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Showing content with the highest reputation since 11/22/2022 in Articles

  1. By JEREMY HINES Thehines7@gmail.com The story seems familiar. Big city guy, through fate, ends up in a small town and falls in love with the community. Although Christmas is fast approaching, this isn’t a Hallmark movie script. It’s the real-life journey of Quinn Harris and his Cascade wrestling team. Harris is a 2015 graduate of Avon High School. Avon’s enrollment is close to 3,000 students. After high school he helped coach at Avon, then coached at Ben Davis, which also has close to 3,000 students. Last year he took the head coaching job at Cascade, a tiny high school in Clayton, IN with an enrollment of under 500. “There isn’t a whole lot to do here,” Harris said. “It’s a small farm town. 4H and agriculture are huge around here. A lot of kids live and work on the farm. They own pigs. They show pigs. The kids go hunting and fishing. It’s a much different culture than what I’m used to.” The wrestlers on his Cadet squad like to tease him a little bit about his city-guy life. “They tease me all the time,” Harris said. “They talk about how my jeans are a little tighter than the other guys.” The relationship has worked. Last year, in his first season at the helm of the Cadets, Harris led the team to a spot in the team state championship. The Cadets finished sixth at team state, won the Indiana Crossroads Conference for the first time, won a New Castle invitational and had a sectional champion for the first time since 2016. “All around, I couldn’t have been happier with the year,” Harris said. Early in the season Harris learned just how close the Cascade wrestling family was. “Last year, before I accepted the job, they lost a teammate to a disease,” Harris said. “Kadeo Lewis was his name. He would have been a senior last year. It was a big loss for their team. He was a captain as a junior. So, senior night they called it Kadeo Lewis night. We all wore orange in his honor. Orange Cascade shirts when the normal colors are Carolina blue. But the entire crowd was in orange, and it was a big crowd. We sold over 100 shirts that night. It was just a cool thing. Kids that had never went to a wrestling meet before came there. It really showed me that Cascade is a family, for sure.” Last year Harris was getting to know the team. This year he’s hoping to lead them to the 1A state title. He’s got a nucleus of seven highly talented seniors along with some key underclassmen that could push Cascade to the school’s best season in history. “This year we have an extremely motivated attitude,” Harris said. “There is a difference in practices. This year they are believing it on their own. They have expectations. Other than cheerleading and cross country, there has never been a team at Cascade that had been to a state championship. The kids are starting to believe it’s possible to win it.” The Cadets are led by four-ranked seniors. Liam Farmer (182), Michael Hutchison (160) and Dominic McFeeley (126) are all ranked No. 10 in their respective weight classes. Logan Bickel comes in ranked No. 8 at 113 pounds. Walker VanNess isn’t ranked, but he finished the year with a 31-9 record last year at 220 pounds. “This is a tough senior class,” Harris said. “Five of the seven had over 30 wins last year. Three were semistate guys and one a state qualifier. They are the reason we will have so much success. They are 100 percent leaders. They are our five captains. All five did a lot of off-season wrestling. They went out and competed at Virginia Beach and at Disney.” Bickel reached the 100-win mark at the end of the season last year. He is a three-time semistate qualifier. He was also the first Fargo All-American from Cascade. “He’s a big move kind of guy,” Harris said. “He has a lot of fire and passion. He’s a very cool kid and he didn’t even start wrestling until seventh grade. He’s very strong and athletic. I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can go.” McFeeley was the lone state qualifier from Cascade last year. “In some people’s eyes that was a big surprise,” Harris said. “He took out a returning 4th place finisher in semistate. He’s one of the hardest workers in our room. He leads day in and day out and he’s very humble. He does things the right way. He really likes working with the younger kids as well.” Hutchison is another team leader that likes to stay and help the younger kids at practice. He has a brother, Carter, that is the team’s 145 pounder as a sophomore. Farmer is more of the vocal leader on the team. He was a football phenom this past season as well. “Liam is a stud on the football field,” Harris said. “He broke our single game rushing record this year. He had a game with seven touchdowns and somewhere around 375 rushing yards. He was in the top 10 in the state for rushing yards.” Farmer broke his leg in the first round of sectional but is expected to be able to return to the mat sometime in December. The Cadets expect big contributions this season from Carter Hutchison and fellow sophomore Brayden Burelison as well. Burelison was a conference champion last year and Hutchison was a conference runner-up. Both had over 25 wins as freshmen. A few other key contributors to this year’s squad will be heavyweight Kyle Sullivan and 106-pound junior Logan Schnarr. Last year Schnarr only had one win going into team state, but he pinned all four of the opponents he faced in the tournament and was named the team MVP. Harris believes the team state aspect has really helped sell the kids in the sport. It gives them something to be motivated by. “The kids have really bought into this,” Harris said. “The community really backs the team as well. I think last year we sold around 200 team state T-shirts. When I was at Avon we went to team state, but I didn’t realize how much it meant to the small schools. The fans travel so well in these small communities. It’s extremely cool to see how much this means to them.” Harris believes because of his young age he has really been able to relate to the kids and help keep them motivated. “I was just in their shoes not too long ago,” Harris said. “I don’t know exactly what they are going through, but I know what it was like being a kid in high school. I think I’ve built a really good relationship with them on a personal level. Wrestling is about building character for the days after wrestling is over, and I’m glad to be a part of that here.” The city guy in the small town is learning to adapt. In fact, although he’s never been hunting or fishing before, he’s going to give it a try. The team has been wanting to take him out and teach him some of the small-town ways. “I’m interested in just about anything, and I’m going to give it a try,” Harris said. But for now, Harris and the Cascade Cadets have goals to meet on the mat.
