilton Southeastern
      #5 Andy Kohler- Jay County vs. #13 Hunter Dalton- Bloomington North
      #6 CJ Damler- Brownsburg vs. #10 Caleb Hankenson- Bellmont
      #9 Zach Worm- Southmont vs. #7 Isaac James- Lowell
      #17 Ashton Mutuwa- Hanover Central vs. #3 Cameron Jones- Lawrence North
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 10
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Keith Barclay- South Spencer
      Derrick Craig- New Albany
      Luke Elliott- Eastbrook
      Beck Davis- Garrett
      Damari Embery- South Newton
      Cedrick Vakalahi- Penn
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #8 Nick Fox- Carmel vs. #11 Isaac McCormick- Brownsburg
      #5 Kurtis Wilderman- Evansville Mater Dei vs. #10 Kolby Ferris- Hamilton Southeastern
      #20 Scottie Evans- Delta vs. #17 Evan Larsen- Hanover Central
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 12
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Joey Pier- Yorktown
      Patrick Ernst- Mishawaka Marian
      Donnie Crider- Harrison (wl)
      Brandon Streck- Merrillville
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #4 Evan Ellis- Eastern (Greentown) vs. #16 Scott Fuller- Zionsville
      #8 Sam Hipple- Carmel vs. #10 Derek Paz- Goshen
      #1 Kobe Woods- Penn vs. #15 Tristin Choate- Mount Vernon
      #13 Blake Davis- Garrett vs. #9 Ryan Guhl- Indianapolis Cathedral
      Number of Ranked Wrestlers Qualifying: 12
      Unranked qualifiers:
      Austin Fleck- Evansville Mater Dei
      DeAndre Hodge- Marion
      Dan Phifer- Tipton
      Austin Dollens- Westfield
      First round match-ups of ranked wrestlers:
      #15 Owen Perkins- Oak Hill vs. #17 Isaiah McWilliams- South Bend Washington
      #19 Chris Ridle- Perry Meridian vs. #4 Quinn York- Franklin
      #1 Shawn Streck- Merrillville vs. #12 Braxton Amos- Prairie Heights
      #6 Robert Samuels- Lawrence North vs. Austin Fleck- Evansville Mater Dei
      #18 Nick Mammolenti- Jimtown vs. #11 Givoni Murillo- Portage


      #MondayMatness: Clicking at the Wright Time

      Confidence and conviction can take you a long way.
      Kokomo High School wrestlers like junior 113-pounder Jabin Wright (45-5) and senior 145-pounder Szhantrayl Roberson (42-10) have taken that and landed in the IHSAA State Finals — Wright for the second time and Roberson for the first.
      These two Wildkats are the 14th and 15th state qualifiers in Ryan Wells’ eight season as head coach.
      “My coach said I can be the best in the state if I continue to attack and continue to put pressure and I did that today,” Wright said after winning at the Fort Wayne Semistate. “He told me I can beat anybody if I keep working hard. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
      Wright said he “turned it up a notch” as the 2015-16 postseason has approached.
      “I want to get better and better and I want to be on top of the podium on Saturday,” Wright said. “Coached told me, ‘Now’s your time. Now is when it really matters.’”
      Wells, a former Kokomo wrestler who graduated in 2001, asks his Kats to keep it simple and to stay aggressive and in good position. He has seen Wright stick to that plan and it has him back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
      “He is really peaking at the right time,” Wells said of Wright. “He’s just wrestling so well with his takedowns. He’s really confident.
      “He’s getting deep on shots, finishing and staying in great position all the time. He’s really, really wrestling well.”
      Wright placed third at semistate and lost in the first round in 2015. As a returnee, he will have familiarity with the situation this time.
      But not only that.
      Wright’s first-round draw on Friday night (Feb. 19) is Logansport junior Donovan Johnson, a fourth-place finisher at the East Chicago Semistate. It will be the fourth meeting between the two during the 2015-16 season.
      After losing 7-2 and 17-6 to Logansport’s Donovan Johnson during the season, Wright topped the Berries grappler 8-2 in the finals of the Jan. 24 North Central Conference tournament.
      Like many wrestlers, Wright listens to music before his matches. He was scene doing dance moves prior to wrestling moves at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum.
      “It calms me,” Wright said. “The music kind of just takes me. I don’t want to stress out about my matches and go out there and not stick to my gameplan.”
      And Wright’s pre-match tunes of choice?
      “Music you can dab to,” Wright said.
      Besides former successful Kokomo wrestlers coming into the practice room to give athletes like Wright and Roberson a different look, there are current Kats like Rafael Lopez (126) and T.T. Allen (138) to help make them better.
      “Since he’s a little guy, he’s real quick,” Roberson said of Wright. “His quickness makes my reaction time better. My strength and my length makes him better because he sometimes has to face tall, lanky guys who are strong. We help each other throughout the season.”
      Roberson lost to Yorktown’s Brad Laughlin in the “ticket” round at semistate last year and now he’s going to the Big Show where he will face Evansville Mater Dei sophomore Joe Lee, a champion at the Evansville Semistate, in the first round.
      What has gotten this Kat to Indy?
      “I’m pretty good on my feet,” Roberson said. That’s my strength. “I like to use a Russian into a sweep single on the right side. A duck-under into a high crotch. I finish a lot with that, too.”
      Roberson also has a pre-match routine. After a talk with his coaches, he puts on his headphones for “hype-up” rap and R&B songs.
      “I turn the music up real loud and get in my zone,” Roberson said. “I get my adrenaline going for the match. It usually helps.”


