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Found 86 results

  1. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net When Tony Ersland took the job as Purdue University’s head wrestling coach he knew it would be a challenge to compete in arguably the toughest wrestling conference in the country. He embraced the challenge. Ersland’s Boilermakers finished the season ranked in the top 25 in the country. Purdue finished with a dual record of 10-8 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten. Eight Boilermaker wrestlers will compete in the NCAA National Championships this week, starting Thursday. “There were a lot of positives for us this year,” Ersland said. “This was my first year in the program with the kids. We set the foundation for how we are going to operate. Overall, I’m happy with the progress we made this year. Ersland comes to Purdue from Nebraska, where he was an assistant coach for the past eight seasons. He has coached several top wrestlers, including Craig Brester who was a two-time NCAA finalist and a Big 12 champion. “Craig is one athlete who is near and dear to my heart,” Ersland said. “He started out as a walk on at the University of Nebraska. Then he became a two time All-American. He’s the type of athlete that makes coaching worthwhile. He poured his heart and soul into wrestling. He was a special wrestler, and his work is what made him that way.” Purdue’s Danny Sabatello, Brandon Nelsen, Nick Lawrence, Doug Welch, Patrick Robinson, Chad Welch, Patrick Kissel and Braden Atwood will all be competing in the NCAA Championships. “Our goal is to have national champions and All-Americans,” Ersland said. “That’s the mindset we are going in with. We want to go in and perform at a high level. We’ve wrestled outstanding competition all year long. The Big Ten is a brutal grind. It’s like SEC football. We’ve had four out of the top five teams in the country in the Big Ten. “It’s extremely competitive. It’s tougher sometimes to win in the conference than it is in a national bracket. There are no illusions going into the national tournament. You know exactly what you need to do.” Ersland likes the quality of wrestlers he has been able to look at in Indiana. He feels that there is great talent in the state. “Purdue is in the middle of a great wrestling state,” Ersland said. “Indiana turns out a lot of good talent and we want to see those wrestlers stay at home. We don’t want the Jason Tsirtsis out there to look elsewhere.” When asked about Indiana’s high school tournament format, Ersland said he prefers to keep a one-class system. “Personally I like the one class tournament,” Ersland said. “I can understand a two class format as well. But as far as evaluating talent, I really enjoy the one class. You don’t end up with a watered down system. “I think Michigan’s system sort of waters it down. They have four classes and that’s too many. One or two tops is the way to go.” Ersland is married to wife Carolyn. They have twin sons, Jaxon and Mason. “They will always have a wrestling partner,” Ersland said of his sons. “My hope is that they will fall in love with the sport as much as I have. But right now they are just four years old. They love to come to practice and watch the guys roll around. I try to get them in bed, but sometimes they just want to stay up and watch wrestling on T.V.” The NCAA championships begin at noon on Thursday in St. Louis. Click here to view the article
  2. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net If anyone can teach a team to believe in itself, it’s Leroy Vega. Vega, who was told he was too small to wrestle collegiately, even after winning two Indiana state championships, went on to become a three time All-American at the University of Minnesota. Now Vega is instilling that confidence in the Portage High School team he coaches. “There are always going to be doubters that will tell you that you can’t do things,” Vega said. “Nobody knows the hard work you put in. Actions speak louder than words. If you do all the right things, things that matter, you’ll start to see the payoff. That’s what we are trying to do and all of the guys are buying into it.” Vega says that Portage put themselves on the state map this season after winning the prestigious Lake Central Harvest tournament. “We started the season out a little off the radar,” Vega said. “Then we won the Lake Central Harvest tournament, beating Penn who was ranked No. 1 at the time. All 14 of our guys placed. People started to take notice. From there we have kept improving.” Portage lost just one dual this season, falling to Penn in a rematch. “We have a really solid 14,” Vega said. “We don’t have any holes in our lineup. Heading into the post season everyone is healthy. If things work out we can get some guys to state and a couple of guys into the finals.” One of Portage’s top wrestlers this season has been junior 145-pounder Steven Lawrence. Lawrence