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Found 4 results

  1. By STEVE KRAH A bunch of happy Bulldogs, Braves and Panthers left Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum Saturday, Jan. 2. Brownsburg (Class 3A), Bellmont (2A) and Prairie Heights (1A) each earned Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals titles before a record crowd of 2,331 in the fourth annual event. For the second straight year, there were 12 teams in each division. Coach Darrick Snider watched his Brownsburg team take down Warren Central 34-24 in the 3A final after taking down Perry Meridian 36-22 in the semifinals. Warren Central advanced to the championship by beating semifinal foe Evansville Mater Dei 36-19. “Wow, it’s really been an emotional day,” Snyder said. “We felt like we belonged. We felt like we could wrestle anyone. We had a lot of people questioning whether we could compete with the top teams in the state. I’ve got a great group of kids who have worked hard.” Snyder took over a program that had finished near the bottom of its conference and turned it into a championship team. “We have turned the Titanic around,” Snyder said. “I have awesome support from my team and from my superintendent who was here all day. “We break on ‘state champions’ everyday from our 5 year-olds all the way to the high school program, we don’t break on ‘state runner-up.’ We’re here to win it. I have incredible respect for every team and every coach here, especially those last couple programs.” Brownsburg moved to 12-0. Coach Paul Gunsett’s Bellmont squad topped Jimtown 46-23 for the 2A crown after a 54-14 win against North Montgomery in the semifinals. With a dramatic 31-30 semifinals triumph, Jimtown handed Yorktown its first State Duals loss in four years. Gunsett, in his first season as Braves head coach after 22 years as an assistant, talked about unfinished business. “Since we finished second (in 2A) last year, our goal was to come back here and win the whole thing,” Gunsett said. “We had the core of our team back and every opportunity to do it. That was our focus.” Gunsett’s team won its title just two days after the grueling two-day Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka. “Our kids came here ready to fight and ready to wrestle,” Gunsett said. “They were prepared today. They knew what was on the line. “We had excellent senior leadership.” Bellmont improved to 15-1. Jimtown coach Mark Kerrn talked about his squad’s determination. “They are typical Jimtown Jimmies — no quit in them ever,” Kerrn said of his young lineup. “We had five freshmen in our lineup today (including Brayden Curtis who helped Jimtown edge Yorktown by taking the final match to overtime and avoid giving up a major decision or higher). It’s awesome. That took a lot of courage. Some other guys, we were just throwing in there into different weight classes. We had guys 10 and 15 pounds underweight today. They didn’t care, they just kept stepping up and battling. That’s what they do.” The next-to-last match against Yorktown, saw Jimtown heavyweight Nick Mammolenti rally for a 4-3 overtime victory. Coach Brett Smith’s Prairie Heights club walked off with the 1A hardware by besting Southmont 39-29. In the 1A semifinals, Prairie Heights bettered Adams Central 45-19 and Southmont downed Monrovia 34-30. Prairie Heights had enjoyed runner-up and fourth-place finishes at