By Pedro Velazco
Peru — When Kokomo’s Andrew Ledford scored a dramatic pin with 14 seconds left in the championship of the 120-pound weight class at the Peru Wrestling Regional on Saturday, the Wildkat senior was bursting with so much joy he could hardly contain it. Hugs. High fives. More hugs.
“Oh, I wish I could live it for the rest of my life,” Ledford said of the emotion of that moment. “It’s a great feeling coming in here knowing that I was the underdog, and then pulling off a big win like that. And it gave Kokomo six points.”
Ledford’s late pin finished a come-from-behind victory over Maconaquah’s Chase Wilson. The speedy Wilson trusted in his ability to score flash takedowns so he allowed Ledford escape points twice in the match, including one to tie the match. But it was Ledford who came out on top of the final skirmish.
“We got in a front headlock position and I was trying to run a move called a cow catcher, and he started biting down real hard on it, so I just rolled through and ended up sticking him,” Ledford said.
The two hadn’t squared off this season prior to the regional. Heading into the final, they had combined for just seven losses and 81 wins on the season.
“Not this year, but last year I saw him at the regional final and I beat him by a few points,” said Ledford, who improved to 42-3 this season. “He’s definitely better than he was, but everybody gets caught.”
Ledford said this year’s championship felt even better than last year’s. The next stop is Fort Wayne on Saturday for semistate action. There, each wrestler must win twice to assure himself a spot in the state finals. Only a quarter of all semistate wrestlers entered survive to the state meet. After winning a difficult match on Saturday, Ledford feels well prepared.
“We have semistate and I’m going to be seeing a lot of tough opponents like Chase Wilson,” he said. “It was a good look for me [on Saturday].”
Ledford flattened all three of his opponents on Saturday en route to the podium to earn a return trip to Fort Wayne. Another senior standout who pinned his way to the semistate isn’t making a repeat appearance at the semistate. He didn’t even wrestle last season.
Eastern heavyweight Chris Travis was on the mat for 3:06 on Saturday. That’s all three matches combined. No opponent survived the first round without feeling the helplessness of his shoulders pinned to the mat by the big Comet. This from a senior who hadn’t wrestled since giving up the sport after a few matches as a freshman.
His was an unlikely return.
“The coach [Bob Jarrett] actually came up to me and he’s like, ‘Hey, do you want to wrestle this season?’ And I said, ‘Sure, why not, keep me in shape.’ I just came out and started doing well.”
That’s an understatement. The Class 2A all-state football lineman takes a 40-4 record into the semistate. He didn’t expect that kind of success when he returned to the mat this past fall. He didn’t grasp his potential until wins started rolling in.
“When we started to go to big tournaments and I started placing in them, I started getting first place. That’s when I discovered that,” Travis said.
Travis walks around at just under the heavyweight limit of 285 pounds. He handles opponents with strength few can match, and growing wrestling knowledge.
“I guess some of it has to do with strength, but I pick up things real quick, things that the coach has taught me,” Travis said of how he’s besting opponents this season.
Next week, competition will get significantly more difficult. The semistate is a daunting challenge but Travis hopes to be ready. He said he needs to “just keep working real hard in the weight room, keep getting stronger and working on my moves.”