is currently ranked No. 3 in the weight class. One of Lawrence’s few losses came at the hands of No. 1-ranked Jacob Covaciu in a 2-1 decision. “We all push each other in the wrestling room,” Lawrence said. “And one of the team’s big focuses is to make sure we do something every day to get better. We don’t want to go a day without improving.” Vega is the first to admit that it takes a more than just one coach to make a successful team. “My assistant coaches have all really helped make us successful,” Vega said. “Each one of them has a different role. They have been outstanding.” Portage has seven different wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their weight classes this season. Lawrence (145) and junior Gaige Torres (126) are both ranked No. 3. Senior Matt Hedrick (195) is ranked 10th in the state with freshman (106) Collin Poynter joining in the rankings at No. 13. Senior Davin Gonzalez (152), sophomore Ismeal Cornejo (170) and junior Braden Majewski (220( are all ranked No. 16 in their respective weight classes. “I’d probably say Ismeal Cornejo is the guy that leads by example on this team,” Vega said. “He’s always staying after practice and putting in extra work to get better. But really all the guys do that.” Vega said that there is hardly a day that has went by in the last 33 years that he hasn’t laced up his wrestling shoes and went on the mat. He loves coaching and the competitive rivalry he is building with the other coaches across the state. He said it still doesn’t replace that feeling of going out there and wrestling himself, but it’s a way to still be competitive. “Wrestling has taught me a lot about discipline, hard work and dedication,” Vega said. “Now I’m competing as a coach and I’m getting the team ready. We want to someday win a state title and we’d love to have an individual win a title.” Vega started wrestling when he was four years old. Now his four-year-old son Lydon Jay (named after Jay Robinson), is in love with the sport as well. He wants to be at every Portage practice. He watches film and he looks up to the guys on the team. “I’m so glad he has fallen in love with this sport,” Vega said. Portage will wrestle in the Calumet sectional on Saturday.
  3. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net If anyone can teach a team to believe in itself, it’s Leroy Vega. Vega, who was told he was too small to wrestle collegiately, even after winning two Indiana state championships, went on to become a three time All-American at the University of Minnesota. Now Vega is instilling that confidence in the Portage High School team he coaches. “There are always going to be doubters that will tell you that you can’t do things,” Vega said. “Nobody knows the hard work you put in. Actions speak louder than words. If you do all the right things, things that matter, you’ll start to see the payoff. That’s what we are trying to do and all of the guys are buying into it.” Vega says that Portage put themselves on the state map this season after winning the prestigious Lake Central Harvest tournament. “We started the season out a little off the radar,” Vega said. “Then we won the Lake Central Harvest tournament, beating Penn who was ranked No. 1 at the time. All 14 of our guys placed. People started to take notice. From there we have kept improving.” Portage lost just one dual this season, falling to Penn in a rematch. “We have a really solid 14,” Vega said. “We don’t have any holes in our lineup. Heading into the post season everyone is healthy. If things work out we can get some guys to state and a couple of guys into the finals.” One of Portage’s top wrestlers this season has been junior 145-pounder Steven Lawrence. Lawrence is currently ranked No. 3 in the weight class. One of Lawrence’s few losses came at the hands of No. 1-ranked Jacob Covaciu in a 2-1 decision. “We all push each other in the wrestling room,” Lawrence said. “And one of the team’s big focuses is to make sure we do something every day to get better. We don’t want to go a day without improving.” Vega is the first to admit that it takes a more than just one coach to make a successful team. “My assistant coaches have all really helped make us successful,” Vega said. “Each one of them has a different role. They have been outstanding.” Portage has seven different wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their weight classes this season. Lawrence (145) and junior Gaige Torres (126) are both ranked No. 3. Senior Matt Hedrick (195) is ranked 10th in the state with freshman (106) Collin Poynter joining in the rankings at No. 13. Senior Davin Gonzalez (152), sophomore Ismeal Cornejo (170) and junior Braden Majewski (220( are all ranked No. 16 in their respective weight classes. “I’d probably say Ismeal Cornejo is the guy that leads by example on this team,” Vega said. “He’s always staying after practice and putting in extra work to get better. But really all the