Last year, Cathedral High School took seven wrestlers to the state meet, placed four third or higher and won its first state title. Fast forward a year and the Irish appear to have the pieces in place to add another trophy to the school’s display case.
The Irish have six wrestlers in this weekend’s state meet field — three coming off semistate titles — leading coach Sean McGinley to believe his team is in a strong position to defend its title (see below).
Warren Central (seven participants, three semistate champs) and Avon (five and two) also could figure into the team mix. And never count out Perry Meridian, which has four qualifiers and has a realistic chance to put at least two wrestlers in the finals.
On the individual side, three 2014 state champs are back. Lawrence North’s Tommy Cash won the 138-pound title last year and is 41-2 this season. Franklin’s Jacob Stevenson (34-6) is looking to defend his 170-pound title.
Then there’s New Palestine junior Chad Red, who is looking to become just the 27th three-time state champ. The top-ranked 126-pound wrestler in the nation, Red is 43-0 this season and 135-0 in his career.
Danville’s Brock Hudkins (120 pounds) and Elliott Molloy (126), Cathedral’s Breyden Bailey and Blake Rypel, Ben Davis’ Dylan Lydy (170) and Norman Oglesby (285), and Perry Meridian’s Brandon James (138) also take undefeated records into this weekend.
The state prelims begin at 6 p.m. Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Saturday schedule st starts with quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m., consolation matches at 5 p.m. and finals at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 per session, $20 for both days.
Other storylines to watch:
Cathedral looking for repeat: In Rypel (see below), Bailey (43-0 at 120 pounds) and Ben Harvey (42-1 at 170), the Irish have three wrestlers ranked second or higher. All three could advance to the finals. “We’ve got six guys, and I think all six have a chance of placing pretty high,” McGinley said. “And that’s what you need to win this thing.”
Brandon James’ legacy: James (138 pounds) will go down as one of the top wrestlers in Perry Meridian history. He’s had three top-five state finishes, including a runner-up showing last year, and is 41-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. James doesn’t want to consider the possibility of not adding state champ to his résumé. “I don’t even want to think about not winning, honestly,” he said. “So far I’ve had a great season. The competition I’m going to have (at state), I’ve pretty much already seen everybody. I’m feeling pretty confident.”
Trent Pruitt is peaking: The Warren Central junior had a good regular season but has taken it up another level in winning sectional, regional and semistate titles. Pruitt, 39-2 and ranked sixth at 145 pounds, has seven pins in 10 postseason matches and hasn’t allowed a point in the other three matches. The reason for his success is simple. “(It’s) keeping your head into it and being mentally there,” Pruitt said. “I feel pretty confident.”
Dylan Lydy’s second shot: A year ago Ben Davis’ Dylan Lydy went into the semistate 36-1 and left it 37-2, losing in the second round — and falling short of advancing to state. Now 42-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state at 170 pounds, Lydy is out to show last year wasn’t a fluke. “I thought I was pretty capable of winning (state) last year,” Lydy said. “This year is about proving a point and getting the job done.”
Blake Rypel remembers: He’s 43-0, ranked No. 1 and looked unbeatable in the semistate. And the 195-pound Rypel is the heavy favorite to win his weight class this weekend. He also doesn’t have to look very far for motivation. Last year’s overtime loss in the 182-pound state final works well. “Every day that I practice I think about that,” he said. “If I ever do that again I’ll be broken, so I never want that again.”