YORKTOWN — CJ Red’s dream is alive and well. And so is Josh Farrell’s.
Hancock County’s top wrestling duo continued their perfect seasons Saturday with Hoosier Heritage Conference championships: New Palestine freshman Red at 106 pounds and Greenfield-Central senior Farrell at 152.
Red, now 33-0 on the year and ranked No. 1 in the state by IndianaMat.com, was on the Yorktown mats for a total of 55 seconds. He pinned his first foe in 20 seconds, his second in 35 seconds, and his championship foe — Yorktown’s Cael McCormick — took an injury default before even squaring up against Red.
Farrell was equally dominant. A runner-up at the state finals last season at 138 pounds, Farrell secured pins of 18 and 58 seconds Saturday in the opening rounds, then went into the third period with Yorktown’s Dillon Jackson before putting Jackson’s shoulders to the mat.
The host Tigers took the ultimate prize Saturday; they won the team title with 270 points, ahead of New Palestine (242) and the defending champ Cougars (180.5). But, Red and Farrell, who were joined by a handful of teammates in claiming individual conference honors, maintained their focus on what lies ahead in February — the postseason and, specifically, winning state championships.
“I dream about it every night,” Red commented. “Just being under that spotlight, winning.”
The wrestling state finals are held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with the final championship matches taking place with all but the center mat darkened, hence the “spotlight round” moniker.
Red entered his first high school season with a reputation as a national-caliber wrestler, following his performance on the club circuit. He hasn’t disappointed — DJ Smith of Franklin Central is the only grappler to give Red a battle, losing a 6-4 decision earlier this season — and Red aims to hold onto to his No. 1 ranking and go undefeated for his prep career.
“I first got that goal this year when they gave me the No. 1 seed,” Red said of the top ranking bestowed by IndianaMat.com. “It means that I have a job and I have something to do, and I need to keep that seed up there. No. 1 … want to keep it up there all four years.”
Farrell can’t claim an undefeated high school resume, but he’s the Cougars’ all-time wins leader, and the No. 2-ranked 152-pounder is on track for a fourth state finals appearance. He finished sixth at 103 pounds as a freshman; seventh at 119 his sophomore season; and runner-up last February.
At 28-0, and with a win over the No. 3-ranked Vincent Corsaro, this is the furthest in a season that Farrell has been undefeated. His performance so far vindicates his decision to jump two weight classes from 138 to 152.
“The weight’s not that bad,” Farrell said. “I’m not stuffing my face Friday night, but I’m not running five miles just to make weight. I’m eating, and I’m about in between.”
Asked if he’s wrestling better than at any point of his career, Farrell said, “I think I’ll be able to say yes to that question this February.”
Greenfield-Central, New Palestine, Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock will compete in the Warren Central Sectional Jan. 26, followed on successive weekends by the regional at Perry Meridian, semistate at New Castle and the state finals.
Judging by Saturday’s conference efforts, Hancock County will be well represented as the state tourney moves along.
Joining Farrell as a Greenfield-Central conference champ was sophomore 113-pounder Taylor Wright. Earlier this season, Wright lost at the New Palestine Invitational to the Dragons’ Rylan McCarty and Mt. Vernon’s Colin McAtee.
Saturday, Wright pinned McCarty in the second round, then outlasted McAtee 8-6 in a spirited championship match. It was only the second loss of the year for McAtee, the Marauders’ sophomore, while McCarty, a junior, entered the HHC meet at 25-4.
“Probably the best I’ve seen him wrestle,” G-C coach Josh Holden said of Wright (22-10). “Solid, getting after it, excited to be here. And he’s just a sophomore. Starting to come into his own, starting to mature, starting to learn how to wrestle to win these big matches, so it’s exciting for him.”
McCarty went on to finish third at 113, while his New Palestine teammate, Taylor Fee followed with a championship at 126. Fee (25-7) notched two, sub-80 second pins and an 8-1 decision en route to the title.
In the upper weight classes, New Palestine’s Brian Wagner (182), Noah Grable (195) and Gabe Estes (220) dominated, combining for six pins, two shutout decisions and a forfeit in winning titles.
New Palestine’s five individual HHC championships tied Yorktown for most on the day. The Dragons edged Yorktown in a dual meet earlier this season, but New Palestine traveled to Yorktown Saturday without the services of Tommy Cash (concussion), the state’s No. 2-ranked 120-pounder.
Cash’s replacement, a freshman with little varsity experience, did not place in the top six Saturday. Cash likely would have contributed in the neighborhood of 20 team points to the Dragons’ total, while possibly taking away from Yorktown’s total. The Tigers’ Schuyler Phillips won the 120-pound bracket.
The loss was the first of any kind for the New Palestine team, which had finished first in all of its dual meets and multi-team competitions prior to Saturday.
“I knew it was going to be kind of tough, just because we had one of our better wrestlers out at 120,” New Palestine coach Chad Red said. “I thought we’d be able to still compete, and we did. I thought our kids wrestled really well.
