Yorktown wrestler Chandler Carroll can fall back on his past experience at the state tournament. Today, he’ll be making his third trip, and he already understands the rhythms of the event; when to warm up, what it feels like step out in front of the crowd in a massive arena and even the process of putting wrestling out of mind at the hotel between the Friday and Saturday sessions.
And in a program with the depth and recent history of success the Tigers have, the wrestlers with state experience — Carroll (138 pounds), Rhett Hiestand (160) and Schuyler Phillips (120) — get the chance to pass along their knowledge to the four wrestlers making their first trip to state.
“We’re kind of trying to mentor Cael McCormick; he’s our freshman this year,” Carroll said. “We have a couple of other kids, Eli Walker, Dalton Baysinger, it’s their first time too, and they understand that we’ve been trying to mentor them on that.”
Myron Howard at 182 rounds out that group of seven Tigers who make up more than half the 11 ECI wrestlers set to take the mat in tonight’s first round, which starts at 6 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The final three rounds will be Saturday, and this year there will also be a team element to the competition after the IHSAA ended the state duals tournament.
Southside will send two wrestlers, defending 152-pound state champion Isaiah Bradley and 170-pounder Jacob Reed, while Jay County will send Kyle Garringer at 195 and heavyweight Eric Hemmelgarn, who finished third at state last year. This is the first time the Patriots have two wrestlers at state since 1999.
Each class has a bracket with 16 wrestlers who each finished in the top four at their semistate.
“There are no weak links at this event,” Yorktown coach Trent McCormick said. “Everybody’s earned their way there. They’ve proven that they should be there, and the wrestlers that compete with confidence and stubbornness, they’re the ones that usually advance on.”
He and Southside coach Tony Abbott both agreed the key for wrestlers is only focusing on what’s directly ahead, as to not letting the moment and the stage become overwhelming. Carroll admitted it’s human nature to try to peek ahead at competitors further on in the bracket, but he fell back on the preparation from coaches to stay focused on the task at hand.
“We’re expected to win,” Hiestand said, speaking of the culture of his team. “We expect it of ourselves. Our community expects us to win and the coaches do. That can be stressful at times, but then again, it’s nice to have people pulling for you.”
The field of local wrestlers is dotted with state tournament experience, but few have as much as Bradley, who hopes to put the finishing touch on an already dominant career. This will be the senior’s fourth trip to the state tournament, and including the run to last season’s title, he has won 79 matches in a row.
Four more wins will make him the area’s first back-to-back champion since 1984, when Delta’s John Ginther won his second consecutive title.
“I want to capture another one for myself, the school, for everybody,” Bradley said. “I know I can do it. I want to remain at the top.”
And as he aims to stay there, everyone else hopes to climb to a similar height.
Contact sports reporter Ben Breiner at 213-5848. Follow at @BenBreinerTSP.