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  • Val T.

Rochester wrestling preview:

While IHSAA gives them new state tourney path, Zebras prep to host team state duals


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC



The Rochester wrestling team will not be traveling to Martinsville or Franklin for the Indiana Wrestling Coaches Association team state duals like they have the past two years.

That’s because they will not be traveling at all; instead, Rochester will host the eight-team event on Jan. 6.

The Zebras will also not be traveling to Peru for their sectional on Jan. 27. That’s because they have been reassigned to the Plymouth sectional.

But while coach Clint Gard said that the IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens – Faulkens is the IHSAA administrator who is specifically in charge of wrestling – hinted that there might be sectional reassignments, this move might be considered earth-shaking because Rochester’s state tournament path is now routed through the Penn regional on Feb. 3 and the East Chicago semistate on Feb. 10.

In other words, the IHSAA moved the two-time defending Fort Wayne semistate champion out of the Fort Wayne semistate.

Caston and Winamac are among the other schools that were reassigned to the Plymouth sectional. This means that Rochester wrestlers could see wrestlers from the South Bend schools, Mishawaka and Penn once they get past the sectional.

Wrestlers from the Region and the Lafayette area await at the semistate.

“I wasn’t totally caught off-guard about that,” Gard said. “I knew there were rumblings for the last couple years, and I had asked Robert Faulkens multiple times when that was going to happen, so we could start planning and changing our schedule up, and every time I asked him, he said it was a couple years away, a couple years away, a couple years away. Last time we spoke, it would have been at the state championships, and he said we’re still a ways away from that, and you'll still have at least one year when we announce it to make schedule changes. And then this fall, they announced it and didn’t give us any time to make schedule changes. We’re not the only school that’s in that boat, but that’s the way it goes.”

Nevertheless, Gard said they did make some schedule changes, which includes a trip to Plymouth on Dec. 2 for the Bob Read Invitational. Given that the tournament includes Peru and Mishawaka, that could be one of the top super duals events on their schedule. They also have the Jim Nicholson Invitational at Elkhart on Dec. 9. That means they will get to see Penn at a Saturday tournament during the year.

Rochester will not be traveling to North Montgomery for their annual two-day tournament during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Instead they will travel to Rensselaer for the two-day Joe Burvan tournament on Dec. 21-22. Gard said the competition will be tougher at Rensselaer than if they returned to North Montgomery. The Rensselaer tournament also includes a girls tournament, which was another seeling point.

Still, both the timing and reasoning for the move from Peru to Plymouth is mysterious to Gard.

“As to why they did it, I honestly don’t know,” Gard said. “They don’t give reasons why. It’s just what they wanted to do. I couldn’t tell you. I know that it hurts the Fort Wayne semistate, and I know that a lot of coaches at a lot of programs were frustrated by that.”

There are also new weight classes for every weight above 138 pounds. Now, they go 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285.

And the returning Zebras who occupy those weight classes will be different as they have all grown up: Layne Horn moves from 106 to 126. Junior Wyatt Davis will now wrestle at 144 or 150. Brant Beck moves up from 160 to 165. Declan Gard moves up from 145 to 175. Colin Weiand bounces from 170 to 190. Alex Deming goes from 195 to 215. And Brady Beck has put on approximately 40 pounds and goes from 220 to 285.

D.J. Basham also returns at 138, and senior Ethan Amezquita will wrestle at 157.

“Tremendous young man, great student, works hard in the weight room,” coach Gard said of Amezquita. “We know Ethan can give us a lot, so we’re hoping that comes through this season.”

Top newcomers include Grant Holloway at 106, Reed Perry at 113, Kevin Doss or Konor Fugate at 120, Ayden Keller at 132, Maison Ramsey or Sage Pearson at 144 and Kale Shotts at 150.

Deming and Brady Beck each finished seventh at state in their respective weight classes last year. Horn and Brant Beck are also returning state qualifiers, and Davis was a state qualifier in 2022.

Brady Beck starts the year ranked No. 2 in the state behind Crown Point’s Paul Clark, according to IndianaMat.com.

Gard said he’d like Brady Beck to get his weight around 250, which will make him lighter on his feet.

But he also excelled at folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman state. He also won the Indiana Hoosier Preseason Open meet in the middle of football season. He prepared for that tournament with only one hour a week of practice on Wednesday after football practice.

“I think losing an extra 10 pounds can make a difference on his movement and his ability to level-change and do some things athletically that he could really do at 220,” coach Gard said. “You go from 220 to 265 during football, and you’re going to lose some of the ability to move your feet or move when you’re on bottom when you’re on your hands and knees. I’d like to see him take off about 10 or 15 pounds to make sure that athleticism is still there. And it is. But I do notice that in some aspects, maybe he’s not quite as quick, so I’d like to see him gain that quickness back.

“I say that, and then he had a great offseason in the weight room and ran the fastest 40 he’s ever ran. He’s still got plenty of athleticism in the tank. It’s not a huge deal, but if you want to get to the podium and you want to be the number one guy, I think those little things will matter in the end.”

Brant Beck is No. 4. Eventual state champion Sam Goin beat him at state last year, but Brant Beck was the only one of the four opponents that Goin saw who lasted six minutes with him. Goin is now wrestling at Indiana.

