INDIANAPOLIS — The varying looks of torment that crossed Josh Holden’s face weren’t made out of disappointment or annoyance, but rather acceptance of a sobering reality.
Holden’s precocious Greenfield-Central team isn’t ready for championship meets yet, but there’s plenty of time for him to coach up his underdeveloped talent before the contests that truly matter arrive in late January and early February.
In the meantime, there could be a few more results like Wednesday night when the Cougars were handled by a veteran Warren Central squad 46-22.
The Warriors, ranked 11th in the state by IndianaMat.com, sport seven wrestlers listed in the top 16 of their weight division.
After Joe Hoskins (160) and Austin Rose (170) picked up victories to begin the night and staked G-C to an 8-0 advantage, Warren Central ran off eight consecutive victories, five by fall or technical fall.
“I don’t have a problem with my guys unless we don’t put out the effort. I think we do that match to match as a team,” said Holden, in his ninth season at G-C. “The biggest thing for tonight was we knew they were ranked, we knew a couple of us were wrestling ranked guys and we changed what we do because of what they are instead of just wrestling the way we wrestle.”
Holden paused to offer a knowing grin, appreciative of the coaching opportunities Wednesday night spawned.
“We’ll change that,” he added. “We’ll get more experience.”
The Cougars have lifelong wrestlers on their roster and half of the starting lineup Wednesday consisted of upperclassmen.
But some of G-C’s grapplers haven’t competed in big matches, and a few just got into the sport.
A few team members were given a harsh baptism Wednesday before a lively crowd in Warren Central’s South Gym.
Sophomore Collin Dahlquist, filling in for Dakota Bodenreider at 195 pounds, is in his first year of competitive wrestling.
In Dahlquist’s second career varsity match, he drew WC junior Nick Perdue, ranked No. 9 at 170. Perdue pinned Dahlquist 54 seconds into their match.
“But he stuck his nose in there,” Holden said of Dahlquist. “He’s not afraid to wrestle whomever you put out there in from of him.”
Another first-year varsity grappler, sophomore Travis Gibson, faced an experienced opponent in WC senior Shabaka Johns, ranked No. 13 at 145.
“I told (Gibson), ‘I don’t expect you to go out and beat the kid. I expect you to go out there and wrestle your best, let that kid know you were there and make it tough match on him,’” Holden said, “‘Eventually he’s going to graduate and you’re going to be here. And you’re going to be better for it.’”
Gibson followed his coach’s orders to a tee, forcing Johns into the third period before losing by fall.
Immediately after Gibson’s match, Holden was on his hands and knees showing Gibson on different techniques.
Holden could afford the one-on-one instruction time, because the next man up was one of the team’s rocks, senior Josh Farrell.
Last season, Farrell finished as state runner-up at 138, and racked up sectional, regional and semistate championships. He finished sixth at state (103) as a freshman and seventh (119) as a sophomore.
After pinning Warren Central’s Xavier Lee 90 seconds into the second period Wednesday, Farrell moved to 7-0 on the young season.
Now competing at 152, the senior is ranked No. 4 in the state and already has a signature win, a 9-4 decision over No. 6 John Tatom of Hamilton Southeastern at the Arsenal Tech Invitational.
“I never usually wrestle well in November or December. It’s kind of a joke among my coaches that I place in state, but how do I get beat in December,” Farrell said with a laugh, noting he’s only won the team’s upcoming tournament in Connersville once. “I have to be in February shape and December shape. I think that’s how this team is going to be too.
“We’re not in February shape and we shouldn’t be. But we’ll be there when February comes.”
Holden maintains the best way for his team to improve is to wrestle against the best. The Cougars (1-2) will have ample opportunity for progression thanks to their schedule.
Saturday, the team ventures to Perry Meridian for a four-team foray with Avon, Roncalli and the host Falcons, who have won the last two team state championships and are currently the top-ranked squad in the state. (Last November, the IHSAA Executive Committee voted to discontinue the team wrestling state tournament after the 2011-12 season).
On Dec. 15, Greenfield-Central will compete at the New Palestine 5-Way. The No. 9 Dragons are 11-0.
Two weeks later, the Cougars will spend the weekend at the Connersville Spartan Classic.
“It’s tough,” Holden said of G-C’s schedule. “They’re better for it in the end though.”
Warren Central happens to be a common sectional opponent, and the school will also host the tournament on Jan. 26. The Warriors edged the Cougars in last season’s sectional by 3.5 points.
“I’m hoping these young kids pick up experience before the season is over so they can end up being pretty successful by sectional time,” explained junior Sam Locke, a reigning sectional champion at 126 who moved to 8-0 at 132 this year with a technical fall win Wednesday. “By the time we face (Warren Central) again, we can win more matches.”
Farrell and Locke have assumed leadership roles, staying in the ears of their younger teammates and reminding them there aren’t any meaningful wrestling championships won in December.
“Whenever a kid loses…that’s one of the first things I say. It’s not February and I tell them we’re going to get better every day,” offered Farrell, who is one win away from equaling Ian Early’s G-C career wins mark at 133. “I honestly believe that coach Holden coaches us harder than any team in the state and I think we work harder than people.
“I tell them it’s early. We’ve got time.”
Locke, who will square off against the No. 1 wrestler (Perry Meridian’s Cody LeCount) in his weight class Saturday, is trying to get his teammates to buy into a higher level of dedication. Locke said a handful of other wrestlers tagged along to offseason training sessions with him and Farrell.
“We’re trying to be good role models,” he said. “Josh and I put in a lot of work. … We’re just trying to set a good example and work hard.”
Holden hopes that by taking their lumps early, the Cougars will emerge as a hardened group at the right time.
“We’ve got a lot of heart, we’ve got a lot of pride. We’ve got hard workers,” he said. “We’re just inexperienced and we’re going to learn every day. Hopefully come sectional time, we close the gap a little bit.”
Notes: Bodenreider (195) and Logan Lynch (106) were out Wednesday. Bodenreider has a knee injury and Lynch was ill. … Greenfield-Central’s JV team got its first win by beating Warren Central 47-21.
Warren Central 46, Greenfield-Central 22
Wednesday at Warren Central
106: Matthew McKinney (WC) def. Jacob Miller (GC) by fall. 113: Joel McGhee (WC) def. Taylor Wright (GC) 5-1. 120: Deondre Wilson (WC) def. Michael Jones (GC) by fall. 126: Nick Reel (WC) def. Garrett Mullins (GC) 12-4. 132: Sam Locke (GC) def. Trent Pruitt by technical fall. 138: Shawn Fogle (GC) def. Cory Graham (WC) 4-0. 145: Shabaka Johns (WC) def. Travis Gibson (GC) by fall. 152: Josh Farrell (GC) def. Xavier Lee (WC) by fall. 160: Joe Hoskins (GC) def. Daniel Herrick (WC) 4-0. 170: Austin Rose (GC) def. Elijah McGhee by technical fall. 182: Katrell Moss (WC) def. Cameron Nuckols (GC) 11-6. 195: Noah Perdue (WC) def. Collin Dahlquist (GC) by fall. 220: Max Hernandez (WC) def. Dylan Denny (GC) by fall. HWT: Georgio Blades (WC) def. Tyler Beeson (GC) by fall.