YORKTOWN – Dru Berkebile describes himself as someone with a singular focus. If the Yorktown freshman is working on his math homework, his attention is devoted solely to the equations in front of him. If he is playing a video game with his younger brother, he is focused entirely on the action on the screen.
So when he enters the wrestling room for practice each afternoon, his attention is in that room and on the task at hand.
“He’s pretty quiet,” senior teammate Dax Hiestand said. “He can be loud outside of practice, but in practice he’s focused. Yeah, he just takes it in. He enjoys practice for what it is. He’s not wasting time focused on other things. He’s there for wrestling, and he gets what he can out of practice.”
Berkebile’s hard work has helped him to immediate success at the high school level. He was the 152-pound champion at the Fort Wayne Snider Semistate last weekend, a performance that qualified him for the state tournament, which begins Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Berkebile (36-5) will face Centerville’s Isaiah Michaels (40-4) in the opening round Friday. By qualifying for state as a semistate champion, Berkebile will open state against a wrestler who finished fourth at his semistate.
“It just comes along with everything I do,” Berkebile said. “I just like to focus and do my best at that one thing I’m doing.”
Berkebile is one of eight Yorktown wrestlers will be competing at state. Delta will also be represented with three qualifiers, and Jay County, Winchester and New Castle will each have one competitor.
Entering high school at 152 pounds (he was a middle school state champion at 150 pounds) means Berkebile often faces opponents who are older and more experienced. In his semifinal match at semistate, Berkebile defeated Fort Wayne Carroll’s Josh Garman, a junior who was undefeated prior to their meeting.
Berkebile sees his build as something he can’t control, so he doesn’t dwell on the fact that he entered high school at a weight class often filled with older competitors. He said training with 145-pound teammate Cael McCormick (a junior) and 170-pounder Dillon Jackson (a senior) has helped him simulate the challenge of more experienced opponents, with Jackson providing the added bonus of being bigger.
Yorktown coach Trent McCormick said he sees an overall mental toughness in Berkebile, something he believes helps him when wrestling against those more experienced competitors.
“There’s always a difference in maturity anytime you’re talking about an underclassman versus an upperclassman,” Trent McCormick said. “But an underclassman can equal the playing field with added technique, stubbornness, some other factors.”
Berkebile said he took up wrestling on something of a whim. A thought popped into his head, that he wondered what wrestling might be like. So he asked his father if he could try it, and his father agreed. He took a liking to the sport, saying he enjoys the physical contact.
Berkebile has a clear sense that he still has plenty to learn from his more experienced teammates, those who are either older than him or started the sport at a younger age.
So when he is at practice, demonstrating his sharp focus, he does keep an eye on the rest of the room, seeing if he might be able to learn some helpful hints for his own wrestling repertoire.
“Sometimes there’s a feeling where I don’t know exactly what I’m doing,” Berkebile said. “So I can always look over at Brad Laughlin or Cael McCormick or Dillon Jackson, or those type of guys. I just know they’ll lead me in the right way. They’re doing the right thing, because they obviously know what they’re doing, they’ve all been to state themselves. And they know high-caliber wrestling. So I just feel like I can follow them.”
Contact prep sports reporter Sam Wilson at (765) 213-5807. Follow him on Twitter @SamWilsonTSP.
IHSAA State Wrestling
• Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
• When: 6 p.m. Friday (first round); 9:30 a.m. Saturday (quarterfinals); 5 p.m. Saturday (consolations); 7:30 p.m. Saturday (finals)
• ECI opening matchups: Christian Hunt (106, Yorktown, 46-3) vs. Klayton Anderson (Hamilton Southeastern, 38-2); Sage Coy (132, Delta 39-1) vs. Cale McCoy (Northview, 40-9); Brad Laughlin (138, Yorktown, 46-4) vs. Triston Rodriguez (Culver Community, 38-3); Cael McCormick (145, Yorktown, 48-1) vs. Alston Bane (Richmond, 38-4); Dru Berkebile (152, Yorktown, 36-5) vs. Isaiah Michaels (Centerville, 40-4); Jacob Gray (160, Delta, 39-0) vs. Kody Caudle (Danville, 35-8); Dillon Jackson (170, Yorktown, 32-4) vs. Spencer Irick (Hamilton Southeastern, 36-9); Andy Kohler (182, Jay County, 36-6) vs. Evan Elmore (Avon, 28-4); Hunter Hiestand (182, Yorktown, 46-5) vs. Kyle Shaffer (South Putnam, 39-1); Caleb Hoots (182, New Castle, 45-6) vs. Chase Osborn (Penn, 35-0); Myron Howard (195, Yorktown, 23-1) vs. Jake LaMar (Castle, 19-7); Scottie Evans (195, Delta) vs. Christian Redmond (Jennings County, 41-7); Dustyn Hangen (220, Winchester, 39-3) vs. Kobe Woods (Penn, 40-0); Dax Hiestand (285, Yorktown, 41-10) vs. Shawn Streck (Merrillville, 42-0)