They were bigger, but seldom better.

Mt. Vernon sophomore Devin Kendrex finished his 2022-23 wrestling season with a 43-5 record and a fifth-place finish at the IHSAA Boys Wrestling State Finals.

He did it in the 220-pound weight class and he did it nowhere near that weight.

Kendrex, The Daily Reporter Boys Wrestling Athlete of the Year, weighed in at 200 pounds the first day of the state wrestling tournament and 198 on the day he won two of three matches to earn a fifth-place medal.

He was the Hoosier Heritage Conference and Pendleton Heights Regional champion in his weight class, too, and the top finisher at the state meet among six Hancock County wrestlers.

Of his five losses, three were by one point or in overtime. One of those, an overtime loss to Lawrence North’s Brandon Johnson, was avenged in the fifth-place match at the state finals.

He only lost to three wrestlers. He was defeated twice by Columbus East’s Tommy Morrill (in sudden victory at the Al Smith Holiday Tournament and 3-2 in a state quarterfinal match) and twice by Cathedral’s Jackson Weingart, a Kendrex nemesis in each of his two high school seasons.

“Other than Johnson, all the guys he wrestled (at the state meet) were all up around 220,” Mt. Vernon coach Randal Hayes said following Kendrex’s performance at the state finals. “Devin weighed in (on the second day of the tournament) at 198. He was completely undersized.

“He was in every match (all season). He was never outmanned.”

Along with being outweighed, the upper weight classes are often dominated by older wrestlers. Of the 16 wrestlers in the 220-pound weight class, 14 were either juniors or seniors. Kendrex was one of two sophomores and the only sophomore to win a match. Kendrex has been wrestling in the 220-pound class for two seasons.

He was a state qualifier as a freshman, also, finishing his initial high school wrestling season with a 31-7 record. Again, like this past season he was in all of his matches, losing 4-3 to Fort Wayne Concordia’s Chance Harris, a junior who went on to finish eighth.

Hayes said he believed the IHSAA would have a different configuration of weight classes for the 2023-24 season, which would include a 215-pound class. It would be a class where Kendrex could wrestle guys closer to his size, but he’s proven it doesn’t really matter. Whatever weight class Kendrex ends up in, Hayes knows he’ll be ready to go.

“His offseason will last about a week,” the coach said following the state finals. “He’s pretty driven. He’s already set his goal for next year, nothing short of being a state champ.

“We were talking before we left (Bridgestone Arena) who was going be the first Mt. Vernon state champ. We have two (along with freshman state-qualifier Eli Broady) that have a really good shot at it, Who’s going to get it first (Devin) or Eli?”

Kendrex echoed that ambition at the state tournament.

He got his first state tournament match victory this year. But, as he headed into the medal rounds, just getting an award wasn’t the goal.

“It means something (to get to the second day),” Kendrex said after he beat Bellmont junior Keagan Martin (46-3) 5-1 in the state tournament first-round match. “The jobs not finished, I’m proud of myself. Not done yet.”

2023 All-Hancock County Wrestling Team

Wrestler of the Year: Devin Kendrex, Mt. Vernon

Coach of the Year: Josh Holden, Greenfield-Central

First Team;Second Team

106: Gunner Butt, New Palestine;Connor Bayliss, Mt. Vernon

113: Cole Vandygriff, New Palestine;Lincoln Parsons, Greenfield-Central

120: Bryce Doss, New Palestine;Eli Broady, Mt. Vernon

126: Zane Badgley, Eastern Hancock;Tyler Lavin, New Palestine

132: Cameron Volz, Eastern Hancock;J.J. Harlow, Greenfield-Central

138: Kannon Zuber, Greenfield-Central;Tristan Trevino, Mt. Vernon

145: Aiden Kiner, Mt. Vernon;Cohen Hager, Greenfield-Central

152: Isaiah Holden, Greenfield-Central;Elijah Kiner, Mt. Vernon

160: Shawn Taylor, Mt. Vernon;John Ubelhor, Greenfield-Central

170: Clay Guenin, Greenfield-Central;Gavin Wilcher, New Palestine

182: Brayden Tincher, Eastern Hancock;Silas Frye, Greenfield-Central

195: Shaun Glass, New Palestine;Russell Weaver, Mt. Vernon

220: Devin Kendrex, Mt. Vernon;Brandon Brees, New Palestine

285: Brayden Flener, Greenfield-Central; Joseph Hollenbaugh, Eastern Hancock

Honorable Mention

Eastern Hancock: Logan Gilman. Greenfield-Central: Jett McGuire, Tristan Lanum. Mt. Vernon: Ty Barnhart. New Palestine: Colin Whestel.