guys do that.” Vega said that there is hardly a day that has went by in the last 33 years that he hasn’t laced up his wrestling shoes and went on the mat. He loves coaching and the competitive rivalry he is building with the other coaches across the state. He said it still doesn’t replace that feeling of going out there and wrestling himself, but it’s a way to still be competitive. “Wrestling has taught me a lot about discipline, hard work and dedication,” Vega said. “Now I’m competing as a coach and I’m getting the team ready. We want to someday win a state title and we’d love to have an individual win a title.” Vega started wrestling when he was four years old. Now his four-year-old son Lydon Jay (named after Jay Robinson), is in love with the sport as well. He wants to be at every Portage practice. He watches film and he looks up to the guys on the team. “I’m so glad he has fallen in love with this sport,” Vega said. Portage will wrestle in the Calumet sectional on Saturday. Click here to view the article
  4. Brought to you by EI Sports JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Chad Red, Jr., or C.J as he is known, is one of Indiana’s most dominating high school wrestlers this season. He is the top 126-pounder in the state, and the No. 1 wrestler at that weight in the nation according to FloWrestling. Still, Red is always afraid that the next match might be the one he messes up in and loses. That’s what fuels him. “My goal is to be first in everything I do,” Red said. “I don’t like being ranked. I like to try and beat the odds. Now I have that number sign in front of my name. It doesn’t mean anything to me except that people are going to come at me harder, and want to beat me that much worse. I know I have to go out each time and work as hard as I can and wrestle the best I can, or I’ll lose.” Red, who wrestles for his dad Chad, Sr., at New Palestine High School, has been beaten before. He hasn’t lost in the Indiana high school seasons. He is a two time state champion and is undefeated in his high school career. But in the national tournaments, he has tasted defeat. He hated it. “I remember I was up 2-0 in a tournament and got caught in a headlock,” C.J. said. “I immediately called my dad and told him what happened. We talked for a few minutes then I turned off the phone and went back to training.” Coach Red says that is one of his son’s strengths. He can take a defeat and learn much more from that than he ever could from a win. But those defeats are very rare. So coach Red makes sure to keep his son grounded after each match. If C.J. takes a sloppy shot, or doesn’t have good foot movement, coach Red will point that out – even in victory. Coach Red does not want his son being satisfied with a mediocre win. “Wrestling for my dad has its ups and downs,” C.J. said. “He’s always on me. He tells me how I didn’t do this right, or that. I know it’s all constructive criticism, and I like it. It’s good. It makes me want to work harder. “I’ll go out there and feel like I wrestled a very good match. But when my dad tells me I did a good job, that’s when I really know I accomplished something. “ Inside, C.J. feels vulnerability. He knows he has weaknesses. But on the outside, he has always been a pillar of confidence. “We do not allow him to be cocky at all,” coach Red said. “We do not tolerate that. With Chad though, he has a swag of some sort. He has a confidence. That’s Chad. He’s been that way since he was born. He’s always been confident in himself. There is nothing wrong with that. He has to believe in what he’s doing. We, as coaches, can’t call plays or audibles from the sidelines in wrestling. He has to have his best every time he steps out on the mat.” That’s one of the reason C.J. loves wrestling. “It’s only you out there,” he said. “If you lose, you can only blame it on yourself. There are no excuses in wrestling.” C.J. wrestles a lot of Greco during the summers, despite his dad wishing he wouldn’t. But the 126-pound junior feels that is a way to get better. He wants to push himself, even when it means working on things he is not quite as good at. Coach Red sees a bright future in the sport of wrestling for his son. That’s why they work as hard as they do. “A lot of people tell Chad that he is good,” coach Red said. “I think he’s pretty good. I’m his biggest fan, but also his biggest critic. We have very high expectations for how he can perform. There is a big prize down the road for him if he continues to work. Whether it’s a college scholarship or whatever, there is something out there waiting on him. And there is always someone out there working to beat him.” New Palestine’s 120-pounder, Eugene Starks, is one of C.J.’s main practice partners in the Dragon wrestling room. “Chad is very aggressive and quick on his feet,” Starks said. “In practice I try to put up a fight with him. It has helped me tremendously. His shots are so good, it helps me learn to defend the shot better. He’s a great partner and a great teammate.” Red won state as a freshman at 106 pounds. Last year he was crowned the 120-pound champ. He has a goal to go undefeated in high school and win four state championships in the process. “It’s been a real blessing having a kid like Chad,” coach Red said. “He’s a great son, and a friend. I think the sky is the limit for him. He’s very solid and has a chance to really do something special. But like I always tell him, he has to keep a level head, stay focused on the prize and work to achieve it.” If you have a #WrestlingWednesday feature idea, email it to jerhines@cinergymetro.net
