Alston Bane is no stranger to big matches.
No stranger to wrestling through adversity, either.
The Richmond sophomore has seen plenty of both this season — though his biggest challenge to date comes this Friday.
Bane has waited a long time for this moment, too, as he takes his place among the best wrestlers in the state at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“As a little kid, I’ve been going to the state tournament every year, and watching the kids as they walked around in the parade of champions, just dreaming about the day that I could be able to do that,” Bane said. “I’m looking forward to it a lot.”
Bane’s dream will soon become reality as he lines up opposite Yorktown’s Cael McCormick at 145 pounds in the opening round of this year’s state wrestling meet.
McCormick is 48-1 and Bane is 38-4. The winner faces either Tavonte Malone (35-3) of South Bend Adams or Blake Jourdan (24-3) of Evansville Mater Dei in a quarterfinal.
“It’s a pretty deep weight class,” said RHS coach Jeremy Bane, who is Alston’s father. “There are 13 kids, including Alston, who could win.
“We’ll prepare this week, try to win a match and get on the podium.”
Friday’s first round begins at 6 p.m., with quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
Consolations begin at 5 p.m. and the finals at 7:30.
Even though this is Bane’s first trip to the state meet, he is well versed in pressure situations. Bane has been wrestling since a young age, and comes into Friday as a two-time sectional and regional champion.
“He’s very mentally tough,” coach Bane said. “Since the kid was 5 years old, we’ve wrestled all over the country. He’s competed against the best in the nation. He was very disappointed last year with the ticket-round loss (at semistate). He’s happy with the qualification, but he wants more.”
More in this case includes trying to advance through a stacked field of 145 competitors, including nine wrestlers with three losses or less. McCormick and Jacob Covaciu of Merrillville each have just one loss.
Covaciu, a junior, is ranked first in the state according to indianamat.com, while McCormick is second. Bane is ranked 18th.
“You go in, and when you get wins, they’re noticeable,” Alston Bane said of wrestling in such a strong weight class. “When you take losses, you know you took losses to some pretty good competitors.”
Bane’s first postseason loss came at the New Castle semistate to Trent Pruitt of Warren Central. Bane finished fourth.
Bane has battled a knee injury throughout the second half the season. It occurred during a tournament at Franklin County in January, and prevented him from competing in this year’s North Central Conference meet.
He returned at the sectional to defeat Shenandoah’s Josh Gee in the 145 final, then claimed the regional crown at Tiernan Center a week later.
Bane also combated a knee injury a year ago in winning sectional and regional championships at 132.
“It hasn’t slowed me down too much,” he said of this year’s campaign.
“It made me change up my style a little bit, to get lower in my stance. It just helps me keep my motion up. It helps me wrestle a little bit better, I think.”
Bane will be joined at the state meet by RHS heavyweight Nate Trawick, who is making his second consecutive trip to Indianapolis.
Coach Bane believes the duo are the first Red Devil teammates to qualify for state in the same year since Ben Wissel and Charles Moore did so in 2001.
“Alston is a really good wrestler. He’s a hard worker. He was close last year. Good for him going this year,” Trawick said. “The program is going in the right direction. We had five semistate qualifiers. I’m just happy for my teammates.”
And Bane is happy for the opportunity to test his mettle against the best in the state.
“I have to keep my motion up and keep my fakes up, get up on my attacks and just ride tough on top,” Bane said.
Added coach Bane: “You have to give up a lot when you’re a wrestler. Wrestling is a lifestyle. Alston chose that, and that’s what he wants to do. He’s persevered through a lot. When you’ve made that commitment, it’s hard to give up on your dreams and goals.”
Josh Chapin: (765) 973-4463 email@example.com or twitter.com/JoshChapinPI