GREENFIELD — Five wins in and up by seven team points against rival Pendleton Heights on Wednesday night, the Greenfield-Central wrestling team decided it was time to flex some muscle.
Junior Luke Sheridan struck first at 106 pounds with a 19-second pin. Sophomore Gavin Rose, a 106-pound state qualifier last year, followed with a methodical 6-0 decision in his new and more comfortable 113-pound lineup spot.
Junior Carter Noehre hardly broke a sweat with another pin at 120, only needing 1 minute, 9 seconds to finish his match. Larry Evans, a junior 126-pounder, applied the finishing touch with a 12-4 major decision.
“We practiced a lot over the offseason. We started really early and worked on conditioning. Now, we’re focused on technique,” Noehre remarked after the host Cougars defeated the Arabians 44-18 to improve to 6-1 on the year. “There’s an intensity in the room this season. We know, it takes a team to win, and we’re working together.”
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Already off to a solid start this season, the Cougars, who went 15-12 in 2015-16, took second at the Elwood Elite 8 Invitational last weekend with a 5-1 showing.
Against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Pendleton Heights, the Cougars used nine wins, five pins and a pair of major decisions to get the job done, collectively.
Fueled by a philosophy of “you go, we go,” head coach Josh Holden’s gritty group has big plans this coming postseason, and it starts and ends with its returning seven.
Under the guidance of former interim head coach, and ISWCA Hall of Fame assistant coach, Ed Hamant, the Cougars pushed 10 wrestlers to regional a year ago behind a sectional runner-up team placement.
Eight of the 10 are back, however, a season-ending knee injury to semistate qualifier Cameron Wetli, a senior, has trimmed the number down by one.
Of the active seven standouts, four reached semistate, and one, Rose, became only the second freshman state qualifier in program history as he concluded his run to Bankers Life Fieldhouse last February at 20-10 with 12 pins.
“Last year, my goal was to make it to state. That’s not my goal this year. It’s not just to make it, but to advance, go far and place,” said Rose, who is ranked 12th in the state by IndianaMat.com at 113. “To be honest, it was lonely at state being the only guy. It wasn’t as much fun compared to if I had some of buddies there to goof off with and enjoy it. We’re looking to bring more.”
The most state qualifiers ever produced by the program in a single season is four, set in 1985-86 under coach Bill Yozipovich and Holden in 2011-12. With eight returning starters in the lineup overall, the Cougars believe that record could be in jeopardy.
“Absolutely, I think we can blow it away. That’s our goal,” said Holden, who returned to Greenfield-Central this fall for a 12th season after a year at Southport. “I’d like to say 14, but realistically, I would say, let’s shoot for seven.”
That magnificent projection would match the team’s total state qualifiers in the past five season combined, but the talent backs Holden’s and the team’s ambitious estimation.
Sheridan, who has dropped a weight class, was a regional qualifier as a sophomore with 16 wins. Evans reached the Perry Meridian Regional at 120 as a sophomore with a 22-13 record. Noehre pushed through to the New Castle Semistate with a 33-12 record and 24 pins.
Junior Brad Lowe, who slides back at 170, was 32-9 as a sophomore semistate competitor. Senior Lee Dullaghan (21-17) powered to a semistate appearance at 195 where he returns, and sophomore heavyweight Hunter Gulden (17-24) was a regional qualifier as well.
What the Cougars’ sensational seven don’t bring to the mat in experience, they make up for in influence, Holden said, which has the entire 29-man roster feeling optimistic and motivated.
“It’s the best leadership I’ve had in 13 years of coaching, and it’s not necessarily the kids I would have thought,” Holden said. “When you look back at some of the kids when they were freshman, like (senior) Riley Fletcher (at 145) and Carter Noehre, they didn’t come out as gang busters immediately, but they loved it and have worked hard to become who they are, and they share their passion with the guys still learning. It’s exciting to be a part of.”
Although it’s only November, with the drive of Noehre, the school’s first-ever ISWA Greco-Roman state champion, and Rose, who is determined to follow in the footsteps of Josh Farrell, a state champion in 2013, practices have already ratcheted up to a winter ferocity.
“Carter is the most fluid wrestler I’ve coached since Josh. From one move to another, he’s so fast,” Holden said. “Rose, he’s not satisfied. I don’t think anything short of being under the lights (at state) is good enough. We had a guy like that here before named Josh Farrell, and these guys know. Josh kind of showed them the way, and they’re taking it.”
106: Luke Sheridan (11)*
113: Gavin Rose (10)*
120: Carter Noehre (11)*
126: Larry Evans (11)*
132: Austin Mullins (12)
138: Cooper Noehre (9)
145: Riley Fletcher (12)
152: Micah Ballenger (11)
160: Gabe Miller (10)
170: Bradley Lowe (11)*
182: Malachi Mersch (10)
195: Lee Dullaghan (12)*
220: Aaron Young (12)*
285: Hunter Gulden (10)*
* returning starter
Rest of team: Clayton Jenkins (12), Landon Ridolfo (12), Cameron Wetli (12), Jorden Galbraith (11), Cameron Combs (10), Michael Lowry (10), Sam Paul (10), Deacon Shininger (10), Fernando Dawe (9), Dylan Dorman (9), Aaron Fish (9), Christopher Guzman (9), Jayden Gruell (9), Nathan McBride (9), Kenneth Thompson (9).