  5. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Evansville Mater Dei got a late start to the wrestling season, like many teams with a successful football team. The school of just over 500 students reached the state championship game on the gridiron. That left little time to prepare for wrestling. But Mater Dei quickly adjusted, and is now a dominating force on the mats. “We got off to a late start because of football,” Wildcats coach Greg Schaefer said. “Over half of our lineup plays football. It’s not just our big guys either.” Schaefer wasn’t entirely pleased with the team’s early dual meets. It wasn’t that Mater Dei had done poorly, it was just that Schaefer puts high expectations on the team with one of the richest wrestling traditions in the state. Soon, things started to click for the Wildcats. The turning point of the season, according to Schaefer, was the team state meet. “The guys really turned the corner at team state,” Schaefer said. “The New Palestine match, we had guys step up and get some big wins. Then we just seem to have a progression the rest of the day. “ Mater Dei defeated Westfield 73-3, New Palestine 56-9, Warren Central 42-23 and Perry Meridian 31-27 to claim the IHSWCA Team State title for class 3A. Statistically speaking, the Mater Dei lineup is absolutely stacked. Seven weight classes have wrestlers ranked in the top 12. Sophomore Will Egli is currently ranked No. 7 at 120 pounds. Senior Alex Johnson is No. 4 at 126. The Lee brothers, sophomore Nick and freshman Joe, are both highly ranked. Nick is No. 1 at 132 while Joe is No. 3 at 138. “The Lee brothers are hard working kids that maintain good attitudes,” Schaefer said. “They are good teammates. As a coach you really appreciate those type of athletes. It’s not always about them, they are team-first wrestlers. They are good young men as well as good wrestlers.” Junior Blake Jourdan is ranked No. 5 at 145 pounds with senior Ashton Forzley ranked No. 9 at 160. Senior Sam Bassemier is the No. 12-ranked 182 pounder in the state. “It’s hard to say where we are at in the history of Mater Dei wrestling,” Schaefer said. “I will say that from top to bottom this is one of the stronger teams we have had since I’ve been coaching.” Mater Dei has roughly 35 kids on its team this season. That depth has helped lead to success on the mat. “Tradition sums up a lot of what Mater Dei wrestling is about,” Schaefer said. “We have strong families with a strong sense of community. They take ownership and responsibility to represent the school to the best of their ability. That has led to a lot of our success. “We have great feeder league coaches that have been around for a long time. They take a lot of pride in what they do. “And we also have guys that people don’t know about that are really the backbone of our program. It’s not the ones that get their names in the paper. It’s the guys who go to practice and do their jobs every day. You can’t have a good team without good people to practice with. Those guys push the guys in the lineup because there is always competition for those spots.” Schaefer does not appoint team captains. He feels the true leaders of the team will step up when the time comes and become the unofficial captains. Everyone on the team is responsible for holding each other accountable in the classroom, after school and on the mats. Mater Dei’s team goals this season were to win every dual meet. They have just one more dual this season, tomorrow night against rival Evansville Reitz. The team also placed a goal of winning the team state tournament. Individually Schaefer is hoping to have several state placers this season. Mater Dei has not had a state champ in 10 years. The last Wildcat champion was Matt Coughlin at 152 pounds in 2005. “We’ve had a few runners up and a few place winners since then,” Schaefer said. “But to win a state title it takes more than just being a good wrestler. Things have to go your way. In many cases you have to overcome circumstances or calls. You can’t just be good. You also have to put yourself in the right circumstances.” Schaefer would know. He is a two-time state champion. Schaefer is a theology teacher at Mater Dei as well as the wrestling coach. It’s a job he loves and plans to stay at for a very long time.
