Center Grove had waited five years to win the Johnson County Wrestling Tournament, so the Trojans didn’t seem to mind waiting an extra 10 minutes due to scoreboard issues during Saturday’s event against defending champion Franklin at Indian Creek.
The timing problems only delayed the inevitable as the Trojans beat the Grizzly Cubs 35-31 to go 4-0 on the day and win the team championship for the first time since 2009.
The Trojans’ title also was the third under the leadership of coach Cale Hoover.
On the day, Center Grove (8-2) crowned six individual champions, including senior Zach Blevins at 113 pounds. He also was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
“I’m not sure what the problem was with the scoreboard timing, but it didn’t bother us,” Hoover said. “We knew we were going to have a good tournament and talked about getting a signature win. We got that against Franklin.
“We were especially sharp.”
Joining Blevens as champions were teammates Zak Siddiqui at 106, Nick Summers at 132 and Connor Noble at 138. All three are juniors. Center Grove freshmen Jonah Hayes (160) and Cory Heinrichs (220) wrestled with enough poise to also claim titles.
It’s runner-up finish notwithstanding, Franklin still made noise with five champions. The winners were sophomore Trevor Reese (126); juniors Shane Wilkerson (145) and Quinn York (285); and seniors Tyler Hendricks (195) and defending state champion Jacob Stevenson (170).
And for the first time in several years, each school recorded an individual champion, as Greenwood sophomore Tyler Futrell (120), Indian Creek junior Elijah Dunn (152) and Whiteland freshman Ryan Hammond (182) took firsts.
Dunn’s opening match with Franklin’s Burk Van Horn was arguably the best match of the day.
Dunn’s win was an upset of sorts, as he nipped Van Horn, 2-1. Van Horn is ranked No. 9 in the state at 152, according to Indiana Mat, while Dunn is unranked. Van Horn recovered to finish second in the weight class.
Regardless of rankings, Indian Creek coach Pat Dowty expected a big day for Dunn.
“We expected Elijah to win that match,” Dowty said. “Just like (Franklin) expected Van Horn to win. It’s an upset to them, but not to us, though I thought that Elijah was too defensive in his match.
“He’s the champion, but he still has a lot do.”
Dunn said he had a plan when wrestling Van Horn but then deviated from his usual routine in a later match against Center Grove freshman Gleason Mappes.
“The plan was to stay away from (Van Horn’s) ‘fireman’s carry’ and to try and control him,” Dunn said. “I rode him out well, but that match with Mappes, it was terrible on my part (a 10-7 decision).”
A year away from the mat didn’t do Blevins any favors, but he didn’t look like he was missing anything as he easily won all four of his matches.
Citing burnout, Blevins sat out last season. But teammate Ethan Duke and his father Jeff, talked him into returning to the Trojans team this season.
“They pushed me and challenged me, and coach let me come back,” Blevins said. “I really regret taking the time off because had I wrestled last year I think I would be 10 times better.
“Not wrestling set me back, but I’m feeling better and it’s great to be back.”
Blevins was also delighted to be part of the emotion win against traditional state power Franklin, which was runner-up at last year’s state meet.
“This is great for the guys,” Blevins said. “It’s so cool to beat them after coming close.”