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Solitary strength, mental toughness elevate wrestling


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To the untrained eye, there is nothing delicate, intricate or strategic about a high school wrestling match.

But to the connoisseur, the flailing arms, bobbing heads, circular jousting and body slams are anything but unleashed chaos.

To the contrary, it is all part of a mental and physical chess match with an alluring aesthetic quality all its own.

“It’s like dancing,” said Bob Hasseman, longtime coach of the second-ranked Franklin Community High School wrestling team. “It’s an art form.”

A highly physical one, to be sure, but an art form, nonetheless.

Although all sports require refined skill-sets, wrestling demands of its competitors a unique set of physical and psychological tools — forged from countless hours of repetitive practice in sweltering practice rooms — in preparation for a duel that last six minutes.

Broken down into three two-minute periods, a wrestling match is — in many ways — the ultimate physical and mental challenge between two individuals. The object is simple: defeat your opponent, either by pin or by points.

Accomplishing it is anything but easy. Strength, technique, endurance and — perhaps most important of all — mental toughness, factor into a successful equation.

“It’s a one-on-one battle. You’re trying to impose your will on your opponent,” said Center Grove coach Cale Hoover, past president of the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association. “What makes it so appealing and interesting is that there are so many ways to do it.

“A lot of the sport is mental.”

Franklin senior Luke Kriech agrees.

A runner-up at last year’s IHSAA Individual State Meet, Kriech began wrestling at age 4 and has a keen understanding of what the grueling sport requires.

“You have to be mentally tough, and you have to have good technique,” said Kriech, one of the state’s top 160-pounders. “You have to be mentally prepared for your match, or you’re not going to wrestle well. It’s not just strength or athleticism.

“It’s a combination of everything.”

And that’s precisely what Hasseman tries to teach: everything.

Hasseman, who has coached dozens of state qualifiers during his 28 years at Franklin, stresses all aspects of the sport, from fundamentals to conditioning to strategy to technique to the nuances of footwork and hand-placement. All of it plays a role in determining outcomes.

The strongest wrestler doesn’t always win. The best-conditioned doesn’t always win. The best technician doesn’t always win.

The one who best combines all of the above almost always does.

“To be quite honest, a wrestler that hasn’t wrestled very long and hasn’t done these things over and over and over and over, there’s a lot of learning that has to be done,” Hasseman said. “You have to introduce that stuff as young as you can.

“The more often they do a move, the less often they have to think about it.”

Franklin senior Garett Fentz, a semistate qualifier last season and one of the state’s best 170-pounders, took up wrestling eight years ago. One of 12 Grizzly Cubs heading to Saturday’s Mooresville Regional, he embraces the sport because of the unique individual, almost gladiator-like challenge.

“There’s not really anything else to compare it to. There’s no sport like it, which is kind of why I like it,” Fentz said. “There’s no one else you can blame it on if you lose. It’s just you and someone else. It’s a one-on-one kind of thing.

“It’s team-based, obviously, but there’s no one to blame except yourself if you lose.”

That’s where the mental toughness part factors in. Technique is vital. So is strength. But self-assuredness is indispensable.

“I think it’s the guy who wants it most,” said Hoover, who coached 2012 graduate Sean Mappes to an undefeated state championship last season at 170 pounds. “There are guys who are not real strong who win a lot. There are guys who are really strong that do win a lot. None of those things guarantees you anything, so a lot of times it’s who thinks they’re going to win.

“I’ll take the kids that are confident in themselves and lacking some of the physical tools any day of the week than the kid who’s really talented but doesn’t have the inner strength. We’ve had some of those guys that they’re just so talented but just can’t get themselves over the hump. Those kids that are going to be state champions are usually the kids that put it all together.”

Mappes, who is on scholarship at Tennessee-Chattanooga, was one of those kids. He finished 46-0 in becoming Johnson County’s first state champion since Indian Creek’s Trey Reese and Ethan Raley in 2011.

“Sean Mappes combined tremendous physical tools with tremendous mental toughness and discipline, especially toward the end of his career when he really fine-tuned his technique,” Hoover said. “Then you get the kids who are capable of winning it.”