  6. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Evansville Mater Dei got a late start to the wrestling season, like many teams with a successful football team. The school of just over 500 students reached the state championship game on the gridiron. That left little time to prepare for wrestling. But Mater Dei quickly adjusted, and is now a dominating force on the mats. “We got off to a late start because of football,” Wildcats coach Greg Schaefer said. “Over half of our lineup plays football. It’s not just our big guys either.” Schaefer wasn’t entirely pleased with the team’s early dual meets. It wasn’t that Mater Dei had done poorly, it was just that Schaefer puts high expectations on the team with one of the richest wrestling traditions in the state. Soon, things started to click for the Wildcats. The turning point of the season, according to Schaefer, was the team state meet. “The guys really turned the corner at team state,” Schaefer said. “The New Palestine match, we had guys step up and get some big wins. Then we just seem to have a progression the rest of the day. “ Mater Dei defeated Westfield 73-3, New Palestine 56-9, Warren Central 42-23 and Perry Meridian 31-27 to claim the IHSWCA Team State title for class 3A. Statistically speaking, the Mater Dei lineup is absolutely stacked. Seven weight classes have wrestlers ranked in the top 12. Sophomore Will Egli is currently ranked No. 7 at 120 pounds. Senior Alex Johnson is No. 4 at 126. The Lee brothers, sophomore Nick and freshman Joe, are both highly ranked. Nick is No. 1 at 132 while Joe is No. 3 at 138. “The Lee brothers are hard working kids that maintain good attitudes,” Schaefer said. “They are good teammates. As a coach you really appreciate those type of athletes. It’s not always about them, they are team-first wrestlers. They are good young men as well as good wrestlers.” Junior Blake Jourdan is ranked No. 5 at 145 pounds with senior Ashton Forzley ranked No. 9 at 160. Senior Sam Bassemier is the No. 12-ranked 182 pounder in the state. “It’s hard to say where we are at in the history of Mater Dei wrestling,” Schaefer said. “I will say that from top to bottom this is one of the stronger teams we have had since I’ve been coaching.” Mater Dei has roughly 35 kids on its team this season. That depth has helped lead to success on the mat. “Tradition sums up a lot of what Mater Dei wrestling is about,” Schaefer said. “We have strong families with a strong sense of community. They take ownership and responsibility to represent the school to the best of their ability. That has led to a lot of our success. “We have great feeder league coaches that have been around for a long time. They take a lot of pride in what they do. “And we also have guys that people don’t know about that are really the backbone of our program. It’s not the ones that get their names in the paper. It’s the guys who go to practice and do their jobs every day. You can’t have a good team without good people to practice with. Those guys push the guys in the lineup because there is always competition for those spots.” Schaefer does not appoint team captains. He feels the true leaders of the team will step up when the time comes and become the unofficial captains. Everyone on the team is responsible for holding each other accountable in the classroom, after school and on the mats. Mater Dei’s team goals this season were to win every dual meet. They have just one more dual this season, tomorrow night against rival Evansville Reitz. The team also placed a goal of winning the team state tournament. Individually Schaefer is hoping to have several state placers this season. Mater Dei has not had a state champ in 10 years. The last Wildcat champion was Matt Coughlin at 152 pounds in 2005. “We’ve had a few runners up and a few place winners since then,” Schaefer said. “But to win a state title it takes more than just being a good wrestler. Things have to go your way. In many cases you have to overcome circumstances or calls. You can’t just be good. You also have to put yourself in the right circumstances.” Schaefer would know. He is a two-time state champion. Schaefer is a theology teacher at Mater Dei as well as the wrestling coach. It’s a job he loves and plans to stay at for a very long time. Click here to view the article
  7. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Four years ago Prairie Heights High School needed a wrestling coach. Applicants weren’t exactly lining up at the door to take over a program that had fallen on hard times. So the school’s athletic director approached an unlikely candidate — a former basketball player named Brett Smith. Smith, who teaches at the school district’s middle school, had no wrestling experience. He was related to the former wrestling coach, and had helped kids with lifting weights and staying in shape in the offseason. That was the extent of his wrestling knowledge. He didn’t shy away from the challenge. Smith told the athletic director he would take the job, but he needed to be able to hire the best assistant coaches he could find. Smith called brothers John and Mike Levitz, two of Prairie Heights greatest former wrestlers. John had set nearly all of the Panther’s wrestling records, until Mike came along and broke them. Smith remembers watching the Levitz brothers wrestle in high school. He knew they were the right people for the job. There was one more piece to the puzzle