The seeds for Wapahani senior wrestler Hunter Randolph’s rise were sown in the fertile soil of defeat back in his freshman season. He saw the season end too early, cut short in the postseason, and it stuck with him and spurred him on.
But now, after consecutive trips to semistate with time running short in his career, Randolph has his eyes set on making one more plateau before finishing his time with the Raiders.
Now at 145 pounds, Randolph has crafted himself a long, successful run at Wapahani. He won his 100th match at the Mid-Eastern Conference tournament, made the unusual jump from a sectional-level wrestler to semistate-level between his freshman and sophomore seasons and currently boasts a 20-3 record this year.
But he’s still missing one thing: a trip to state. After advancing to this week’s Jay County Regional with a second-place finish in last weekend’s Delta Sectional, he’s bearing down on his final chance to reach the state level.
He attacks the sport with the competitive flame that came alight all the way back as a freshman.
“I got put out in sectionals and I didn’t want that again,” Randolph said. “So that whole entire summer I was training every day, running three to five miles.”
Raiders wrestling coach Bryant Whitaker added: “I think he knew, he was a better wrestler than that his freshman year. He should have made it past sectionals. It got in his head and made him work a little bit harder.”
That hard work meant training year-round, attending high-level camps and working out with Yorktown’s strong program. It meant embracing the toughness and mental fortitude required by the sport.
Randolph started wrestling in second grade and quickly took to the sport. His uncles Kurt Harrington and Brian Faulkner, who had both wrestled, helped nurture his interest and attended his matches.
Although he has won more than 100 matches across four weight classes (112, 130, 138 and 145) and could make semistate in three, Randolph said his best memory as a Raider was a team accomplishment in the conference crown Wapahani won his freshman season. Although the squad’s numbers have dipped in recent years reducing its depth, Randolph still maintains that team-centric outlook to the point where Whitaker sometimes has to remind him to not spend all his time helping teammates at the expense of focusing on himself in the lead-up to the postseason.
In that quest, Randolph will have to face one notable East Central Indiana competitor. Yorktown’s Eli Walker is ranked third in the state at 145 by IndianaMat.com, and he beat Randolph 11-3 in the sectional final. Whitaker said Randolph faces a larger challenge from a Tigers wrestler because training with them gives Yorktown coaches a good scouting report.
But despite any of that, Randolph’s only aim is reaching a mat in Indianapolis 18 days from now, the goal of state four years in the making.
“It’s everything to me because I’ve been working since I was 8 years old, and I’ve been striving to get better,” Randolph said. “So it would mean everything for me to get to state because it’s everything I’ve worked for.”