IndyStar is recognizing the Indiana high school athletes of the week presented by Defenders. Top Hoosier athletes are nominated by their athletic directors and coaches. For more information about our Indiana Sports Awards, contact Matthew VanTryon at firstname.lastname@example.org or Matthew Glenesk at email@example.com. These athletes were chosen for the week ending Dec. 31.
Gunnar Larson, Avon
It didn’t take long for Avon wrestling coach Israel Blevins to see that Gunnar Larson was something special. He qualified for state as a freshman, something Blevins says is “nearly unheard of.”
“Hardly any kids do that,” he said.
Larson has continued to progress. He finished fifth at state as a sophomore and made it to the finals last year.
“I’ve tried a lot of new things technique-wise,” Larson said. “I used to just have one move, and that would help me win a lot of matches but it didn’t help me beat the really good kids. As I progressed, I added new attacks to my wrestling and that helped me beat the really good kids.’
Avon has plenty of talent on its wrestling squad. Asa Garcia is ranked first in the state at 113 lbs., Nathan Conley is fifth at 138, Jacob Clark is sixth at 152, Larson is second at 220 and Brett Henson is fifth at 285. And they all seem to be chasing after Larson.
“They all feed off each other. When you have good wrestler surrounded by other good wrestlers, they only get better, pushing each other and having workout partners,” Blevins said. “Through his hard work and example and the wins on the mat, everybody tries to keep up with that. That raises the bar for everyone.”
Larson broke the school record for most wins with his 127th career win at the IHSWCA Team State Duals several weeks ago. The record was set in 1987 by Keith Huddleston.
Larson says he likes helping other wrestlers on the team through his own experiences.
“(I enjoy) wrestling with them and telling them stuff I see, the stuff I noticed throughout my high school years – you need to add a couple more attacks, feel comfortable and don’t get stressed, just different stuff that I’ve learned and found out,” he said. “I try to help them, and in return they push me back. Iron sharpens iron.”
Larson will wrestle at West Point in college.
“I love the structure of the military and the chance to serve was something I was always kind of looking at,” he said. “They’ve got great coaches, they’ve got a good team. They’re deep in all the weight classes which means every person on the squad has had to battle three or four guys every day.”
But for now, he’ll focus on capturing that elusive state title.
“That’s his goal this year is to get back there and hopefully come out on top,” Blevins said.
Jack Hansen, Guerin Catholic
Hansen scored 84 points over three games in the McDonald’s Holiday Hoops Tournament on Dec. 29-30. He had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 16 minutes in the team’s opening-round win over Southridge. He scored a tournament-record 44 points in the team’s loss to Howe while grabbing 14 rebounds. He added 30 points in the team’s win over University. He is averaging a team-high 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on the season.
Mikayla Cleary, Covenant Christian
Cleary scored 31 points over two games for the Warriors in the Bostick Memorial Tournament last week. She had 18 points and six assists in the team’s opening-round win over Tindley and had 13 points and four assists in the team’s overtime loss to Roncalli in the championship game. Cleary is averaging 9.3 points and a team-high 4.5 assists per game this season.
Lauryn Parrish, Fishers
Parrish led the No. 6 Tigers to the team championship in the North Central Panther Invitational last week with wins in the 50 freestyle (24.59 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (57.36). The field included No. 3 Chesterton, No. 7 Franklin and No. 10 Fort Wayne Carroll.
Nick Squires, Pendleton Heights
Squires had the top two-game series (556) and the top two games (279 and 277) in the state last week. He raised his senior average to 230.
Brooklyn Schultz, Evansville Memorial
Schultz had the top series last week with 444 with games of 243 and 201. Her season average is 195.