      #WrestlingWednesday: Monrovia Seeing Success on the Mat and Gridiron

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Two wrestlers. That is all Monrovia’s high school team had competing in the first meet of the season. A few months later the Bulldogs were claiming third place at Team State, with 22 wrestlers on the roster.
      That is typical for wrestling at Monrovia, a powerhouse football school. The Bulldogs highly encourage wrestlers to play football, and football players to wrestle. They believe the two sports go hand-in-hand.
      Monrovia won the class 2A football state championship on November 28. That was one week after the school’s first wrestling meet.
      “We went from two kids to 22 after football was over,” Monrovia coach Kevin Blundell said. “I get a lot of freshmen and sophomores that have never wrestled before. The kids that wrestle are really good on the football field. They say wrestling helps them. The football coach pushes all the linemen, especially, to wrestle.”
      Monrovia is used to early struggles in wrestling. Kids come in after football in football shape, not in wrestling shape.
      “It’s harder than what you think to get these guys in wrestling shape,” Blundell said. “A lot of people see a running back and think he’s in shape. But wrestling is a totally different thing. It’s challenging. A lot of these kids come in way over weight. We focus initially on getting in shape, and then we start to hit the technique side in practice.”
      Junior Garrison Lee, the team’s only returning state qualifier, is a prime example. Lee was the starting fullback on the football team. Any time the Bulldogs needed five yards on the ground, Lee was their go-to-guy. But he came in to wrestling quite a bit over weight and not at all ready to go three long periods on the mat with an opponent.
      “He was a monster,” Blundell said. “I didn’t think he would make 195. I think I talked to him at football regionals and asked him what he was weighing, and he just told me that I didn’t want to know.”
      Eventually the Monrovia wrestlers settled in to their weight classes, and then the successes started rolling. The team had three champions at the Mooresville sectional, and sent six to regional. Lee won regional, with sophomore Brycen Denny finishing third at 106 pounds and 220 pounder Dristin McCubbins, a senior, finishing second.
      “Brycen (39-2) has worked very hard to get to where he’s at,” Blundell said. “He’s been in football forever, but he’s only 106 pounds so he decided this season he’s just going to wrestle. Then the team wins state. But he’s still happy with the decision he made. It was what was best for him.
      “Garrison was our only qualifier last year. He knows what he needs to do. He’s been there and lost a really close match last year. He has had that lingering in his mind. He’s has a motor on him and he’s mentally tough.”
      Also advancing for the Bulldogs is Dristin’s younger brother Riley, a 29-11 sophomore heavyweight.
      “When Riley qualified I was very happy to see that,” Dristin said. “We became the first brothers in Monrovia history to both qualify for semistate at the same time.”
      For Blundell, those early days with just two wrestlers competing seem like a distant memory. He knows that will probably always be the case at Monrovia, where football reigns supreme. But he’s fine with that. He knows, once football is over, wrestling really begins.
      “This is a school where the parents are really great,” Blundell said. “They don’t want their kids sitting around doing nothing, so they put them in a lot of sports. They push their kids to do their best and they give me a green light to do whatever we need to do. This is a football school, but we’re becoming a wrestling school as well.”

      8268 1

      #MondayMatness: Wrestling a Hard Sell for the Davis Brothers

      It took a little convincing to get brothers Bo, Blake and Beck Davis to see that wrestling is for them.
      But once they committed to the mat sport, success followed and Garrett has been the beneficiary.
      Bo Davis represented the Garrett High School Railroaders twice at the IHSAA State Finals, qualifying as a junior in 2014 and placing third in 2015 — both times at 195 pounds. He became a collegiate wrestler at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.
      Blake Davis (220) was a State Finals qualifier as a junior in 2015 just won Carroll Sectional and Carroll Regional titles as a senior in 2016. He will be a No. 1 in the Fort Wayne Semistate at Memorial Coliseum.
      Beck Davis, who was at 182 as a freshman in 2015, has won at the sectional and regional stages as a sophomore at 195 in 2016. He, too, will be a top seed at semistate .
      Bo, Blake and Beck are part of a family athletic legacy that includes father Chad Davis and mother Lisa (Leichty) Davis (a pair of 1990 Garrett graduates) and grandfather Steve Dembickie (GHS Class of 1971).
      In a family where they take their sports and their academics seriously (Bo, Blake and Beck have all excelled in football for Garrett and Blake and Beck are ranked in the top five of their respective classes), it took some serious coaxing to become wrestlers.
      “In our school wrestling was the weird thing to do,” Bo Davis said after being recruited to wrestling in sixth grade following a less-than-satisfying basketball experience. “I was forced into it, but I loved it.”
      Blake Davis soon followed his older brother into wrestling. But, at first, there was resistance.
      “All of us thought wrestling was a joke,” Blake Davis said, speaking for himself and both his brothers. We didn’t take it seriously. Bo went out and we made fun of him.”
      But something clicked for Bo and Blake. They began to really enjoy wrestling and the all work it takes to do well.
      It took a little more work coaxing Beck to join them.
      “We offered him $250 to come to one practice,” Bo Davis said.
      No sale.
      “I was probably the most stubborn at the start,” Beck said. “I thought it was weird.”
      It was Garrett coach Nick Kraus, who had Beck in a weight training class, that persuaded him to became a wrestler.
      Kraus, in his fifth season with the program and third as head coach, watched the oldest Davis brother grind to make himself into a decorated wrestler.
      “Bo is very coachable and he hated to lose,” Kraus said. “He was very, very persistent.”
      After not placing at Mishawaka’s Al Smith Classic as a senior, Bo bared down week by week and it paid off during the IHSAA state tournament series.
      “He’s a strong kid with an athletic build who got very good at a couple things he did consistently,” Kraus said. “I’ve never coached anybody who worked as hard as Bo Davis.”
      That kind of drive in the classroom turned Davis into Garrett’s 2015 valedictorian and he is now studying biomedical engineering at Indiana Tech. Blake and Beck are ranked in the top five of their classes at Garrett.
      A mean streak has also served Blake well.
      “Blake is the meanest of the brothers,” Kraus said. “He imposes his will on people. He’s almost a bully on the wrestling mat.”
      Lisa (Liechty) Davis, a standout athlete during her time at Garrett (she is a 1990 GHS graduate) and the boys’ mother, has witnessed the rage.
      “Blake is mean,” Lisa Davis said. “If Bo was beating them when they were wrestling, they might throw a punch or two. Five minutes later, they are each others’ best friend.”
      Blake does not shy away from the mean label.
      “I guess since I was little I had anger problems,” Blake Davis said. “I’ve gotten better over the years of channeling it. If you are a competitive person, you don’t want to lose. If you live with them, you’re going to hear about it.”
      Kraus appreciates the hate-to-lose attitude.
      “That’s not a bad thing in wrestling and it’s trickled down throughout the team,” Kraus said. “All the kids are getting that chip on their shoulder.”
      Superior conditioning has been Blake’s calling card.
      “I know I’m not the most talented wrestler, but I can outwork them,” Blake Davis said. “I prefer to pin the guy as quickly as possible, but I can go six minutes.”
      After an injury-filled football season, Blake just reached the wrestling shape of his junior season in recent weeks.
      Using his competitive nature, Blake has avenged early losses or beaten opponents even more convincingly in rematches.
      “(Blake) does have finesse,” Kraus said. “But for the most part, it’s a physical brute style of wrestling.”
      Even at 220, it’s not all bulldozer with Blake.
      “He’s pretty slick,” Bo Davis said of Blake. “He’s athletic for somebody that size. He can pull off some lighter-guy moves that stop people in their tracks sometimes.”
      Kraus said Beck has the potential to be the best wrestling Davis brother.
      “He’s had his brothers to work with all the time,” Kraus said. “He didn’t want to do it at first. Once he started to do it, he was all in. Now he doesn’t miss summer sessions, camps or weight room workouts. There are high expectations with his brothers’ accomplishments, but he doesn’t let it get to him.”
      Following coaching advice, Beck tries to keep moving on the mat and believe in himself.
      “I’ve been working on (constant motion),” Beck Davis said. “And to keep having fun and stay confident.
      “I’m not really technical sound, but I have a decent gas tank and I like to shoot.”


