SHELBYVILLE — A rising tide lifts all ships, and Chad (CJ) Red has an ocean full of wrestling talent.
Red, the New Palestine sophomore and defending state champion, continued his pursuit of a second straight undefeated season with a sectional title Saturday at Shelbyville.
Not by coincidence, Red, at 120 pounds, was joined in top shelf podium finishes by teammates Eugene Starks (113), Rylan McCarty (126) and Nick Brickens (160). The Dragons’ Alec White finished third at 106.
“We’re good at the lower weights because of CJ,” said McCarty, a senior and two-time sectional champ. “He’s our man, he’s our leader. I’ve been better on top (position) because of facing him in the (wrestling) room. He’s very quick on bottom.”
Battling Red has proved to be beneficial for McCarty, Starks and White, who have all faced the career 81-0 grappler on the practice mats. Starks — JV at 106 behind Red last season — was Red’s most frequent practice matchup until Red recently took on the challenge of facing Brickens, even though Brickens has 40 pounds on the standout.
“In practice we go at it,” Red said of his entire group of partners. “I try to teach them stuff and help them out. At the same time, they teach me stuff and they help me out. We just go hard in practice everyday.
“With Nick … I wanted to step it up a little and get used to heavier guys, for the state finals.”
The Dragons’ second-place team finish behind Warren Central was a complete effort. Eleven of the New Palestine 14-man lineup advanced to the Perry Meridian Regional, including second-place finishers Brian Wagner (195) and Andrew Yazel (285).
The top four sectional finishers in each weight class moved on.
Wagner fell to Warren Central’s Katrell Moss by 3-1 decision in their title bout, the Warriors’ final individual crown of the day. Warren Central finished with 224 points to outlast New Palestine (205), Franklin Central (170.5), Greenfield-Central (137) and Roncalli (124) in the 10-team event.
The Cougars’ Tyler Beeson beat Yazel to win the heavyweight title, not long after Cameron Nuckols picked up G-C’s first sectional championship at 182.
Nuckols, the No. 2 seed, beat top seed Jacob Imbro of Franklin Central 4-3 to win his first sectional championship.
It was sweet revenge for Nuckols, who lost 5-3 to Imbro earlier this season and 6-2 last year.
“My goal was to beat him, and then the sectional championship was kind of a bonus,” Nuckols said with a grin. “It feels awesome.”
Nuckols, a junior, improved to 27-6 on the year while Beeson moved to 32-1 with ease. The Cougars’ swag heavyweight had a bye and forfeit before pinning his final two opponents in a total of four minutes, nine seconds.
Nuckols said Beeson, who is also his football teammate, lifts the entire wrestling room, much like New Palestine champ Red.
“Tyler’s one of those lead-by-example leaders,” Nuckols said. “He gets stuff done and you want to follow him because of the way he acts. He doesn’t tell people what to do or anything. And that’s just someone you want to be around.
“He’s like that in football, too. He just kicks people’s butt and then helps them up.”
Nuckols and Beeson will be joined at Perry Meridian by Sam Locke (second at 132 Saturday), Taylor Wright (third at 120), Travis Gibson (third at 170) and Shawn Fogle (fourth at 152).
Dustin Tackett (fourth at 160) was the lone regional qualifier from Mt. Vernon.
Fourth-place finishers Jared Timberman (132), Jayln Wallace (138), Sam Weber (182) and Noah Grable (220) rounded out the New Palestine contingent.
The Dragons were involved in two of the more compelling matches of the day.
Starks, at 113, faced fellow sophomore Erik Owens of Warren Central in the championship and trailed 4-3 with only seconds remaining.
As the clock ticked toward zero, Starks snared Owens for a takedown and a 5-4 victory. He completed the move as the final buzzer sounded, and Warren Central coaches were vehement with their disapproval to the officials.
“I glanced up at the clock once and there were five seconds left and I knew I had to get a takedown,” Starks said. “I was just trying to grab a leg and hook an ankle and it just happened to be there.”
Starks, the No. 1 seed, will take a 31-3 record into the regional.
At what should have been an equally down-to-the-wire fight at 160 against Franklin Central’s DeRon Young (22-5), Brickens flattened the junior’s shoulders to the mat with an unusual move for an 87-second pin.
Brickens (17-4), only a sophomore, leapt from the mat after the victory as his New Palestine teammates erupted in cheers.
“Nick came out here and gave up a takedown and then he hit a move that we worked on,” New Palestine coach Chad Red (CJ’s dad) said. “We work on it once or twice a week, haven’t hit it all year and there you go.
“Basically it’s a gator roll front headlock where you 360 roll through the side of their head. It’s more of a freestyle gator roll. We take our arm through and look for a cradle. As I tell our kids, I guarantee a lot of people have never seen it. Not that we’ve got it all, because we do not. But just try to always think outside the box, give these guys some tools that maybe other coaches aren’t showing their kids.”
Whether it’s acquiring an advanced technique from coach Red or the extreme task of taking on wrestler Red in practice, New Palestine Wrestling is perpetually in pursuit of “the next level.”
McCarty (32-4), the Dragons’ 126-pound champ, described facing CJ in practice:
“It’s off and on. In a way I hate it, because he never gets tired,” he said with a laugh. “He’s like perfect. He never gets tired.”
Team standings, Shelbyville Sectional
Warren Central 244, New Palestine 205, Franklin Central 170.5, Greenfield-Central 137, Roncalli 124, Triton Central 109, Beech Grove 86, Shelbyville 59, Mt. Vernon 18, John Marshall 6
Regional qualifiers with sectional finish:
At Shelbyville Sectional
Nuckols, 1st at 182; Beeson, 1st at 285; Locke, 2nd at 132; Wright, 3rd at 120; Gibson, 3rd at 170; Fogle, 4th at 152.
Tackett, 4th at 160.
Starks, 1st at 113; Red, 1st at 120; McCarty, 1st at 126, Brickens, 1st at 160; Wagner, 2nd at 195; Yazel, 2nd at 285; White, 3rd at 106; Timberman, 4th at 132; Wallace, 4th at 138; Weber, 4th at 182, Grable, 4th at 220.