INDIANAPOLIS — Wrestling is a study in managing energy.
Awake well before dawn Saturday, local wrestlers put in a 12-hour shift of mostly pacing, stretching and snacking with brief bursts of mat time at the Perry Meridian Regional.
For those at their physical peak when they were summoned to action, they were rewarded with a trip to semistate.
Chad Red and Tyler Beeson were among the Hancock County grapplers who used their time efficiently. Red, New Palestine’s 120-pound sophomore, and Beeson, a Greenfield-Central heavyweight, each pinned all three of their opponents to claim regional championships. Their total time on the mat for the six bouts: seven minutes, 27 seconds.
“I feel relief,” said Red, who remains undefeated as a high schooler. “Because when I step on the mat, I’ve got my nerves still in me, kind of scared. Even though I’ve wrestled him before, beat him, pinned him, whatever, I still get nervous every time I wrestle somebody.”
Red (36-0) was among four New Palestine regional champions and two other Dragons semistate qualifiers; the top four regional finishers advanced to Saturday’s New Castle Semistate.
New Palestine finished third in the regional team standings with 118 points, behind champ Perry Meridian (198) and runner-up Warren Central (162).
Of the 17 teams represented at Perry Meridian, only New Palestine and the host Falcons claimed four individual titles.
“For them to come out and wrestle like that, my hat’s off to them,” New Palestine coach Chad Red said. “Very, very proud.
“I knew this morning. We got in at 5:30 (Saturday morning), rolling around. We just looked good. Clapping, smacking each other’s hands. That just kind of rubbed off. Alec (White) got it going and it was a trickle down effect.”
White is the Dragons’ 106-pounder. The freshman finished third at last week’s Shelbyville Sectional after falling to Warren Central’s Dylan Culp in the semifinal. Culp went on to lose in the sectional championship to Beech Grove’s DeMonte Dawkins.
Saturday, White (31-6) pinned Ritter’s Lance Ellington in the quarterfinals and beat Dawkins 4-2 in the semifinal. In the 106 championship, White earned a 7-3 decision over the Falcons’ Ryan Hawkins, who defeated Culp in the semis.
“Feels pretty good, just helps me get a better seed for semistate, keep it going,” White said. “Bankers Life … that’s the main goal.”
Regional champs will face a fourth-place regional finisher in the semistate opening round, with second-place and third-place regional wrestlers squaring off. Participants must win their first two semistate matches to secure a top-four finish and move on to the State Finals, Feb. 21-22 in downtown Indianapolis.
State No. 1 Red and No. 8 White will be joined at semistate by fellow regional champs Rylan McCarty (126) and Nick Brickens (160), as well as Brian Wagner (runner-up at 195) and Eugene Starks (third at 113).
At 126, No. 17-ranked McCarty (35-4) handed No. 16 Joel McGhee (27-5) of Warren Central a 6-2 loss in the title match.
Brickens (20-4) cruised through a 160 bracket that was without a ranked wrestler, pinning his first two foes and beating Garrett Wilson (8-3) of Perry Meridian by 11-4 decision in the championship.
Top-ranked Vinny Corsaro — state runner-up at 152 last year to Greenfield’s Josh Farrell — would see Brickens in the semistate semifinals, if each won their first two matches.
“Rylan and Nick. I don’t want to say they’ve peaked, but they’re starting to peak,” coach Red said. “Hopefully they’ll peak even more next week and the week after.
“They all wrestled well today. Everybody. Even those that might not have won, I was pleased with the effort. Hopefully they’ll all do it again next week and get all six down there (to the State Finals).”
A spot in the State Finals appears to be a lock for Red (the coach’s son), but he’s not taking anything for granted. Ranked 20th in the nation at 120 pounds by flowrestling.com, Red looks forward to proving any doubters wrong.
“I feel like at state last year nobody wanted to see me win, so I had to go out there and show ’em,” he said. “This year, I know there’s a big number of people who want to see me win, but there’s still always somebody out there that wants to see me lose.”
Saturday, Red pinned his first two victims in 35 and 26 seconds, respectively, then stuck Warren Central’s Matthew McKinney (30-4) to the mat in 3:23.
“I could have wrestled a little bit better, getting to my attacks earlier, but I still did my thing,” Red said.