Smith was trying to assemble, and the Levitz brothers knew exactly what that was. They called their old high school coach Lee Fry and talked him out of retirement to join in their campaign. The first year together the Panthers finished the season with a miserable 12-17 record. The next year they had raised their mark to .500 at 16-16. Last year the team posted a winning record at 17-12. This year the Panthers are 21-2 and are the top-seeded Class A team going in to this weekend’s team state tournament. It hasn’t been an easy road, by any means, but the kids have bought into the coaches’ system. “I think one of the main things that has helped us is that we do everything the wrestlers do,” Smith said. “We do the same lifting and running. The kids see us busting our butts with them, and that pushes them to do the same. They work hard because they can see us working hard for them.” Mike and John started coaching kids in their basement several years ago. They had purchased old wrestling mats from a barn nearby. It took hours to clean the mats enough to get them in usable shape. They put them in John’s basement and started working with kids. At first it was just John’s sons Doug (junior, 145 lbs) and Jed (freshman, 160 lbs). But soon the workouts in their basement grew to over 20 kids. “Wrestling is just about life for our family,” John said. “My brothers and I, we lived wrestling. When Mike graduated, we were lost. Our parents were lost. We needed wrestling back in our lives.” Now wrestling is once again a large part of the Levitz’s daily routine. John’s sons both wrestle, as does Mike’s sons Isiah, Sam and Matt. Mike’s sons are not in high school yet, but they are all dedicated to the sport. “Wrestling has taught me so much for life,” Mike said. “It taught hard work and dedication. Wrestling is a family thing. Everyone in the sport is tight.” Prairie Heights is a small farming community. That’s a key to the wrestling success as well, according to Smith. “We’re just a small farm town,” Smith said. “But all the kids have grown up to be hard workers because of that. We know the kids work hard, and we know their parents work hard. And work ethic in the wrestling room has been what has led us to the success we’re having.” The Panthers have goals this year of winning the Northeast Corner Conference, winning team state, and sending at least one wrestler to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse for the wrestling state finals. In their four years of coaching together, they have not had a wrestler go to state yet. “We have the potential to change that this year,” John said. “I’d love to see us get more than one there this year.” A former basketball player, a retired coach and a couple of brothers who hadn’t coached high school wrestling before isn’t the typical recipe for success on the mats. But it works for Prairie Heights. The team wouldn’t want it any other way.
  8. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Four years ago Prairie Heights High School needed a wrestling coach. Applicants weren’t exactly lining up at the door to take over a program that had fallen on hard times. So the school’s athletic director approached an unlikely candidate — a former basketball player named Brett Smith. Smith, who teaches at the school district’s middle school, had no wrestling experience. He was related to the former wrestling coach, and had helped kids with lifting weights and staying in shape in the offseason. That was the extent of his wrestling knowledge. He didn’t shy away from the challenge. Smith told the athletic director he would take the job, but he needed to be able to hire the best assistant coaches he could find. Smith called brothers John and Mike Levitz, two of Prairie Heights greatest former wrestlers. John had set nearly all of the Panther’s wrestling records, until Mike came along and broke them. Smith remembers watching the Levitz brothers wrestle in high school. He knew they were the right people for the job. There was one more piece to the puzzle Smith was trying to assemble, and the Levitz brothers knew exactly what that was. They called their old high school coach Lee Fry and talked him out of retirement to join in their campaign. The first year together the Panthers finished the season with a miserable 12-17 record. The next year they had raised their mark to .500 at 16-16. Last year the team posted a winning record at 17-12. This year the Panthers are 21-2 and are the top-seeded Class A team going in to this weekend’s team state tournament. It hasn’t been an easy road, by any means, but the kids have bought into the coaches’ system. “I think one of the main things that has helped us is that we do everything the wrestlers do,” Smith said. “We do the same lifting and running. The kids see us busting our butts with them, and that pushes them to do the same. They work hard because they can see us working hard for them.” Mike and John started coaching kids in their basement several years ago. They had purchased old wrestling mats from a barn nearby. It took hours to clean the mats enough to get them in usable shape. They put them in John’s basement and started working with kids. At first it was just John’s sons Doug (junior, 145 lbs) and Jed (freshman, 160 lbs). But soon the workouts in their basement grew to over 20 kids. “Wrestling is just about life for our family,” John said. “My brothers and I, we lived wrestling. When Mike