GREENFIELD — Sitting on the mat shoulder to shoulder as Greenfield-Central head coach Josh Holden addressed his wrestling team at the end of practice, Gavin Rose turned to his right, then to his left.
Extending his right arm toward 120-pound junior Carter Noehre, jolting his teammate slightly from his concentrated forward stare, the two bumped fists.
The sophomore 113-pounder immediately followed up with a left dap where junior Brad Lowe was ready to complete the brofist trifecta.
“Remember, no one does anything great alone,” Holden emphasized to his Cougars while passing a gaze toward his state-qualifying trio. “Just be yourselves.”
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The three wouldn’t have it any other way. Rarely apart, Noehre, Rose and Lowe have one unified agenda beginning tonight at the IHSAA State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — stay together.
“Me and Carter wrestle a lot. That’s one of the things I’m going to love this time, having a wrestling partner there that’s one of my closest buddies, including Brad,” Rose said. “We’re going to go out there and shock everyone.”
As the team’s lone state qualifier a year ago, Rose admits, though proud of his achievement as a freshman at 106 pounds, his second straight trip to the state’s capitol is even more special.
And if the three can advance to the medal rounds on Saturday by winning their elimination match tonight, then their feat would solidify what all three have worked so hard to accomplish.
“That would be one of the most amazing things,” said Rose, who is ranked seventh in the state by IndianaMat. “To push three guys into the second day would be great because it means we all have a chance to wrestle our hardest and even if you lose, you’re still having fun because we’re together. That’s all that matters.”
Each will have their own individual challenges to conquer however, but with someone there to lean on as the pressure mounts will, the Cougars believe anything is possible.
As the 48th through 50th state qualifiers in program history, the trio marks the second-largest group to reach state since the Cougars had four in 2012 and 1986. On three other occasions, Greenfield-Central has sent three qualifiers simultaneously since 1970.
Beyond Rose (36-8), Noehre (42-3) also enters the state finals’ fray ranked 15th in the state, and a sectional and regional champion just like Lowe (38-7) at 170 pounds. Both are first-time state qualifiers.
Of the three, Noehre faces the tallest task on opening night, pitted against top-ranked Ty Mills (34-2) of Brownsburg, a two-time state-place winner. The Bulldogs junior was second at state in 2015 at 106 and third last year before moving up two weight classes.
“He’s been ranked higher than me this year, so I guess I’m the underdog, but I feel I can go out there and win the match,” Noehre said.
For 10 consecutive matches, Noehre was perfect this postseason until losing in the New Castle Semistate championship against Roncalli’s 18th-ranked Tyce Freije to take runner-up honors.
Lowe was fourth at semistate and Rose was third, bouncing back with two straight wins after losing in the semifinals to third-ranked Skylour Turner of Warren Central.
While hopeful of potentially meeting Turner for a fifth time this year in Saturday’s semifinals, Rose is zeroed in on the first step where ninth-ranked Seth Horty (41-6) of Evansville Memorial awaits.
His first-career opening night victory could be followed by a probably match with sixth-ranked Hunter Watts (45-2) of Jimtown in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve seen, if not the best, many of the best. That’s why we wrestle our schedule to be ready for guys like this,” Holden remarked on Rose’s state finals’ path. “Now, we have to go out and prove it. Rankings don’t mean anything to us.”
Lowe faces off against top-seeded Bryce Baumgartner (32-1) of Bellmont, who is ranked eighth in the state and a four-time state qualifier.
Only wrestling for four years, Lowe set new career highs this season, exceeding even his own goals. Determined to earn a spot on the Wall of Champions where Rose already holds a spot, Lowe has carved out a place on the list with two postseason titles so far.
He’s also secured a reservation among the 32 state-qualifier photos that are prominently displayed in the Cougars wrestling room in two rows of 16. Lowe and Noehre will continue the tradition with a new line all to themselves.
“My overall goal was to get on the Wall of Champions, but last year, I jokingly said, I let Gavin go (to state), so I could be the first one on the new row,” Lowe quipped.
Of course, he might end up being second since Noehre punched his ticket to state first. Not that it matters to either wrestler.
“It’s pretty unbelievable the three that we have. For years, I’ve preached doing all the little things the right way,” Holden said. “I know for a fact that I have three guys that there isn’t any aspect of their life I question. I know when no one is looking they do the right thing all the time.”
When it comes to supporting one another, they do what’s instinctive.
Last week when Rose’s request to wear a commemorative singlet at state that he designed to honor his sister, Priscia, who passed away on Dec. 17, 2014, was denied by the IHSAA, his teammates came to his aid.
Several of the Cougars purchased the singlet, even though they never knew his sister, and they plan to wear it in the club season to honor her memory.
“We all care about each other and try to lift each other up when any of us are feeling down,” Noehre said.
“For them to do that, it shows that we’re definitely family and that we’re brothers,” Rose added.
Nothing will change tonight once the wrestlers clear the mats.
“For those guys to have the success they are having, it’s great for wrestling, it’s great for our program and it’s great for the other kids to see,” Holden said. “They are truly three of a kind.”
Weight Class: 113 pounds
Achievements: Third at sectional, Fourth at regional, Third at semistate, Two-time state qualifier, HHC champion
Weight Class: 120 pounds
Achievements: Sectional champion, Regional champion, Semistate runner-up, State qualifier
Weight Class: 170 pounds
Achievements: Sectional champion, Regional champion, Fourth at semistate, State qualifier.