INDIANAPOLIS — Perfection is a burden too heavy for most. To Chad Red, it’s an attainable goal.
“I could have wrestled a lot better,” the New Palestine sophomore remarked shortly after defeating Fairfield’s Forrest Glogouski 6-2 to win the 120-pound championship Saturday evening at the 76th Annual IHSAA Wrestling State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
It was the second straight state title capping a second straight undefeated season for Red, now 92-0 in his prep career.
Red entered Saturday night’s spotlight round having pinned 38 of his 43 opponents this season, including all three of his early-round State Finals foes — the 6-2 victory was his closest match of the year. Red’s goal for next season is to pin all four of his State Finals combatants, a feat accomplished by only three wrestlers since the four-round state finals format began in 1984.
Perry Meridian coach and Indiana High School Wrestling Hall of Famer Jim Tonte is a believer. In his 15th season with the Falcons after a decorated grappling career at Southport and the University of Indianapolis, Tonte has seen nearly all of the best Indiana has to offer in terms of high school mat legends.
“Chad Red, he is very technical, but he’s very athletic,” said Tonte, whose Falcons’ streak of three straight team championships was broken Saturday by Indianapolis Cathedral. “And, this isn’t a knock on him, he’s very confident about himself. I think all three of those things together are tough to beat.”
Red’s post-high school ambitions include competing for one of the major collegiate programs, such as Oklahoma State or Penn State, according to Red’s dad, namesake and New Palestine head coach, Chad Red.
Tonte and the elder Chad Red have known each other for years, and Tonte has no doubt Red has been shaped into a Division I athlete.
“His future is really bright,” Tonte said. “He’s very well-coached. His dad’s done a great job of coaching him from time he was this little to now. They’ve got this rapport.
“My son and his son were friends when they were five- and six-years-old. He’s just a kid that has gotten better and better.”
With his victories over the weekend, Red is halfway to what would be a remarkable feat — an undefeated high school career. In the history of Indiana wrestling, only Lance Ellis of Cathedral, (172-0 from 1986-89) and Griffith’s Alex Tsirtis (236-0 from 2001-04) have attained prep perfection.
Saturday, though, proved a reminder of how tenuous a champion’s perch at the top can be.
Fifty seconds into the 120-pound title bout, Red was briefly immobilized by a knee injury after Glogouski caught Red’s left leg in an awkward and potentially dangerous position. Judging from slow motion replays on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse big-screen — accompanied by “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd — Red’s knee appeared to be on the verge of suffering serious damage when the officials whistled for a pause in the action.
“I was kind of mad,” Red said. “I thought I had my two (points) and then he just started cranking on my leg. I yelled at the ref, and they didn’t want to stop it until my leg was about to break.
“But, it’s all good. I got up, did my thing. Rolled him, turned him, got a quick two.”
After the injury timeout, Red shook it off and built leads of 2-0, 4-0 and 6-0 on the way to a 6-2 win.
“It still pops every time I walk,” Red said roughly an hour after his victory. “It’s all good, though.”
It was at that point that Red lamented that he didn’t make quicker work of Glogouski and mentioned his goal of pinning everyone in sight at next year’s State Finals.
“I had three pins going into (the final) and I was looking for a fourth,” said Red, who had Glogouski on his back during the match. “I thought I could have had him. But I just know I have to get better.”
A championship next season would put Red in a group of three-time IHSAA title winners (undefeated or not) that grew by one Saturday when Hanover senior Steven Micic became the 26th three-time champ with a 126 first-place finish.
Red has carved his place into New Palestine athletic history as the only two-time individual sport state champ. With his victory last season, Red joined Kyle Ulrey as the only individual state champs in Dragons history. Ulrey went 46-0 to win a 152-pound wrestling title in 2008. Red is also the first Hoosier Heritage Conference wrestler to claim two state titles.
Red and Ulrey were nearly welcomed by a third Dragons wrestling state champ Saturday.