the State Duals and now takes a title back to Brushy Prairie. The Panthers went 30-3 in the 2014-15 and improved to 28-0 in 2015-16 with Saturday’s title-taking performance. “These kids have been together since eighth grade,” Panthers coach Brett Smith said. “They’ve just bought into everything we’ve been doing. The kids are hungry. We were close to Yorktown last year. We were close to Lafayette Harrison. The kids have been really positive and upbeat.” IHSWCA STATE DUALS (At Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne) Class 3A Championship BROWNSBURG 34, WARREN CENTRAL 24 106 — Ty Mills (BR) pinned Keyuan Murphy 1:11. 113 — Skylour Turner (WC) pinned Nick Weaver :56. 120 — Blake Mulkey (BR) dec. Dylan Culp 6-0. 126 — Joel McGhee (WC) dec. Ryan Bigelow 7-4. 132 — Connor Allen (BR) dec. Tim Wright 9-4. 138 — Brayton Lee (BR) pinned Marcus Scott :33. 145 — Matthew McKinney (WC) dec. Troy Owen 6-4. 152 — Trent Pruitt (WC) pinned Quienton Ingram 1:29. 160 — Dominic Herrick (WC) dec. Arkee Glover 6-3. 170 — Nathan Walton (BR) pinned Dezmen Goddard :31. 182 — CJ Damler (BR) maj. dec. Devon Blount 12-3. 195 — Tristen Tonte (WC) dec. Anthony Cicciarelli 9-2. 220 — Isaac McCormick (BR) dec. Cornelius Knox-Abbott 5-3. Hwt — Rickie Clark (BR) dec. Jasion Brogan 2-1. Third Place PERRY MERIDIAN 45, EVANSVILLE MATER DEI 18 106 — Sam Fair (PM) dec. Clay Egli 4-2. 113 — Blaine Mayer (MD) dec. Kolton Overley 14-8. 120 — Kyle Luigs (MD) pinned David Clayton 2:42. 126 — Jack Servies (PM) maj. dec. Joe Happe 11-3. 132 — DJ Brookbank (PM) pinned Kyle Embry1:31. 138 — Wyatt Montgomery (MD) dec. Logan Hurley 2-0 (ot). 145 — Kain Rust (PM) pinned Zach Wagner 2:59. 152 — Brett Johnson (PM) maj. dec. Mitch Lehman 11-1. 160 — Noah Warren (PM) pinned Blake Chandler :58. 170 — Christian Warren (PM) pinned Hunter Carr :49. 182 — Rodrigo Diaz (PM) maj. dec. Robbie Helfrich 11-3. 195 — Kurtis Wilderman (MD) dec. Anthony Ruhana 4-2. 220 — Michael Boots (MD) dec. Matt McClosky 6-5. Hwt — Steve Woolbright (PM) pinned Austin Fleck 3:05. Class 2A Championship BELLMONT 46, JIMTOWN 23 106 — Hunter Watts (Jimtown) over DeAundre James 2:21. 113 — Hunter Whitman (Jimtown) over Jon Ruble 2-0. 120 — Mason Mendez (BE) pinned Matt Gimson 11-4. 126 — Jon Becker (BE) pinned Connor Gimson 2:40. 132 — Daniel Gunsett (BE) pinned Greden Kelley :44. 138 — Gavin Siefring (BE) maj. dec. Cole Watson 11-2. 145 — Kenny Kerrn (J) maj. dec. Grant Guitierez 15-1. 152 — Matt Laughlin (BE) pinned Tyler Norment 5:03. 160 — Tony Busse (BE) pinned Dalton Heintzberger :57. 170 — Bryce Baumgartner (BE) pinned Aaron Martinez :46. 182 — Caleb Hankenson (BE) pinned Ben Davis :49. 195 — Jarod Hayes (J) maj. dec. Jarron Gerwig 10-0. 220 — Drew Butler (BE) dec. Caleb Fowler 9-6. Hwt — Nick Mammolenti (J) pinned Braiden Shaw 4:18. Third Place YORK TOWN 38, NORTH MONTGOMERY 24 106 — Zachary Todd (Y) dec. Seth Johnson 9-2. 113 — Brayden Curtis (Y) dec. Tucker Moseley 5-2. 120 — Josh Stephenson (Y) dec. Corwyn Hall 9-7. 126 — Christian Hunt (Y) pinned Gavyn Warren 2:58. 132 — Brady Miller (NM) dec. Alex Barr 5-3. 138 — Riley Morehouse (NM) dec. Alara Boyd 5-3 (ot). 145 — Colt Rutter (Y) maj. dec. Cade Groves 11-2. 152 — Cael McCormick (Y) pinned Micah Wray 1:07. 160 — Brad Laughlin (Y) maj. dec. Alec Rossittis 16-5. 170 — 170 Tanner Webster (NM) pinned Jacob Morris 3:53. 182 — Isaac Fruits (NM) pinned Corbin Allen no time reported. 