navy80 reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #WrestlingWednesday: Gilbert's big dream will not be deterred
By JEREMY HINES
For as long as Sullivan freshman Lane Gilbert can remember he has dreamed about having his hand raised at the Indiana High School wrestling state championships.
He’s done more than dream about it. As a young kid he would go into the wrestling room at Sullivan High School and act out having his hand raised. It didn’t matter that nobody else was around him. In his imaginary scenario he always emerged victorious. No obstacle stood in his way. No opponent could beat him. He was the champ. That dream would never be taken away.
The dream was much different than real life for Gilbert. In real life, he has had far more hardships than one kid should experience. He’s overcome situations that would break others. Through it all, he’s come out stronger.
To get a clear picture of just how tough Lane Gilbert is, it is important to dive into his uncomfortable past.
Gilbert’s mother, Rachel, became Indiana’s first female sectional champion in wrestling. She won the 103-pound class in the North Knox sectional in 2002. Rachel was going places in life. News agencies had reported on her wrestling journey, because at the time, female wrestlers were still very new in the state. She had some colleges showing interest in her.
But Rachel began facing a more formidable opponent than anyone she went up against on the mat. She started battling an addiction with drugs. Lane’s father had his own battles with drug addiction.
For Lane’s father, that addiction would eventually lead to a prison sentence.
Young Lane didn’t want to miss an opportunity to visit his dad, even if that meant going to the prison any time he could.
“Lane worshipped his dad,” Lane’s wrestling coach and grandfather Roy Monroe said. “Lane never failed to go see him. He always wanted to see him.”
Tragically, Lane’s father developed cancer while in prison and ultimately died due to the disease.
“That was really rough on Lane for a while,” Rachel said. “His dad was a drug addict for a long time and Lane always held out hope that one day he would get better. Once he got sick, that was probably the hardest thing. Lane stayed strong through the whole thing.”
At nine-years-old Lane did something no kid his age should ever have to do. He stood up in front during his dad’s funeral and sang a special song.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Monroe said. “That’s almost an impossible thing to get through, and he did it. He toughed it out.”
That’s what Lane always does. He toughs things out. He toughed it out when his mom was having her struggles. He toughed it out seeing his dad in prison, and then watching as cancer slowly took its toll. He toughed it out when his uncle Jordan, who had taught Lane quite a bit about wrestling, died in a fiery car crash. No matter what life threw at Lane, he toughs it out.
Perhaps he gets his fighting spirit from his grandfather. Roy has been a major part of Sullivan wrestling for over 30 years. He’s watched his daughter struggle with drug addiction. He lost his son in that tragic car accident. He’s experienced heartache and he remained the rock Lane needed in his life. Lane could always stay the night at Roy’s house. He could always get the right words from his grandpa. And, on the wrestling mat, he could look to Grandpa Roy for direction as well.
“He’s my role model,” Lane said. “He’s nice to everyone. He’s a good coach. He’s all the things you can think of if you were to make the perfect person – that would be how I describe him.”
But Lane’s toughness also comes from his mom.
In a time when people frowned on girls wrestling against boys, she held her ground. In fact, she and Roy had to go to the Sullivan school board to even get approved to wrestle back in her high school days.
Later, as has already been alluded to, Rachel battled a fierce drug addiction. But, for Lane’s sake – and for her sake, she fought through and emerged victorious. She is currently a Dean’s List student working to become a nurse.
“I am so proud of her,” Roy said. “I’ve been a counselor. I’ve went into the jails and counselled drug addicts. I’ve seen them come in and out of addiction. The real truth is, only about one percent of drug addicts make it to where she is now. It’s so hard to overcome, but she’s done it. And she’s a great mom.”
She is also very, very protective of Lane and worries almost to a fault about the decisions he makes in his own life.
“After having made the decisions at a young age that I made, I saw first-hand what can happen and how quickly everything can just spiral out of control,” Rachel said. “One mistake and everything can be gone. I have that fear in the back of my mind that he’s of the age and he could make the wrong choices. I’m almost too hard on him, but I am terrified because I know what can happen and I keep my eye on him. I do trust him. He’s seen what can happen and how bad things can get.”