      North Montgomery Regional Preview

      North Montgomery Regional Preview
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #18 Strueder, Fishers
      2. Grino, Southmont
      3. Gobeyn, Zionsville
      4. Mennen, Clinton Central
      Notes: Strueder and Grino met in the regional semis last year, with the Fishers state qualifier winning 7-4. Grino has only one loss all year, to Monrovia’s Denny. Gobeyn is not far from the top-2, and could pull an ‘upset’ or two.
      Upset alert: Nothing really stands out as a likely candidate in the first round. Gobeyn could spoil the party for Strueder and Grino.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. Hutson, Westfield
      2. Moseley, North Montgomery
      3. Pecoraro, Carmel
      4. Hubble, Southmont
      Notes: Last year, Hutson upset top-seed Hubble, which gave the Zionsville sectional four regional placers at this weight. From the hunter to the hunted, Hutson has his work cut out for him at a fairly wide open weight. Moseley is a tough senior, and has as good a shot as Hutson or anyone else to finish on top. Hubble comes in with less momentum than last year, and he’ll have to work hard to beat HSE’s Forbes.
      Upset alert: Forbes, or Attica’s senior Haas could surprise and advance to New Castle.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. Bocock, Lebanon
      2. Jerde, Carmel
      3. Ellis, Zionsville
      4. Garcia, HSE
      Notes: Bocock boat-raced the competition as Frankfort last week and is a strong favorite at North Montgomery. Seeger’s Acton was a sectional champ last week in dominant fashion and has a stellar record, but Garcia is much tougher than his record would indicate and their match should be very competitive.
      Upset alert: Garcia has a very solid shot of beating Acton.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #4 Holmes, HSE
      2. #18 Hiestand, Carmel
      3. Bowling, Lebanon
      4. Eads, Attica
      Notes: Holmes is an excellent wrestler and he’s having another superb season. He is head and shoulders above this field. Hiestand is inexperienced, but talented, and I think his talent will see him through to a 2nd place finish. Eads has a phenomenal record and was impressive at sectionals, but he will be pushed by Westfield’s Robinson in his opening match.
      Upset alert: Robinson is a dangerous 4 seed for Eads. Southmont’s McManus is a senior dropping down from 132, and he could stop Hiestand’s momentum before it even starts.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #16 Welliever, Southmont
      2. #18 Collins, Frankfort
      3. Steele, Westfield
      4. Wagner, Zionsville
      Notes: This is simply an outstanding weight class. At least four different wrestlers could win the weight, and it essentially boils down to whose day it is on Saturday. At Frankfort, there were a lot of very close matches, and it’s likely that we’ll see the same thing here. Welliever edged Collins in the regional finals last year.
      Upset alert: State-ranked Collins had better not overlook Attica’s Henry, as he sports a 29-3 record.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #3 Eldred, Westfield
      2. #15 Moore, Southmont
      3. Smith, Carmel
      4. Estes, Attica
      Notes: Moore and Eldred should meet in the finals, provided Smith doesn’t trip up Moore in the semis. Eldred is a returning state placer and Fargo All-American, but Moore is a returning state qualifier, so this is no walk in the part for the Shamrock senior. Smith has been a giant-killer lately. Estes finished 3rd at regionals last year, and battled Moore to a 2-0 decision loss at sectionals.
      Upset alert: Smith could present trouble for Moore.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. Eiteljorge, Carmel
      2. Wilbrandt, Fishers
      3. Brown, North Vermillion
      4. Coffman, Lebanon
      Notes: This is a pretty wide open weight past Eiteljorge. There are very few sure things in this bracket.
      Upset alert: It’s hard to call anything short of Eiteljorge losing a big upset, but Wilson of Zionsville could knock off the sectional champ Brown.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. Ferris, HSE
      2. Blondeel, Attica
      3. Miller, Westfield
      4. Long, Southmont
      Notes: Blondeel dominated sectionals and could give Ferris a tight match, if he doesn’t beat him outright. Miller is peaking and could provide trouble for Blondeel and Ferris potentially. Ferris is battle tested against some of the best in the state but isn’t a huge point scorer, so we could see some close matches this weekend.
      Upset alert: Watch out for Miller, who is a different wrestler now than he was earlier in the season. Zville’s Banks could knock off Long.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #12 Frazee, Fountain Central
      2. Bublick, Carmel
      3. Penola, Zionsville
      4. Jessop, HSE
      Notes: Frazee is undefeated and wiped up the field at Crawfordsville last weekend. He knocked Bublick out in the opening round of regionals last year. Penola and Jessop are good wrestlers, but maybe a tick below Bublick and a few ticks below Frazee.
      Upset alert: The two 1-seeds had better not look past their opening matches. Frazee gets WeBo senior Scott and Bublick gets Turkey Run senior Uplinger.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #20 Stambaugh, Lebanon
      2. Jagow, Westfield
      3. #15 Webster, North Montgomery
      4. Mazero, HSE
      Notes: Wow! This is a filthy bracket, and starts off with a bang. #15 Webster and #19 Ragains of Frankfort meet in the opening round. All the heavy hitters in this weight have wins over highly regarded foes this year, and another really tough guy, Pedigo of WeBo, didn’t survive sectionals. The unranked Jagow beat Stambaugh and Ragains in clutch overtime performances at Frankfort last weekend—quite a day for the unheralded Shamrock stud. Stambaugh, Jagow, Ragains and Webster could all win the weight, and I’m picking Stambaugh because he got red-hot in the postseason last year.
      Upset alert: Ragains could easily take out Webster and win the weight. My advice-take your pick and grab some popcorn.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #9 Worm, Southmont
      2. #16 Irick, HSE
      3. Hill, Zionsville
      4. Fruits, North Montgomery
      Notes: Worm and Irick were each state qualifiers last year and are the clear favorites at 182 this year. Their potential finals match could be one of the best of the day. Hill and Fruits could be a donnybrook.
      Upset alert: Westfield senior Trompen over North Montgomery’s Fruits. Trompen is battle-tested and is wrestling his best right now.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #8 Fox, Carmel
      2. #10 Ferris, HSE
      3. #13 Slavens, North Montgomery
      4. #18 Schaeffer, Westfield
      Notes: This is a nasty weight class, as four competitors in the top-18 will be vying for the strap. While Fox has to be the favorite based on the impressive season he’s had thus far, Ferris has shown he can go with the elite of the weight class…but then again, Slavens and Schaeffer can say the same thing. Like several of the other top-end weight classes at North Montgomery, we could have 4 different potential champs here. Take your pick.
      Upset alert: While Ferris could knock off Fox, Slavens might make that situation moot by beating Ferris himself. In fact, Slavens knocked Ferris out of regionals last year. However, to get the opportunity to face Ferris, Slavens has to beat the surging stud Williamson of Zville, which is far from a given.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. #8 Hipple, Carmel
      2. #16 Fuller, Zionsville
      3. #17 McClaine, Lebanon
      4. Eup, South Vermillion
      Notes: Hipple caught fire in the postseason last year en route to a high finish at state. Fuller was a state qualifier, but has missed some time this year. McClaine has wins over ranked opponents and is a dangerous semis opponent for Hipple.
      Upset alert: Sophomore Williams of Southmont is a tough opening match for Fuller.
      Heading to New Castle:
      1. Phelps, Covington
      2. Williams, Carmel
      3. Chastain, HSE
      4. Dollens, Westfield
      Notes: While perhaps not the most loaded field at North Montgomery, this should be one of the most competitive. One-loss senior Phelps pinned his way through sectionals. Williams was a semistate qualifier last year and is better than his so-so record would indicate. Chastain and Dollens are pretty evenly matched, and it’s basically a pick ‘em between these two.
      Upset alert: Bettis of South Vermillion pinned three opponents at sectionals and could do the same to returning regional qualifier Dollens. Also, Chastain faces a 30-win senior in Pierce of North Montgomery. Neither of these potential wins by Crawfordsville sectional HWTs would be huge upsets.


