NEW PALESTINE — Josh Holden and his coaching staff knew it was time for a change.
Coming off a tough dual loss to No. 10 Warren Central, 36-25, and finishing 2-3 at the Perry Meridian Quin Duals, preparation inside the Greenfield-Central wrestling room spiked this past week.
Holden called it, “raising the intensity,” after feeling his Cougars were stuck in place.
“Instead of practicing one move at a time, they focused on combinations,” the head coach remarked on his group’s revamped training method. “This week, it was about getting after it.”
Story continues below gallery
On Saturday, the Cougars turned their hard work into production during the New Palestine Six-Way, sweeping the five-team field soundly, 4-0, to win the team title for the first time in five years.
“We thought we wrestled really well. Probably as well as we’ve wrestled so far this year, especially with stringing things together and constant wrestling,” Holden said. “Before today, we didn’t think we were getting better day to day, so we changed things and it’s paying off right now. It showed up in how we moved today.”
The Cougars were swift on the mat, so much so, they were able to rack up all four dual wins in little more than three hours and by an average margin 47 points per victory.
Nine wrestlers finished 4-0 as the Cougars posted a 45-7 record through 52 matches with 18 pins.
They beat New Palestine 52-19, Mt. Vernon 49-18, and thumped both Union County and Triton Central, 72-6 and 63-6, respectively.
Mt. Vernon was runner-up at 3-1. The host Dragons placed third overall at 2-2. Triton Central was fourth and Union County was fifth. Clinton Central did not participate due to icy road conditions.
Without a Hancock County tournament, the Cougars gained bragging rights by rolling past both Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals New Palestine and the Mt. Vernon Marauders. However, the overall agenda is much larger for Greenfield-Central, which is chasing a 22-win season. The record is 21, set in 2010-11 under Holden.
“You always want to beat the teams around you. Really you want to beat everybody,” Holden said after his team improved to 16-5. “Actually, though, we just worry about us. Every day we come in, we don’t even worry about winning or losing, we worry about how we wrestle. We talk about how it’s not if you win, it’s how you win. It’s not if you lose, it’s how you lose. We went out today and won, and that’s great, but it’s how we won that really made us excited about going forward.”
The Cougars set the tone early in the opener against New Palestine by muscling back from a 9-0 deficit. Once in control, they piled onto their 16-15 lead with back-to-back pins by Austin Mullins at 132 pounds and Cooper Noehre at 138.
Three more falls from Lee Dullaghan at 195, Brad Lowe at 170 and Micah Ballenger at 152 and a 4-1 decision from Riley Fletcher at 145 kept the Cougars in front for good.
Five pins, including a 12-second fall by sophomore Gavin Rose, who is ranked eighth in the state, according to IndianaMat, powered Greenfield-Central past the Marauders.
“We do not match up extremely well with Greenfield. They’re pretty strong top to bottom. We made a couple of mistakes and gave up pins, opposed to decisions,” Mt. Vernon head coach Chad Masters said. “It started snowballing on us a little bit.”
The Cougars’ pin parade continued against their other two opponents as well. Greenfield-Central had four pins in their match with Union County and another three versus Triton Central.
Junior Carter Noehre, who is ranked ninth in the state at 120, improved to 20-1 on the season with a flawless 4-0 day, including a pin — for a team-leading 13th.
His lone loss this year came against fourth-ranked Cayden Rooks of Columbus East at Perry Meridian last weekend. He also beat Perry Meridian’s Sam Fair, who placed fifth at 106 last year, by decision 9-3.
“Carter is so improved from two years ago. He had a good day against Perry, and that usually gets you ranked, but he knows. He’s the first guy to come off the mat, and he might have just won the match, but if he didn’t wrestle well, he’ll say it,” Holden said. “He’s going to keep working.”
Rose, a state qualifier at 106 as a freshman, had two pins and was 4-0 at 113 to increase his season record to 18-3. All three of the sophomore’s losses have been by two-point decisions against state-ranked opponents in Roncalli’s No. 5 Alec Viduya, Warren Central’s No. 3 Skylour Turner and Perry Meridian’s No. 2 Brayden Littell.
“Four of the top-eight kids in the state are in his regional. He’s got three of those guys in our sectional,” Holden said. “He’s got a tough road. There’s no guarantees on this road. You have to prove yourself. He knows that, and he’s working to do that. I think anybody can win (that weight class).”
Luke Sheridan (15-6) at 106, Mullins (13-8), Cooper Noehre (16-5), Fletcher (15-6), Ballenger (8-8), Lowe (19-2) and Dullaghan (19-2) were all 4-0 for the Cougars. Aaron Young (13-7) at 220 and Larry Evans (15-6) at 126 both were 3-1.
New Palestine’s Alec White dominated at 126, winning all four matches to earn Wrestler of the Meet. Ranked fifth in the state, White, a three-time state qualifier and two-time state-place winner, is 13-0 on the year.
Prior to the meet, he ran through the Greg Stultz Memorial at Northview last weekend with a pair of first-period falls and another in the finals at 3:04. The Purdue University recruit biggest win to date was against Cathedral’s Jordan Slivka, ranked 11th, by decision 2-0 in overtime on Dec. 7.
The Dragons (4-7) beat Triton Central 51-24 and Union County 60-18. Their second loss was to Mt. Vernon 64-17.
The Marauders toppled Triton Central 60-12 and Union County 70-12.
“Other than losing to Greenfield, we did really well,” Masters said. “I figured Greenfield was a good 25 points better than us and they ended up beating us by 31. We needed some upsets to stay with them, but I thought we were better than New Pal. I just didn’t know how much. We started rolling to win that one.”
Both PJ Sterrett at 182 and Peyton Wuerch at heavyweight were 4-0 with two pins and two forfeit wins each. Wuerch is now 21-0 on the season while Sterrett is 19-7 despite wrestling up a weight class and giving up nearly 16 pounds.
Chase Wilkerson is 23-3 on the year and finished 3-1 at 120 for the Marauders. Battling with nose bleeds recently, Wilkerson losses have been to Carter Noehre, Viduya by decision 6-5, and No. 2 Christian Mejia of Elkhart Memorial.
According to Masters, Wilkerson will undergo a chartering procedure later this month to stop his chronic condition.
“His losses have been legit,” Masters said. “I think he’s going to be a force to reckon with once the (state) tournament rolls around.”
In the meantime, the Marauders are shooting for 20 wins, a mark they haven’t reached in Masters’ four seasons with the program. They are 19-7 this year.
“The goal to was to get over 20, and we’ve never gotten there before,” Masters said. “We probably can’t get to 25 because we’ll run out of matches, but it could be close.”
Final Team Standings
1. Greenfield-Central, 2. Mt. Vernon, 3. New Palestine, 4. Triton Central, 5. Union County, (Clinton Central did not participate)
Win vs. New Palestine 52-19
Win vs. Union County 72-6
Win vs. Mt. Vernon 49-18
Win vs. Triton Central 63-6
Mt. Vernon (3-1)
Win vs. Triton Central 60-12
Win vs. Union County 70-12
Win vs. New Palestine 64-17
Loss vs. Greenfield-Central 49-18
New Palestine (2-2)
Win vs. Triton Central 51-24
Win vs. Union County 60-18
Loss vs. Greenfield-Central 52-19
Loss vs. Mt. Vernon 64-17
Wrestler of the Meet
126 pounds: Alec White, New Palestine (13-0)