Best Male Athlete

Fall Sports: Charles Vanya DeGraff, Mt. Vernon Football

Few escaped the grasp of a blitzing Charles Vanya DeGraff. One of Mt. Vernon’s key defensive leaders this season, DeGraff was recognized as a 2016 Senior All-State selection by the Indiana Football Coaches Association. He was also named Class 4A All-State by the Associated Press.

DeGraff, a senior defensive lineman/linebacker, was chosen as the 2016 All-Hancock County Defensive Football Player of the Year after leading the county and state with 13 sacks.

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He earned All-Hoosier Heritage Conference Defensive Team honors this year and had 122 total tackles. He compiled 21 tackles for a loss for the sectional runner-up Marauders and averaged 10.2 tackles per game. His 94 solo tackles led the team.

DeGraff, who powered through two labral tears — one in each shoulder — as a senior this past season, will continue this education and football career at Benedictine University in the fall.

Winter Sports: Alec White, New Palestine Wrestling

If the critics had it their way, Alec White never should have survived opening night during the IHSAA wrestling state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Too bad for them, White had other plans.

Predicted to lose in the elimination round on Friday night in Indianapolis this past February, White defeated two-time state champion Colton Cummings of Lowell by decision 5-3 to advance into Saturday’s medal rounds.

After ending the state’s third-ranked wrestler’s season, the fifth-ranked senior moved on to beat seventh-ranked Matt Lee of Evansville Mater Dei in the quarterfinals. In the state semifinals, the Purdue recruit handed second-ranked Graham Rooks of Columbus East his first loss of the season with an 8-6 decision.

During the state title match, White persevered after finding himself on his back momentarily. A heartbeat away from letting his chance at a state championship slip away, he never panicked. Instead, he flipped the switch to turn a jarring 2-0 second-period deficit into a five-point swing with one instinctive reversal.

White (39-1) cemented his spot atop the podium with his 90th career pin in 3 minutes, 32 seconds to win the 126-pound state title. A champion at last, the four-time state qualifier beat top-ranked Blake Mulkey (38-2) of Brownsburg under the spotlight of the 79th Annual IHSAA Wrestling State Finals.

Spring Sports: Samuel Voelz, New Palestine Track & Field

• There was no slowing Samuel Voelz down. After years of setbacks and injuries throughout his cross country and track careers the past three years, the senior took off this spring.

An IHSAA state champion, Voelz concluded his high school career with a personal-best time of 1 minute, 51.9 seconds, in the 800-meter run at the 2017 New Balance Track and Field National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina in June.

He finished fifth among the top high school track athletes in the nation and earned All-American honors, a first for the school.

Voelz also placed first in the 800 as part of Team Indiana during the Midwest Meet of Champions in Ohio with a time of 1:52.28, winning the race by one-hundredth of a second.

Voelz won his first-career state title at the IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals in the 800, running a time of 1:52.60. It was the first individual boys track state title in school history.

Voelz and his 4×800 relay teammates, who also qualified for nationals, finished second at state with a top-10 all-time run of 7:44.20, shattering the school record by over 8 seconds. Voelz claimed a third state medal as part of the runner-up 4×400 relay team.

Best Male Teams

Fall Sports: New Palestine Tennis

Domination was the expectation for the New Palestine boys tennis team, and the Dragons lived up to the hype.

With a strong core of five juniors in the starting lineup, the youthful Dragons finished the season 17-4 and were unmatched in the county to reach their fifth consecutive regional tournament.

The Dragons claimed their seventh straight Hancock County Tournament this season and won a fifth consecutive sectional title by defeating Pendleton Heights 4-1 in the semifinals and Greenfield-Central 3-2 in the finals.

During the county tournament, New Palestine claimed three individual county titles at No. 1 singles with Matthew True, No. 3 singles with Patrick Hefferman, and behind the duo of Tyler Swain and Nick Rusche at No. 2 doubles.

At regional, the Dragons held their ground, losing 4-1 in a tight match with Lawrence North. New Palestine opened the regional semifinal with a win at No. 2 doubles as the unbeaten tandem of junior cousins Swain and Rusche (16-0) cruised to a near perfect 6-1, 6-0 victory.

