YORKTOWN — Chad Red couldn’t have asked for anything more.
With two weeks left before sectional — when his wrestlers all drop back down to what the New Palestine head coach terms “0-0,” — Saturday’s Hoosier Heritage Conference Tournament provided a much-needed test.
Four Dragons stood victorious atop the winner’s podium. Two endured gut-wrenching defeats in the championship finals, while 10 total placed fifth or better.
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More importantly, all 14 left hungry for more.
“You got to take the bad with the good,” the coach remarked on his team’s third-place finish with 200 points behind HHC champion Delta (232) and host Yorktown (202.5). “We thought we had a chance to come in here and get it done, but you can’t take anything away from Delta. They have a pretty good team.
“Practices are only going to get better from here.”
Though unable to pin down the program’s first team title since winning four straight from 2004 to 2008, the Dragons outnumbered the champion Eagles by one with six top-two place winners and fell one short of Yorktown.
The nation’s No. 1 wrestler at 132 pounds, senior C.J. Red (28-0) capped his HHC farewell tour with a fourth consecutive title, pinning all three of his opponents in 40 seconds or less.
Alec White (31-0), a 113-pound junior who is ranked second in the state by IndianaMat.com, claimed his third straight HHC championship by defeating No. 10 Josh Stephenson (28-4) of Yorktown by decision 4-3.
Landan Burton (25-8), a 195-pound sophomore, pinned Greenfield-Central’s Lee Dullaghan in 0:49 to captured his first career title, and senior Eugene Starks had a birthday to remember.
Ranked 16th in the state at 152, Starks (23-5) bumped up a weight class and took home the 160-pound conference championship with a first-round pin in 4:42 and an 11-3 major decision in the finals.
“For the past two years, it’s been around my birthday, so I knew it would fall on it at some point,” Starks joked after winning his third-career HHC crown. “Coach brought me up to 160 to give us a better chance at winning the team championship, so I decided to go out there and try to get the job done.”
Greenfield-Central junior Cameron Wetli (21-9) did the same for the Cougars, making up for last year’s runner-up placement at 195 with his first HHC championship at 220.
The Cougars, who were without soon-to-be IHSWCA Hall of Fame inductee Ed Hamant for undisclosed reasons, placed sixth with 156.5 points.
Greenfield-Central had three runners-up in freshman Gavin Rose (12-5) at 113, sophomore Brad Lowe (26-6) at 170 and Dullaghan (17-12). Sophomore Carter Noehre (29-7) at 126 and senior Tommy Brock (26-9) at 132 both finished third.
Wetli advanced into the finals with a first-round pin in 1:31 and a 3-2 decision in the semifinals to upset top-seeded Dalton Clouse (31-7) of New Castle.
In the finals, he broke a scoreless tie in the third period versus Yorktown’s Joey Pier (26-9) with a three-point swing to win by decision 3-0.
“Winning this is a big deal to me, especially because it’s my first one,” Wetli said. “I wanted to come out here at conference and win it for coach Hamant. I think this and how the team came out today shows how much he’s been training us all along.”
Mt. Vernon was seventh in the team standings with 93 points and had four wrestlers place in the top-four.
Freshman Chase Wilkerson (28-7) battled back from a disappointing semifinal loss to take third at 113 with an ultimate tiebreaker win, 7-6, against Pendleton Heights’ Elijah Bauer.
Peyton Wuerch (27-2), a junior, bulldozed into the heavyweight finals, upholding his top seed with a pin and a 5-0 decision, but suffered a tough loss by fall against Delta’s Ryan George (26-3) in 1:15.
The heartbreak was shared by five top seeds overall, including New Palestine’s top-ranked Jared Timberman at 145, who lost for the first time this year.
Facing his fourth top-six ranked opponent, Timberman (32-1) fell behind 3-1 entering the third period against fourth-ranked Brad Laughlin (32-1) of Yorktown.