      Karl's Komments on the Rochester Regional

      Take 'em as gospel or take 'em with a grain of salt but here they are:
      106 – A potential Mishawaka sectional sweep here with Penn’s junior Kory Cavanaugh leading the way for the flyweights. South Bend Adams frosh Vincent Calhoun will likely meet Cavanaugh in the finals for a second week in a row. I like St. Joe’s Matt Cysewski in a close one over Culver Military’s Spencer Penrose in the 3rd/4th match.
      113 – Penn’s Austin Slates is clearly the top dog at 113. The Best match in the bracket might be the semi final battle between Wawasee’s freshman, Braxton Alexander and Adams’ Joey Zahl. Alexander was very impressive in winning the Plymouth sectional title and Zahl is a proven tough competitor. Culver Academy should get their 2nd semistate qualifier in junior Robert White.
      120 – A strong class for the Plymouth Sectional with a trio of former semistate qualifiers looking to return to the region. CMA’s Adam Davis, Triton’s Malachi Greene, and Plymouth’s Zane DeVault all have enough firepower to make the trip to East Chicago but all three together might be needed to slay Penn’s mighty Drew Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt has gone wire to wire as the state’s top ranked 120 pound wrestler.
      126 – The fab four out of the Mishawaka sectional stand a great chance of moving on to East Chicago. Mishawaka’s Ryan Hardesty has put together an excellent senior season and won last week versus rival Jarrett Selis of Penn. An all Catholic clash will probably make up the 3rd place match with St. Joe’s Jared Kazmierczak and Marian’s Nick Blasko.
      132 – The Green will be mean at 132. South Bend Washington’s Tondrew Tyler comes in with an excellent 38-1 record and a state ranking of 14th. His likely finals opponent, Tristin Ponsler of Wawasee has been under the radar all season but has state level talent. I like Mishawaka’s Preston Risner and Rochester’s gritty senior Aaron Orr to move on as 3rd and 4th place finishers.
      138 – This should be a fun weight class to keep an eye on this Saturday. Warsaw’s Kyle Hatch is the clear favorite based on his two state medals but he should be challenged by Clay’s exciting Rishod Cotton in the semis. Penn’s Trace Manspeaker squeaked a victory out over Cotton last week and it set him up well in the regional bracket. I like CMA’s Steven Muthart to be the fourth to move on.
      145 – I may be biased but I think this is the strongest weight class at the Rochester regional. Two state qualifiers are here in Riley’s Austin Laughlin and Culver’s Triston Rodriguez along with a senior from Penn that has beaten both of them in Cameron Beam. I like Plymouth’s Bodie Neidig to be the fourth qualifier. This regional will create some bad draws for the other regionals at East Chicago.
      152 – If 145 is not the strongest class then 152 might be. The top five here are all excellent and someone will be ending their season much sooner then they would have liked. The first round tilt between Bremen’s Alex Bollenbacher and South Bend Adams’ Tavris Evans will be a slobber knocker. Penn’s Denzyl Prentice would love a rematch with rival Kassius Breathitt of Riley but first must overcome the ‘rastlin’ Rockie’, Micah Calhoun of Plymouth.
      160 – These middle weight classes at Rochester will be worth the price of admission and the rivalry between Adams’ Tavonte Malone and Penn’s Jarod Swank will highlight this division. Both are serious threats to be on the podium in a couple of week at Banker’s Life. With Triton’s Gage Waddle added into the mix, there are three legitimate studs at 160.
      170 – South Bend Riley’s Tristan Goering is the clear favorite here. He has followed up last year’s magical post season run (finishing 4th in the state) with an outstanding junior campaign. No serious challengers to the junior Wildcat have emerged in the regional area.
      182 – A trio of grapplers have separated themselves from the rest of the field in the 182 weight class. Austin Faulkner won a pair of tight matches last Saturday to put himself in a great position this weekend. He has the easier path to the finals where he will probably meet either conference rival, Mason Cao of Clay or Jeremy Splix of Plymouth. Young Max Chaffee will likely be the fourth qualifier.
      195 – Wide open would the way to describe the 195 pound class at Rochester. Penn’s Cedrick Vakalahi and Plymouth’s Nate LaFree are the likely finalists but no wrestlers in this weight class have particularly distinguished themselves this season and upsets could likely occur here.
      220 – The big boys should provide some entertaining wrestling for the fans at Rochester. State champion and Purdue recruit, Kobe Woods is the headliner but there are four other studs that have state level talent. One will be heading home. Bremen’s Tyler Moser has put together an excellent 34-2 record and a sectional championship. Marian’s Patrick Ernst and Culver Academy’s Simon Griffith will square off in a great first round match. Warsaw’s Andrew Brock is the other likely qualifier.
      285 – South Bend Washington’s Isaiah McWilliams is the favorite here with his 36-3 record and sectional championship. On the other side of the bracket is Rochester’s big man, Dan ‘#TRUCK’ Clark, along with an interesting match up between St. Joe’s veteran Michael Koebel and Culver’s young Alecks McBee. Will Vakalahi, the undersized Penn heavyweight is the other likely semistate qualifier here.