    5 points
  2. By STEVE KRAHstvkrh905@gmail.com Sometimes a change of venue is the best thing for a person. Mikey Robles placed fifth at the Michigan High School Athletic Association State Finals as a Niles High School 103-pound freshman in 2020. He qualified for the regional stage as a sophomore then had to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw his season end. His grades began to slip, making him academically ineligible. There were other distractions in his life that caused him to look for a new school. “It was so I could better my life and move away from all the drama and stuff,” says Robles of his decision to change schools. The oldest of eight children (four boys and four girls), Robles came to Indiana and Kim Wagley (the grandmother of his girlfriend) became his legal guardian until he turned 18. “(Wagley) treats him like a son,” says Steven Sandefer, head coach at Mishawaka High School where Robles enrolled after Niles. “She’ll do anything for him. She’s a sweet lady. “She’s working with us to keep him motivated and on-track and making good decisions. He’s come a long way in the last two years.” Sandefer, who is in his ninth year as a wrestling coach and sixth leading the Cavemen program, knows what it takes to be successful inside the circle. “It’s a lot of hard work,” says Sandefer. “You have to have discipline. I say this to my guys weekly: In wrestling and in life you’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do things are not always going to be easy if you want to get where you want to go. “It reinforces a lot of those bigger life lessons.” That message has reached Robles. “Wrestling has helped me be a better person in life,” says Robles. “Since it does come with discipline you show people a lot more respect and it also helps you stay out of trouble.” Robles was with the Cavemen in 2021-22 but ineligible to compete. “My grades have gotten back up to where they are pretty good,” says Robles, who counts History as his favorite subject and sees a future as an electrical engineer. With then-Niles wrestling head coach Todd Hesson bringing his Vikings to Penn’s Henry Wilk Classic, Robles had competed against Mishawaka in the past. Before joining the team, Mikey was familiar with Cavemen grapplers Christian Chavez, Chris Peacock, Courtney Rider, Gunnar Sandefur and Isaac Valdez. The 2022-23 season — Robles’ senior campaign — opens with him No. 12 in the Indiana Mat preseason rankings at 138 pounds for a team that is No. 2 in Class 3A. “When I’m on the mat I just like to get physical,” says Robles, who is 18 now and got started in the sport at 5. “I just love to wrestle. This is my senior year. I want to go as far as I can and leave everything on the mat.” Sandefer says he saw “flashes of greatness” from Robles last winter and during the off-season, but is not sure he was yet fully in grappling shape. “He has a lot of room to grow in his wrestling,” says Sandefer. Many wrestlers progress from the end of one high school season to another. “When the season gets here you can see the improvements the kids made in the off-season,” says Sandefer. “They get to showcase their talents. “That’s the real rewarding part.” Robles’ regular workout partners are 113-pound senior Peacock and 145-pound junior Brabender and — occasionally — 132-pound junior Zar Walker. The coaches he works with most are Sandefer and assistant Fabian Chavez. “We don’t screw around,” says Robles of their practice room mentality. “We go in their and try to get better.” The wrestlers teach each other moves and talk about making them more effective. “Staying in shape and packing on muscle is good,” says Robles, who stands 5-foot-7 1/2. “But it’s really not how strong you are to go out there and win a match. “I believe technique beats strength any day of the week.” Four state qualifiers return for Mishawaka — Walker (who placed sixth at 132 in 2021-22 and is ranked No. 2 at 132 in the preseason), seniors Chavez (No. 4 at 195) and Valdez (No. 8 at 170) and Brabender (No. 6 at 145). There’s also senior Xavier Chavez (No. 6 at 106). They are are part of a large squad of 47 (45 boys and two girls). “That’s about 10 more than usual,” says Sandefer. “My first year I had 30 kids so it’s come up. “All 47 kids have shown they’re committed.” A physical education teacher at Mishawaka, Sandefer leads athletes and others through weight training classes. Most wrestlers are in these classes, learning power movements like the bench press and squat. “We do pull movements,” says Sandefer. “If you’re on a guy’s leg you want to be able to pull him in.“We also need that leg strength.” Practices at Mishawaka began Nov. 1. The first boys meet is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 29 at Northern Lakes Conference foe Warsaw. Among the other competitions for the Cavemen are the Chris Traicoff Memorial Invitational at Calumet New Tech Dec. 10, a dual against crosstown rival Penn Dec. 21 at Mishawaka (Alumni Night), the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka Dec. 29-30, the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association 3A State Duals Jan. 7 at Franklin Community, the NLC Championships Jan. 14 at Wawasee, Mishawaka Sectional Jan. 28, Penn Regional Feb. 4, East Chicago Semistate Feb. 11 and IHSAA State Finals Feb. 17-18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It’s not all about wrestling for Robles. He played football at Niles as a sophomore and Mishawaka as a senior. He was a middle linebacker for the 10-2 Cavemen in 2022. A shortstop/left fielder in baseball, he intends to try out for that sport in the spring. He stepped away from the diamond after eighth grade to focus on wrestling.
