Exclusive Club

INDIANAPOLIS — As Chad (C.J.) Red’s win total climbs, the clubs he belongs to contain fewer members.

On Saturday, the New Palestine junior became the 27th wrestler in Indiana High School Athletic Association history to win three state championships.

There are eight members of the four-time state title group. And only two wrestlers have ever completed an IHSAA career with undefeated records. 

Red, at 139-0, has a chance to join the exclusive four-title and career-undefeated alliances next season. Lance Ellis said he believes Red will do it.

Ellis, the current Roncalli head coach, became the first wrestler in state history to compile a perfect career when he won his fourth championship for Cathedral in 1989 and finished 172-0. Alex Tsirtis (236-0) of Griffith duplicated Ellis’ feat in 2004.

Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Ellis spoke on a number of topics, including the relationship between C.J. Red and his dad/coach, Chad Red Sr.

On whether or not C.J. Red can capture a perfect high school career:

“Definitely. Everybody knows that. He’s the real deal. He lives for wrestling. I don’t see him getting beat. He travels all over the country. His dad’s a great coach. They’ve got a good relationship. That’s what makes it click, the father-son relationship is really good.”

On Chad Red’s coaching:

“There’s a lot of good kids here who have been coached (in travel/offseason programs) by Chad Red since they were little kids: the Lee kids from Mater Dei (Nick Lee, champ at 132; Joe Lee, runner-up at 138); Blake Rypel (champ at 195); Alston Bane (third at 145), who pulled off some nice wins for Richmond today. He’s a Chad Red kid. 

“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about coach Red and what he’s done. C.J. and my son (Nick Ellis, eighth place at 132 pounds) have been wrestling since they were 4 years old. And we beat him once when he was 4 (laughs), but we haven’t beat him since.” 

On C.J. Red’s potential:

“He’s on another level, obviously. He’s the type of kid you might see in the Olympics one day, honestly. We’re lucky to have him in this state to help raise the level of the rest of these kids. They see C.J., and everybody knows, if you want to go to the next level, that’s where you need to be. And he’s definitely far above his competition.” 

On heading into a senior season undefeated for a career:

“Going into my senior year, I was kind of like a veteran at that point. You just do the same routines that you do. You keep working hard. 

“I’ll be honest with you, this tournament to C.J. Red is like a sectional for the country. He comes in knowing he’s going to win. And not being cocky, he comes in expecting to win. He’s already beat all these kids before. They’ve never even come close to him. So, he comes into a tournament like this, it’s just another day. He’s used to the big stage, the national stage, where he’s won.

“So, I would just keep doing the same things you do. Work your butt off. Guys like C.J. and me, we know how much time we put in, and we just don’t want to lose. In my case, there were probably kids better than me that I beat, but it’s a mentality that you just don’t want to lose. And once you get to a certain point, you just refuse to lose. You get through that freshman year, and you’re like, ‘Hey let’s keep this going. Sophomore year is usually the toughest. By junior and senior, you’re just like, ‘I’m not going to lose.'”

On motivation:

“We all had haters. You see C.J. after a match, throwing hands up and this and that. And I told a guy that I was standing next to, ‘You know what, he’s not like that off the mat, at all.’ And I think if you talk to people that knew me back then, I was the same way. You’ve got to work yourself up for a match. This sport is 100 percent mental. I was cocky, arrogant on the mat. Off the mat, totally different. But, that’s just being a competitor and being at that level. You get hyped, you go out, you win, you hear the talk.

“The Malloy match (C.J. Red’s semifinal match), been on the (indianamat.com) board all week, they’ve been hyping that up. He’s a kid, a 16-, 17-year-old kid. He reads that stuff. So, that gets his juices flowing. So when he goes out and beats him, of course he’s going to get up and point at his family and his students and stuff, and that’s what makes this sport great. There’s a lot of emotion in this sport. I had it, too.”

On C.J. Red’s reputation:

“Off the mat, he’s a nice, quiet, respectable kid. And the dad’s the same way. You know, he gets rowdy out there, but I can tell you right now, in a few hours, I’m going to be with his dad over at the Alexander (Hotel), and we’re going to be with his dad, kicking back having a good time. No doubt about it, I already told him he’s buying tonight (laughs). 

“People in wrestling get C.J., because all these kids know him. The crowd probably doesn’t, but wrestling is a big family and all these kids know him. They’ve been on trips with him; they respect him. They know that off the mat, he’s just a normal kid, and the dad is the same way. I’m the same way as a dad/coach myself. I’m in trouble half the tournaments I coach in. But, get me off the mat and once we settle down, we’re just regular people. “

More on C.J. Red’s potential:

“No. 1 in the country (ranking by Flo Wrestling) — that’s saying something, because there’s a lot of good kids in the country. Lot of studs. I wish him the best. There’s a really good chance you’ll see him in the Olympics one day. Definitely in the NCAA championships. If he chooses to pursue the international style, he’ll beat anybody. It’s confidence and training. He puts the time in. He definitely puts the time in. He deserves everything he gets.

“He’s a special kid. Got a very bright future. I would say, pound-for-pound, he’s the best kid in the state. Great family, great kid. You don’t get much better than that.”

Pull Quote

“He’s already beat all these kids before. They’ve never even come close to him. So, he comes into a tournament like this, it’s just another day.”

– Lance Ellis, the first wrestler in IHSAA history to go undefeated for a career, on C.J. Red