Rochester wrestling preview: “Marshall got those guys thinking about some big stuff:”
Gard hopes for top 5 finish for Zebras at state
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester boys wrestling team has 37 members.
Once again, it is so big that it has expanded beyond the old wrestling room and into the auxiliary gym.
But there might not be a building big enough in the school to hold their aspirations.
One year after Marshall Fishback won the heavyweight state title to become the first state champion in school history and one year after Rochester won conference, sectional, regional and semistate titles, they want even more.
“Marshall got those guys thinking about some big stuff,” coach Clint Gard said.
Specifically, Gard said that Layne Horn (106) and Brady Beck (220) are both going to win state championships. And the team, which finished 14th at state last year, has set a goal of finishing in the top five this year. And then there’s the matter of winning the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association team state duals. Rochester finished second behind Tell City in Class 1A last year.
“I think Brady will be our second state champ,” Gard said.
Gard then corrected himself.
“Actually our third. I think Layne will be the second. Just because Brady’s at 220, he’ll be the third. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that those two things are going to happen. So I know that puts pressure on those kids, but also I’m not going to lie to you and say that I don’t believe that. I think Brady’s the best kid at 220, and he’s going to have a nice big target on his back.”
Horn, a freshman, starts the year ranked No. 1 in the IndianaMat.com rankings at 106. He worked with Andrew Howe over the summer. An associate coach at Northwestern, Howe went 192-1 and won three state titles during his prep career at Hanover Central and later won the 2010 NCAA title at 165 pounds when he wrestled for Wisconsin.
Horn is the first Rochester wrestler to be ranked No. 1 in the state at any time during the season since his father Travis was ranked No. 1 at 140 pounds.
“He spends time going over to Andrew Howe’s academy over on the west side of Indiana,” Gard said. “He wrestled (Rochester’s) Cory Fornal in the finals as a sophomore and beat Cory. … He was also one of the clinicians at the Wabash College camp. … I think he got a lot better. … He was undefeated all summer long with the stuff that we did as a team. We went to the Indiana Mat Hoosier Preseason Open that qualifies kids for the Super 32, and Layne ended up placing third there as a freshman at 106 pounds. He beat Revin Dickman from Brownsburg who at the time was ranked number one in the state, and he’s ranked nationally, probably top 10 or 15. So we beat Revin, who’s just a tough, tough kid. We beat another kid who was a Fargo national champ in Greco-Roman wrestling. … So Layne’s not one that shies away from competition at all. He seeks out the best kids.”
Brady Beck finished sixth in the state last year at 220 and starts this season ranked No. 2 behind only Will Clark of Crown Point.
Brady Beck is not shying away from his goal, according to Gard.
“I know he wants that as bad as anybody or anything that I’ve ever seen a kid want,” Gard said. “So it’s going to be interesting. We’ve got to get him down to weight, but he’s definitely a year stronger and a year more mature, and that’s going to pay dividends to him. And I think he feels confident. Don’t get me wrong. There are some tough kids out there, but I think he can win a state title.”
While Beck is a returning state placer, Rochester has two other returning state qualifiers in Wyatt Davis (132) and Alex Deming (195). Davis, who made state last year at 113, is ranked No. 1 among wrestlers that feed into the Fort Wayne semistate at his new weight class.
Deming is ranked No. 7 in the state and No. 1 among wrestlers that feed into the Fort Wayne semistate.
“There’s two things with Deming that we’ve got to really work on: his confidence and getting him to believe that he’s one of the best guys in the state of Indiana and technique, just getting a little bit more things in his wheelhouse that he can do and feel confident with,” Gard said. “He’s going to be a bear at 195 pounds. There’s no doubt.”
Seniors and reigning regional champions Ethan Holloway and Aaron Swango will return to 120 and 126, respectively. Holloway’s only loss last season came at semistate. Both came within one win of making state last year. Both are ranked No. 4 in their respective weight classes among wrestlers that feed into the Fort Wayne semistate.
Greyson Gard (152) got within one win of making the state finals last year and is ranked No. 6 to start this season.