New Palestine senior Brian Wagner finished second at 195, falling 3-2 to Warren Central’s Katrell Moss in a rematch of their semistate championship Feb. 15. Wagner edged Moss 5-4 at the New Castle Semistate. The pair were tied 1-1 late in the third period Saturday when Moss scored the decisive takedown.
“I’m real proud of Brian,” coach Red of Wagner (41-5), who improved on last year’s third-place State Finals finish at 182. “Obviously you want to go out on top, but it just wasn’t his night. We were right there, one point away. But I can’t take anything away from Katrell. He won the match fair and square.”
Alec White completed an impressive freshman campaign by joining teammates Red and Wagner with a podium finish. White, the Dragons’ 106-pounder, finished fourth, falling to Cathedral’s Breyden Bailey 2-1 Saturday evening. White won his Friday night and Saturday morning matches by 19-3 and 6-2 decisions, respectively, before being shutout 7-0 by Griffith’s Jeremaih Reitz in the 106 semifinals. Reitz went on to take the state title over Paul Konrath of Mt. Vernon (Posey), 4-2.
White finished 36-9. Bailey (47-1), Reitz (45-1) and Konrath (48-3) are also freshmen.
The Red-Wagner-White trio led New Palestine to a fifth-place team finish. Cathedral broke Perry Meridian’s three-year team championship hold with 73 points, ahead of Franklin (60), Yorktown (55), Perry Meridian (51.5), New Palestine (50), Penn (44) and Warren Central (42).
Senior Rylan McCarty made it to the State Finals for the Dragons before being stopped in his first-round match Friday. And several other Dragons, including returning sophomores Eugene Starks and Nick Brickens, claimed conference, sectional or regional titles.
“I’m very pleased with all of our guys,” coach Red said. “We wrestled our hearts out all weekend and all year. A great group of kids.
“We’ll take a week off, then start training for next year. We’ve got a young group. My job is to make sure I get the most out of every individual and that’s what I’ll try to do.”
It’s been a sometimes challenging season away from the mat for the second-year New Palestine head coach. Red’s father passed away recently, as did a close friend of Red’s.
As the younger Red lay with his back on the mat following the knee injury and there was a question of whether he would return to action, the coach’s season was thrown for another curve.
“It was just part of wrestling,” said the coach, who added he didn’t feel like it was a “dirty” move by Glogouski. “Obviously, I wanted them to stop the match a little bit before that — it almost broke my kid’s knee — but he persevered through it.
“He went out there a little overanxious, wanted to pin him real quick. I could tell by how he was moving. Could have been a little more patient, but he still wrestled a good match.”
Upon winning, the New Palestine sophomore ran to a corner of the mat facing the crowd and did a short victory dance — the “nae nae.” Last year’s post-match jubilation for Red at Bakers Life Fieldhouse was a standing flip.
Red was certainly not alone in victory celebrations by State Finals wrestlers. One heavyweight did a cartwheel after earning a fifth-place finish. A host of wrestlers flexed and posed after wins, and others raced toward the crowd with fingers pointed, often in acknowledgement of family in the stands.
Red’s celebration and nearly all of the others should be taken as good-natured fun — a rewarding release to a year’s worth of practice time and dedication, said Tonte, the longtime Perry Meridian coach.
“It takes a lot of freaking guts to be in front of 10,000 people,” he commented. “To wrestle under the lights for a state title when you’re 16, 17, 18-years old, you’ve got to be an iron man. You’ve got to have nerves of steel.
“A kid like CJ Red, he doesn’t get shook up. He almost got taken down in the first period. He bounced back to dominate the match.”
The Reds are much-respected in the wrestling community. But, like any champion, detractors come with the territory.
“I will say this: There’s a knock on Red about his personality and his dad’s personality,” Tonte added. “And, look, there’s some showmanship there. But I’ve kind of always said, ‘If you’re the best, you get the opportunity to do that until somebody knocks you down.’
“Until somebody can beat Chad Red, he can flip and do whatever he wants to do, because he’s the man.”