Lane knows when his mom tells him to keep on the straight and narrow, it’s because she cares.
“I have so much respect for my mom,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from her.”
One thing Lane has learned is to never doubt himself. This summer when he was a third alternate for the Pan-American games, he let doubt creep into his psyche. After the first two qualifiers couldn’t attend the games, Lane got the call to participate. But, going into the event, he felt like he really didn’t belong.
Boy was he wrong. Lane went undefeated in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. News of his success quickly spread throughout the town of 6,500 people. When he arrived home, he was given a police escort through the streets.
“Oh my gosh,” Rachel said. “The town put on this whole show when he returned. The police and emergency vehicles all met up on the north end of town. He had no idea it was going to happen. There were fans from all over our town and they all followed him to the high school. It was so cool. He was so surprised.”
Currently Gilbert is 28-1 on the season and ranked No. 5 at 113 pounds. He has carried the confidence he developed during the Pan-American games over to the season. Now he knows he belongs. Now he knows that dream he played through his head so many times growing up isn’t just a dream – it’s an attainable goal.
“I’ve been coaching at Sullivan for 13 years as head coach and I’ve been there 30 years as an assistant,” Monroe said. “I’ve never seen anything like him. I look at Lane, with his skills and what he’s been through, and I just know that adversity isn’t a problem anymore. He can do whatever he sets his mind to do.”
As for Rachel, well, she says nowadays she’s just like any other wrestler’s mom.
“I’m still up in the stands screaming my head off,” she said. “But when I’m shouting, at least I know which moves to shout. The other moms look at me and ask what they should be yelling.”
navy80 reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #MondayMatness: Portage heavyweight Dancy making up for lost mat time
By STEVE KRAH
Some are introduced to wrestling as toddlers and go on to enjoy plenty of success. Others come to the mat for the first time as teenagers and shine in the circle.
The second scenario describes Damari Dancy, a 17-year-old senior heavyweight at Portage High School.
After winning the Portage Sectional title Feb. 1, Dancy goes to the Feb. 8 Hobart Regional at 27-2 in just his second full season as a wrestler.
A basketball player as an eighth grader, Dancy went out for that sport his freshmen and sophomore years of high school (2016-17 and 2017-18) and was cut each time.
The second cut ushered in his introduction to a new way of life.
“I went across the hall to the wrestling room,” says Dancy. “They accepted me.”
A few weeks later, he was competing in his first-ever wrestling event — the junior varsity Duneland Athletic Conference tournament — and suffering a season-ending broken wrist.
“My mom didn’t want me to wrestle after that,” says Damari, the son of Rachel Hawkins and the fourth of eight children (five boys, three girls).
But that was not the end of wrestling for Dancy. He spent that winter watching his friends compete and practice. He was there at Lake Central for the Harvest Classic taking in all the quality competition.
“That’s when I fell in love with it,” says Dancy.
When he was healed, Dancy began training. He went to the freestyle/Greco-Roman state tournament and went a combined 0-4. He told his coaches he was not going to stop and began working on wrestling year-round.
As a Portage junior, Dancy took part in the Harvest Classic. There he faced Hobart junior Mark Mummey.
“I took him down the first time,” says Dancy. “Then he took me straight to my back and pinned me.”
Dancy used the moment to fuel the rest of his season. He placed third at the Portage Sectional and third at the Hobart Regional, using a double-leg takedown to best Mummey 4-2 in overtime in the consolation match. He then finished fourth at the East Chicago Semistate and qualified for the IHSAA State Finals at 220. He was 21-13 for the 2018-19 season after being pinned on Friday night by North Montgomery junior Drew Webster, who went on to place fifth.
That experience taught Dancy something.
“I can actually do it,” says Dancy. “I can actually compete with the good guys. It helped me build my confidence.”
“I’m not just some random guy. Guys have to practice everyday to watch out for me.”
Portage head coach Andrew Bradbury saw the change in Dancy.
“He was starting to believe he’s pretty good and holding himself to a high standard,” says Bradbury. “His technique is improving in all areas. He’s pretty technical, especially in the neutral position.”
At 6-foot-2, Dancy has been carrying about 245 while competing in the 285 division as a senior.