    3 points
  3. By Anna Kayser If you’ve been an unfamiliar passerby in the town of Brownsburg, Ind. over the past seven years, one of the first things that might catch your eye are the purple street signs – deep purple markers adorned with a bulldog, two on each corner if you’re lucky. At least, that’s what I noticed as I drove through the small – but not too small – suburb of Indianapolis en route to the fourth official practice of the 2022-23 IHSAA wrestling season, with no prior knowledge other than what was scribbled on the notepad next to me. One thing I hadn’t taken note of prior to passing the “Welcome to Brownsburg” sign on Highway 139, and something that might give any other small-town Midwesterner the same familiar wave of recognition: The residents of this town about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Indy live and breathe Brownsburg High School athletics. The 2021-22 Brownsburg wrestling team was nothing to snub at. The Bulldogs went 18-1 in duals and extended their program-record streak to eight consecutive Hoosier Crossroads Conference championships. Jake Hockaday led the lineup with the first state title by a freshman in school history, continuing Brownsburg’s reign of crowning one champion each year since 2016. More on him later – I promise. But that was last year, and while the result is indicative of the journey to get to where they are now, it’s not the full story. What better place to begin than at the beginning – when the Bulldog wrestling program transitioned from a bottom-of-the-barrel finish to an HCC Championship in two years, to an IHSAA State Championship in four. “Regardless of what it is, I have high expectations,” Brownsburg Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Jim Snapp said. “My experience has been if you want to have a state contending team, you [hire a coach] who has done it before.” After beginning his head coaching career at Mishawaka High School – a time in which he led the program to three consecutive top-two finishes and a pair of championships in 2008 and 2010 – Darrick Snyder found himself as the subject of a coaching inquiry almost 150 miles dead south of the place where he was a Northern Indiana Conference champion and state place winner. From Snyder’s point of view, there were a number of perks to coming to Brownsburg. And when his wife asked him about the wrestling team’s recent lack of success, he saw the potential to upgrade the team to something special. “Yeah – but there’s no reason [for that lack of success],” he said. “All the pieces are there.” Immediately, things began to shift. During Snyder’s first two seasons, the Bulldog program went 36-12 in duals and was crowned 2015 HCC Champions. Of course, that success comes not entirely from the corner but from the center of the mat itself – it’s a combination of what happens behind the scenes and the performances under the spotlight. That first piece of the puzzle, the one that is encapsulated in the public eye each time the mats are rolled out: The athletes. The success of that 2015 team was boasted by a pair of wrestlers that took center stage on the IHSAA State podium come February – Ty Mills (106), Brownsburg’s first finalist since Mark Meunier’s title in 1977, and Nathan Walton (170). As four-year place winners at the state tournament, they were two of four key athletes named by Snapp as being difference-makers in raising the heights of the program. None was more instrumental under Snyder’s tutelage, however, than All-American and two-time NCAA Division I Championships qualifier Brayton Lee, Minnesota’s current starting 157-pounder. A leader that, without Snyder’s drive to create a pipeline from younger levels into a high school program the town could be proud of, might never have donned the purple Bulldog in the first place. “[My family] knew that [Snyder] was a good coach and had a lot of success, but we weren’t that familiar with him,” Lee said. “We went to Brownsburg for a high school tournament to meet up with him when I was in middle school, and we just talked. He was just supportive and said that he would help me to become the best wrestler I can possibly be. We were really excited about Snyder, he pretty much sold us [on where the Brownsburg program would go].” Not only is