195 — Cole Slavens (NM) pinned Bryce Kidd 1:23. 220 — Kelly Watson (Y) dec. Jarrett Brown 8-2. Hwt —Joey Pier (Y) pinned Kevin Pierce 2:45. Class 1A Championship PRAIRIE HEIGHTS 39, SOUTHMONT 29 106 — Alex Grino (S) pinned Caleb Shaffer 1:25. 113 — Evan Hubble (S) pinned Blake Hoyer 1:01. 120 — Dimetrie Lauy (S) dec. Zeke Rowdon 11-7. 126 — Ryan Rasler (PH) dec. Kyle McManus 4-3. 132 — Boone Welliever (S) pinned Alex Steele :50. 138 — Riley Rasler (PH) dec. Connor Moore 6-4. 145 — Dakota Ball (S) tech. fall Zane Rowdon 19-3. 152 — Doug Levitz (PH) pinned Peyton Long 1:12. 160 — Jed Levtiz (PH) pinned Josh Weir :56. 170 — Brady Johnson (PH) pinned Scott Madison :50. 182 — Joey Blakeley (PH) pinned Zach Worm 1:00. 195 — Bailey Thompson (PH) dec. Austin Williams 8-2. 220 — Mason Cody (S) dec. Codey Shafer 4-3. Hwt — Braxton Amos (PH) pinned Elijah Price :23. Third Place MONROVIA 39, ADAMS CENTRAL 27 106 — Brycen Denny (M) dec.Logan Mosse 3-0. 113 — Parker Bates (AC) by forfeit. 120 — Chuck Capps (M) dec. Nick Liter 4-2. 126 — Austin Clark (M) dec. Anthony Mosser 7-4. 132 — Logan Macklin (AC) pinned Jonathon Smallwood 1:46. 138 — Gabe Schwaller (AC) pinned Logan McPeak 3:03. 145 — Ivan Wray (M) pinned Trevor Free 2:59. 152 — Ethan Stock (M) dec. Hunter Bates 2-1. 160 — Elijah Stock (M) dec. Brant Thieme 4-0. 170 — Ryan Ashley (AC) dec. Zach Boles 4-0. 182 — Aaron Cravens (M) pinned Skylar Douglas 2:12. 195 — Garrison Lee (M) pinned Chandler Schumm1:02. 220 — Dristin McCubbins (M) pinned Nash Brunner :19. Hwt — Dylan Schumm (AC) pinned Riley McCubbins 3:34. A — 2,331 (tournament record).
  2. By STEVE KRAH A bunch of happy Bulldogs, Braves and Panthers left Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum Saturday, Jan. 2. Brownsburg (Class 3A), Bellmont (2A) and Prairie Heights (1A) each earned Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals titles before a record crowd of 2,331 in the fourth annual event. For the second straight year, there were 12 teams in each division. Coach Darrick Snider watched his Brownsburg team take down Warren Central 34-24 in the 3A final after taking down Perry Meridian 36-22 in the semifinals. Warren Central advanced to the championship by beating semifinal foe Evansville Mater Dei 36-19. “Wow, it’s really been an emotional day,” Snyder said. “We felt like we belonged. We felt like we could wrestle anyone. We had a lot of people questioning whether we could compete with the top teams in the state. I’ve got a great group of kids who have worked hard.” Snyder took over a program that had finished near the bottom of its conference and turned it into a championship team. “We have turned the Titanic around,” Snyder said. “I have awesome support from my team and from my superintendent who was here all day. “We break on ‘state champions’ everyday from our 5 year-olds all the way to the high school program, we don’t break on ‘state runner-up.’ We’re here to win it. I have incredible respect for every team and every coach here, especially those last couple programs.” Brownsburg moved to 12-0. Coach Paul Gunsett’s Bellmont squad topped Jimtown 46-23 for the 2A crown after a 54-14 win against North Montgomery in the semifinals. With a dramatic 31-30 semifinals triumph, Jimtown handed Yorktown its first State Duals loss in four years. Gunsett, in his first season as Braves head coach after 22 years as an assistant, talked about unfinished business. “Since we finished second (in 2A) last year, our goal was to come back here and win the whole thing,” Gunsett said. “We had the core of our team back and every opportunity to do it. That was our focus.” Gunsett’s team won its title just two days after the grueling two-day Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka. “Our kids came here ready to fight and ready to wrestle,” Gunsett said. “They were prepared today. They knew what was on the line. “We had excellent senior leadership.” Bellmont improved to 15-1. Jimtown coach Mark Kerrn talked about his squad’s determination. “They are typical Jimtown Jimmies — no quit in them ever,” Kerrn said of his young lineup. “We had five freshmen in our lineup today (including Brayden Curtis who helped Jimtown edge Yorktown by taking the final match to overtime and avoid giving up a major decision or higher). It’s awesome. That took a lot of courage. Some other guys, we were just throwing in there into different weight classes. We had guys 10 and 15 pounds underweight today. They didn’t care, they just kept stepping up and battling. That’s what they do.” The next-to-last match against Yorktown, saw Jimtown heavyweight Nick Mammolenti rally for a 4-3 overtime victory. Coach Brett Smith’s Prairie Heights club walked off with the 1A hardware by besting Southmont 39-29. In the 1A semifinals, Prairie Heights bettered Adams Central 45-19 and Southmont downed Monrovia 34-30. Prairie Heights had enjoyed runner-up and fourth-place finishes at the State Duals and now takes a title back to Brushy Prairie. The Panthers went 30-3 in the 2014-15 and improved to 28-0 in 2015-16 with Saturday’s title-taking performance. “These kids have been together since eighth grade,” Panthers coach Brett Smith said. “They’ve just bought into everything we’ve been doing. The kids are hungry. We were close to Yorktown last year. We were close to Lafayette Harrison. The kids have been really positive and upbeat.” IHSWCA STATE DUALS (At Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne) Class 3A Championship BROWNSBURG 34, WARREN CENTRAL 24 106 — Ty Mills (BR) pinned Keyuan Murphy 1:11. 113 — Skylour Turner (WC) pinned Nick Weaver :56. 120 — Blake Mulkey (BR) dec. Dylan Culp 6-0. 126 — Joel McGhee (WC) dec. Ryan Bigelow 7-4. 132 — Connor Allen (BR) dec. Tim Wright 9-4. 138 — Brayton Lee (BR) pinned Marcus Scott :33. 145 — Matthew McKinney (WC) dec. Troy Owen 6-4. 152 — Trent Pruitt (WC) pinned Quienton Ingram 1:29. 160 — Dominic Herrick (WC) dec. Arkee Glover 6-3. 170 — Nathan Walton (BR) pinned Dezmen Goddard :31. 182 — CJ Damler (BR) maj. dec. Devon Blount 12-3. 195 — Tristen Tonte (WC) dec. Anthony Cicciarelli 9-2. 220 — Isaac McCormick (BR) dec. Cornelius Knox-Abbott 5-3. Hwt — Rickie Clark (BR) dec. Jasion Brogan 2-1. Third Place PERRY MERIDIAN 45, EVANSVILLE MATER DEI 18 106 — Sam Fair (PM) dec. Clay Egli 4-2. 113 — Blaine Mayer (MD) dec. Kolton Overley 14-8. 120 — Kyle Luigs (MD) pinned David Clayton 2:42. 126 — Jack Servies (PM) maj. dec. Joe Happe 11-3. 132 — DJ Brookbank (PM) pinned Kyle Embry1:31. 138 — Wyatt Montgomery (MD) dec. Logan Hurley 2-0 (ot). 145 — Kain Rust (PM) pinned Zach Wagner 2:59. 152 — Brett Johnson (PM) maj. dec. Mitch Lehman 11-1. 160 — Noah Warren (PM) pinned Blake Chandler :58. 170 — Christian Warren (PM) pinned Hunter Carr :49. 