Franklin Community High School wrestler Burk Van Horn was smiling again by the time he reached the awards podium Saturday night.
Understandably disappointed in not winning a state championship at 160 pounds, Van Horn in time appreciated everything he had accomplished during the 2015-16 season.
Making his first trip to the IHSAA State Finals, the junior advanced to the championship match at Bankers Life Fieldhouse before losing to Merrillville senior Jacob Covaciu, 3-0, before a crowd of 12,643.
Van Horn concluded his season with a 41-5 record. Covaciu, a three-time state finalist (and defending champion at 145 pounds) who will wrestle at Wisconsin, finished 42-0.
“(Covaciu) was really strong. That’s by far the strongest kid I’ve wrestled all year,” Van Horn said. “It’s my first experience here and his third. I was nervous, but I’ve got to come back next year, train and try to get one for myself.
“I’m happy with my season. I didn’t end up on top, but I was still second in the state. That’s pretty good. I can’t wait to get back here next year.”
Center Grove’s Gleason Mappes no doubt feels the same way.
Mappes made it all the way to the semifinals at 160 before losing to Van Horn by a score of 9-3. In the consolation match, Martinsville senior Cayden Whitaker rallied for an 8-7 victory against Mappes.
A sophomore, Mappes finished with a record of 37-11.
Familiarity wasn’t an issue for three of the second-, third- and fourth-place wrestlers at 160. Van Horn and Mappes are from wrestling programs in the same county; VanHorn and Whitaker the same conference (Mid-State).
Four of Mappes’ losses this season were to Van Horn. Three were to Whitaker.
“I didn’t expect to wrestle both of them. It’s very uncommon to wrestle somebody that was in your sectional, let alone two of them,” Mappes said. “But my ultimate goal was to get to the finals and wrestle under the lights, and I knew I would have to beat one of them to get there.
“It didn’t go my way.”
Tenth-year Trojans coach Cale Hoover was impressed with how Mappes progressed in terms of technique and confidence as the season wore on.
“Gleason has improved tremendously even since the start of the season. It’s always tough when you get that close and come up a little short, but he made a nice run and wrestled some quality matches,” Hoover said. “Just a tremendous amount to build off of.
“You’re probably not going to find a lot of guys here that drop a tough one like that in the third-place match as a sophomore and take it as hard as he’s going to take it, and be driven like he’s going to be driven.”
Franklin’s Quinn York, a sixth-place finisher at 285 pounds as a junior, placed seventh Saturday.
York lost a tough 3-1 overtime decision to South Bend Washington’s Isaiah McWilliams in the quarterfinals and later to Gibson Southern’s Cory Klem by the same score.
The senior rebounded to defeat Delphi’s Garrett Clark, 3-0, in the seventh-place match.
“I haven’t wrestled my best. I haven’t been here mentally or physically,” York said following the losses to McWilliams and Klem. “Against (McWilliams), my hand slipped out and he got the takedown.”
Overall, another memorable February for Grizzly Cubs coach Bob Hasseman, who just capped his 30th season. In the past five State Finals, Franklin has had four wrestlers reach the title match — two champions and two runners-up. Hasseman’s 2014 squad placed second to Cathedral in the final team standings.
“Burk had a great tournament. He got some great experience. When Burk was a freshman his goal was to be a four-time state champion, but this year he worked harder, turned it on at the right time, had good draws and took advantage of it,” Hasseman said. “And Quinn York by losing last week (at semistate) had a tougher draw, but probably should’ve beat the second kid (McWilliams).
“He got real disappointed and it cost him another match, but then he recovered and really did a good job in the seventh-place match.”