      #WrestlingWednesday: Basketball Not Rypel's Cup of Tea

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Indianapolis Cathedral’s Blake Rypel is one of Indiana’s most dominating forces on the wrestling mat. His name is recognized by just about everyone who cares even a little bit about the sport in the Hoosier state. Rypel wants more though – he wants everyone in the country to know his name.
      “I want to be one of the most recognizable names in college wrestling as well,” Rypel said. “I want to be a four-year contender for the National Championship.”
      Rypel, a senior at Cathedral, will wrestle next season for the Indiana Hoosiers. He currently is 34-0 this season and is riding an 80-match winning streak.
      “Blake is the kind of wrestler that is tough to coach,” Cathedral coach Sean McGinley said. “He can do so many things that you really don’t practice. You kind of let him go on that. He’s so good on the mat, he’s teaching us in the room. He’s a very special wrestler.”
      Last season Rypel was the state champion at 195 pounds. This year, in order to benefit the Cathedral team, Rypel has cut down to 182 pounds.
      “Here’s a guy that is committed to IU,” McGinley said. “He’s a returning state champ. He’s ranked No. 1 in the state at 195 pounds. But he decides to drop weight and go down to 182 for the betterment of the team. That right there tells you what kind of kid Blake is.”
      Rypel’s decision to drop to 182 was for the benefit of the team, but it was also to help out his good friend Ben Stewart.
      “Ben is a football player,” Rypel said. “He wants to play in college and he wants to be bulking up, not cutting weight. So I said I would go down to 182 so he didn’t have to.”
      Stewart is currently ranked No. 2 in the state at 195.
      “If Blake doesn’t go down to 182, Ben doesn’t wrestle,” McGinley said. “So obviously his decision to drop has greatly helped our team.”
      Rypel finished seventh as a freshman at 160 pounds. He was second his sophomore season at 182 and he won last year at 195.
      His freshman year was one of his most trying seasons because his father passed away unexpectedly a few weeks before the start of the season.
      “That was terrible,” Rypel said. “I used it as motivation though. I dedicated a lot of my wins to my dad. Every once in a while I start to dwell on his death, but I try not to.”
      Rypel comes from a basketball family. His dad, brother and sister were all basketball standouts. Ironically, Blake was introduced to wrestling through basketball.
      “My basketball coach at the time, I think it was around 2005 or 2006, had a son that wrestled and he told me that I might like it,” Rypel said. “The first year I thought wrestling was OK, but in the second year I really started winning and fell in love with the sport.”
      Rypel is already focused on his college wrestling. He has dreamed of going to Indiana University ever since he was little, and he can’t wait to put on that Hoosier singlet.
      “Every college I visited was pretty cool,” Rypel said. “But I already knew everyone on IU’s team. I have been a Hoosier fan all of my life. I never thought that one day I’d be good enough to wrestle for them.”
      McGinley believes Rypel will have a lot of success in college because he is a dominating wrestler on top, which suits the college style.
      As far as finishing his high school career, he said anything less than a state championship would be a disappointment.
      Rypel won the Lawrence Central sectional last week, beating No. 3 ranked Cameron Jones 8-6 in the final.
      He hopes Cathedral can also claim the team state championship. The Irish have seven ranked wrestlers still competing: Lukasz Waldensak (No. 13, 106), Jordan Slivka (No. 12, 113), Breyden Bailey (No. 2, 126), Zach Melloh (No. 6, 132), Rypel (No. 1, 182), Stewart (No. 2, 195) and Ryan Guhl (No. 9, 220).
      “I really believe we have some of the strongest wrestlers in the state,” Rypel said. “As long as our guys can place, we have a real good shot at winning.”

