Perfect shade of Red

INDIANAPOLIS — As Chad (C.J.) Red got taken down early in his IHSAA Wrestling State Finals semifinal match by Danville’s Elliott Molloy on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, at least one college coach apparently rejoiced.

Throughout his undefeated high school career, Red has been mostly bulletproof. On his way to a third straight state title Saturday, Red pinned his first two 126-pound foes to set up the semifinal against Molloy, who was 46-0 on the year heading into the bout.

Molloy’s successful first-period maneuver — which sent a shocked gasp through the 10,000-strong crowd — was quickly followed by Red taking control. The New Palestine junior went on to a deliver a victory by 11-4 decision. He had even less trouble in a 9-2 championship win against Gaige Torres of Portage.

According to New Palestine head coach Chad Red, also C.J.’s dad, the Dragons standout’s brief encounter with adversity was a blessing.

“There’s a a couple college coaches here, including Angel Escobedo,” said Red, referring to the Iowa State assistant, a three-time Big Ten champion at Indiana University and current member of the United States National Team. “They’re recruiting Chad (at Iowa State), and he said the biggest thing they liked about that match was that Chad got taken down and came up and got back in control.

“He said, ‘I’m really more into that than I am a 40-second pin, because we can’t gauge for college. Because, you’re going to get scored on in college.’ So, it was huge. It was good.”

With his run through a third consecutive state finals, Red improved to 139-0 in his career. That high school success, in addition to a string of titles on the national club circuit, has the standout ranked No. 1 in the country in his weight class by a number of scholastic wrestling media outlets.

Along with the Iowa State interest, Red has been offered scholarships by Penn State, Nebraska, Indiana, Purdue, Arizona State and many others, according to his dad.

The younger Red long had Penn State listed as his top choice, but he said Saturday he’s still “weighing (his) options.” The family is planning to take official college visits this summer before making a decision. Red’s immediate focus is on the SAT test coming up in a few weeks, for which he’s been studying with tutors.

Red, it seems, is always working toward something. Immediately after leaving the mat following his championship win Saturday, a Fox Sports Indiana broadcaster asked Red, live on television and displayed on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse video screen, how it felt to win a third straight championship.

“Have to do better,” Red said. “Can always get better. There’s always someone out there who wants to beat me, so I’ve got to do better.”

Red was reminded by the broadcaster that it was OK to enjoy, at least for a moment, the thrill of victory.

Gwen Scoby wasn’t surprised by Red’s stubbornness. It’s a sign of his dedication, said Scoby, Red’s maternal grandmother.

“He was always so independent,” she noted. “Even when he was little, if you tried to dress him, he’d want to put his own clothes on, even if it was backwards. He would get mad if you tried to do it for him. Always been independent.

“I think the motivation is when people say he can’t do anything, he going to try to prove them wrong.”

Only two wrestlers in the history of Indiana high school wrestling have ever finished their careers undefeated, a task that Red will aim to complete next year.

It’s unlikely Red has any doubters at this point, although they would be welcome, grandma Scoby said.

“This is our saying in the family: ‘Let the haters be your motivator,'” she said.

Scoby spoke from a Bankers Life Fieldhouse concourse Saturday evening as her grandson was besieged by little boys seeking an autograph of their wrestling idol.

Red took it all in stride, marking the young fans’ programs and even stopping for a photo request by a pair of grinning teenage girls.

It was the same aplomb Red displayed in the championship win against Torres. The Portage junior, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Red, managed to grab Red’s leg early in the first period. For a solid 30 seconds, Red hopped around the mat on one leg, the other held tight at Torres’ waist.

Against many wrestlers, Torres would have easily converted the advantage into a takedown. Red, of course, is not most wrestlers.

“Not at all, because I practiced with my best friend, Brayton Lee (of Brownsburg),” said Red, when asked if he panicked. “I told him to get my leg up in the air, put it on his shoulder, put it on top of his head. I knew that was going to come, because I’ve been in that position many times, and I know I just have to fight it off.”

Fight it off he did. Even with one of Red’s legs in his arms, Torres couldn’t take the freakishly strong champ to the ground. Red got his limb back and registered leads of 2-0, 4-1 and 7-1 on the way to the 126 crown. Torres’ only points were on escapes deliberately allowed by Red.

It was a mostly routine, dominant performance by Red, who pinned Evansville Mater Dei’s Alex Johnson (31-4) in 3 minutes, 8 seconds in the first round Friday. In Saturday’s quarterfinal, Red pinned Branden Truver (32-11) of Lake Central in 55 seconds. Red finished his junior season 47-0, while Torres dropped to 37-3 with the title loss.

Following the win against Torres, Red quickly donned a special T-shirt. The image on the white shirt was of a young C.J., and it was once owned by a family member while cheering on the grappler.

“I wear this shirt because it’s my grandpa’s shirt,” Red said of his paternal grandfather, Ray Red. “It was the last shirt he got to wear to my state finals when I was a freshman, and he passed away last year.”

