A day may come when Frankfort senior Hugo Perez appreciates the accomplishments of his senior season.
The 132-pound wrestler, who had never advanced to state before this season, pulled first-round and quarterfinal upsets. He lost only four of his 46 matches and finished fourth in the state.
Yet three of those losses came against the two wrestlers who experienced the one thing missing from Perez’s senior accolades: a state championship match under the spotlight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Perry Meridian junior Cody Lecount beat Mishawaka’s Grant Martsolf in the 132-pound finals. Martsolf, who was the first wrestler to beat Perez earlier this season, knocked Perez into the third-place match with a 12-2 semifinal victory. Lecount, the eventual state champion, had beaten Perez in the New Castle Semistate semifinals.
After pulling upsets in his first two matches, Perez’s season ended with two losses, including a 15-6 loss to Franklin’s Skyler Lykins for third place.
“It’s good. I’m happy about it. I’m just a little disappointed in those two matches,” Perez said. “I could have done much better, but I just wasn’t wrestling my best I guess.”
Perez’s performance led the four area wrestlers who reached Saturday’s quarterfinals. Benton Central’s Jacob Ricks and Delphi’s Justin Berumen finished fifth and eighth, respectively, at 195. North Montgomery’s Nick Borta took seventh at 152.
Due to his loss to Lecount at New Castle, Perez (42-4) settled for a third-place finish, and a tougher draw at state. But he announced his arrival with a first-period pin of South Bend Clay’s Mitch Hartman – a two-time state medalist – on Friday night.
In Saturday’s quarterfinals, Perez rallied for a 5-3 victory over previously unbeaten Ben Davis senior Levi Moss. But those upsets didn’t console Perez much after Saturday’s losses.
“His goal was to be at the top of the podium, and we fell just a little bit short,” Frankfort coach Richard Sallee said.
Perez scored a takedown 52 seconds into his semifinal against Martsolf and led 2-1 into the second period. But after starting that period in the down position, he could not manage an escape or reversal, and Martsolf managed two late near-fall points to take the lead into the third period.
The Cavemen senior went on to control the final minute of the third period and rebuff Perez’s attempt to avenge a 10-6 loss at the Hobart Invitational.
“It took a lot (out of me),” Perez said of the hard-fought second period. “I feel like it drained everything out of me.”
Ricks was also left wondering what might have been. In a back-and-forth quarterfinal match against South Spencer’s Kalob Salkill, Ricks jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, then narrowly avoided being pinned, and led 7-5 entering the second period.
By scoring a takedown and adding three near-fall points, Ricks led 12-6 and seemed to be in control. But Salkill swung a quick reversal, put Ricks on his back and finished the pin with 39.1 seconds left in the second period.
“When I was done, I was about to be done wrestling for the day,” said Ricks, who said he felt he pinned Salkill on four occasions after watching the video. “It was gut-wrenching and it was horrible. Enough pats on the back from the family saying they were sorry, they knew what I was going through, helps, I guess. No other way to put it but to man up and keep going.”
By defeating Roncalli senior Mason Nickell 8-3 in the consolation semifinals, Ricks avenged his only regular-season loss. He then made good on his vow to win the final match of his senior season, beating Jay County’s Kyle Garringer 7-3 for fifth place.
Ricks finished 49-2 and became the Bison’s first state medalist since Bryan Benner in 2007.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done, and nobody can take it away from me,” Ricks said.
Ricks and Berumen, longtime rivals who wrestled for the Merrillville Semistate championship a week before, nearly met again in the fifth-place match. But after Ricks defeated Nickell, Berumen fell 6-3 to Garringer.
Berumen (36-10) was emotional after losing the seventh-place match to Nickell, 10-4. After finishing third at the Logansport Regional, Berumen battled back to become Delphi’s 10th state medalist in the past six seasons.
“I feels amazing, because I’ve never had the feeling to come here,” said Berumen, who was knocked into the consolations by an 11-10 quarterfinal loss to Bloomington South senior Clayton Fiddler. “I just wanted to keep their tradition going and see how far we could get, and I got as far as I could.”
With his opening-round victory Friday night, Borta became North Montgomery’s first medal winner. A 15-10 quarterfinal loss to Muncie Southside senior Isaiah Bradley, the defending state champion, knocked Borta into the consolations.
After losing an all-Sagamore Conference consolation semifinal to Danville’s Brayden Montgomery, Borta (39-6) bounced back to beat Huntington North senior Sebastian Eckert 10-4 for seventh.
“We’ve had a lot of kids make it to Friday night, but none of them actually got it done,” Borta said. “I’m glad to just get over the North Montgomery hump, I guess. We have a board in our room: ‘Who will be the first to make it happen?’ I always looked upon that and it kept me going, made me work harder.”
LeCount’s victory in the 132 pound title match helped Perry Meridian claim the team championship. The IHSAA returned to team scoring at the state tournament after discontinuing the separate dual-match team state tournament after last season.