“I wrestle like a little guy,” says Dancy. “I go for ankle picks a lot. I go for a low single (leg takedown) and drive through. Once I’ve got the ankle, I don’t feel endangered. I’m really comfortable in that position.”
While many heavyweight matches are of the 1-0 and 2-1 variety and full of underhooks, that’s not Dancy’s preference.
“I feel more comfortable in high-scoring matches,” says Dancy. “I like to get at least two takedowns in the first period. If not, two takedowns in the second period.”
Bradbury looks at Dancy and does not see a normal heavyweight. For one thing, he is among the team leaders in takedowns.
“He’s more than capable of wrestling in that heavyweight style by pummeling in,” says Bradbury. “But he mostly uses a technical, shot-oriented style of wrestling.”
“It’s a lot easier for him to lower his level and get in his shots. He does a good job of picking and choosing his shots. He does get into clinches or ties.”
“Some of his best wrestling comes off his motion.”
Dancy won a Greco-Roman state title in the summer.
“It was positioning for me,” says Dancy. “I was creating positions with arm drags. I didn’t throw anybody.”
He placed third in both the IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open and Preseason Nationals in Iowa and has used his quickness and agility to enjoy success in his last high school season. He has drawn some attention from college wrestling programs and has bumped up to heavyweight with that in mind.
Damari lives with brother Dimonya Dancy and the two enjoy working on computers. Dancy would like to study computer since in college. Dancy has joined a program proud of its tradition and has become one of the team’s leaders, especially since so many talented wrestlers graduated after the 2018-19 season.
“We needed somebody to step up,” says Bradbury, who tapped Dancy and Ty Haskins (who was a state qualifier at 120 in 2019 and a sectional champion at that weight in 2020) for the task. “We need them to help lead this team to where we need to be.”
“We let Damari know we have high expectations and he needs to lead that. He took on the challenge.”
“We lot of first-year varsity wrestlers at the beginning of the year. It was rough (Portage placed fourth in the Duneland Athletic Conference meet and it’s three dual losses came to powerhouses Crown Point, Chesterton and Merrillville). We feel like we can do some good things in the state series.”
Leadership styles are not the same for Haskins and Dancy.
“Ty, he’s the vocal guy,” says Dancy. “I try to do it by example. I’m not that vocal.”
“Practices at the beginning of the year were so hard. They helped us build physical and mental strength. We know we can be good. We work everyday to get to that point.”
Dancy often finds working out with sophomore Cory Hill (who placed third at sectional at 220) or assistant Montell Pace.
“He goes all out and scrambles with low singles,” says Dancy of Pace. Assistants Kyle Keith and Mark Devyak tend to work more with the upper weights while Eric Keith and Jose Torres are with the smaller wrestlers.
Pace is a Merrillville High School graduate. The rest of the staff went to Portage.
Bradbury, a 1999 graduate, placed seventh in the state as a junior and was state runner-up as a senior — both at 119. He and 112-pounder Eric Keith were both members of the Indians’ state runners-up at the 1998 Team State Finals.
“Tradition, it’s extremely important,” says Bradbury, who came back to Portage as an assistant in 2018-19 after serving as head wrestling coach at Seminole Ridge in Palm Beach County, Fla., a school built in 2006. “We’ve always expected to compete at a high level and be one of the best teams in the state.”
navy80 reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #MondayMatness: Harrison’s Poindexter makes wrestling his 'thing’ and excels at it
By STEVE KRAH
A.J. Poindexter has experienced moments of motivation during his wrestling career.
His first season at Harrison High School in West Lafayette ended with Poindexter — then a 138-pound sophomore – placing sixth at the 2018 Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
After that, he really dedicated himself to the sport and qualified for the 2019 State Finals in the 138 bracket as a junior.
A 1-0 loss to Mt. Vernon (Fortville) junior Chris Wilkerson (who wound up seventh) in the Friday night match ended his second prep campaign and fueled his desire to excel in his senior year and beyond.
“I can’t let the big stage change the way I wrestle,” says Poindexter, referring to the lesson he learned last February at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. “I took a lot of shots. But I didn’t get to my finishes quickly.“
“When you get on the bottom in the third period, you’ve got to get away. There’s no excuse for (not escaping).”
