INDIANAPOLIS — Revenge will be on their minds.
Hancock County’s three wrestlers that advanced from Friday’s first round of the IHSAA Boys Wrestling State Finals to today’s quarterfinals will see familiar faces across the mat.
New Palestine’s Gunner Butt and Bryce Doss will each take on an opponent from Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Delta. Mt. Vernon’s Devin Kendrex will face a wrestler he lost to earlier in the season.
County wrestlers went 3-3 on the day. Mt. Vernon’s Connor Bayliss and Eli Broady and Eastern Hancock’s Brayden Tincher lost opening round matches to put an end to their 2022-23 season.
Butt, a freshman 106-pounder, was the first to get his hand raised in victory. He improved his season record to 27-8 with a 5-4 victory over Mishawaka senior Xavier Chavez, who finished the year 21-9.
Butt trailed 4-3 heading into the final period. He scored a reversal around 30 seconds in and then hung on for the victory.
“I knew he was going to come out heavy (in that third period),” Butt said. “My main focus was to move around and make sure he doesn’t try to throw me, just be in a tough stance.
“I felt after (I got the reversal) I was going to start wrestling even better. I had a little bit of nerves coming in at first.”
Butt will face Delta sophomore Ayden Bollinger, the HHC champion and undefeated at 40-0 on the year. Bollinger advanced with a 10-6 win over Floyd Central’s Isaac Campbell (32-5).
“I think it’s pretty cool that (Bryce and I) get rematches,” Butt said. “Last year I lost to him, now I get a rematch and Bryce lost to his kid this year and he gets a rematch, too.”
Doss, a sophomore in the 120-class, was dominant in his victory over Cascade senior Logan Bickel (33-10). Up 8-1 in third period, after scoring a pair of 3-point near falls in the second, Doss pinned the Cadet at the 5:51 mark.
“I wanted to force him to be awkward and just stick to my game plan. I went out there warm and loose and clear-minded,” Doss said. “It feels good (to get the first win). I’m looking to win it all still.”
In a rematch of the HHC championship bout, Doss will take on Delta’s Neal Mosier (39-1), who beat Doss 11-0.
“It’s pretty cool and not something you see every day,” Doss said of both he and Butt taking on wrestlers from their conference.
Doss hasn’t lost since the HHC tournament, picking up sectional, regional and semi-state titles leading up to today’s rematch.
“I couldn’t be happier with both of them,” New Palestine coach Scot Dawson said. “In a big tournament, you never know how kids are going to react, especially underclassmen and first time for both of them here. They are very focused. Bryce stuck to his game plan to a T and Gunner is just a gamer. When that whistle blows he can flip a switch.”
Kendrex, the county’s lone state tournament veteran beat Bellmont’s Keagan Martin 5-1.
“I was a lot more nervous (last year),” Kendrex, a sophomore in his second tournament in the 220-class. “(This year) I just tried to keep calm and keep my peace and try to get on the podium.”
“It means something (to get to the second day of the tournament), but obviously, the job’s not finished. I’m proud of myself, but I’m not done yet.”
It was the second time he’d beaten Martin this season. He won 5-2 at the Al Smith Wrestling Invitational in December.
Martin finishes the year 46-3 with both losses coming to Kendrex.
Kendrex improved to 41-4 and will get a chance to avenge one of his rare losses. He’ll take on Columbus East’s Tommy Morrill (39-1), who beat Kendrex in overtime in the ultra-competitive Al Smith tournament.
“If he wrestles smart and sticks to the game plan there’s not a 220 here that can beat him,” Mt. Vernon coach Randal Hayes said of Kendrex. “We firmly believe that. He’s on the podium but we think he can get to the top of it.”
In the first match of the tournament, Bayliss, a sophomore 106-pounder, lost 6-0 to Lake Central’s Mason Jones (40-1).
Broady, a freshman at 120, lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Center Grove’s Eddie Goss (38-5).
“I thought both of them showed well,” Hayes said of Bayliss and Broady. “We came within probably two seconds of Broady getting through. That was another grinder match for a freshman to have to deal with.
“They both came off the mat understanding this is an experience and it’s building for next year.”
Tincher, the only county senior in the state tournament, had the toughest task of all. He faced 182-class No. 1 ranked Orlando Cruz of Crown Point. The state runner-up in last year’s 182 tournament, Cruz (32-2) pinned Tincher at the 3:40 mark.
“I went in, had a good week of practice and kept my head high. I worked (hard) to try to get it done. Everyone told me to enjoy the moment, let it last and have a good time, and that’s really what I did,” Tincher said of the state championship experience. “That’s not the outcome I wanted, but I made it. Only six from Eastern have made it to state. That’s a pretty good accomplishment I think.”
Eastern Hancock coach Sam Pfaff said, though Tincher is a senior, this was a building block for the program.
“It was an awesome experience for Brayden and for myself,” Pfaff said. “It was really important that we brought a lot of our young kids, even some of our middle schoolers to show you can be from the little itty-bitty school in the middle of the cornfield and make it there. That’s really important to show that if you work hard you can compete with the big guys.”
The tournament wraps up today with quarterfinals, semifinals, wrestlebacks, consolations and championships.
By winning on Friday, Butt, Doss and Kendrex are guaranteed a spot on the podium and finishing anywhere from first to eighth.
IHSAA Boys Wrestling State Finals
Location: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis
Admission: $15 per session; $25 all sessions. Reserved seating only (no general admission).
Today: Session 2, Gates open at 8 a.m., Quarterfinals begin at 9 a.m. with semifinals to follow; Session 3, Gates open at 3:30 p.m., Consolations at 4:30 p.m., State Championships at 7:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals: 106-Gunner Butt, New Palestine (27-8) vs. Ayden Bollinger, Delta (40-0); 120-Bryce Doss, New Palestine (28-2) vs. Neal Mosier, Delta (39-1); 220-Devin Kendrex, Mt. Vernon (41-4) vs. Tommy Morrill, Columbus East (39-1).