building the high school program a key part in escalating success, but also what feeds into it. The implementation and management of a strong program for middle school students ensures that development and love for the sport occurs at a younger age. “We were fortunate enough to get some kids [like Lee] that came here because of him, and he’s worked on [building up] the middle school program – kids want to come here, kids want to stay here,” Snapp said. So, we’ve got this interaction of developing the feeder program and kids that, if they’re going to wrestle in the Indianapolis area, they [want] to come to Brownsburg.” With two established wrestling academies nearby – Contender’s Wrestling Academy in Brownsburg and Red Cobra Wrestling in Avon – growth through both the school program and external coaching elevates athletes even higher. Lee, a product of Red Cobra, was a good example of how development can skyrocket through that extra effort and help outside of a school program. What the Bulldogs standout star lacked early on, however, was the team aspect. “It was definitely different, just because I had never been on a team before – I had just wrestled on my own,” Lee said. “I had grown up going to our very intense wrestling club and on both sides, practices were tough. I appreciated and respected that. [Snyder] was always making us do lots of tough stuff intertwined with wrestling.” Prior to Lee’s first of three IHSAA state titles in 2016 – a year in which he, along with five other state placers, led the charge on Brownsburg’s IHSWCA Dual State championship and IHSAA state runner-up finishes – the Bulldogs had only crowned two individual champions in school history. “We were always focused on the next day,” Lee said. “The first time I won, it was awesome, and I was grateful for it – but there was always a team aspect. I wanted to win with our team, and that idea of winning definitely pushed us. I think me winning helped bring other guys along. Knowing I was kind of a leader, knowing that my success was inspiring other guys on the Brownsburg wrestling team made me want to keep pushing.” For Lee’s career specifically, the results of the drive to win as a team came quickly. His second title at 145 pounds saw seven Bulldogs on the IHSAA podium and a franchise-high three finalists – Mills and Blake Mulkey included as runners-up – to lead Brownsburg to its first IHSAA state championship in school history. That influx of high-performing athletes jumpstarted Brownsburg’s rise to the top of high school wrestling in central Indiana. “You put those kids together – we had a core of four, good kids – and Darrick coached up other kids around them,” Snapp said. “That started [a stretch] of us winning the conference every year for the last eight years, we’re in the strongest athletic conference in the state of Indiana. Our wrestling team has dominated. It hasn’t even been close.” The second piece to the puzzle, where Snapp, the administration and coaching staff as a whole come into play, is the support Snyder continues to have behind him. The best example? The wrestling room at Brownsburg High School, built during Snyder’s reign as head coach and designed by Snapp to help raise the standard of the program and accommodate the growing numbers of the extracurricular. “I knew I was going to have [Snapp’s] support on just simple things,” Snyder said. “My first year here, I wanted to take a fan bus to individual state… and I was told no [by the athletic director]. I said, ‘This is a really important to the program. These guys need to watch this event, it’s incredible.’ “I called Jim, and every year [since], just like most teams, we get to take a team bus to state.” The backing from Snapp and the administration is a means to an end in shifting the culture not just in the Brownsburg wrestling room, but in the town that loves its high school athletics. “That first year, there wasn’t really anyone there for the kid that was wrestling [at state]. When you win, you want to look up and see a bunch of purple and sit with those people between rounds,” Snyder said. “We’ve really tried to change that around, anything like that.” It also extends to the actual competition and helping those wrestlers reach the mats at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. In order to develop the athletes coming to Brownsburg or growing through school programs the Bulldogs support, the level of competition needed to continuously be raised. “When I first got here, no program did any overnights or anything out of state,” Snyder said. “I went to [the athletic director] and told [them], ‘I’ve got to get out of Indianapolis’ – I was tired of wrestling the same teams over and over again, and then we got to the point that there weren’t many teams in our area that would be competitive.” This upcoming season, the Bulldogs’ schedule includes the Walsh Jesuit Ironman Wrestling Tournament from and the Crown Point Invitational – Crown Point defeated Brownsburg 178-105 