Dustin Tackett, Mt. Vernon’s only regional qualifier, lost to Wilson by fall in the 160 opening round.
Greenfield-Central finished with 50.5 team points — fourth behind Franklin Central (55.5) — and will attempt to get three wrestlers to Bankers Life.
Beeson, the Cougars’ heavyweight, will be joined in New Castle by teammates Cameron Nuckols (second at 182 Saturday) and Sam Locke (third at 132).
No. 13-ranked Nathan Warman of Perry Meridian improved to 32-5 on the year with a 6-4 win over the unranked Nuckols (29-7) in their title battle.
“He just gets better every week,” G-C coach Josh Holden said of Nuckols. “Somebody comes to me every week and says how impressed they are with how much better he’s gotten. We’ll try to catch (Warman).”
Nuckols and Warman are on opposite sides of the semistate bracket (available online at trackwrestling.com) and can only meet in the championship.
As for Locke, he likely won’t see anything more difficult in New Castle than the bracket at Perry Meridian. Ranked 13th in the state, Locke was only the third-highest ranked 132-pounder on hand Saturday.
Locke (31-4) dropped a 4-1 decision to No. 2 Brandon James of Perry Meridian in the semifinal. No. 1 Deondre Wilson of Warren Central beat James 4-3 in the 132 championship, with spectators from the upper and lower levels crowding around to get a peep.
“You look at Locke, which I think is one of the best kids in the state, and you’ve got No. 1 and No. 2 right here in the same regional,” Holden said. “You see everybody was watching the (title) match, how hyped it was and how great of a match it was.
“(Locke) wasn’t outwrestled by that much. They’re beating him, they’re doing what they need to do to win, but he’s not outclassed. He can wrestle with those guys. We just have to get better.”
As the Perry Meridian Regional came to a close around 5 p.m., another Cougar was looking to get better. Beeson (35-1) used his short time on the mat Saturday — with pins in 1:53, 28 seconds and 42 seconds — to work on a few new maneuvers.
Beeson’s only loss this season was by fall to top-ranked Wesley Bernard (41-0) of Cathedral. Beeson could face Bernard — third at the State Finals as a heavyweight last season — in the semistate championship.
“He continues to add … something here, something there,” Holden said of Beeson. “A lot of stuff that big guys don’t usually do, he can do because he’s athletic. He just works at it.
“All three matches, something we worked on in practice this week, we did it in a match today. You start doing that, that’s when you can get excited.”
At the Richmond Regional, Eastern Hancock earned a pair of semistate berths. Seniors Nathan Kell (22-11) and Josh Ramage (22-9) will join their Hancock County brethren in New Castle after securing fourth-place finishes Saturday.
“Very proud of my seniors,” EH coach Keith Oliver said. “These guys deserve it.”
Oliver and the Royals enjoyed a resurgent year, winning the Mid-Hoosier Conference Invite and placing third at the Tri Sectional.
“The season we have had has been a dream season for a first-year coach,” Oliver said. “If we keep working hard and get to camps and freestyle this spring and summer, we will advance at least five for sure to semistate next season. Big things are coming from these young men.”
Franklin County won the Richmond Regional team title with 83 points, ahead of Union County (71.5), Lawrenceburg (67.5), South Dearborn (66) and East Central (64). Eastern Hancock had 14 points.
Hancock County wrestlers qualifying for the New Castle Semistate, Saturday, 9 a.m.. Listed with school, regional result, weight and season record. Top four regional finishers advanced to semistate. Top four semistate finishers will qualify for State Finals, Feb. 21-22, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.
EASTERN HANCOCK: 4. Nathan Kell, 138 (22-11); 4. Josh Ramage, 220 (22-9).
Perry Meridian Regional
GREENFIELD-CENTRAL: 1. Tyler Beeson, HWT (35-1); 2. Cameron Nuckols, 182 (29-7); 3. Sam Locke, 132 (31-4).
NEW PALESTINE: 1. Alec White, 106 (31-6); 1. Chad Red, 120 (36-0); 1. Rylan McCarty, 126 (35-4); 1. Nick Brickens, 160 (20-4); 2. Brian Wagner, 195 (34-4); 3. Eugene Starks, 113 (33-4).