Dave Thompson is in his 21st season as the head wrestling coach at Whiteland Community High School.
In terms of producing individual state champions, few area coaches rival Thompson’s successes.
During his two-plus decades, Thompson has coached four state champions, beginning with Jason Fryar in 2000 and, most recently, Matt Fields in 2007.
In 2002, Whiteland’s Clint Palmore and Chris Cooper became the first wrestlers in Johnson County history to win titles on the same night.
Morever, in 2000, Fryar — a 6-foot-9, 274-pound heavyweight — won one of the most exciting finals matches in IHSAA history when he rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the closing seconds for a 7-5 win against heavily favored Greg Wagner of Portage.
Thompson vividly recalls all four of the Warriors’ championships but has an especially indelible memory of Fryar’s dramatic finish.
“(Wagner) got ahead of us early. The score was 5-2, and we were running out of time in the third period. And Jason locked up a lateral-drop throw and threw him with less than 12 seconds left for a take-down and a three-point nearfall, and we ended up winning 7-5.
“I had already pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we were going to be second, and then the next thing you see is (Fryar) throwing this other kid, and then they’re landing on the mat, and it was pretty exciting.”
Fryar didn’t take up wrestling until his sophomore year. He was unique in that regard. The great majority of state qualifiers have competed since middle school or earlier.
Thompson’s other three state champions had been in his program for years, so being in the coach’s chair during their finals matches was abundantly satisfying.
“You’ve coached them all year long,” he said. “You’ve maybe coached them for four or five years or six years, some of them in club wrestling. You’ve coached them since they were just little guys. You don’t think about where you’re at or what you’re doing, or what kind of match it is, you’re coaching a match. Then later on that all starts sinking in, what you guys have accomplished.”