Hasseman has seen the championship traits many times. His son, Bryce Hasseman, was an undefeated state champion for the Cubs in 2000. The following year, Aaron Clark was a state champion for Franklin.

Kriech, who lost 2-1 in last year’s title match at 152 pounds, is confident of becoming the Cubs’ next state champion.

“Probably the toughest thing is just being mentally tough, mentally preparing for my match,” Kriech said. “Technique comes pretty easy for me. You have to have a counter for every move (an opponent) can make.”

Those who do, and can combine it with all the sport’s other physical and mental skills, are the ones who raise it to an artistic level.

“It really is an art form,” Hasseman said. “When they’re on their feet, it’s a constant fight for position and for openings to attack the legs or the upper body. Good wrestlers, they can make you look really stupid just by how they move. They don’t spend any energy. They just put you in the right position, and all of a sudden, boom, boom, you’re down, boom, boom, you’re down.

“I don’t want to use strength to win; I want to use technique to win. You want to take that big guy and use his strength against him.”

Mooresville regional

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Mooresville High School

Format: Top four places in each weight class qualify for Evansville Semistate

Local regional qualifiers

106 pounds

‌D.J. Smith, Franklin (33-3)

‌Ceasar Gonzales, Center Grove (26-9)

113 pounds

‌Devin Hupp, Indian Creek (27-7)

‌Shane Wilkerson, Franklin (23-11)

‌Zach Blevins, Center Grove (18-5)

120 pounds

‌Anthony Schoettle, Center Grove (34-4)

‌Peyton Reese, Franklin (24-12)

‌Spencer Hensley, Indian Creek (16-13)

126 pounds

‌Tyler Fleener, Center Grove (34-2)

‌Bailey Schober, Greenwood (28-7)

132 pounds

‌Skyler Lykins, Franklin (30-6)

138 pounds

‌Tyler Hupp, Indian Creek (32-1)

‌Jonah Thompson, Greenwood (33-3)

‌Saul Fisher, Center Grove (26-11)

More regional qualifiers on B4

Mooresville regional

Local regional qualifiers

145 pounds

‌Elijah Dunn, Indian Creek (31-4)

‌Matt Wyrick, Franklin (19-12)

152 pounds

‌Jacob Stevenson, Franklin (34-2)

‌Mathew Kelly, Center Grove (25-16)

160 pounds

‌Luke Kriech, Franklin (33-3)

‌Dalton Wheeler, Center Grove (30-9)

170 pounds

‌Garett Fentz, Franklin (31-5)

‌Jon Schrader, Greenwood (21-17)

‌Chapman Johnson, Center Grove (20-14)

182 pounds

‌Michael Petrole, Franklin (31-5)

‌Austin Wethington, Indian Creek (26-8)

195 pounds

‌Jacob Brownfield, Franklin (32-5)

220 pounds

‌Connor Tolley, Franklin (32-2)

‌Damien Stone, Center Grove (27-8)

285 pounds

‌Drew Ponder, Center Grove (27-4)

‌McBrian Groler, Franklin (27-10)

Mooresville regional

Local regional qualifiers

145 pounds

‌Elijah Dunn, Indian Creek (31-4)

‌Matt Wyrick, Franklin (19-12)

152 pounds

‌Jacob Stevenson, Franklin (34-2)

‌Mathew Kelly, Center Grove (25-16)

160 pounds

‌Luke Kriech, Franklin (33-3)

‌Dalton Wheeler, Center Grove (30-9)

170 pounds

‌Garett Fentz, Franklin (31-5)

‌Jon Schrader, Greenwood (21-17)

‌Chapman Johnson, Center Grove (20-14)

182 pounds

‌Michael Petrole, Franklin (31-5)

‌Austin Wethington, Indian Creek (26-8)

195 pounds

‌Jacob Brownfield, Franklin (32-5)

220 pounds

‌Connor Tolley, Franklin (32-2)

‌Damien Stone, Center Grove (27-8)

285 pounds

‌Drew Ponder, Center Grove (27-4)

‌McBrian Groler, Franklin (27-10)

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