NEW PALESTINE — Alec White couldn’t help but reminisce as he stood first in the welcoming line along the mats inside the New Palestine gymnasium on Thursday night.
Hosting the Doe Creek Middle School and Dragon Wrestling Club competitors to give today’s youth a glimpse of tomorrow on senior night, White was astonished by the sheer numbers as he gave countless high-fives.
“That’s what we’re trying to do here; we’re trying to build it up,” White remarked on the feeder program. “Seeing the elementary school kids and the middle school kids, there are a lot of them now. When I went through my eighth-grade year, we didn’t have that many. The club wasn’t that big; it was great to see.”
While bittersweet, White said he’s enjoying his final tour through high school wrestling with only six weeks left until the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. Ranked fifth in the state at 126 pounds, according to IndianaMat, White isn’t counting down the days, though. He’s relishing every one.
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Spotlighted along with the Dragons’ only other senior, Grant Moeller, White improved to 18-0 on the season with a first-period win against Franklin Central. And despite the team falling 42-30, the sight of the program’s future eased the future Purdue Boilermaker’s disappointment.
“It was different, but it was a special night to get recognized and for the younger kids,” said White, a three-time state qualifier and two-time state-place winner. “And you always want to put a show on for the crowd.”
White lived by his words, taking a 6-2 lead against Franklin Central’s Nick Morton before rolling the sophomore on his back for a fall in 1 minute, 52 seconds — his 14th of the year.
“I remember coming into the high school duals and thinking how special they were,” White recalled. “I came to watch when they wrestled Cathedral here, and this gym was packed. That’s what we want to have here even after me.”
The young up-and-coming Dragons roster carries 16 freshmen and sophomores. While 4-8 on the season, head coach Alex Johns continues to see growth, which helped the team pick up six wins against the visiting Flashes.
Junior Hunter Holcombe put New Palestine ahead in the first match at heavyweight with a pin in 1:31. Sophomore Jared Diep worked for a 9-6 decision at 113, which pushed the Dragons lead to 9-5 early.
White’s fall supplied a 15-11 advantage before Franklin Central rattled off consecutive pins. The Dragons never backed down, though, as sophomore Noah Wright won by decision 4-0 at 145, and later classmate Brayden Clevenger pinned his opponent at 182 in 3:36 to cut the Flashes’ lead to 12 points.
“We’re very young and inexperienced, but we always say, trust the process. It’s not going to happen right now, but if we continue to keep working hard and doing the things we’re doing, good things will come,” Johns said.
For White, who is coming off an individual championship at the Evansville Mater Dei Holiday Classic last week, the next two major events ahead brings a smile.
On Saturday, the Dragons host Warren Central, Roncalli, Martinsville, Jennings County, Beech Grove and Perry Meridian in their own individual invitational. On Jan. 14, New Palestine travels to Delta for the Hoosier Heritage Conference Tournament, where White will look to win another crown.
“It’s a grind until mid-February. You have to make everything count,” White said. “When the big time matches come, that’s when you have to have more fun.”
Johns has no doubt White will embrace the challenges as he seeks to build onto legacy and last year’s his sixth-place finish at 113 in the state tournament. In 2015-16, he won 35 consecutive matches before succumbing to defeat.
“We’re getting into the heart of our season now, and he’s been doing well. He’s had a couple of close matches, especially at Mater Dei and with the kid from Cathedral (No. 6 Jordan Slivka early this year, 2-0 in OT). That was a great match,” Johns said. “He’s going to keep getting tested, so we have to keep improving each week. He’s got a good mentality.”
Franklin Central 42, New Palestine 30
285: Hunter Holcombe (NP) def. Jacob McFarland (FC) by fall 1:31
106: Josh Vaughn (FC) def. Chase Nelson (NP) by tech fall
113: Jared Diep (NP) def. Josh Rigel (FC) by dec. 9-5
120: Dylan Dupler (FC) won by forfeit
126: Alec White (NP) def. Nick Morton (FC) by fall 1:52
132: Chase Peavler (FC) def. Grant Moeller (NP) by fall 1:24
138: Brandon Heddon (FC) def. Max Jones (NP) by fall 1:37
145: Noah Wright (NP) def. Noah Baker (FC) by dec. 4-0
152: Zach Worden (FC) def. Clay Fultz (NP) by fall 1:47
160: Tyler Rodriguez (FC) def. Chris Hafley (NP) by maj. dec. 12-0
170: Vincent Garard (FC) def. Logan Robinson (NP) by dec. 6-4
182: Brayden Clevenger (NP) def. Mark Brook (FC) by fall 3:36
195: Jarod Gillespie (FC) def. Cage Brasfield (NP) by fall 1:57
220: Landan Burton (NP) win by forfeit