Dedicating the victory to his late grandfather is a glimpse into Red’s softer side. 

It’s the type of thing that makes his parents, including his mom, Nikki, proud.

As of late, Red has been doing even more to impress his parents.

“He’s very driven this semester, this quarter,” father Chad Red said. “He’s been more on-point than last semester, just with everything. Getting up early, and the basic necessities of a 16-year-old child — taking care of his room, folding his own clothes, cleaning. Maybe he’s just getting to that point where he knows in a year, year-and-a-half, ‘I’ll be out, have to do it on my own.’ So, it’s part of being a young man, a grown man here shortly.”

In both wrestling ability and maturity, C.J. Red is advanced. It comes down to roots, his grandmother said.

“As a kid, he lost and he cried,” said Scoby, recalling advice the youngster received. “But, you know what? Sometimes things happen like that, you’ve got to be strong and stick with it. We don’t just come in here knowing how to do things, you have to work for it. You have to learn, you have to practice, work hard. 

“He comes from a hard-working family. We come from the South, OK? My grandparents, even my mom, had to pick cotton back in the day. So, he’s always going to be a hard worker.” 

Diep takes 8th place for Dragons

A year ago, Cameron Diep could merely watch the state finals. So, the New Palestine junior took solace Saturday night in his eighth-place finish at 106.

“What I’m going to learn from today is I need to control my nerves, and how I need to practice harder,” said Diep, who went 0-3 Saturday after winning his opening-round match Friday. “Getting eighth today wasn’t my plan. I was planning on being under the lights but still being on the podium is pretty cool.” 

Stuck behind C.J. Red and Alec White in the lineup his first two seasons, Diep finally got his varsity shot this year. Undefeated most of the way, Diep took a 41-3 record into the state finals.

Diep beat Ben Streeter of Fort Wayne North on Friday, 10-8, then lost three decisions Saturday, including a 7-2 setback in the seventh-place bout, to NorthWood’s Tanner DeMien.

“My third match, I was just out of it,” Diep said. “I didn’t even wrestle like myself; just not into it at all.”

White, a sophomore, lost his opening-round match Friday at 113, as did senior teammate Noah Grable, at 220.

Diep added he will likely wrestle at 113 next year, with White possibly moving up to 120 and Red at 132. 

Quick pins

Lawrence North senior Tommy Cash, a transfer from New Palestine, won his second straight title at 138. Cash was one of three wrestlers Saturday to pin all four opponents, along with Cathedral’s Blake Rypel (195) and Merrillville’s Shawn Streck (285). In the championship round, Cash pinned Evansville Mater Dei freshman Joe Lee, Rypel pinned Perry Meridian’s Tristen Tonte and Streck pinned Richmond’s Nathon Trawich. … New Palestine native and Cathedral senior Ben Harvey lost in overtime, 3-1, to Ben Davis senior Dylan Lydy in the 170 title match. … Tommy Forte of Mishawaka claimed grabbed the second championship of his career. The senior won a 9-3 decision against Lebanon’s Kellen Van Camp at 152. Forte was the 2013 champion at 138 and was runner-up at 145 last year. … Chase Osbon of team champ Penn earned the Ward E. Brown Mental Attitude Award. Osborn won the 182 championship Saturday.

State Finals results

The 77th Annual IHSAA Individual Wrestling State Finals

Friday; Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Top 10 Teams

1. Penn 79

2. Indianapolis Cathedral 73

3. Evansville Mater Dei 60

4. Merrillville 52

5. Lowell 45.5

6t. East Noble 37

6t. Perry Meridian 37

8. Portage 36

9. Danville 35

10. Ben Davis 33

17. New Palestine 23

State Championship Match Results

106: Colton Cummings (10) Lowell (45-1) def. Tyler Mills (9) Brownsburg (36-7), MD 8-0.

113: Garrett Pepple (12) East Noble (46-0) def. Drew Hildebrandt (11) Penn (38-1) dec. 5-2.

120: Brock Hudkins (11) Danville (33-0) def. Sawyer Miller (12) South Adams (44-1), SV-1 3-1.

126: Chad Red (11) New Palestine (47-0) def. Gaige Torres (11) Portage (37-3), dec. 9-2.

Red (previous three rounds): def. Alex Johnson (12) Evansville Mater Dei (31-4), Fall 3:08; def. Branden Truver (12) Lake Central (32-11), Fall 0:55; def. Elliott Molloy (11) Perry Meridian (46-1), dec. 11-4. 

132: Nick Lee (10) Evansville Mater Dei (35-0) def. Jordan Vaughn (11) Franklin Central (43-6), MD 16-5.

138: Tommy Cash (12) Lawrence North (45-2) def. Joe Lee (9) Evansville Mater Dei (34-2), Fall 3:11.

145: Jacob Covaciu (11) Merrillville (44-1) def. Steven Lawrence (11) Portage (38-4), SV-1 7-5.