“(Yorktown) is a better tournament team than we are right now, just because they have a couple more kids that are a little more experienced, have some kids that have wrestled a few more national tournaments than some of our kids. But, this is a good guiding point of where we need to go. Try to build on what we’ve done right so far. I’m not displeased at all. I thought our kids wrestled really well.”
New Palestine sent four freshmen to the mat Saturday, while Yorktown fielded two freshmen.
Among the Dragons’ champions, Wagner, a junior, improved to 31-2 and Grable, a sophomore, is 24-8.
Estes, New Palestine’s 220-pound winner, was particularly impressive. Saturday marked his first varsity competition of the season; the junior had to wait to compete per eligibility rules after transferring from Mt. Vernon.
Estes pinned his first HHC opponent — Yorktown’s Noah Little (29-8) — in 42 seconds. Estes followed that with a 13-0 decision and a two minute, 16 second pin in the final round over foes with, obviously, considerably more mat time this season.
“That kid’s got 35-some matches and we were only on the mat with him for 30 seconds, so that kind of shows where our kid could be at in the state of Indiana,” Red said of Estes and his first-round competition. “And it wasn’t a fluke. We took him down and turned him over, so I think Gabe’s got a good shot to do well as long as we continue to work on building up his stamina.”
Red, in his first season as the Dragons’ head coach after working as an assistant last year, credited Estes with staying positive, despite missing half the varsity season.
“Great kid, took it with a grain of salt, didn’t complain about it,” Red said. “He’s been very patient, just waiting for his turn to wrestle, and, boy, he shined. He got after it today.”
Among other top finishers for the Dragons Saturday, Gordon Wagner was runner-up at 138; Robbie Elsea was second at 145; and Nick Brickens finished third at 160.
In addition to Farrell and Wright, G-C got solid performances from Garrett Mullins (third at 126), Sam Locke (second at 132), Shawn Fogle (third at 138), Joe Hoskins (second at 160), Cameron Nuckols (third at 182) and Tyler Beeson (second at heavyweight).
Pendleton Heights finished fourth in the team standings behind G-C with 166 points, followed by Rushville (136), Delta (98), Shelbyville (68.5) and the Marauders (60).
Along with McAtee — MV’s runner-up at 113 — Chance Albrand finished third at 195 for the Marauders.
The Hancock County wrestlers will face off again in the sectional, if not before; Greenfield-Central will compete in Mt. Vernon’s six-way tourney Saturday. Yorktown, meanwhile, will take part in a sectional, regional and semistate to the north.
It was Yorktown’s Devon Jackson who defeated G-C’s Farrell in the 138-pound state finals championship last season. Jackson, now graduated, finished his senior year 52-0. Jackson also defeated Farrell in the HHC meet, marking the only season Farrell didn’t win a conference title.
So, Saturday’s blue ribbon meant a little more to the Cougars’ team captain.
“I want to win a state title and I want February to get here, but this is my last year so, I don’t want it to go too quickly,” he said. “I don’t really look ahead yet. I’m just going to enjoy conference while I’ve still got it.”
Farrell’s coach believes the youngster has a chance to end his career as Jackson did — under the spotlight, arm raised in victory.
“He’s in such good shape,” Holden said. “These guys, whether they stall or get after him or whatever their strategy is, third period comes around and he’s still doing his thing. No more strategy, it goes out the window and the better guy wins.
“Josh is just being Josh. I hope this is his year.”
HHC TEAM RESULTS
1. Yorktown 270; 2. New Palestine 242; 3. Greenfield-Central 180.5; 4. Pendleton Heights 166; 5. Rushville 136; 6. Delta 98; 7. Shelbyville 68.5 8. Mt. Vernon 60.
>>Hancock County individual champions (with, in order, first-, second- and final-round results):
CJ Red (NP), 106 lbs: def. Franklin (MV), fall, 20 seconds; def. Miller (GC), fall :35; def. McCormick (YT), injury default.
Taylor Wright (GC), 113: def. K. Campbell (YT), fall 3:28; def. McCarty (NP), 6-3; def. McAtee (MV), 8-6.
Taylor Fee (NP), 126: def. Edwards (RV), fall 1:17; def. Mullins (GC), 8-1; def. L. Campbell (YT), fall :40.
Josh Farrell (GC), 152: def. Pergentio (MV), fall :18; def. Gooding (PH), fall :58; def. Jackson (YT), fall 4:49.
Brian Wagner (NP), 182: def. (DE), forfeit; def. McLaughlin (RV), fall 2:41; def. Howard-Anderson (YT), fall 4:42.
Noah Grable (NP), 195: def. Combs (SH), fall 1:55; def. Wales (YT), fall 4:29; def. Gill (DE), 8-0.
Gabe Estes (NP), 220: def. Little (YT), fall :42; def. Brees (DE), 13-0; def. Hadley (RV), fall 2:16.