TERRE HAUTE —
Go ahead, ask me anything about the 224 wrestlers who competed last week at the Indiana state finals — or at least about the 112 wrestlers who survived Saturday’s first round.
After seeing almost everyone in that latter group wrestle three times on Saturday, I think I could give a pretty good scouting report.
We never know here at the Tribune-Star which events are going to be prioritized from year to year during tournament months, and this year I wound up with three consecutive weeks of wrestling.
In doing so, I developed some out-of-town favorites that I saw every week, like Bloomington North’s Garret Goldman (the eventual 189-pound state champ) and Brown County’s Quincy Richey. That’s in addition to learning the quirks of Terre Haute South’s P.J. Montgomery and Tsali Lough and Terre Haute North’s David Knight.
After the Evansville Semistate I picked up a few more favorites to follow, such as Danville’s Neal Molloy, Jeffersonville’s Renaldo Weekley and a bunch of really aggressive kids from Indian Creek. Donnie Helterbrand of Cloverdale and his rivalry with Richey showed up there too.
When I got to Conseco Fieldhouse I added South Vermillion’s Trent Wallace to my list, and also remembered a few kids I’d seen there the year before — Lake Central’s Kyle Ayersman and, unfortunately, Crown Point’s Jason Tsirtsis and Tri-Central’s Montrail Johnson.
Johnson was Lough’s first opponent. Tsirtsis, who will be in the discussion — along with his older brother — of Indiana’s all-time great wrestlers, was Montgomery’s final one.
After seeing P.J. battle so gallantly during his runner-up weekend, I briefly wondered if he could have been in a different weight class — but briefly was the operative term.
Had Montgomery been able to drop to 135, he would have faced Indian Creek’s Raley, who accounted for one of my successful state-finals predictions when the last four wrestlers at that weight were three unbeaten competitors plus Raley with one loss: I said Raley was as good as any of them, and he won.
No way Montgomery could have gotten to 130 pounds, but Molloy — a sophomore who is not only very good but also much fun to watch — was there.
And if he’d gone to 145 he might have run into Weekley — and Weekley didn’t even win, losing the championship match to Crown Point’s two-time champion Eric Roach.
Much as an old Lowell boy hates to admit it, former Indiana State wrestler Scott Vlink has quite a program at Crown Point.
Lowell had two wrestlers at the finals, by the way, and would have had four if the meet had taken place in 1966. There were also two wrestlers there from Hanover Central, whose district was part of Lowell’s back in the day. Larry McMillan, Lowell’s state champion from my class, would be at Hanover Central now.
(Claiming the Hanover kids as part of Lowell’s heritage also allows me to claim Andrew Howe, by the way. Although Howe was only a three-time champion from Hanover from 2006-2008, he’s also already won a college national championship.)
I have, however, determined the single most important factor in high school wrestling, which seems to be having a workout partner (or two) in your family.
Castle’s Welch twins, Doug and Chad, won championships Saturday at 152 and 160; for a while that day it appeared they’d be paired in their finals with the Lefever twins, Reece and Conner, from Carroll (Allen), but neither of the Lefevers got that far. Roncalli’s Keiffer twins, Josh and Justin, were also in contention, Josh finishing second at 125. And then there are the Riekers.
From Columbus East, Baron Rieker was the regional champion at 125 (and seventh in the state eventually), Zach Rieker was the regional champion at 130 and Steven Rieker was regional champion at 135. Triplets? No, quadruplets, with a sister who is either the meanest girl in Columbus (she was also a wrestler at one time, I was told) or totally undateable because of guys fearing the wrath of her three brothers.
I’ll bet all four of those families, but particularly the Riekers, know the locations of a lot of second-hand furniture stores.
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n Watch this — Those of you who can access WEIU-TV on their cable provider or satellite system are probably familiar with the series “Heartland Highways.”
Friday’s episode features the baseball and softball gloves collections of Dave Cunningham of Olney and also a feature on the Casey Softball Hall of Honor and Museum, which houses the Illinois Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.