One disappointing performance at the Evansville Reitz wrestling semistate hasn’t lessened Elijah Dunn’s desire to finish his high school career as a state champion.
If anything, it’s made the Indian Creek senior even more determined.
Dunn, who placed fourth at the State Finals at 152 pounds a year ago, said he was off his game in Saturday’s 17-4 semifinal loss to Jennings County senior Andrew Herrin.
“I went in there and wasn’t offensive,” Dunn said. “If I had it to do over I would have stayed on my offense and the match would have been a whole lot different.”
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Herrin went on to win the 152 class at Evansville. Dunn, who scored a 14-8 decision against Evansville Mater Dei’s Mitch Lehman to secure third-place, is one of six Johnson County wrestlers qualified for this weekend’s showcase.
At 40-2, it’s difficult to find flaws in Dunn’s final season of wrestling at Indian Creek. Or, for that matter, his entire four-year varsity career.
This season he’s benefited from practicing against former Braves’ wrestler and four-time state finalist Ethan Raley, a state champion at 103 pounds as a freshman in 2008 and at 135 pounds as a senior in 2011.
A former junior college All-American at Lincoln College in Illinois, the first-year Braves assistant coach understands big-match pressure better than most.
“Wrestling against him really helps a lot because he’s been under the lights a couple different times,” Dunn said of Raley, who in his time at Indian Creek also secured a runner-up finish at 125 pounds in 2010.
“With him, my takedowns have to be finished fast.”
Dunn said being a football player at Indian Creek has also helped his overall toughness on the mat just because of “all the hits you take.” The senior certainly took his share considering he ran with the football a total of 156 times — 124 rushes, 21 receptions and 11 returns.
That toughness, physical and emotional, will be put to the test in a few days on the biggest stage possible for a high school wrestler in this state.
Braves wrestling coach Pat Dowty said things didn’t always go according to plan for his program at the Evansville Semistate, though he brings three wrestlers hungry for individual state titles to Indianapolis later this week.
Dunn’s younger brother, freshman Alex Mosconi, made it in the 113-pound class, while Braves sophomore Grant Goforth qualified at 182.
“Elijah had a rough semifinal round at semi-state, getting off to a bad start and then trying to play catch-up by trying to get it all back at once. When you do that you can get sloppy, and that’s what happened. But if you’re going to have a bad one, I guess semi-state is the time to do it,” Dowty said.
“He’s disappointed, but still confident he can be a state champion. And I’m very confident. Elijah’s got all the tools, but he has to be on his ‘A’ game.”
Also in contention for individual championships is Franklin Community senior Quinn York at 285 pounds. His Grizzly Cubs teammate, Burk VanHorn, and Center Grove’s Gleason Mappes will attempt to do big things in the 160-pound class.
When: 6 p.m. Friday; 9:30 a.m. Saturday (quarterfinals and semifinals), 5 p.m. (consolations) and 7:30 p.m. (finals).
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Admission: $8 per session or $20 both days
Local qualifiers: 113: Alex Mosconi, Indian Creek. 152: Elijah Dunn, Indian Creek. 160: Burk VanHorn, Franklin Community, and Gleason Mappes, Center Grove. 182: Grant Goforth, Indian Creek. 285: Quinn York, Franklin Community.