Combined they barely weigh 200 pounds, but they are the strength of Lafayette Jeff’s wrestling team.
Sophomore Jon Anderson and senior Dusty Miller will take the mat in Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night donning Broncho black and red.
It’s the first time coach Tom Miller’s program has had two participants in the IHSAA state finals since 2007, when Justin Fruits competed at 140 pounds and Travis DePew made it at 215.
“This is a huge step forward. It’s been eight years since we’ve had two wrestlers go, so it means a lot to our program,” said Miller, whose lone loss at 113 pounds this season came in Saturday’s semistate championship, a 2-0 setback to Penn’s undefeated Drew Hildebrandt.
Anderson lost his 106-pound title match, but both reaching the final at a tough Merrillville Semistate offered a needed experience with a bigger stage awaiting.
“You’ve got to be ready for what happens Friday night,” Tom Miller said. “It’s a whole new ballgame. That is the elite level. That is the level you want to try to get to and hopefully our guys will be ready.”
Partial credit for the success goes to Bronchos Clay Jones and Avery Grimes. A mistake in the ticket round at semistate cost Jones in a pinfall loss, but his preparation daily in practices this season head-to-head with Miller prepared the future Wabash Little Giant grappler to finally break through after losing the past two years one victory short of a state trip.
Grimes wrestles daily against Anderson, the scrappy 106-pounder who said despite reaching the semistate finals last Saturday, it was not his best day on the mat.
For Anderson, satisfaction briefly set in after winning his quarterfinal match, which guaranteed a trip to Indianapolis seven days later. He was not pleased with a 16-0 tech fall loss to Lowell’s Colton Cummings in the final.
“I am not just satisfied with going. I want to go as far as I can,” Anderson said. “That feeling of knowing I went as far as I could, I tried as hard as I could, I did the best I could, that is when I feel satisfied.”
Brownsburg freshman Tyler Mills (33-6) awaits Anderson (47-2), while Miller (36-1) competes against Evansville Mater Dei sophomore Kyle Luigs (32-4).
Anderson and Miller will have their names added to the wall of Broncho legends in the Norm Willey wrestling room.
The hope is that there’s some numerals next to their names.
“Our goal is to get a number beside their name on the wall, which means they are a state place winner, and our goal is to get the lowest number we can get,” Tom Miller said.
Harrison 220-pounder Seth Meyer is the first Raider to advance to state three times. After placing last year, Meyer (52-3) will open against Eastern’s Evan Ellis (42-2).
Benton Central junior Blake Strawsma (39-3) faces Roncalli’s Nick Ellis (37-8) in the opening round at 132 pounds. Southmont’s Connor Moore (36-8) wrestles Evansville Mater Dei’s Joe Lee (31-1) at 138 pounds. Moore’s Mountie teammate, Zach Worm (37-7), matches up against Adams Central senior Kaine Luginbill (39-4) at 170 pounds. Also at 170, Delphi’s Hunter Mote (36-1) battles Brownsburg freshman Nathan Walton (39-7) and North Montgomery’s Jesse Archer (40-2) will face Crown Point’s Darden Schurg (37-3) at 160.
Scott Hinkel, a former Purdue wrestler who served as Boilermakers’ head coach from 2007-14 and is currently an assistant at Harrison, will receive the Billy Thom Award at the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association banquet for his contributions to wrestling.
IHSAA state finals
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse
First round: 6 p.m. Friday
Quarterfinals: 9:30 a.m. Saturday with semifinals to follow
Consolations: 5 p.m. Saturday
Finals: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $8 per session or $20 for both days.
If you go: Bankers Life Fieldhouse is at 125 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in Indianapolis.