By Pedro Velazco
— Peru’s Evan Loe has traveled this road before. The junior wrestled at state last year, losing an opening-round match on Friday. It’s not something he shook off easily.
“Last year, it was really devastating to lose my Friday night match,” said Loe. “It makes me want to work that much harder to get back to it this year.”
Loe is back this year, up a weight class at 138 pounds. He’ll take his 43-3 record against Merrillville junior Isaac Rentas (32-11). The experience of last year’s trip to state not only fuels Loe, it should help him concentrate on what he has to do this season. His experience would help any wrestler stepping out on the floor of Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the first time.
“Imagine no one else is in the place, because if you look up, it’s everyone around you and it’s nerve-wracking,” Loe said. “Just imagine it’s you and that guy in the spotlight, and no one else is watching. Wrestle your heart out and never stop.”
Loe will join fellow Miami County wrestler Chase Wilson of Maconaquah at state, as well as Kokomo’s Andrew Ledford and Fletcher Miller, and Clinton Central’s Jeffrey Scott.
Another advantage for Loe, besides state experience, is his familiarity with the field at 138 pounds. Peru coach Andy Hobbs said Loe has faced most of the field in high school or off-season competition. He faced Rentas in the fall of 2012.
“I wrestled him in a preseason tournament and I beat him up pretty good, but I heard he’s gotten a lot better and he’ll probably put up a good fight,” Loe said.
“Since I’ve wrestled the No. 1 guy twice and the No. 3 guy, I know how they wrestle, I know what I have to do to beat them, I just have to get it in my head that I can beat them.”
Hobbs is a believer. He’s hoping to see Loe make “a run at the top of the podium. He’s going to have to wrestle up, wrestle perfect, that kind of thing.”
Hobbs too stressed having the right attitude.
“I think he’s quite a bit better than he was a year ago, quite a bit more confident. Pressure is such a big issue when you get to that point. The guy that’s fearless is usually able to put the matches together.”
• Maconaquah junior Wilson (42-7) faces Lowell freshman Drew Hughes (36-1) at 120 pounds. Wilson is a rarity for this area in that he finished second in the regional, and had to topple a regional champion in the semistate in order to get through.
“The first 15 seconds, he took the guy down and he got into the Chase Wilson mode of determination,” Mac coach Bob Freije said of Wilson’s ticket-round match, which he won by pin in a minute flat.
At that point, Wilson had no choice. He had to win to get through.
“Once I lost in the regional I was bummed, so I had a lot of fire to go into semistate,” Wilson said. “I wanted to get to state really bad. I had the best draw I could have had. The second round [ticket round to state], I was really focused and stayed calm and wrestled like it was a normal match. The stress was off. A lot of the pressure was off.”
The pressure will be back on Friday.
“Yeah, but I don’t have that much to lose,” Wilson said. “I’m wrestling the best I can, the best of my ability. Hopefully I’ll win and make it to Saturday and place.”
Wilson is the last Brave in the wrestling room. He said he’s concentrating on not getting caught in any headlocks or throws, keeping his head down and staying in safe positions as he works for takedowns. It’s an approach he’s been good at.
“It’s just being solid on his feet,” Freijie said. “He’s just really got to be solid on his feet and bring his best performance. It comes down to who is the closest to perfection of the two that wrestle each round.”
• Clinton Central junior Scott (37-3) faces Fort Wayne North senior Anthony Linnear (32-4) at 170 pounds.
Western wrestling coach Chad Shepherd has been named the Regional 7 Coach of the Year. Shepherd helped eight Panthers advance to the semistate round out of the Peru Regional, despite fielding a team with no seniors and several newcomers.
The week before, the Panthers ran away with the Oak Hill Sectional title.
The Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association will recognize Shepherd at the Spring Clinic on April 26 at the Ruth Lilly Fitness Center at the University of Indianapolis.
Hollingsworth named top official, picked for HOF
Howard County’s Mark Hollingsworth has been named the recipient of the 2013 Interscholastic Athletic Official Association Award for Excellence in wrestling. He’ll be honored in a ceremony at the state finals this weekend. He was picked by a committee representing the officials’ organizations. The IHSAA recognizes one official in each of 11 sports during the school year.
In addition, Hollingsworth will be inducted into the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame on Sunday. He has been a wrestling official for 23 years, ranging from middle school to Division I college action. He’s worked 25 sectionals, 22 regionals, 19 semistates, six individual state finals and three team state finals.
Hollingsworth coached Northwestern before turning to officiating. He teaches at Western.
Several local athletes have been recognized by the IHSWCA for academic performance.
Peru’s Braxton Simpson (3.9 GPA) and Tipton’s Derek Long (4) were named to the senior squad.
Taylor’s Kalob Bitner, and Joshua Foust, Peru’s Kaleb Hammersley, Colin Quin and Kane Rockenbaugh, were named honorable mention to the senior squad.
Peru’s Shane Garretson (3.8 GPA) and Connor Quin (4), Maconaquah’s Wesley Willson (4) and Sam Buol (4), Cass’ Kolbie Cox (4), Gabe Welch (4.2) and Brock Reish (4.01), Taylor’s Preston Hendrickson (3.9), Western’s Russell McDorman (3.92), and Kokomo’s Fletcher Miller (3.9) were all named to the junior team.
Maconaquah’s Nick Ingram, Chase Wilson, Dylan Askhar, and Nick Ingram, Northwestern’s Luke Akers, Peru’s Kegan Kern, Taylor’s Logan Sarber, and Tipton’s Cody Thomas, Nate Hein and Bryan Wisenberg were named honorable mention to the junior team.