Chad Red and Josh Holden preach preparation and confidence.
Even though wrestlers for the New Palestine and Greenfield-Central head coaches will take the mat this weekend in the biggest arena and in front of the largest crowd of their prep careers, there’s no reason to be nervous.
“I’m trying to keep the mood really light and energetic,” said Red, who will have four wrestlers competing Friday in the State Finals first round at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “It’s supposed to be fun. Yeah, it’s the state finals and there’s a lot of stake, but these kids have worked really hard to get there. And I keep telling them, ‘You’ve got to relax and know that everything you’ve done all year, it’s time to put it together for 24 minutes.’
“Four perfect matches. As I always tell our kids, ‘We can end a match at any time we want, it doesn’t have to go six minutes, we can always put them away earlier. I’m okay with that.’”
Red’s 120-pound wrestler and sophomore son, Chad (CJ) Red, knows of perfection. The younger Red went 48-0 last season to win the 106 state title. He’s ranked No. 1 in the state (and 20th in the nation) this season at 120, and CJ will put a 40-0 mark on the line Friday when he faces off against Yorktown’s Brad Laughlin (34-9).
If CJ prevails, he’ll advance to the Saturday morning quarterfinals, which will be followed by the afternoon semifinals and the championship “spotlight” round at 7:30 p.m.
CJ will be joined in Indy by teammates Alec White (106), Rylan McCarty (126) and Brian Wagner (195).
Wagner, a senior, will be aiming to improve on his third-place state finish of a year ago. McCarty, a senior, and the frosh White are making their first appearances in the ultimate Hoosier prep meet.
CJ has plenty of experience against his first-round foe. Red pinned Laughlin as recently as the Hoosier Heritage Conference tourney on Jan. 18. The opponents for White, McCarty and Wagner, however, are from well outside of Central Indiana.
“First time seeing them, but it’s their first time seeing us, so we can’t really worry too much with what they do,” coach Red said of possible strategy. “Wrestling, it’s an individual sport and you just have to take care of yourself. It’s still just a match. It’s obviously the state meet, but we’re training like it’s just another meet that we’ve had in November, December.
“And we just need to make sure we wake up on the right side of the bed Friday and Saturday and believe in our ability and what we can achieve. And if we do that, I think the sky’s the limit.”
Holden, the Cougars’ 10th-year head coach, also isn’t overly concerned with his wrestler’s first-round opponent. G-C senior Tyler Beeson (38-2) will face LaPorte’s Landon Blackburn (40-4) in the heavyweight bracket on Friday night.
“Every weight class when you get to this point, there’s no ‘good’ draw,” Holden said. “Especially at heavyweight. I think it’s always so even. Anybody can win.
“Right now, I’d say only the Cathedral kid is a cut above everyone else. And we’re on the opposite side of the bracket.”
Beeson’s lone losses this season were to Cathedral’s Wesley Bernard (45-0). If Beeson and Bernard win their first three bouts, they’d meet in the championship.
Bernard finished third in last year’s State Finals. Heavyweight winner Donte Winfield of Perry Meridian and runner-up Joseph Gardland of Rushville graduated.
Although Beeson is the Cougars’ career and single-season pins leader, he is making his first State Finals appearance.
Holden spoke with Beeson earlier this week about his mental state.
“I thought he looked a little preoccupied,” Holden recounted. “I asked him how he was doing and he said, ‘Coach, I’m just stressed.’
“I told him don’t be stressed, it’s fun. He said, ‘No coach, I have so much homework I have to get done.”
Holden added with a laugh, “So, he has his priorities in order. He’s a very confident wrestler. He knows how to prepare so there’s no reason to be nervous.”
Veteran G-C assistant coaches Ed Hamant and Mike Stanley, as well as Beeson’s current wrestling partner, freshman Cameron Wetli, have played a significant part in Beeson’s preparation.
Stanley has also sparred with Beeson, in addition to studying film with the senior. Including several volunteer assistant coaches, Holden believes he has the best staff in the state.
“If I wasn’t here, nothing would change,” Holden said. “They just do a terrific job. I’m blessed to have them.”
Wetli wrestled at 195 this season and gives up a significant amount of poundage to the Cougars’ heavyweight.