A major point of emphasis in Poindexter’s training since then has been in the bottom position when the opponent puts in his legs.
Poindexter was born in California, moved to Virginia around age 1 and then Connecticut. His father, Anthony Poindexter, was in the National Football League with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns and then became a coach, serving at the University of Virginia and University of Connecticut prior to becoming co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Purdue University.
Anthony and Kimberly Poindexter have three children — Morocca, Anthony Jr. and Chloe.
Morocca (20) is a 400/800 runner on the women’s track and field team at UConn.
A.J., who turns 18 on Jan. 14, says eighth grader Chloe (13) placed seventh in the junior state cross country meet last fall and was second in the 800 and fourth in the 400 as a seventh grader in the junior high state track meet last spring.
A.J. went out for wrestling as an eighth grader in Connecticut at the insistence of his coach for lacrosse, a sport he began playing in kindergarten. He grappled as a short 120-pounder as a freshmen then moved to Indiana when his father was hired at Purdue.
By growing and hitting the weight room, Poindexter has added length and strength to his frame and is now a shade over 5-foot-9 — taller than many in his weight division, which is now 145.
“I’m deceptively strong,” says Poindexter, who is a senior.
The younger Poindexter played football as a Harrison sophomore then opted to focus on wrestling.
“It’s kind of my thing,” says Poindexter of wrestling. “You can’t blame your teammates or the ref. It’s all on you.“
“If you want to be good, you have to put int he work.”
Third-year Harrison head coach Johnny Henry says that what makes Poindexter special is his dedication and his athleticism.
“Practice room through competition, he’s put in hard work,” says Henry of Poindexter. “He is fully-committed. He has speed. He is just very quick on his feet.“
“His technique has improved so much over the last two years.”
Poindexter says Harrison coaches have told him to use his quickness and athleticism to his advantage.
“Wrestle like an athlete instead of robotic,” says Poindexter of the advice. While he considers his double-leg takedown to be his “bread and butter” move, Poindexter has been working to make his offense more diverse.“
“I watch tons of wrestling on YouTube and TV,” says Poindexter. “I’m trying to pick moves. Wrestling freestyle and Greco-Roman in the spring has added more upper body (moves) in my arsenal.”
To get different looks against different body types, Poindexter works out with various teammates in the Harrison practice room. Some of his steady drill partners are Tristen Hood (152), Matthew Baylay (138) and Sam Hein (120).
Poindexter has honed his skills by attending camps, clinics and tournaments and attending workouts led by Henry at Harrison as well as Chad Red of the Red Cobra Wrestling Academy in Indianapolis.
“He really cares about his guys,” says Poindexter of Red.
Poindexter is also thankful to the knowledge and encouragement provided by former Harrison assistant (and ex-Purdue University head coach) Scott Hinkel.
“How bad do you want to be good at this?,” says Poindexter, echoing the question Hinkel asked him.
Poindexter has committed to continue his wrestling and academic careers at George Mason University, an NCAA Division I program in Fairfax County, Va.
By going 5-2 at the Virginia Beach Junior Nationals, Poindexter caught the attention of Patriots coaches. He was invited for a campus visit and later committed.
George Mason assistant Camden Eppert wrestled for Hinkel at Purdue.
“It’s the place for me in terms of culture and coaches,” says Poindexter. “I want to try to be a D-I All-American.”
Poindexter enjoyed taking Journalism at Harrison last year and his current favorite class is Intro to Communications, where he has learned video editing and recently posted a commercial parody of the Nike “Dream Crazy” ad using Raiders wrestlers. It can be viewed on his Twitter page at @AJ_Poindexter.
With the help of Poindexter (28-0), Harrison is 21-2 in dual meets and won the 32-team Spartan Classic at Connersville.
Prior to the IHSAA tournament series (Lafayette Jeff Sectional Feb. 1, Logansport Regional Feb. 8, East Chicago Semistate Feb. 15 and State Finals Feb. 21-22), the Raiders’ Varsity “A” team has a dual meet at Tipton Jan. 15, a home dual against Rensselaer Central Jan. 23 and North Central Conference meet at Richmond Jan. 25.