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      Richard Jay: Wrestling's Best Friend

      The wind was howling and snow was blowing on Feb. 14, 2015.
      As the Merrillville wrestling semistate drew to its close, a blizzard was blanketing northern Indiana.
      Visibility on some roads was down to zero. Sections of U.S. 20 were closed by police.
      In the gym, thousands of wrestlers and fans literally didn’t know where to go, or what to do. Many were calling hotels, trying to find vacancies. Others scanned Mapquest, trying to find alternate routes home.
      In the middle of all this, as I was speaking to a Merrillville police officer about my options for getting back to South Bend, my cell phone rang.
      It was Richard Jay.
      “Tim,” he said. “Go to my house.”
      Now, the thing to understand is this: Richard was not at the semistate.
      For the first time in decades, he was missing from his usual spot in the crow’s nest, the one with a “Mat Burns” banner hanging on the rail.
      Richard’s wife was in the hospital. She wasn’t doing well. Truth be told, she was dying.
      The semistate was always one of Richard’s favorite events. He would alternately cheer local wrestlers while recording the results from every mat for the local media. He was the ultimate wrestling fan.
      But this year was different. His wife was dying and Richard was at the hospital by her side.
      And then he looked out the window.
      “Go to my house. Don’t try to drive home in this. I’m only a few miles away,” I heard Richard’s voice say, crackling over a cell phone in the middle of Merrillville’s gym.
      “But … but …,” I stammered. “Aren’t you at the hospital?”
      “Yes, but I’ll leave and go let you in,” he said. “The place is yours. I’m going back to stay with my wife.”
      “Richard ….,” I said.
      “Don’t argue about it,” he said. “Just go.”
      I should have. I didn’t.
      In hindsight, out of the many stupid decisions I’ve made in my life, this was one of the biggest.
      Not because it took four hours to get home, and I was terrified the whole way, and I almost drove into a drainage ditch.
      No, in hindsight, it was stupid because it deprived me of the opportunity to thank Richard for being such a wonderful person, and let him know how much we all missed him that day, and how much he meant to the wrestling community.
      Because, God knows, he would have done that for any one of us.
      Richard Jay died from complications of a stroke on Dec. 23. It was about eight months after his wife died.
      Richard adored his wife. Everyone in his family agrees: the two events were tied together.
      Richard had been a coach in the Hammond school system – mostly at Gavit – for something like 38 years. He coached wrestling. He coached track. He coached tennis. Hell, he could coach anything.
      A lot of people came to the funeral home. A lot of people cried. I was one of them.
      “Richard had a … a humanity that most coaches don’t have,” said veteran Mishawaka coach Al Smith, who, like most of us, was unprepared when he heard the news.
      Yes. Al Smith.
      “Rich wanted his kids to win, of course he did, but he was always more interested in what kind of person they would grow up to be,” said Smith. ”Whether you were a good wrestler or not, he always wanted to know how he could help you. You were a person first, a wrestler second.”
      In the weeks since his death, I’ve been stunned by the number of young wrestlers and coaches who never knew Richard Jay, didn’t even know who he was.
      Trust me on this: You would have liked him.
      The “Pick the Champions” contest, the one you saw at every state meet? That was Richard’s contest.
      The “Quick Pins” list, the one that every wrestler wants to make? That was Richard’s, too.
      And most of all, there was Mat Burns, the greatest magazine of Indiana wrestling history that ever existed.
      If you are from a wrestling family – if you and your brother or your father or your sister ever stepped onto a mat in Indiana – odds are that you are in Mat Burns. There are thousands of records in that thing.
      Literally. Thousands.
      “I remember he came over here a couple times when he was starting Mat Burns,” said Smith. “He went through our records, he really wanted it to be complete.”
      Richard sold some ads to try and finance it, but most of the money came out of his own pocket. He didn’t care, he thought it was important.
      And he was right. I cited Mat Burns -- a lot -- in the wrestling columns that I used to write for the South Bend Tribune.
      Richard was special because he cared, really cared, about the sport, and all the people in it.
      Over the years, I have learned one thing the hard way: Lots of coaches say they care about their sport, but the truth is that they only care about stuff that benefits their own teams.
      Even if a proposal makes all the sense in the world, if it doesn’t help them directly, then … pfffft. They’re gone.
      Richard was never that way. Wrestling came first.
      In reporting Richard’s passing, NWI Times sportswriter Jim Peters repeated a story first told by Calumet coach Jim Wadkins.
      It went like this:
      “Sitting in the bleachers after losing a freestyle wrestling match, Jim Wadkins was approached by then-Gavit coach Rich Jay.
      "I remember, I was having a problem with a certain technique," said Wadkins, now the coach at Calumet.
      "Rich said, 'Jim, come here.' He took me down to an empty mat and showed me a little tweak that helped me fix the problem. That's the kind of guy he was. He was a good guy, a wrestling guy, somebody who was always there to help you regardless of what school you were from."
      It was exactly that reason another Times columnist, Al Hamnik, wrote a piece titled: Rich Jay was the model for all coaches.
      It started like this:
      “If you're a young coach, regardless of the sport, please put your clipboard and whistle down and read the following carefully.
      “It will help your career.
      “Let me tell you about Rich Jay.”
      And then he described the things that made Richard Jay a great coach, and none of them had a thing to do with wins or losses.
      I can tell you about Richard Jay, as well.
      Richard was the kind of guy who --while sitting in a hospital room with his dying wife, whom he loved dearly – would look out the window, see a blizzard, and take the time to call a lowly, struggling sportswriter from South Bend, and offer his home as shelter.
      That’s who Richard Jay was.
      As I have grown older, I have become convinced of two things.
      There is a God. And he has put angels in this world.
      I know, because one of them was just called home.
      Rest in Peace, Richard. God Bless you.
      Here is a link to Richard Jay's obituary with many pictures from on and off the mat.

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      #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.”