Winter Sports: Greenfield-Central Swimming

Making the trip to the IHSAA state meet in Indianapolis is nothing new for the Greenfield-Central boys swimming and diving team. Winning seven sectional team titles in years past, the Cougars made this winter’s journey one to remember.

After claiming the program’s seventh consecutive sectional championship, Greenfield-Central put together its best state meet performance to date, highlighted by the school’s first individual state champion in Zach Cook.

Behind Cook’s state title in the 100-yard butterfly, the Cougars tallied 107 points to place ninth in the state, marking the team’s best finish all time.

“People don’t understand, Indiana is a fast swim state,” Greenfield-Central head coach Mark Logan said. “They were breaking national records (here). To place in the top 10, that is the real deal.”

The Cougars earned their place among the state’s top teams. The 200-yard medley relay team placed fifth (Cook, Chris Joven, Ethan Kile, Allen Forbes). Joven was ninth in the 50-yard freestyle, and Ben Rader was 16th in the diving.

Joven added a sixth-place swim in the 100-yard freestyle, and Cook was fifth in the 100-yard backstroke. Forbes, Cook, Joven and Kile teamed again to place ninth in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Spring Sports: New Palestine Track & Field

Depth, speed, endurance and intense preseason training propelled New Palestine’s boys track and field team this spring.

Led by head coach Kyle Ralph, the Dragons swept through the season with unmatched consistency, winning the program’s first Hoosier Heritage Conference championship since 2009. New Palestine also successfully defended its county title, marking its 13th team championship, behind 12 first-place finishes.

The Dragons were fourth at sectional and regional before placing sixth overall at the IHSAA state meet in Bloomington with their prolific 4×800-meter relay team leading the charge.

Senior Samuel Voelz won the school’s first boys individual track state title with a 1 minute, 52.60 second run in the 800-meter after helping the 4×800 relay team place second with teammates Caleb Eagleson, Spencer Corey and Chase Crowder.

The quartet placed 15th the year prior, but in 2017 they won county, conference, sectional and regional. They set a school-record time of 7:52.55 during the regular-season.

At state, they set a new record in 7:44.20, and the 4×400 relay team was second in 3:18.51 to secure three state medals for the Dragons.

The Dragons’ 4×400 relay team consisted of Voelz, who later earned All-American honors in the 800, Brady Walden, Colby Jenkins and Corey.

Best Male Coaches

Fall Sports: Matt McConnell, Greenfield-Central Soccer

Onlookers called it an upset, but for first-year Greenfield-Central head coach Matt McConnell and the Cougars boys soccer team, it was an expectation.

Finishing the year 13-3-1, the Cougars were relentless in the postseason, defeating 2015 sectional champion Mt. Vernon in the finals and reaching their first regional tournament since 2013.

Facing an uphill battle against Mt. Vernon (13-3), the 2016 outright Hoosier Heritage Conference champions, the Cougars carved out their own place in history after a fierce 94-minute marathon.

Tied 1-all following regulation and two overtime periods, Greenfield-Central captured the program’s second sectional championship in four years with a 3-0 shootout finale.

Resiliency defined the Cougars, who won their second straight shootout to win sectional. Greenfield-Central prevailed 4-2 on penalty kicks to eliminate HHC foe Shelbyville in the sectional semifinals.

Greenfield-Central, which was second in the HHC at 5-2, averaged 3.1 goals per game, and won nine of its final 11 contests under McConnell. Its season came to an end at regional against Perry Meridian, 1-0.

Winter Sports: Aaron Spaulding, Eastern Hancock Basketball

Aaron Spaulding called it nothing more than longevity. Always the first to downplay any coaching achievement and defer credit to his assistants and especially his players, Spaulding hit a milestone this season many strive to reach.

After 18 seasons at the helm, Spaulding recorded his 200th coaching victory on Feb. 14 with a 60-57 win at home against Blue River Valley.

“It means I’ve done this a long time,” Spaulding laughed afterwards. “With 200, you remember a lot of kids that contributed to that. The coaching staff that has been together (Brett Bechtel and Tim Retherford) for all but the first year I’ve been here.

“The people are really what matter the most with something like this.”

Junior standout Addison True led the Royals with 21 points and shot 7 of 9 from the free-throw line, including 6 of 7 in the fourth quarter to give Spaulding No. 200.