in the 2022 finals, setting an IHSAA record for the largest margin of victory by a team champion by over 20 points – on back-to-back weekends in December. That elevation in competition level allows wrestlers to face some of their biggest challenges early and prepares them for high-pressure situations come February. “I always tell [our guys] that our schedule is not meant for them to go undefeated,” Snyder said. “If you do, that’s great, but we’ve set up a schedule where we’re going to take some losses. That took administrative support to be willing to allow us to do overnights, to allow us to go out of state.” Pushing athletes beyond their comfort zone to prepare them for future career hurdles is a common theme in Snyder’s coaching style, something that is on record in helping wrestlers reach their full potential. And, well, maybe no one can attest to that better than a Big Ten starter. “I think just his competitiveness and him pushing us every day helped me,” Lee said. “He helped push me past my comfort zone a little but more than maybe I would myself, and that’s really the main purpose of a coach. Snyder knew I wanted to be great, and he helped me move into a little bit more uncomfortable territories which is important for any athlete, especially when you’re trying to go to the next level.”
    2 points
  4. By: Blaze Lowery Jordan Slivka & Carson Brewer Ohio University is home to a few Indiana State Champions that have been making a name for themselves as Bobcats. Two-time State Champion, Jordan Slivka of Cathedral, is coming off his best collegiate season yet. Finishing his last season with a 25-7 record at 157lbs, He found himself in Detroit for the DI NCAA Championships. Slivka is bumping up to the 165lbs weight class this season and was an honorable mention in FloWrestling’s 2022-2023 NCAA DI rankings. “It’s really cool knowing that I am still believed in and looked at even when moving up a weight class,” states Slivka. Slivka reminisces on his time wrestling at the nationals saying he was unable to hear the whistle when he started his pigtail match. The crowd’s roars fuel him, as he is “dying to compete” for the Bobcats this season. His goal is to do what he needs to do to get his team a MAC Championship title. Individually, his is goal is to compete to the best of his ability every single match. “All to gain and nothing to lose,” Slivka is on his path to find himself back at the NCAA Championships. Being a great wrestler at the next level comes naturally, “if you’re willing to buckle down on work ethic and show yourself how good you could be,” says Slivka. Indiana State Champion and FloNationals place-winner, Carson Brewer of Avon, is also making waves in the MAC. For the first time in his collegiate career, he is having a healthy, injury-free preseason. Starting the preseason off strong is a huge factor for success at the next level, Brewer believes it is his time to win a MAC Championship title. Wrestling at 184lbs for the Bobcats, there is no one in his conference that he has not beaten already, making this goal much more feasible. In his transition from high school to collegiate wrestling, Brewer’s biggest adjustment was to not exert himself so quickly into the match. Slowing his wrestling down has only made him more efficient and tactical. Brewer highlights how Ohio is bringing back everyone in their previous lineup, making a MAC Team Championship title a feasible goal for the Bobcats. “Doing the right things off the mat is what will make you successful in collegiate wrestling,” says Brewer. Slivka and Brewer have big plans for Ohio this season and will continue to put on for Indiana wrestling. Lucas Davison Last season, the nation got to watch Indiana State Champion, Lucas Davison of Chesterton, gain All-American status at the 2022 DI NCAA Championships. Moving up to heavyweight, although a big adjustment, put him at 6th in that nation. Davison states that “establishing pace” in his matches since moving up has led to his success in the post season. Adjusting his style of wrestling to accommodate for the heavyweight transition forced Davison to clean up his attacks. Davison also acknowledges how remarkable it was to see what it takes to become a National Champion, referring to his teammate Ryan Deakin. “Now it’s a matter of following his footsteps,” stated Davison. Northwestern is bringing back all four of their All-American’s from last season, making Davison’s goal of being a top 3 team in the nation much more achievable. Competing year round is an essential ingredient Davison attributes his successful career too. With freestyle being a key reason behind his recruitment, wrestling in the offseason propelled him to Big Ten recruitment. Competition is opportunity and coaches love to see guys that are willing to put it all out their year-round. Davison is ready to take advantage of every opportunity that steps on the line this season.
    1 point
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