      #WrestlingWednesday Feature: Two New College Programs in Indiana

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Two Indiana Wrestling Hall of Famers will be at the forefront of expanding the state’s college wrestling reach next season.
      Steve VanDerAa will be Ancilla College’s first wrestling coach beginning in the 2016-2017 season. Steven Bradley will be at the helm of Marian University’s first year program, also beginning next season.
      “Obviously being the first coach, nobody has been before me,” Bradley said. “There are no footsteps to follow and not a lot of pressure. I get to create my own footsteps. It’s a good thing. When I’m all done, many years from now, hopefully I will have set a standard that other people will want to strive to acheive.”
      Bradley was a three-time state champion wrestler from Beech Grove High School. He has coached at the college level for 10 seasons. The move to Marian was exactly the kind of job he was looking for. It enables Bradley to be closer to his family.
      For VanDerAa, who coached Winimac High School for 20 seasons, he couldn’t resist the chance to get back into the coaching game.
      “I’ve officiated the last couple of years, but I’ve really missed coaching,” VanDerAa said. “I can’t wait to get back into it.”
      VanDerAa is the first lay coach to be inducted into the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame. He has a coaching record of 404-96 and says all but six of his career losses came at the hands of schools larger than Winimac. He has helped coached Indiana legends like Angel Escobedo and Alex Tsirtsis.
      Both coaches are excited about the chance to build their programs from the ground up.
      “That’s the most exciting part,” said VanDerAa. I have a say in how we’re going to put the wrestling room together. We’re ordering all new equipment and when we are recruiting we get to tell them that they are the first and they are going to be the foundation of our program.”
      Bradley said recruiting has been relatively easy from the start.
      “It’s been nice,” Bradley said. “I’ve receive a lot of interest already. There are a lot of people contacting me and talking about the school. I’ve started talking to kids. The interest has been amazing at how many people in the first few weeks have sent emails, calls and text to get information. They love that there is another choice out there.”
      Bradley sees wrestling rising in popularity, especially at the small college level.
      “The interest is increasing across the country,” Bradley said. “We give kids another option. They can stay close to home and compete. I think it’s a good thing Indiana has more options. It will help Indiana wrestling as a whole. It will help high school kids. The more kids going to college and wrestling, the more young kids will see that and want to follow behind.”
      Both Bradley and VanDerAa have similar characteristics they look for in a recruit.
      “Academics are important,” VanDerAa said. “But I’m also looking for athletes that want to be part of our charter program. I want kids dedicated to the sport. I want guys that will do hard work, follow directions and be model young men for the sport.”
      Bradley is also looking for hard workers.
      “They have to be able to work hard,” Bradley said. “We need kids with integrity. We want kids that want to do well academically and kids that want to do well on the mats. I want kids that constantly want more for themselves and push themselves towards their goals.”
      Ancilla College is a part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, while Marian is a part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

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      #MondayMatness: Hildebrandts Working Towards the Top of the Podium

      A bond shared between siblings is a big part of why they are among the top wrestlers in their realm — big sister at the national and international level and little brother near the top of the high school pinnacle.
      Sarah Hildebrandt, 22, is a member of Team USA and trying to earn a spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 2011 Penn High School graduate, just completed a national team training camp in Iowa City, Iowa, the site of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling on April 9-10. She is among those going for spots at 53 kg (116.8 pounds).
      Drew Hildebrandt, 18, is coming off a runner-up IHSAA State Finals finish at 113 pounds and a key role in Penn’s 2014-15 team state championship. Now a senior, the Central Michigan University-bound grappler is currently ranked No. 1 in his weight class in Indiana at 120 and was just named MVP of the Northern Indiana Conference for the NIC team champions.
      Sarah will have an overseas tour and a few tournaments leading up to the Olympic Trials. One is scheduled for the weekend of the IHSAA State Finals, Feb. 19-20, in Indianapolis.
      “Yo! I’m not going to that,” Sarah stated emphatically while visiting family for the holidays and watching her brother compete during break from training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I’ve got to see my little brother.”
      Sarah, who got to coach from the corner at Mishawaka High School while her bro won an Al Smith Classic title in late December, is close to all her family members (Chris and Nancy have four children — Cory, Sarah, Amy and Drew).
      But the lofty wrestling goals and shared mat experiences have brought Sarah and Drew even closer.
      “We keep in touch (texts and phone calls etc.),” Sarah said. “We send each other silly stuff all the time. But before a competition, he will say, ‘I love you. You’re a beast.’ Drew knows I can do this. He’s been in this position. He trains with me. He knows me.
      “I love to hear from him . He’ll say, ‘Sarah, you’ve got this. Keep going.’ At the end of the tournament, he’ll say ‘I’m so proud of you.’”
      Through training and listening, Drew has benefitted from Sarah’s experience as a top grappler at King University and with the national team.
      Drew has adopted Sarah’s front headlock and slide-by to his bag of tricks.
      “People say, ‘you have a nasty slide-by’ and I say, ‘I learned it from my sister,’” Drew said.
      As a wrestler elementary school, Drew would get almost sick from anxiety before every match. With plenty of time in the spotlight since, that is no longer an issue.
      But Drew and Sarah do have anxious moments.
      “When she’s wrestling, I’m twice as nervous as when I’m wrestling and when I’m wrestling, she’s twice as nervous,” Drew said.
      On breaks from the national team — like the one in December — Sarah came into the practice room and shared her knowledge with all the Kingsmen, including head coach Brad Harper and his staff.
      “With the moves she shows us, she really focuses on the little things,” Drew said. “It’s more about the neutral position since she really doesn’t do bottom of top.”
      Harper, who started at Penn the same season as Sarah in 2007-08, appreciates the technician that she has become.
      “I told her back then that if she was going compete against boys, her technique and positioning had to be perfect,” Harper said. “She has taken that to heart. It has shown. She has even taken it to the next level.”
      Harper, a former standout at Mishawaka High School and Purdue University who has continued to coach Sarah past her high school days, said attention to detail is what she will need to have to earn a spot for Rio.
      “It’s about a lot of reps and a lot of practice and knowing you’re ready,” Harper said. “It’s hitting things over and over and over. That makes her makes her a great technician. She realizes her weaknesses and strengths.”
      Sarah said its her perfectionist tendencies that help her make adjustments and gives her confidence on the mat.
      “I love to just drill,” Sarah said. “Everybody knows I have a headlock and everybody knows I have a slide-by. Everyone in the country knows and people on the other side of the world know. But they don’t know the corrections I am making.”
      Sarah has also worked on her quickness.
      “I am a very heavy-footed wrestler,” Sarah said. “I’ve really focused on moving my feet, elevating the pace and moving in and out. The first time I executed it, people came up to me and said, ‘wow! you look like a different wrestler.’”
      Making Sarah and other Penn athletes better wrestlers is what Harper strives to do, not only with the teaching of technique, but with his encouragement.
      “That’s my secret sauce, it’s all about motivation,” Harper said. “I try to keep them focused on the ultimate goal.”
      With his current Penn grapplers — like Drew — that goal is individual and team championships.
      For Sarah, it’s an Olympic dream.
      Harper, who was in Las Vegas on a Friday night when Sarah qualified for the Olympic Trials and with his Penn team the next morning for a tournament in early December, likes to send motivational quotes.
      A recent one to the Hildebrandts came from legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
      The quote read: “It’s not the will to win that matters — everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
      The Harpers know Sarah as an athlete, but are very close with the whole Hildebrandt family. Sarah, best friend and national team training partner Jenna (Burkert) Lowry and others could be seen with Brad and wife Christina’s daughter and son — Mackenzie, 2, and Deuel, 5 months — at the Al Smith Classic.
      As a motivator and accountability partner, Harper watches film of Sarah and gives pointers. He talks to her about her diet (she has gone down a weight class), her training and her mental game.
      “We talk everyday,” Sarah said. “He’ll ask me, ‘have you visualized today?’”
      Dropping down to 53 kg (about four pounds lighter than her previous class and her lowest weight since high school), Sarah made a total change to her routine.
      “I took the cut very, very seriously,” Sarah said. “I probably started three months out. I complete changed my diet, my cardio and my lifting.”
      She continued with wrestling workouts five days a week (twice a day three times) and went from 20 to 40 minutes of running on the treadmill and a sauna session each day.
      Then a funny thing happened.
      “The day of weigh-in, I was being nice to people. It was a whole new experience,” Sarah said. “(When cutting weight,) I can get a little cranky. I love being down at the other weight. I feel like I can move better.”
      While running back in northern Indiana, she noticed how training at 6,000 feet above sea level in Colorado helps.
      “I was running 2 to 3 mph faster here,” Sarah said.
      It has been quite a run for the Hildebrandts and that run still has miles to go.
      Here is a link to a previous story on Sarah Hildebrandt

