I have this discussion often and I think there are a bunch of factors that play into it. First off, I think wrestling in the last 20 years in Indiana has gotten much better across the State and North East Indiana hasn't kept up. You can no longer start in high school wrestle for 4 months out of the year do a few freestyle tournaments and one camp and expect to do great things. Just like all the other sports, rather you agree with it or not, kids are becoming specialized and know they have to start young and focus on your core sport 9 to 10 months out of the year. That isn't happening a ton around here. We have had many well meaning individuals step up and try to provide some sort of Academy but they start them and get about 10 kids or so and quickly realize they can't keep the lights on doing it. I personally have went around and priced facilities and done the math on running it as a business that would just break even and there is definitely a risk there. Especially if you want to create a real Academy that screams wrestling when you walk in.
Given that FWCS is our biggest school district with some of our biggest schools and there is a multitude of challenges you have to overcome to produce quality teams or even keep kids out. Like stated before the thing that would make the biggest difference is if we can get middle school wrestling in FWCS across the board and not just a few places. I have talked to a few FWCS ADs about it and a couple middle school Principals and they say the discussions are starting about the logistics of it. I believe there are more challenges then most of us realize. So with the lack of middle school wrestling and the increase in talent overall it gets very hard to get kids with no experience to come out and stay out when they just get their butts kicked. A wise coach, that coached in FWCS for over 30 years once said to me "the hardest thing to do is to convince a kid that getting your butt kicked all the time is worth it." Such a true statement, I don't care how athletic you are if you don't have a room around you with some experienced kids and a great coaching staff you are not going from no experience your freshman year to a State champion your senior year. Their may be a few examples of this but they are very very rare.
So our biggest school district isn't producing anymore and that definitely hurts us. But as one person said many of those kids our going to outer schools like Southwest and Northeast Allen. Hence the rise in Carroll and if everything goes as planned Homestead will be starting to show some real promise soon. The 3 biggest schools in the area are Homestead, Carroll, and Northrop. Northrop is part of FWCS and that has been discussed. Carroll has a program that is well established and has been in the making for over 20 years and has produced a State champion, runner up, and multiple state place winners. As much as we, Homestead, hate them because we would love to beat them, we really work well together at the youth and middle school level, and personally I get along with all the coaches. I will say this, with first hand experience, just because a school is big does not make it easy to build a program and change a culture. We all have our own battles that we deal with to try and get our wrestlers to the next level.
The Goshen area isn't as up as it has been the past but they always always contribute a ton to Fort Wayne Semi-State. I coached for Dekalb for years and we went to that regional and when Northridge, Goshen, Elkhart Memorial, and Jimtown are firing on all cylinders it is tough. To be honest I just don't know that much about the Peru area but I know there is some pride in that area and Peru always has like 50 matches. We just don't see many of their kids until Semi State.
With all that said the small schools in North East Indiana pull their weight and more. There are a bunch of solid smaller schools with a culture of wrestling that do well. Just to name a few Bellmont, Garrett, Adams Central, Jay County, and Prairie Heights. These schools are consistently invited to team state for a reason but it has been discussed at nauseam the challenges small schools have compared to the big schools so it is tough for them to make up for the rest of the area.
I really hope we can change things around here but it will take all of us to do it. A single Academy isn't going to fix it. I think all the coaches around the area would be happy to work with each other to get things moving again but as many of you know there is only so many hours in the day and this sport doesn't pay anyone's bills and it is hard enough getting your own program going. It is all for the love of it. Personally I am always willing to help, just shoot me a message and I will respond. Just like everyone else on this board I know how this sport changed my life and I have witnessed it change many others.