Coach Gard said he’s been dealing with a “banged-up knee” from football season but also said that he’s been practicing hard and is expecting “really good stuff” from him.

“Well, I think he realizes that he can compete,” coach Gard said of Brant Beck’s freshman season last year. “Brant’s never been one for lack of confidence, but I know that it gives him more confidence. But I know that gives him more confidence knowing that he can compete with the best. He’s not going to see anybody better than Sam Goin this year. And we gave him a pretty good match.”

Deming is ranked No. 5 at 190, though he wrestled at 215 in a dual at Manchester Friday. Coach Gard estimated his weight at between 208 to 210 going into the season.

“I think he’ll be good,” coach Gard said. “The biggest thing is just him staying with his nutrition and making sure he’s eating right and trying to keep that weight on. Strength-wise, he’s going to be fine, but he’s going to be wrestling some kids that are pulling down from 230, and we know that, but athletically-speaking, he’s going to be right there with everybody else.”

Horn is ranked No. 7. Horn worked with Northwestern University assistant coach and former three-time state champion Andrew Howe over the summer. Gard wants to see Horn vary his repertoire as a sophomore.

“I think he knows a ton of wrestling, but I think when we get into match situations, he always reverts back to one or two things that he does really well,” coach Gard said. “And I think one of the things he ran into last year was kids couldn’t stop that until about semistate. Then we got to semistate, and he struggled with, ‘OK, they’re shutting down my number one and my number two. What do I go to?’ I know he’s put in a lot of time over at Howe’s training facility. I know he’s been trying to develop some more things, especially on top and on his feet. I think he’ll be OK, but I think he’ll be challenged, I think, a lot more throughout the regular season.”

Holloway and Shotts are ranked No. 6 in their respective weight classes among wrestlers feeding into the East Chicago semistate.

As a team, Rochester is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, which has only increased the anticipation for the team state duals.

And then there is the memory of the late Carlos Orduno. Orduno, the TRC heavyweight champion who later qualified for semistate, was killed in a single-car accident on Nov. 10, five months after he graduated. Marco Orduno, Carlos’ younger brother, is a freshman heavyweight on this year’s team.

“We’ll certainly try to do some things to remember him,” coach Gard said. “I’m sure some kids are thinking about that. I’d like for our kids to wrestle for something higher than what they are. … It will be important for Brady. It will be important for Brant, Declan and Mason Hisey. … Kids have a relationship with Marco, and Marco is very similar. Kids like him. Marco is a very well-liked kid, so I think one way or the other, there will be things that kids do … maybe it will push them a little bit harder.”

Girls wrestling

Rochester has nine girls. That includes seniors Amber Blackburn and Grace Hiroms, sophomores Lilly Gerald and Laine Peppler and five freshmen.

Hiroms was last year’s state runner-up at 160. She will wrestle at 155 this year.

“We’ve got a very good nucleus there, and then obviously next year, I think we’ll have four or five freshmen that will be coming,” coach Gard said. “Next year, it will finally be an IHSAA sport, so I think that will help quite a bit. But we just want to keep getting numbers and keep getting good kids, good athletes and girls that are good students. Smart and hard-working, that’s what we’ve been able to add this year.”

The Lady Zs have already won the East Noble Invitational and finished third at the Rochester Girls Invitational.

Rochester will host the girls semistate on Jan. 5. The Indiana High School Girls Wrestling state finals will be in Kokomo on Jan. 12.

Tristan Wilson, Sarah Wilson and Abram Ferrara are among the coaches who work primarily with the girls.

Schedule

Nov. 11 – at East Noble Invitational (girls)

Nov. 17 – at Manchester, 6:30 p.m. (boys)

Nov. 21 – vs. Northfield, 6:30 p.m. (boys)

Nov. 29 – vs. Wabash, 6:30 p.m. (boys)

Dec. 2 – at Maconaquah Invitational, 8:30 a.m. (girls)

Dec. 2 – at Plymouth Invitational (boys)

Dec. 6 – at Peru, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 9 – at Lebanon Invitational, 9 a.m. (girls)

Dec. 9 – at Jim Nicholson Invitational at Elkhart, 9 a.m. (boys)

Dec. 13 – at Triton, 6:30 p.m. (boys)

Dec. 13 – at John Glenn, 7 p.m. (girls)

Dec. 16 – vs. Rochester John McKee Memorial Invitational, 8:45 a.m. (boys)

Dec. 21-22 – at Joe Burvan Holiday Duals at Rensselaer (girls and boys)

Dec. 30 – at Western regional, 9 a.m. (girls)

Jan. 5 – vs. Rochester semistate, 9 a.m. (girls)

Jna. 6 – vs. IHSWCA Class 1A team state duals, 9 a.m. (boys)

Jan. 10 – vs. Tippecanoe Valley, 6:30 p.m. (boys)

Jan. 12 – at IHSGW state finals at Kokomo, 11 a.m. (girls)

Jan. 20 – at TRC tournament at Maconaquah, 9 a.m. (boys)

Jan. 27 – at Plymouth sectional (boys)

Feb. 3 – at Penn regional (boys)

Feb. 10 – at East Chicago semistate (boys)

Feb. 16-17 – at IHSAA state finals at Ford Center, Evansville (boys)


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