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      #WrestlingWednesday Feature: Blast from the Past with Randy May

      Brought to you by EI Sports

      Randy May’s name deserves to be in the mix when talking about Indiana’s all-time best wrestlers.
      May went undefeated as a sophomore, junior and senior at Bloomington South High School in the 1974-76 seasons. He won three state championships during that span.
      Perhaps the only thing keeping him off the podium his freshman season was that he was too small (he weighed right at 84 pounds), and he was behind the brother of three-time state champion Jim Cornwell for a spot in the varsity lineup.
      “I was just too little to make the varsity team,” May said. “My coach, Kay Hutsell, had already won four state championships as a coach. Bloomington had a tradition back then like Evansville Mater Dei does now. And it was almost as hard to crack our varsity lineup as it was to win a state title.”
      Hutsell had coached Bloomington to team state championships in 1969, 70, 71 and 72. During that span Bloomington had seven individual champions.
      In 1973 Bloomington split into Bloomington North and Bloomington South. Hutsell became Bloominigton South’s coach, and led them to another state championship in the 1973 season.
      That season May lost just one time in the reserve matches – to a varsity junior from Owen Valley.
      “I got beat by him,” May said. “It was a good match. He ended up being one win away from going to the state tournament.”
      May hurt his back his freshman year and coach Hutsell sent him to help coach the feeder system at Smithville Middle School.
      “I was mad,” May said. “I wanted to be with the team. I had so much energy for the sport. Eventually coach let me travel with the team on dual meets. That was a privilege. I got to be on the team bus with everyone and I was sort of brought up under their wings. I was with guys like Marty Hutsell and Doug Hutsell (both were two-time state champs).”
      May knows living in Bloomington when he did was the best possible place for him to grow as a wrestler. He vividly remembers being allowed to go to Indiana University during their clinics and camps.
      “I had great coaching,” May said. “Everyone thought I would one day go to IU. I was able to go there anytime I wanted and I was able to wrestle kids from all over the country that came in for the clinics and the camps.
      “In 1975-76 money was very tight and there was a gas shortage. I’d drive to IU after I got off of work and I’d go to one of the wrestling clinics where kids would stay for the whole week from across the country. You would get a new batch of kids each week.”
      May would bet the kids that he could take them down. If he took them down, they had to pay him a dime. If they took him down, he would pay a dollar.
      “I took all their candy money,” May said. “That always paid for my gas.”
      May dominated his foes on the mat during the high school season much like he did at the clinics. He never lost a varsity match.
      After high school he chose to wrestle at Cleveland State University, which at the time was a national top 20 program.
      “I had dreams of being a four-time National champion,” May said. “I had my whole future mapped out. I wanted to be an Olympian and then I wanted to coach wrestling.”
      Things didn’t work out as May had planned. He developed a debilitating disease that changed his life course and took him away from wrestling. He was only able to wrestle one college match.
      “The disease shuts down the central nervous system,” May said. “It can kill you. But I worked my ass off. They told me I should have been on bed rest, but I didn’t stop working. When I couldn’t stand, I’d pull myself up. I still went to practice every day.”
      May eventually realized his wrestling career would have to be over.
      “I was walking with the aid of a cane at the time,” May said. “I was struggling with guys that I knew I should have been able to kick their ass. I wrestled one match against a four-time state champion from West Virginia. He took me down and I said, ‘you have got to be kidding me’. I came back and tied the match and won on riding time. But I knew I wasn’t myself anymore. I knew wrestling was over for me.”
      May had to refocus his life goals, and his career. He didn’t want to coach the sport he could no longer participate in. He now runs a business in underground utilities and lives in Florida.
      His son, Randy Jr., took up wrestling in high school and quickly found success.
      “He was a natural and I loved watching him,” May said. “He took fourth in state his junior year and as a senior he was ranked No. 1 and got very sick and ended up finishing sixth. He won over 100 matches and I was at his practices every day. The team won state his senior year and I was able to travel with the guys.”
      Six years ago, Randy Jr., passed away.
      May has suffered more than most his age. But he remains positive. He credits his outlook on life on his upbringing.
      “I was brought up with a good work ethic,” May said. “We had tasks and chores. My parents wanted them done right. I’d complain, but then I realized if I worked hard and did them right the first time, with a good attitude, I was going to get a reward. I could go play in the woods or go swimming.
      “I guess I carried that attitude over into life. I always try to have a good work ethic and a positive attitude. That will make you successful in anything you do.”

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