The New Palestine senior turned the tables with an escape and a takedown to go up 4-3 with 1:15 remaining in the match, but a Laughlin reversal late put him ahead 5-4 in the final seconds.
“I know the whistle didn’t blow, but I kind of stopped wrestling there for a minute and it messed me up. I thought we were out of bounds, but the refs didn’t, and he got that reversal before the whistle,” Timberman said. “I knew I had short time. I knew I had to do something.”
In the down position with 5.5 seconds left at the restart, Timberman scored an escape to tie the match — and a questionable reversal — that sent the match into sudden victory deadlocked at 5-all.
A Laughlin takedown 32 seconds into overtime, however, sealed the 7-5 decision, marking Timberman’s third straight runner-up finish at the HHC tournament.
“I brought him to the side right after the match and told him, ‘you know you’re better than that.’ He’s beaten better kids than that, and he knows it,” three-time undefeated state champion C.J. Red said. “In a way, I think it’s good for him to get that loss out of the way right here and right now before we start the second part of our season, when it really matters.
“I want him to win state, too, and be up there with me. I know he’s got it in him.”
As one of two Dragons to taste defeat in the HHC finals, along with 138-pound Jalyn Wallace (23-9), who was pinned by No. 2 Sage Coy (27-0) of Delta, Timberman intends to learn from his regular-season setback.
“I don’t plan on losing again,” he said. “This is going to make me work a lot harder. I can’t keep matches close like that and leave it in the ref’s hands. I have to extend the lead, work on legs more and get better.”
2015-16 Hoosier Heritage Conference Wrestling Tournament
Championship Match Results
106: Brayden Curtis (Y) def. Gavin Rose (GC), dec. 4-0
113: Alec White (NP) def. Josh Stephenson (Y), dec. 4-3
120: Christian Hunt (Y) def. Trevor Ragle (NC), fall 5:43
126: Alex Barr (Y) def. Brock House (D), fall 5:36
132: Chad Red (NP) def. Tony Flood (PH), fall 0:30
138: Sage Coy (D) def. Jalyn Wallace (NP), fall 1:39
145: Brad Laughlin (Y) def. Jared Timberman (NP), SV-1 7-5
152: Cael McCormick (Y) def. Alex Johnson (PH), fall 0:37
160: Eugene Starks (NP) def. Dawson Miller (PH), maj. dec. 11-3
170: Jacob Gray (D) def. Brad Lowe (GC), maj. dec. 10-0
182: Caleb Hoots (NC) def. Brady Pease (D), fall 1:52
195: Landon Burton (NP) def. Lee Dullaghan (GC), fall 0:49
220: Cameron Wetli (GC) def. Joey Pier (Y), dec. 3-0
285: Ryan George (D) def. Peyton Wuerch (MV), fall 1:15
Third-Place Match Results
106: Jace Longere (PH) def. Traye Owens (NC), dec. 5-3
113: Chase Wilkerson(MV) def. Elijah Bauer (PH), UTB 7-6
120: Dalton Love (D) def. Ty Franklin (MV), injury default
126: Carter Noehre (GC) def. Jordan Mantor (NC), maj. dec. 11-0
132: Tommy Brock (GC) def. Noah Richardson (D), fall 0:43
138: Tyler Flood (PH) def. Corbin Hines (NC), dec. 6-2
145: Sam Buck (NC) def. Blake Green (D), SV-1 3-1
152: Andrew Abbott (D) def. Brady Wright (GC), dec. 7-3
160: Seth Fox (D) def. Drake Kendrix (MV), fall 2:10
170: Jacob Morris (Y) def. Logan Robinson (NP), fall 1:25
182: Breyden Clevenger (NP) def. Braydon Varga (GC), fall 1:30
195: Scottie Evans (D) def. Nate Woollard (NC), fall 2:42
220: Sebastian Brown (D) def. Hunter Holcombe (NP), dec. 3-2
285: Holden Lawson (PH) def. Kelly Watson (Y), fall 3:47