Eastern Hancock finished the season 12-11, losing a heartbreaker to Irvington Prep Academy 58-57 in the sectional opener. Spaulding enters his 19th season at Eastern Hancock in 2017-18 with a 200-200 career record.

Spring Sports: Robbie Miller, Greenfield-Central Baseball

Who were the Greenfield-Central Cougars going to be in 2017? Many asked the question, but head coach Robbie Miller already knew the answer from the beginning.

With arguably the state’s best pitcher in senior ace Drey Jameson, a Ball State recruit, and six returning starters on the roster, the Cougars were confident, competitive and ready to end the drought this spring.

With Miller’s hardball know-how leading the way, his team bought in and turned a 10-18 record in 2016 into a sectional championship 18-11 season in the coach’s third year at the helm.

Greenfield-Central’s sectional title run was the program’s 13th in school history and first in four years. They beat Anderson in the sectional semifinals and then defeated New Castle on the same day 2-1 to win the championship.

The team nearly knocked off the eventual Class 4A state champion Cathedral Irish in the Decatur Central Regional semifinals, losing 1-0 in eight innings, in a game and season that won’t soon be forgotten.

Most Memorable Performance: Drey Jameson, Greenfield-Central Baseball

Drey Jameson loves to ride the line. Playing the game with a perfect balance of confidence and swagger, Greenfield-Central’s ace pitcher refuses to cower in the face of a challenge. Against the eventual Class 4A state champion Cathedral Fighting Irish, the senior stood tall during the Decatur Central Regional semifinals and brought the heat.

The 6-foot, 165-pound senior touched 94 mph a handful of times to collect his second no-hitter this spring as he quieted the Irish through seven scoreless frames before the Cougars lost 1-0 in eight innings.

Jameson struck out 12 and allowed four hits and one earned run to earn the win and secure the team’s sectional title against New Castle.

Locked in a pitcher’s duel against against Cathedral’s Nick Eaton, an Indiana University recruit, Jameson, a Ball State recruit, struck out 14. He was lifted due to pitch count rules as he reached 120, but he made a statement as one of the state’s best two-way players.

The unanimous All-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection finished the year with a .404 batting average, seven home runs, a 0.65 ERA, a 6-1 record and 112 strikeouts in 65.0 innings pitched. He was named Prep Baseball Report’s Indiana Player of the Year and the 2017 All-Hancock County Player of the Year.

Breakout Performer: Zach Cook, Greenfield-Central Swimming

He wasn’t seeded first or even second, but once he touched the wall inside the IUPUI Natatorium this past February, Greenfield-Central’s Zach Cook left no doubt who was the best.

Half of a second separated the top-three swimmers during the IHSAA’s 100-yard butterfly state championship medal race. However, with quick strokes and a consistent approach, Cook led the whole race during the state meet and finished in 48.60 — a new personal best and school record.

Cook became the school’s first individual swimming state champion. His performance, along with his teammates, gave the Cougars 107 team points, which was good enough for ninth overall, the best finish in school history.

Cook posted two top-five finishes at state the year prior and competed at state this year in the 100-yard backstroke and on the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays, along with the 100 butterfly.

The 200 relay was fifth, the 400 relay was ninth and Cook took fifth in the 100 backstroke.

Breakthrough Season: Michael Ertel, Mt. Vernon Basketball

Winning and Michael Ertel are synonymous. No matter what the Mt. Vernon point guard does, he wants to be the best. This winter, the senior made sure of it with a solid final campaign, ending with being selected as an Indiana All-Star.

Ertel, a Louisiana-Monroe recruit, was named IBCA Large School Senior All-State and earned first-team All-Hoosier Heritage Conference honors. He was an IBCA Academic All-State first team selection and picked to compete in the 29th Annual North/South Indiana All-Star Classic.

An Indiana Junior All-Star in 2016, Ertel became the program’s second all-time career scorer with 1,282 points. He averaged 19.8 points, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals per game for the Marauders and buried 69 3-pointers.

Ertel became first player from the Mt. Vernon boys basketball program elected as an Indiana All-Star since Daniel Turner in 2010. Overall, Mt. Vernon has had a total of eight boys and girls selected as Indiana All-Stars since 1978. Ertel was the ninth and the third boys player chosen all time since Brian Gilpin in 1992.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.