“I think Greyson’s very comfortable wrestling his style,” coach Gard said. “I have backed off him quite a bit to try and get him to wrestle more of an aggressive, in-your-face, push-shove … That was the way I was successful, but my son is much more talented than I am, so he can get away with that a little bit better than I can. I still think he’s probably a little too laid-back, but he’s done some really, really good work this spring, summer and fall. I’m starting to see a little bit more of an attacking style, offensive style, and I’m pleased with that, but I’m not going to push. He needs to wrestle the way he’s comfortable and the way he feels that he can be successful, and he’s done a really, really good job of that.”
Another returnee is Mitchell Shafer at 138 with Gage Zimpleman and Kaden Heishman also competing for mat time.
Freshmen Declan Gard (145) and Brant Beck (160) will sandwich Greyson Gard. Declan Gard is recuperating from a broken left arm suffered during football season but is expected back in mid-December, and Brant Beck, like Horn, is coming off an undefeated middle school career.
“Brant moves his feet very well, very aggressive, attacking,” coach Gard said of Brant Beck. “Brant has a good motor on him. He likes to get after it. I guess I would say if I was comparing him and Greyson, (they) are opposites of each other.”
Senior Eli Swango will return to 170 with Ethan Amezquita also competing for that spot, and juniors Colin Weiand and Wesley Meadows and freshman Matt Crossland will vie for mat time at 182.
Among newcomers, freshman Brantlyn Brady and sophomore Zyler Baughman, a move-in from Plymouth, will be the contenders at 113.
Look for Gabe Kerr, Enrrique Montileaux, James Gardner and Carlos Orduno to compete to replace Fishback at heavyweight.
Gavin McKee, a regional qualifier from last year, suffered a broken leg in the football game against North Miami on Oct. 7 and is out.
“Crazy summer,” Gard said. “We had kids going everywhere. We competed a ton. We were very, very happy with our summer.”
They are all trying to be the next Marshall Fishback.
“I think there’s some kids in our program that are definitely using him as an example and seeing if he-can-do-it, I-can-do-it-type thing,” Gard said of the impact of Fishback’s state title. “Last year was big, and this year, it’s even bigger.”
RTC area returning regional qualifiers
Joseph Lybarger (113)
Galvin Shambaugh (120) (semistate qualifier)
Bazle Owens (195) (semistate qualifier)
Dalton Alber (220) (semistate qualifier)
Landon Kuykendoll (145)
Brandon Sterrett (132)
Peyton Schnurpel (170) (semistate qualifier)
Austin Attinger (113) (semistate qualifier)
Willis Dennis (126)
Rochester had nine girls come out for wrestling, and they started by finishing third out of 23 teams at the East Noble Invitational on Nov. 12 and second at the inaugural Rochester Invitational on Nov. 19.
Jadyn Geller (126) and Grace Hiroms (160), both in their fourth year as wrestlers, are team leaders, according to Gard.
“We’ve got some big expectations for those young ladies,” coach Gard said. “We think (Jadyn) can win a state title at 126 this year. She did everything the boys did this year. So she didn’t miss anything that we went to. Even if she couldn’t wrestle, she went and just helped. She doesn’t miss weights. She never missed a summer program. She went to all the camps. … Unquestionably, from experience and just (having been) around the program as long as she has, she’s our leader, and she’s a hard-working girl, and pound for pound, probably the strongest girl we have in the school.”
Other team members include freshman Lilly Gerald (106), senior Kendyll Bradley (113), sophomore Lucy Rangel (132), junior Amber Blackburn (132), junior Lilly Watson (145), sophomore Macie Spencer (152) and freshman Laine Peppler (160).
“I think the first week was pretty rough on them, for some of those girls knowing what wrestling shape is and how that is different from most other sports,” coach Gard said. “But they’ve really started to gel in now, and they’re doing a great job for us.”
Key boys wrestling dates
Jan. 28 – Sectionals at Peru, Plymouth and Twin Lakes
Feb. 4 – Regionals at Maconaquah, Penn and Logansport
Feb. 11 – Semistates at Fort Wayne (Allen County War Memorial Coliseum) and East Chicago Central
Feb. 17-18 – IHSAA state finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Key girls wrestling dates
Jan. 6 – Regionals at Jay County and Penn
Jan. 13 – IHSGW state finals at Mooresville High School
Rochester boys wrestling team