graduated, we were lost. Our parents were lost. We needed wrestling back in our lives.” Now wrestling is once again a large part of the Levitz’s daily routine. John’s sons both wrestle, as does Mike’s sons Isiah, Sam and Matt. Mike’s sons are not in high school yet, but they are all dedicated to the sport. “Wrestling has taught me so much for life,” Mike said. “It taught hard work and dedication. Wrestling is a family thing. Everyone in the sport is tight.” Prairie Heights is a small farming community. That’s a key to the wrestling success as well, according to Smith. “We’re just a small farm town,” Smith said. “But all the kids have grown up to be hard workers because of that. We know the kids work hard, and we know their parents work hard. And work ethic in the wrestling room has been what has led us to the success we’re having.” The Panthers have goals this year of winning the Northeast Corner Conference, winning team state, and sending at least one wrestler to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse for the wrestling state finals. In their four years of coaching together, they have not had a wrestler go to state yet. “We have the potential to change that this year,” John said. “I’d love to see us get more than one there this year.” A former basketball player, a retired coach and a couple of brothers who hadn’t coached high school wrestling before isn’t the typical recipe for success on the mats. But it works for Prairie Heights. The team wouldn’t want it any other way. Click here to view the article
  9. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Drew Hughes has already had the type of high school wrestling career many dream of. He finished second in the state his freshman season and fifth last year. But Hughes is far from satisfied. Hughes doesn’t aim for fifth place. His goal is a championship — nothing less. Hughes sets the bar high for himself. Anything less than a state championship will be a disappointment. Last state tournament might have been a turning point in Hughes’ career. He had beaten Lawrence North’s Tommy Cash and Merriville’s Jacob Covaciu during the season. He topped Cash 4-0 and Covaciu by technical fall. But after he was pinned in the first minute of the second round of state by Center Grove senior Tyler Fleener (via the spladle), he had to watch Cash claim the 138-pound title with a 5-3 decision over Covaciu. “That has motivated me,” Hughes said. “The fact that I was there just watching, and not being out there wrestling in the finals pushes me every day. I realized I had to get better on my feet. I needed to work harder on my all-around technique.” Hughes has done just that. Hughes is one of the best in the state from the top position. He can turn almost anyone he faces. But now he’s added a new dimension to his repertoire. He has greatly improved his attacks from the neutral position. He has become more confident on his feet. The improved performance on his feet has led to a 13-0 start to the season for the Lowell junior. He has not given up a point, and has pinned all 13 wrestlers who have stepped on the mat against him. “My goal is a state title,” Hughes said. “But I also want to go through the year without getting scored on, and by pinning everyone I face.” Hughes is currently the top-ranked 160 pounder in the state. The No. 2-ranked grappler at 160, Crown Point’s Darden Schurg, is one Hughes will likely see several times during the tourney. The two are in the same sectional, regional and semistate. “We have grown up wrestling each other,” Hughes said. “We have wrestled each other since we were 8-years old.” Inside the Lowell wrestling room, Hughes has been training with Eric McGill, a former two-time state champion for Munster High School. He won the 125-pound class as a junior and 140 as a senior. McGill went on to wrestle for Cornell University. “I wrestle with him quite a bit,” McGill said. “.He has good practice partners, but most of the live wrestling is done with me. When he was smaller I could beat him. Now he’s bigger and he’s getting the better of me. It’s fun, but he’s a beast now.” Hughes has great respect for McGill. “He has been a really good influence on me,” Hughes said. “He’s one of the best partners you could have.” Hughes’ older brother Kenny has also been a good influence. Kenny was ranked No. 2 last year at 160 pounds. He lost in the same round of state as Drew, and ended up finishing seventh. Hughes has jumped from the 120 pound class as a freshman, to 160 now. This year he isn’t having to cut weight, unlike past seasons. That decision has allowed this year to be his most fun so far. “I love wrestling because it’s a fun sport,” Hughes said. “And when you’re not cutting weight you’re not in that bad mood that cutting can some times lead to. I’m able to focus a lot more on wrestling now.” With weight no longer an issue, Hughes is concentrating on getting back under the lights. His freshman year he was defeated by Warren Central’s Deondre Wilson 6-2 in the championship match at 120 pounds. “I was hoping I was going to be wresting for a title last year,” Hughes said. “But I remember as a freshman that it was a great experience. Looking back I know I was a little shocked to be there wrestling under the lights. I really felt I could have won, but I froze up. If I get there again, I’m not going to get so caught up with the atmosphere. I’m going to go out and do what I do, and just wrestle.”