182 — Rodrigo Diaz (PM) maj. dec. Robbie Helfrich 11-3. 195 — Kurtis Wilderman (MD) dec. Anthony Ruhana 4-2. 220 — Michael Boots (MD) dec. Matt McClosky 6-5. Hwt — Steve Woolbright (PM) pinned Austin Fleck 3:05. Class 2A Championship BELLMONT 46, JIMTOWN 23 106 — Hunter Watts (Jimtown) over DeAundre James 2:21. 113 — Hunter Whitman (Jimtown) over Jon Ruble 2-0. 120 — Mason Mendez (BE) pinned Matt Gimson 11-4. 126 — Jon Becker (BE) pinned Connor Gimson 2:40. 132 — Daniel Gunsett (BE) pinned Greden Kelley :44. 138 — Gavin Siefring (BE) maj. dec. Cole Watson 11-2. 145 — Kenny Kerrn (J) maj. dec. Grant Guitierez 15-1. 152 — Matt Laughlin (BE) pinned Tyler Norment 5:03. 160 — Tony Busse (BE) pinned Dalton Heintzberger :57. 170 — Bryce Baumgartner (BE) pinned Aaron Martinez :46. 182 — Caleb Hankenson (BE) pinned Ben Davis :49. 195 — Jarod Hayes (J) maj. dec. Jarron Gerwig 10-0. 220 — Drew Butler (BE) dec. Caleb Fowler 9-6. Hwt — Nick Mammolenti (J) pinned Braiden Shaw 4:18. Third Place YORK TOWN 38, NORTH MONTGOMERY 24 106 — Zachary Todd (Y) dec. Seth Johnson 9-2. 113 — Brayden Curtis (Y) dec. Tucker Moseley 5-2. 120 — Josh Stephenson (Y) dec. Corwyn Hall 9-7. 126 — Christian Hunt (Y) pinned Gavyn Warren 2:58. 132 — Brady Miller (NM) dec. Alex Barr 5-3. 138 — Riley Morehouse (NM) dec. Alara Boyd 5-3 (ot). 145 — Colt Rutter (Y) maj. dec. Cade Groves 11-2. 152 — Cael McCormick (Y) pinned Micah Wray 1:07. 160 — Brad Laughlin (Y) maj. dec. Alec Rossittis 16-5. 170 — 170 Tanner Webster (NM) pinned Jacob Morris 3:53. 182 — Isaac Fruits (NM) pinned Corbin Allen no time reported. 195 — Cole Slavens (NM) pinned Bryce Kidd 1:23. 220 — Kelly Watson (Y) dec. Jarrett Brown 8-2. Hwt —Joey Pier (Y) pinned Kevin Pierce 2:45. Class 1A Championship PRAIRIE HEIGHTS 39, SOUTHMONT 29 106 — Alex Grino (S) pinned Caleb Shaffer 1:25. 113 — Evan Hubble (S) pinned Blake Hoyer 1:01. 120 — Dimetrie Lauy (S) dec. Zeke Rowdon 11-7. 126 — Ryan Rasler (PH) dec. Kyle McManus 4-3. 132 — Boone Welliever (S) pinned Alex Steele :50. 138 — Riley Rasler (PH) dec. Connor Moore 6-4. 145 — Dakota Ball (S) tech. fall Zane Rowdon 19-3. 152 — Doug Levitz (PH) pinned Peyton Long 1:12. 160 — Jed Levtiz (PH) pinned Josh Weir :56. 170 — Brady Johnson (PH) pinned Scott Madison :50. 182 — Joey Blakeley (PH) pinned Zach Worm 1:00. 195 — Bailey Thompson (PH) dec. Austin Williams 8-2. 220 — Mason Cody (S) dec. Codey Shafer 4-3. Hwt — Braxton Amos (PH) pinned Elijah Price :23. Third Place MONROVIA 39, ADAMS CENTRAL 27 106 — Brycen Denny (M) dec.Logan Mosse 3-0. 113 — Parker Bates (AC) by forfeit. 120 — Chuck Capps (M) dec. Nick Liter 4-2. 126 — Austin Clark (M) dec. Anthony Mosser 7-4. 132 — Logan Macklin (AC) pinned Jonathon Smallwood 1:46. 138 — Gabe Schwaller (AC) pinned Logan McPeak 3:03. 145 — Ivan Wray (M) pinned Trevor Free 2:59. 152 — Ethan Stock (M) dec. Hunter Bates 2-1. 160 — Elijah Stock (M) dec. Brant Thieme 4-0. 170 — Ryan Ashley (AC) dec. Zach Boles 4-0. 182 — Aaron Cravens (M) pinned Skylar Douglas 2:12. 195 — Garrison Lee (M) pinned Chandler Schumm1:02. 220 — Dristin McCubbins (M) pinned Nash Brunner :19. Hwt — Dylan Schumm (AC) pinned Riley McCubbins 3:34. A — 2,331 (tournament record). Click here to view the article
  3. 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.
  4. 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
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