Henry promotes closeness with his Raiders and Poindexter embraces that model.
“A.J.’s very enthusiastic,” says Henry. “He can pump up the team. Practice is very team-oriented. We stick together as a family. It helps us stay mentally tough and focused as a team.“
“We build each other up when one person’s down. There’s times when the season feels long.”
To break up the monotony, the team sometimes plays games — like ultimate frisbee with a football.
“It gives our minds a break,” says Henry. “It’s a workout but they have fun with it. It’s team bonding for them.”
Henry was a Harrison for four seasons before becoming head coach. Before that, the former University of Indianapolis wrestler spent one year as an assistant at his alma mater — Benton Central. He is a full-time trainer at Miracles Fitness in West Lafayette.
The Raiders have about 50 athletes in the program and 13 coaches — Henry plus assistants Bill Bailey, John Campagna, Kevin Elliott, Donnie Fahler, Aaron Hawkins, Michael Kern, Dustin Kult, Chris Maxwell, Jonathan Mongold, Walt Prochno, Aaron Quakenbush and Dennis Synesael.
navy80 reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #WrestlingWednesday: The Floyds Knobs three amigos
By JEREMY HINES
In a town that literally gets its name for being tough and rugged, the Three Amigos personify what Floyds Knobs is all about.
Floyd Central High School, located in Floyds Knobs, is the home of wrestlers Gavinn Alstott, J. Conway and Jonathan Kervin. The trio is known around town as the Three Amigos, primarily for their success on the wrestling mat. They are tough wrestlers that like to grind out wins and be physical. One wouldn’t expect anything less from a Floyds Knobs resident.
Floyds Knobs is named after the Knobstone Escarpment located there (and Colonel Davis Floyd). The Knobstone is the most rugged terrain in Indiana. It has steep hills which are commonly referred to as knobs.
As for the Three Amigos – all three qualified for state last season. Alstott finished fourth and Kervin sixth. This year, all three are ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes.
“The Three Amigos is a term we coined last year and started calling them that,” Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said. “I don’t think they mind it. They all three work together and have pushed each other to get better.”
Kervin is the only senior in the trio. He is currently ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds. Last season Kervin finished with a 39-4 record. He won sectional and regional and eventually finished sixth at state in the 145-pound class.
“Jonathan is a really tough wrestler,” Sisson said. “He wrestles hard for all six minutes. He works really closely with is uncle, former two-time state champion Cooper Samuels. Those two have worked together for the past five years and it has really benefited Jonathan.”
Kervin’s goal this season is to win a state title.
“My style is sort of dynamic,” Kervin said. “I like to be a little deranged. I use my length. Last year I felt like I wrestled poorly at state. I didn’t do my normal workout to get ready. I want to get back and show what I can really do.”
Alstott, a junior, finished 42-4 last season. He was a sectional and regional champ and ended up third in the Evansville semistate and would later place fourth at state.
“Gavinn is a grinder,” Sisson said. “He gets out there, gets in your face and pushes the pace non-stop. He’s very business-like on the mat and in the practice room. I’m not ever going to have to see if he’s just messing around. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. No matter what he does, he puts his head down and goes to work.”
Alstott’s uncle, Craig Alstott, was Floyd Central’s first ever four-time state qualifier. Craig never placed at the state meet, however.
“I think Gavinn got the monkey off his back a little by placing last year,” Sisson said. “But he has his sights set significantly higher this year.”
Off the mat, Gavinn is an excellent student and has been a team leader since his freshman season.
“He’s a really good kid,” Sisson said. “He gets good grades and is good to the other kids. Even as a freshman I thought of him as a team leader. He’s just a phenomenal kid.”
Conway is the quietest in the group. He had a not-so-quiet season last year, however. Conway went 23-4 on the year and claimed a sectional and a regional title. He finished runner-up in semistate but lost on Friday night at the state tournament.
“He’s a really, really quiet kid,” Sisson said. “I don’t think I heard him say anything at all his freshman year. Now as a sophomore he’s coming out of his shell a little bit. On the mat he’s more open. He is already at 130 takedowns in just 18 matches this season. He’s full throttle. You let him go, and he goes.”
