GREENFIELD — Inside the Greenfield-Central wrestling room, the temperature is always cranked up to a congealed broil. It’s a sweltering haven where mettle is measured in perspiration, designed to fortify resilience and drain weakness.
“I like it,” Greenfield-Central interim head coach Ed Hamant remarked. “They just put a new unit in last year. For about 10 years, around eight or 10 times a year, there was no heat in here at all. They would come in and keep fixing it. They finally put a new one in. There were days we couldn’t even practice.”
Not anymore. For the task at hand, near triple-digit heat is ideal.
Four years removed from a program-best 21-5 dual-meet record and three years beyond the team’s last Hoosier Heritage Conference team title, the Cougars welcome the fervor.
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Gone are former regional qualifiers Jacob Miller (106 pounds), Taylor Wright (126), Travis Gibson (152), and sectional and regional champion Cameron Nuckols (170) to graduation.
Former head coach Josh Holden, who resigned just prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, is now guiding the Southport Cardinals.
The Cougars are starting over somewhat — but hardly from scratch.
Led by the 70-year-old Hamant, who has served as an assistant coach with Greenfield-Central wrestling in various roles the past 34 years, it’s business as usual in the blue room. And it starts and ends with a schedule tailored to get the Cougars primed for one of the region’s toughest postseason paths.
“We wrestle a pretty tough schedule, but if we get a kid to state, they’re not going to be surprised by much because they would have seen the same kind of competition,” said Hamant, a 2015-16 Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Inductee. “Our regional and sectional are just as tough as our semistate. There’s no easy way to it.”
In late January, the first step leads Greenfield-Central to the Warren Central Sectional, hosted by the state’s top-ranked team, which the Cougars have already faced. Tossed into the mix is state-ranked New Palestine, a group loaded with state contenders that Greenfield-Central will see multiple times before sectional.
From there it’s the Perry Meridian Regional where the ranked Falcons join the fray before venturing onto the New Castle Semistate renowned for being a meat grinder responsible for producing a majority of the state’s top place-winners in late February.
It’s for that reason alone the Cougars aren’t breaking into a nervous sweat over their current 8-8 record.
“What we’re doing right now is going to help us a lot,” Noehre said about the team’s approach. “We’re facing some really good wrestlers. The better the competition, the better we’re going to get. I think we’re doing pretty good right now, and we can continue to get better.”
Winning the Elwood Super Duals to open the season Nov. 21, Greenfield-Central finished the event a perfect 5-0. Sophomore Carter Noehre (126), senior Tommy Brock (132), senior Elliott Parsons (138) and sophomore Brad Lowe (170) all walked away unbeaten.
The team lost head-to-head against HHC rival Pendleton Heights 43-21 in a dual and narrowly dropped another to Franklin Central 31-29 while contending with early-season injuries.
Freshman Gavin Rose, the team’s starting 106-pounder, was sidelined for several weeks with a hamstring injury. Brock had to overcome a lip laceration, which required stitches. Junior 195-pounder Lee Dullaghan, a regional qualifier last year at 182, was slowed by a skin infection, and junior Cameron Welti at 220 pounds was unavailable for one meet.
“We didn’t have our full lineup until last week. We wrestled at Elwood without three guys. We wrestled Pendleton without four guys and we lost to Franklin Central with three out,” Hamant said. “That doesn’t help you, not with our schedule.”
Greenfield-Central rebounded in the Western Boone Duals earlier this month, claiming third as a team led by 5-0 performances from Noehre, Brady Wright (152) and Lowe.
A humbling 56-9 loss to coach Jim Tonte’s Warren Central Warriors last week was difficult to absorb but did nothing to deter the Cougars’ confidence, especially Noehre.
After suffering his first loss of the season, he won six straight matches and improved to 12-1 before the Perry Meridian Dual Invitational last Saturday. Of his dozen wins, 10 were by pinfall and another by major decision. He now stands at 13-3.
“He has mental toughness. He refuses to lose,” Hamant said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
Prior to Perry Meridian, Lowe improved to 13-0 and Brock was 10-1. The trio of Noehre, Brock and Lowe are the team’s top point scorers but Hamant feels potential presents itself up and down his lineup.
Sophomore Larry Evans (120) carried a winning record through the Cougars’ first 12 duals along with Parsons, Wright, Christian Henderson (160), 2014-15 regional qualifier Lee Dullaghan (195) and Wetli, an All-American honorable mention at Fargo during the ASICS/Vaughn Cadet & Junior Nationals this past offseason.
“We don’t really care about season records and rankings. We care about how far we make it in sectional. We just want to keep getting better throughout the season,” Welti said. “We want to continue to progress.”
With the New Palestine Six-Way this weekend, the Cougars will have ample opportunity to strive toward their goal as county foes Mt. Vernon and the host Dragons will test Hamant’s group.
The two-day Connersville Spartan Classic upcoming on Dec. 29 and the North Central Invitational before the conference tournament will only further fuel their focus.
“We don’t want to have an easy time, go undefeated and then go out there and get our tails kicked at sectional. We want to get well prepared,” Welti said. “Hopefully, all of this will get us the results we want, get us a better result in February.”
106 pounds: Gavin Rose
113: Luke Sheridan
120: Larry Evans
126: Carter Noehre
132: Tommy Brock
138: Elliott Parsons
145: David Johnson
152: Brady Wright
160: Christian Henderson
170: Brad Lowe
182: Aaron Young
195: Lee Dullaghan
220: Cameron Wetli
Heavyweight: Hunter Gulden