  10. Brought to you by EI Sports By JEREMY HINES jerhines@cinergymetro.net Drew Hughes has already had the type of high school wrestling career many dream of. He finished second in the state his freshman season and fifth last year. But Hughes is far from satisfied. Hughes doesn’t aim for fifth place. His goal is a championship — nothing less. Hughes sets the bar high for himself. Anything less than a state championship will be a disappointment. Last state tournament might have been a turning point in Hughes’ career. He had beaten Lawrence North’s Tommy Cash and Merriville’s Jacob Covaciu during the season. He topped Cash 4-0 and Covaciu by technical fall. But after he was pinned in the first minute of the second round of state by Center Grove senior Tyler Fleener (via the spladle), he had to watch Cash claim the 138-pound title with a 5-3 decision over Covaciu. “That has motivated me,” Hughes said. “The fact that I was there just watching, and not being out there wrestling in the finals pushes me every day. I realized I had to get better on my feet. I needed to work harder on my all-around technique.” Hughes has done just that. Hughes is one of the best in the state from the top position. He can turn almost anyone he faces. But now he’s added a new dimension to his repertoire. He has greatly improved his attacks from the neutral position. He has become more confident on his feet. The improved performance on his feet has led to a 13-0 start to the season for the Lowell junior. He has not given up a point, and has pinned all 13 wrestlers who have stepped on the mat against him. “My goal is a state title,” Hughes said. “But I also want to go through the year without getting scored on, and by pinning everyone I face.” Hughes is currently the top-ranked 160 pounder in the state. The No. 2-ranked grappler at 160, Crown Point’s Darden Schurg, is one Hughes will likely see several times during the tourney. The two are in the same sectional, regional and semistate. “We have grown up wrestling each other,” Hughes said. “We have wrestled each other since we were 8-years old.” Inside the Lowell wrestling room, Hughes has been training with Eric McGill, a former two-time state champion for Munster High School. He won the 125-pound class as a junior and 140 as a senior. McGill went on to wrestle for Cornell University. “I wrestle with him quite a bit,” McGill said. “.He has good practice partners, but most of the live wrestling is done with me. When he was smaller I could beat him. Now he’s bigger and he’s getting the better of me. It’s fun, but he’s a beast now.” Hughes has great respect for McGill. “He has been a really good influence on me,” Hughes said. “He’s one of the best partners you could have.” Hughes’ older brother Kenny has also been a good influence. Kenny was ranked No. 2 last year at 160 pounds. He lost in the same round of state as Drew, and ended up finishing seventh. Hughes has jumped from the 120 pound class as a freshman, to 160 now. This year he isn’t having to cut weight, unlike past seasons. That decision has allowed this year to be his most fun so far. “I love wrestling because it’s a fun sport,” Hughes said. “And when you’re not cutting weight you’re not in that bad mood that cutting can some times lead to. I’m able to focus a lot more on wrestling now.” With weight no longer an issue, Hughes is concentrating on getting back under the lights. His freshman year he was defeated by Warren Central’s Deondre Wilson 6-2 in the championship match at 120 pounds. “I was hoping I was going to be wresting for a title last year,” Hughes said. “But I remember as a freshman that it was a great experience. Looking back I know I was a little shocked to be there wrestling under the lights. I really felt I could have won, but I froze up. If I get there again, I’m not going to get so caught up with the atmosphere. I’m going to go out and do what I do, and just wrestle.” Click here to view the article
  11. Starting next week we will feature a weekly article about a wrestler, team, or interesting story from around the state. Post here or email me if you have potential story ideas. Thanks
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