152: Tommy Forte (12) Mishawaka (37-0) def. Kellen VanCamp (12) Lebanon (45-2), dec. 9-3.

160: Drew Hughes (11) Lowell (44-0) def. Darden Schurg (12) Crown Point (40-4), Fall 3:06.

170: Dylan Lydy (12) Ben Davis (46-0) def. Ben Harvey (12) Indianapolis Cathedral (45-2) SV-1 3-1.

182: Chase Osborn (12) Penn (39-0) def. Corey Hinkle (12) Western (47-1), dec. 8-6.

195: Blake Rypel (11) Indianapolis Cathedral (46-0) def. Tristen Tonte (10) Perry Meridian (43-2), Fall 3:13.

220: Kobe Woods (11) Penn (44-0) def. Courvoisier Morrow (12) Warren Central (43-3), dec. 7-2.

285: Shawn Streck (11) Merrillville (46-0) def. Nathon Trawich (12) Richmond (48-3), Fall 5:34.

New Palestine’s Cameron Diep (106, eighth place), went 1-3: def. Streeter/FW North, 10-8; lost to Rooks/Columbus East, 11-5; lost to Hunt/Yorktown, 3-1; lost to DeMien/NorthWood, 7-2.

All-time greats

3-time IHSAA Wrestling State Finals champions (with year, weight class)

Clarence Fortner, Terre Haute Wiley: 1922, 125; 1923, 135; 1924, 135.

George Ross, Wabash: 1925, 145; 1926 145; 1927, 165.

Charles McDaniel, Bloomington: 1931, Hwt.; 1932, Hwt.; 1933, Hwt.

Ray Frankowski, Hammond: 1936, 165; 1937, 175; 1938, 175.

Jack Foster, Hammond Clark: 1937, 1251b.;1938,125;1939, 135.

Vernon Finley, Bloomington: 1943, 175; 1944, 175; 1945, 175.

Jack Benson, Bloomington: 1944, 120; 1945, 127; 1947, 133.

Richard Lyon, Bloomington: 1945, 138; 1946, 138; 1947, 138.

Richard Perkins, Muncie Central: 1946, 95; 1947, 103; 1948, 103.

Eugene Donaldson, East Chicago Roosevelt: 1947, 175; 1948, 175; 1949 Hwt.

Bill Richardson, Lafayette Jefferson: 1956, 133; 1957,133; 1958, 133.

Bill Andrews, Indianapolis Manual: 1957, 103; 1958, 112; 1959, 120.

Charles Cone, Kokomo: 1963, 103; 1964, 112; 1965, 120.

Jon Galloway, South Bend Riley: 1964, 154; 1965 154; 1966, 165.

Jim Cornwell, Bloomington South: 1969, 103; 1970, 115; 1971, 119.

Randy May, Bloomington South: 1974, 98; 1975, 105; 1976, 112.

David Palmer, Muncie Southside/Delta: 1980, 167; 1981, 167; 1982, 177.

Patrick Cassidy, Bloomington North: 1993, 103; 1994, 112; 1995, 119.

Steven Bradley, Beech Grove: 1996, 119; 1997, 125; 1998, 125.

Jake O’Brien, Franklin Central: 2001, 215; 2002 ,125; 2003, 215.

Reece Humphrey, Lawrence North: 2003, 112; 2004 ,125; 2005, 130.

Josh Harper, Mishawaka: 2006, 103; 2007, 112; 2008, 125.

Andrew Howe, Hanover Central: 2006, 140; 2007, 152; 2008, 160.

Sean McMurray, Portage: 2008, 135; 2009, 152; 2010, 160.

Kyle Ayersman, Lake Central: 2010, 112; 2011, 119; 2012, 126.

Stevan Micic, Hanover Central: 2012, 106; 2013, 113; 2014, 126.

Chad Red, New Palestine: 2013, 106; 2014, 120; 2015, 126.

4-time state champions

Estil Ritter, Bloomington: 1924, 175; 1925, 175; 1926, Hwt.; 1927, Hwt.

Willard Duffy, Muncie Central: 1930, l00; 1931, 108; 1932, 115; 1933, 115.

Howard Fisher, South Bend Central: 1949, 95; 1950, 112; 1951, 127; 1952, 133.

Lance Ellis, Indianapolis Cathedral: 1986, 98; 1987, 112; 1988, 112; 1989, 119.

Blake Maurer, Evansville Mater Dei: 2001, 130; 2002, 145; 2003, 171; 2004, 171.

Alex Tsirtsis, Griffith: 2001, 119; 2002, 130; 2003, 135; 2004, 145.

Angel Escobedo, Griffith: 2002, 112; 2003, 125; 2004, 130; 2005, 135.

Jason Tsirtsis, Crown Point: 2009, 125; 2010, 130; 2011, 140; 2012, 145.

Undefeated in high school career

Lance Ellis, Indianapolis Cathedral, 172-0 (1986-89).

Alex Tsirtis, Griffith, 236-0 (2001-04).