Sisson is pleased with his team this season and hopes the Three Amigos will help lead them to great things.
“There are years where you have a lot of talent, but also a lot of drama,” Sisson said. “Then there are years where you don’t have any drama, but you don’t really have any talent either. This year, I really feel like we have a lot of talent and no drama. I’m lucky this year.”
navy80 reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #MondayMatness: Mishawaka’s LaPlace, Walker keep on making each other better wrestlers
By STEVE KRAH
A friendship formed at a junior high football practice has led to a pair of successful high school wrestlers.
Jacob LaPlace met Joseph Walker when both were gridders at Mishawaka’s John Young Middle School.
LaPlace, who had been wrestling since age 4, saw mat potential in Walker.
“You’re really athletic, you’ve got to come out for wrestling,” says LaPlace of his invitation to Walker, who was already around 160 pounds. “Since then, we’ve been training together.”
Now in their fourth season as Mishawaka High School teammates, Walker is competing at 182 and LaPlace at 195. LaPlace is 16-0 so far in 2019-20 and 125-22 for his career. Walker is 6-0 and 75-25.
LaPlace placed fourth at the IHSAA State Finals at 138 on 2017 and was a state qualifier at both 145 in 2018 and 182 in 2019.
After being a state qualifier at 152 in 2018, Walker placed sixth at State at 170 in 2019.
Going against Walker everyday in the practice room makes LaPlace better.
Third-year Mishawaka head coach Steve Sandefer has watched iron sharpen iron with LaPlace and Walker.
“They’ve drilled and wrestled live with each other their entire high school careers,” says Sandefer. “The other person is the reason they are as good as they are now.”
“They wouldn’t be where they’re at without each other.”
LaPlace agrees with that sentiment.
“He gives me quick and agile,” says LaPlace of Walker. “He’s got a real explosive double (leg takedown). His strength and defense is really good and that helps my offense.”
“I help him because I’m bigger than him.”
Walker credits LaPlace with getting him started in the sport and is grateful to his first head coach and his current one.
“Jacob’s always been my partner since seventh grade,” says Walker. “I have the speed so I give him different looks. He keeps good position and gives me looks.”
“Adam Sandefur was my first coach and he’s always been on me, directing me. Steve (Sandefer) has also pushed me to become greater.”
Walker, a University of Michigan commit, credits his faith for his success.
“God’s my source of energy and power,” says Walker. Sandefer uses adjectives like hard-nosed, hard-working and super-athletic to describe Walker. He knows that he is also meticulous in his approach to wrestling and its technique, position and adjustments.
“He really takes the time to learn the finer details of wrestling,” says Sandefer of Walker. “He is very detail-oriented. That’s going to benefit him not just on the mat but off the mat.”
Says Walker, “I want to make sure everything is done right so I don’t do a wrongful move and don’t drill it wrong. I want to make sure it’s precise.”
While he has the physical tools, Walker is also a technician.
“Athleticism does help a lot, but I’m making sure my technique is down,” says Walker. “That’s a big factor.”
“With the bigger guys, strength is going to help a lot. But technique is the main source. I have to make sure my technique’s sharp.”
Most days, there’s a Hall of Famer in the room.
“Having Al Smith in there is a big help,” says Walker. “That’s another set of eyes watching us to make sure we’re making moves correctly.”
Walker says he likes to keep his bucket of moves open.
“If one thing doesn’t work, I can hit another thing,” says Walker.
“But all those moves, I have to make sure I sharpen them in the practice room each and every day.”
“A lot of wrestlers have one good move and it’s very hard for people to stop. That’s their move. It’s what they drill. It’s what they do. It’s their bread and butter.”
Walker chose Michigan for college because of the academic and athletic connections.
He plans to study anesthesiology while grappling for the Wolverines.
“(Anesthesiology) fascinates me,” says Walker. “You have to make sure you have the right dosage and all the math behind it and the science. Grades and school comes first. School is very heavy in my life.”
“The wrestling is very heavy in freestyle. They’re going past folkstyle. There’s a lot of international wrestling. That’s what I want to do.”