“I tried to pry Cameron away and give him a little bit of a break, but he said, ‘Coach, I only get one year to wrestle with him. I want to learn everything I can,” Holden said.
There’s a similar dedication in the New Palestine wrestling room, which produced a total of 15 conference, sectional, regional and semistate championships this season among seven wrestlers.
Although most of their seasons have ended, 22 of the 29 Dragons are still attending daily practice to help CJ, White, McCarty and Wagner achieve the ultimate goal.
“When you see that, it makes you feel good,” Red said of the team-wide participation. “We’ve got a good thing going with this program.”
CJ’s state title last season was the first for the Dragons since Kyle Ulrey won the 152 crown in 2008.
If CJ gets past Laughlin in Friday’s first round, potential Saturday opponents include Bailey Lahue (24-1) of Corydon Central, Mishawaka’s Jake Sinkovics (36-0) and Brock Hudkins (41-1) of Danville.
The New Palestine sophomore will be focused this weekend, his dad assured.
“Even though Chad won state, that was last year,” the coach said. “With wrestling, anything can happen as long as there’s still time on the clock. I don’t think he’s looking ahead.
“So we just need to prepare like every kid out there is trying to go after us and take our head off. And if we do that, I think he’ll be fine. I’m sure all those guys have a plan; hopefully, our plan is better.”
The 76th Annual IHSAA Wrestling State Finals
Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis
Admission: $8 per session; $20 both days.
Webstream: Follow all the action through both days at IHSAAtv.org.
Complete Brackets: TrackWrestling.com.
First Round — 6 p.m.
Quarterfinals — 9:30 a.m.
Semifinals — to follow quarterfinals
Consolations — 5 p.m.
Finals — 7:30 p.m.
Hancock County: Brackets for Greenfield-Central’s Tyler Beeson (HWT) and New Palestine’s Alec White (106), Chad Red (120), Rylan McCarty (126) and Brian Wagner (195) listed below.
Advancement: Wrestlers must win Friday to advance.
Participation: 224 wrestlers, 16 in each of 14 weight classes, representing 119 schools.
106 POUNDS (Friday first-round matches)
Lukas Long, 37-2, Lakeland, 12 vs. Kyle Hatch, 33-7, Warsaw, 9
Mason Kaufer, 27-6, Corydon Central, 10 vs. Alec White, 34-7, New Palestine, 9
Jeremaih Reitz, 41-1, Griffith, 9 vs. Jaron Katzer, 31-12, Goshen, 12
Ryan Hawkins, 33-10, Perry Meridian, 12 vs. Will Egli, 32-2, Evansville Mater Dei, 9
Paul Konrath, 45-2, Mt. Vernon, 9 vs. Karl Wilhelm, 33-6, Carmel, 12
Nathaniel Weimer, 30-10, East Noble, 9 vs. Drew Hildebrandt, 34-4, Penn, 10
Breyden Bailey, 44-0, Indpls. Cathedral, 9 vs. Noah Franklin, 37-4, New Washington, 9
Colton Cummings, 34-2, Lowell, 9 vs. Hunter Langeloh, 32-8, Columbia City, 10
Brock Hudkins, 41-1, Danville, 10 vs. Jake Hartman, 38-8, South Bend Clay, 11
Jacob Cottey, 35-6, Perry Meridian, 12 vs. Forrest Glogouski, 41-2, Fairfield, 12
Jake Sinkovics, 36-0, Mishawaka, 12 vs. Alex Johnson, 31-4, Evansville Mater Dei, 11
DeLawerence Gayfield, 35-3, Concord, 12 vs. Matthew McKinney, 33-5, Warren Central, 10
