INDIANAPOLIS — The hair is dyed a bright shade of red, matching the fluorescence of the green socks. A snappy dance move, and sometimes a back flip, serves as a victory celebration, often followed by a gesture toward the crowd.
When it comes to style, Chad (C.J.) Red is on point.
Beyond the New Palestine wrestler’s showmanship, however, lies an insatiable desire for perfection. For most, perfection is impossible. For Red, it’s become the norm.
The Dragons’ junior won his third straight Indiana High School Athletic Association championship Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He didn’t lose a single match this season. Or last season. Or the year before. He’ll take a record of 139-0 into his senior campaign next winter, looking to pull off what has been accomplished only twice in IHSAA history: an undefeated wrestling career.
Story continues below gallery
Red pinned his first two state finals opponents, then beat the final two foes by a combined score of 20-6. It wasn’t enough to satisfy the 126-pounder, though.
Heading into the weekend, he aimed to pin all four opponents. Following an 11-4 semifinal win (against a previously unbeaten wrestler), a despondent Red sat leaned up against a wall, his head down.
He’ll go for the four-pin championship next year.
“There’s always another goal,” Red said. “I’ve got to stay on top of that. I didn’t tighten up my holds every match, and that’s why everybody got out of my holds. I’ve just got to go back in the (practice) room on Monday and work it out.”
After he dominated Portage’s Gaige Torres by a 9-2 score to win the state title, Red elected not to do a back flip, as was his championship custom as a freshman and sophomore.
Red, ranked No. 1 in the nation in his weight class, instead focused on staying injury-free.
“No flip,” he said. “I thought about it, but then I thought about over-rotating. Because (last time) … I about over-rotated. I landed on my heel. I was like, ‘I probably shouldn’t do that.'”
For Red, one thing will always trump style: Substance.