“I want excel in the sport and be the best I can be.”
Joseph is the son of William and Rhonda Walker has eight siblings, including Salome Walker (on the women’s wrestling team at McKendree University) and Queen Walker (on the women’s track and field team at Bethel University).
LaPlace, the son of Lester and Rae and younger brother of Mariah and an Indiana Tech commit who plans to study business administration, explains his mat style.
“I rely on my defense a lot,” says LaPlace. “I only have a few offensive shots, but I’m really confident in those shots.”
“I’ve always been a defensive-type wrestler. Most of my offense comes outside of a tie.”
LaPlace says he was more offensive as a freshman and sophomore when he competed at 138 and 145.
“Moving up, I figured out that you’ve got to slow down,” says LaPlace.
“You’ve got to wear out the bigger guys before you can start to get on your offense.”
As he grew and got older, LaPlace decided not to cut as much weight.
“I wanted to wrestle what I weigh (as a junior),” says LaPlace. “The same thing this year. I’m walking around at about 188.”
“I feel comfortable wrestling 195 at about 188 or 189. I might not look it, but I’m pretty strong in wrestling positions. I’m confident in my strength.”
Sandefer, who won state titles for Mishawaka at 140 in 2008 and 2009, has become a believer in wrestling at a comfortable weight rather than cutting all the time.
“That’s a mistake a lot of kids make,” says Sandefer. “They come into the wrestling room and think about how much weight do I have to lose rather than getting better”
“We’ve gotten away from pushing kids to cut too much weight.”
Sandefer looks at LaPlace and sees wider shoulders and thicker legs.
“That’s exactly what he needed — not just for our season but going forward in life,” says Sandefer. “It’s really given him an opportunity to focus more on his wrestling more than cutting weight.”
LaPlace, Walker and the rest of the Cavemen are gearing up for the 32-team Al Smith Classic, which is Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27-28.
“The Al Smith is a real eye opener and we train really hard for it,” says LaPlace. “We’re excited for it. We’re going to have a really good run this year as a team.”
Many coaches over the years have described the Mishawaka event as a “meat grinder.”
“That’s exactly what it is,” says LaPlace. “It shows you just what State’s like. You’ve got to make weight two days in a row. There’s really tough competition.
“It’s a tough tournament. It’s fun.”
Mishawaka is coming off of the Henry Wilk Classic at Penn Dec. 21.
After the Al Smith Classic, the Cavemen will take part in the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Class 3A State Duals in Fort Wayne Jan. 4.
Other meets on the horizon are the Northern Indiana Conference Championships at Mishawaka Jan. 18, Mishawaka Sectional Feb. 1, Penn Regional Feb. 8, East Chicago Semistate Feb. 15 and IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis Feb. 21-22.
It will take mental toughness for the Cavemen to get through the season and Sandefer emphasizes that on a daily basis.
“Today in our society there’s a lot of people who find excuses for their failures and easy ways out with no responsibility or accountability,” says Sandefer. “Be responsible for yourself. If you’re losing matches what are you not doing in the wrestling room? Are you playing around too much? Hold yourself accountable.”
“(It’s about) being mentally tough to push through these tough times. If we’re in a tough practice, everybody else is going through it. It’s not just you. Lift your teammates up. It’s much easier to get through it together.”
As a wrestler, Sandefer put in plenty of time away from practice, putting in miles on the treadmill and stationary bike. That extra work had a carry-over effect.
“It makes it that much tougher to give up,” says Sandefer. “When you’re putting in that kind of quality time and work in the wrestling room, when you step on the mat, you say, ‘I did not put in all this time and all this effort to come out here and lose or just give up in the middle of a match.’”
Sandefer has watched Mishawaka numbers grow from less than 30 to about 45 in his three seasons in charge. The Mishawaka Wrestling Club has more than 60 members.
“We have all the right people in the right places,” says Sandefer. “I couldn’t be doing this without my club coaches, assistant coaches, my family and the group of parents we have who are supportive of Mishawaka wrestling.
“They help us get a lot accomplished. They get everybody pumped up and fired up.”
That includes Jacob LaPlace and Joseph Walker.