By STEVE KRAH
As South Bend Washington senior Ethan Forrest pinned his fourth opponent of the day and had his hand raised in victory, a roar rose up at Lake Central High School’s Harvest Classic.
“I could see my team jumping up and down,” says Forrest. “The whole place was insane.
“It was awesome.”
It was the most noise first-year Panthers head Cory Givens had heard at a high school wrestling tournament this side of the IHSAA State Finals.
“It was very exciting,” says Givens. “It was mind-blowing how loud it was. It was crazy.”
Forrest won the title at 182 pounds and was voted by coaches as the meet’s outstanding wrestler. A few years later, he went 4-1 at Washington’s Blood, Sweat & Tears Super Dual.
Putting in the sweat that it takes to excel in the circle and in life is what Forrest does.
Born without most of his left leg, Forrest just keeps pushing.
“He’s just like every other kid,” says Givens. “You wouldn’t know there’s anything different about him.”
Forrest does not see having one full leg as a setback.
“That’s all I know,” says Forrest, who put all he had into playing linebacker and defensive end on the football team, where Givens is the
defensive coordinator. “It’s a lot of foot work, reading plays and a lot of hand-eye coordination.”
Forrest also enjoys golf and plans to go out for track in the spring and run with the help of a blade prosthetic. He spends half of the school days building a house in Construction Trades II. He is a dairy clerk at the Martin’s Super Market on Mayflower Road in South Bend. Since he entered high school, his dream has been to pursue a career as an electrician.
Givens saw in Forrest someone to help guide the Panthers on the mat.
“Ethan’s a great kid,” says Givens. “He’s very athletic-looking and very intelligent. I selected him as a captain for how hard he works at practice and pushes everybody else. A captain to me is more than just a star on your jacket or a senior. It’s someone who I think will be a good leader — on and off the mat.
“I see those qualities in Ethan.”
Forrest has taken Givens’ advice to heart.
“You play like you practice,” says Forrest. “Practicing hard is going to get you where you want to go. Stay determined and focused on your goals.”
Forrest, a tri-captain with senior Dion Hall (152) and junior Todd Hardy (126/132), defines his leadership role.
“It’s keeping good team chemistry and making sure practice runs smoothly,” says Forrest. “I want to be an example for the rest of the team.”
Rules allow for him to use his prosthetic in competition if he weighs in with it. He chooses not to use it in meets, but he will wear it in practice when necessary.
“I put it on for my partner so he can get good looks, too,” says Forrest.
“That goes back to how he is a leader and his unselfishness,” says Givens.
Junior Anthony Frydrych (195) is Forrest’s primary workout partner.
“That extra weight and muscle makes me work a little bit harder,” says Forrest.
He stands 6-foot-1, but Forrest is about four feet off the ground in his wrestling stance.
“Because of my leg I can usually get a lot lower on my opponents,” says Forrest. “And there’s less for them to grab.”
Givens explains Forrest’s strengths, which includes upper-body power and a solid Fireman’s Carry.
“Ethan is very good at countering attacks,” says Givens. “He’s going to be a couple of feet lower than everybody else."
“Everybody seems to attack him differently. People aren’t sure how to go at him."
“He has a really good low center of gravity. He doesn’t have to hit that level change. He’s already at his level change. It’s a lot of watching (opponents) making mistakes.”
Ethan Edward Forrest II is the son of Ethan Forrest Sr. and April Hall. His father is a policeman. His sister is Emily Forrest, played volleyball at Washington and is now a sophomore at Indiana University South Bend. He has two younger brothers. Hockey player Austin Hanson is a freshman at South Bend John Adams High School. Phillip Northern is a seventh grader at LaSalle Academy in South Bend. His sport of choice is baseball.
Eric’s mother also works at the Mayflower Martin’s as does sister Emily and aunt Missy Olmstead. Grandmother Susan Hall and uncle Rich Holland are also employed by the company.
Emily Forrest is a former Washington wrestling manager and still attends matches to cheer and take photos along with Ethan’s mother.
Ethan came to wrestling as a Washington freshman. He was at 138 pounds that first year then put on size and muscle in the off-season working out with his father and uncle — bodybuilder and trainer Eric Forrest — and bumped up to 170 for his sophomore and junior seasons.
Givens is a 1999 graduate of John Glenn High School. He has long appreciated wrestling and renewed his love for the sport when his son was old enough to compete. Harryson Givens, 11, has been coached by his father since he was 5. Daughter Alora (8) is a constant at practices and meets.
Cory says wife Anne has become a wrestling convert. She didn’t like the sport at first, but can’t get enough of it now.
Glenn head wrestling coach Andy King convinced best friend Givens to coach at the junior high level.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without him,” says Givens of King.
A football coach for nearly 20 years with stops at Glenn, South Bend Clay and Washington, Givens was convinced to apply for the head wrestling coaching position when it came open at Washington.
“I’m not the most skill or knowledgeable guy in this sport,” says Givens, who counts Trey Newhouse and Jason “Gunny” Holechek as assistants. “But there’s a desire to do good things with these kids. We’re going to tackle this thing together.”
Washington has a smallish squad and placed 10th at the Harvest Classic while forfeiting six weight classes.
“To do that, it means we’re pinning guys,” says Givens.
The first thing Givens did when his hire was made official was contact Isaiah McWilliams, who was a three-time state placer for Washington (fourth in 2016, second in 2017 and second in 2018) and now a freshman on the Wabash College wrestling team.
“I can’t say enough good things about that kid,” says Givens of McWilliams, who came came to run practice during Thanksgiving break. “These kids don’t understand how important he is to the school and to the wrestling program.
“As an outsider, it’s mind-blowing how many spectacular athletes have walked through these halls.”
Ethan Forrest is working hard to make his mark on Washington mat history.