Connor Knapp, 35-2, East Noble, 11 vs. Edrece Stansberry, 24-3, Hamiliton SE, 12
Griffin Schermer, 38-6, Bloomington South, 11 vs. Tristan Dembowski, 36-14, Valparaiso, 10
Chad Red, 40-0, New Palestine, 10 vs. Brad Laughlin, 34-9, Yorktown, 9
Ruben Rodriguez, 32-4, Hammond Morton, 12 vs. Bailey Lahue, 24-1, Corydon Central, 11
Jack Chastain, 39-1, Hamiliton SE, 11 vs. Logan Aldrich, 31-6, F.W. Northrop, 12
Zachary Davis, 38-3, Penn , 12 vs. Quinton Harris, 28-12, Avon, 11
Erique Early, 26-0, F.W. Snider, 12 vs. Rylan McCarty, 37-6, New Palestine, 12
Elliott Molloy, 39-4, Danville, 10 vs. Clarence Johnson, 36-5, Merrillville, 11
Stevan Micic, 38-0, Hanover Central, 12 vs. Austin Bethel, 27-4, Mt. Vernon, 9
Cael McCormick, 44-3, Yorktown, 10 vs. Aidan Kenny, 35-5, Perry Meridian, 12
Nick Lee, 30-0, Evansville Mater Dei, 9 vs. John Hunting, 37-6, Rochester, 11
AJ Belden, 34-9, Westfield, 12 vs. Anthony Vaughn, 26-6, Elkhart Memorial, 11
Tieshawn Johnson, 38-0, Elkhart Memorial, 12 vs. Noah Schrader, 25-2, Chatard, 11
Morgan Kral, 34-3, Crown Point, 11 vs. Randy Scott, 39-3, Mooresville, 11
Brian Wagner, 38-4, New Palestine, 12 vs. Nick Cress, 40-10, Peru, 12
Dakota Thacker, 37-2, Bloomington South, 12 vs. Kobe Woods, 39-3, Penn, 10
Mitchell Sandlin, 48-4, Madison, 12 vs. Kevin Winkle, 37-3, Twin Lakes, 12
Bo Davis, 34-7, Garrett, 11 vs. Katrell Moss, 27-2, Warren Central, 12
Tyler Scott, 40-3, Hanover Central, 12 vs. Blake Brown, 44-4, Evansville Memorial, 12
Jacob Aven, 39-2, Zionsville, 12 vs. Kanez Omar, 43-1, F.W. Wayne, 12
Eric Hemmelgarn, 40-0, Jay County, 12 vs. Guss Dajani, 39-5, Bloomington South, 12
Nathon Trawick, 41-3, Richmond , 11 vs. John Duvall, 34-1, West Lafayette, 12
Norman Oglesby, 40-1, Ben Davis, 11 vs. Owen Perkins, 30-5, Oak Hill, 9
Landon Blackburn, 40-4, LaPorte, 12 vs. Tyler Beeson, 38-2, Greenfield Central, 12
Wesley Bernard, 45-0, Indpls. Cathedral, 12 vs. Caleb Coffel, 31-5, Bremen, 12
Jacob Smith, 40-1, Southwood, 12 vs. Guy Henson, 29-5, Avon, 12
Shawn Streck, 41-1, Merrillville, 10 vs. Chet Maxey, 28-13, Hamiliton Southeastern, 12
Gavin Jolley-Little, 44-2, Jeffersonville, 12 vs. Darrius Connell, 35-4, Muncie Central, 12
State Champions in the Field (6)
120: Chad Red, 10, New Palestine (40-0) | 2013 champ at 106.
126: Stevan Micic, 12, Hanover Central (38-0) | 2013 champ at 113; 2012 champ at 106.
132: Deondre Wilson, 12, Warren Central (35-0) | 2013 champ at 120.
145: Tommy Forte, 11, Mishawaka (23-1) | 2013 champ at 138.
145: Cody LeCount, 12, Perry Meridian (40-0) | 2013 champ at 132; 2012 runner-up at 126.
220: Gelen Robinson, 12, Lake Central (48-0) | 2013 champ at 220.
State Runners-Up in the Field (5)
113: Garrett Pepple, 11, East Noble (38-1) | 2013 runner-up at 106.
126: Zachary Davis, 12, Penn (38-3) | 2013 runner-up at 113.
138: Drew Hughes, 10, Lowell (34-1) | 2013 runner-up at 120.
160: Vinny Corsaro, 12, Cathedral (45-0) | 2013 runner-up at 152; 2012 runner-up at 145.
220: Fletcher Miller, 12, Kokomo (53-1) | 2013 runner-up at 220.
Undefeated Wrestlers in the Field: 17 (Three each at 126 & 220).