BY TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Kokomo’s Chad Gaddis scored a come-from-behind victory in the third period of his 152-pound match in the opening round of the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals on Friday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse and will join teammate Fletcher Miller, Peru’s Evan Loe and Western’s Corey Hinkle in today’s action in the state meet.
Quarterfinals begin at 9:30 a.m. Semifinals follow, then the consolation finals are at 5 p.m. and the championship matches begin at 7:30.
Gaddis scored a 10-6 victory over Carmel’s Eli Carlson with a five-point flurry in the final minute. Trailing 6-5 in the third period, Gaddis scored a takedown, then put Carlson on his back briefly to advance to this morning’s quarterfinals.
Gaddis had led 5-1 before running into trouble in the second period. It was tied 5-5 to start the third and the Kats decided to allow the Carmel wrestler to escape and take their chances on scoring a takedown to get back ahead.
“That put us down a point and Chad did a really good job,” Kokomo coach Ryan Wells said. “He gutted it out and found a way to make it happen. That was a great win for him.
“We’ve been talking all week that his goal wasn’t met yet, he wasn’t content with just being here. He wanted to medal. He wanted to be on the podium somewhere.”
Gaddis (52-3) faces Mishawaka’s Tristan Macri in this morning’s quarterfinals.
A third-place finisher in last week’s Fort Wayne Semistate, Gaddis was the only Tribune-area wrestler to advance from a spot below the top-seeded semistate winners. Miller, Loe and Corey Hinkle each won semistate titles last week and were among the four No. 1 seeds in their weight classes.
Miller, the runner-up last season at 220 pounds, won his opener handily, scoring an 11-2 victory over Ben Davis’ Kasha’ Wilder.
“He just went out and did what he’s been doing all year, he was good on his feet and got multiple takedowns, did a really good job riding,” Wells said. “Hopefully, we can keep doing that [today].”
Miller takes a 54-1 record into a quarterfinal match against Harrison’s Seth Meyer.
At 182 pounds, Corey Hinkle controlled the action against Noblesville’s Ben Elliott. The Panther blanked Elliott in a 7-0 victory.
“We weren’t as crisp as I’d like to have been, he wrestled fine,” Western coach Chad Shepherd said. “We knew what to expect and we knew what we had to do.”
Corey Hinkle (44-3) wrestles Kankakee Valley’s Timothy Schoonveld today in the quarterfinals.
“I think he can go as far as he wants to go,” Shepherd said. “Getting this first one out of the way, I’m sure that was a relief, but we’ve got to keep pushing now.”
Loe had little trouble with West Central’s Parker Fritz at 145 pounds. Loe, an eighth-place finisher last year at 138 pounds, scored a 9-3 victory.
“He’s obviously an experienced operator,” Peru coach Andy Hobbs said of Loe. “We knew this opponent and the next one, they’re very similar, they’re big, physical kids. That kind of changes style up a little bit and you have to go at it a certain way. He had to work hard, but his finishes are really good. he was able to finish about half his shots and keep the guy busy.”
“That kid was real strong,” Loe said. “When I got in on a leg, I finished. He’s real good at blocking off and he was a pretty good match.”
A quarterfinal match with Fishers’ Jordan Lile awaits Loe (47-2), who feels more capable of working his way through the bracket this season than in his previous two trips to state.
“I definitely do,” he said. “I’m prepared to win this thing. This is my last year and I’m not going to back down for anything.”
He’s openly hungry for a title.
“I’m prepared to change my life [today],” Loe said.
Four other local wrestles were eliminated Friday night.
Western senior Dustin Hinkle (39-5) was stunned by a second period reversal and pin by Center Grove’s Tyler Fleener shortly after Dustin Hinkle had scored a takedown.
“I’ve talked to a dozen people and everybody is in agreement, we were in control of that match,” Shepherd said. “We were wrestling our game plan and it was working, and the kid [Fleener] was about to lose his mind. We had him frustrated. He gave us a penalty point already. We were where we needed to be. We were all excited, then we were like ‘oh my gosh how did we get here?’ But you know what, [Dustin] did everything we asked him to do; very proud of him.”
Peru’s Kegan Kern lost 7-3 to McCutcheon’s Seth Carithers at 132 pounds. The Bengal Tiger senior finished the season 39-7.
Classmate Nick Cress (40-11) was pinned with one second left in the first period by New Palestine’s Brian Wagner.
“They both had kids that were semistate champs, both wrestled really hard, wrestled some talented kids,” Hobbs said. “They were just kind of overmatched a little bit in certain situations. [Kern and Cress had] great careers. They’re going to leave their mark on the program, a real good one.”
Kokomo senior Keair Ross lost 15-0 to Penn’s Chase Osborn. Ross was 33-7 as a senior. He wrestled the state tournament trail with a torn meniscus in each knee, injuries that caused him to miss several matches in the regular season.
“It was just a tough draw,” Wells said. “Coming in a 4 and seeing a 1, that’s tough. The Osborn kid has been picked by a lot of guys to win the state. Keair made it here and there’s a lot to be proud of for that. He’s had a great career with us and it’s been a lot of fun coaching him.”