NEW CASTLE — All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes, and that was the case Saturday, Feb. 11, at the semistate wrestling tournament at New Castle, as a successful Pendleton Heights wrestling season (15-8) wrapped up after a handful of Arabians took to the mats.
The Arabian team sits in 32nd place out of 55 teams, managing to score two points at semistate.
Despite the unhappy ending, the Arabians finished their season with big wins at the Madison County tournament and at the sectional at Elwood High School.
At the sectional, it was clear to onlookers the Arabians were a force.
Pendleton Heights took home not only the team win with 218 points but also advanced almost all of its varsity wrestlers to the regional.
Ben Avey (132) placed first; Caleb Gibson (138), Alex Johnson (152), Clayton Todd (170) and Tremor Bynum (195) placed secon; Jacob Fiew (113), Jace Longere (120), Dawson Miller (160), Andrew Surber (220) and Holden Lawson (285) placed third; and Elijah Bauer (126), Derek Sikorski (145) and Brandon Johns (182) placed fourth.
At regional, four advanced to semistate: Avey placed second, Todd placed third, and Johnson and Bynum placed fourth.
In a surprise twist, Johns was allowed to re-enter the tourney as an alternate because his weight class predecessor became sick a few days prior to the meet, making the Arabians five-strong at semistate.
On Saturday, wrestling captain Avey stepped up first against Tim Wright of Warren Central, and the sudden-death match was on.
Wright quickly distanced himself on the scoreboard against Avey, scoring major near fall points in the third period, but Avey persisted; he gained a point in a quick escape, but in the end Wright outnumbered him on the scoreboard, and Avey’s season came to an end — final score 9-1.
“I thought he did a very good job,” head coach David Cloud said. “What really hurt him was that it was 3-1 at the end of the second period, and he gave up a takedown. We were very comfortable where we were, and we felt like we had the other guy tired, and he was starting to look a little winded.
“We told him, ‘Hey, go into the third period, get an escape, and we’ll be 3-2, and we’ll get a takedown to win,’ but we gave up a takedown right at the end of the second period, and so suddenly it’s 5-1.
“We felt like he did a really good job sticking to the game plan, but just giving up that takedown in the second period really hurt us.”
The Arabians shook it off and were on to the next match.
Todd (170) was matched against the undefeated Silas Allred of Shenandoah High School. Allred would retain his distinction, overpowering Todd in the first 60 seconds of the match.
Todd’s match was followed by Johns, who was matched against Jalen Allen of Perry Meridian.
Johns attempted to combat Allen’s aggressive moves, but unfortunately was caught in a headlock and pinned in the first few seconds of the match.
“I told him, ‘You got nothing to lose; you can always tell people that you were at semistate.’ It was a great opportunity for him to get in unexpectedly and play at the last minute,” Cloud said.
“It was a great experience for him. He walked off the mat smiling, and we had to tell him to ‘quit smiling, you lost,’ but that kid had zero expectations entering the season. It was a big deal. It was pretty neat to see him get to do that after being gone so long out of the sport.”
The Arabians were down to only two wrestlers but remained confident still.
It was Johnson’s turn to step up to the mat against Andrew Negengard of East Central, and Johnson put up a fight.
Coming out aggressively, Johnson remained in control of the match for the first period, but the tables turned for Johnson in the second period.
Johnson was caught in an arm bar, and Negengard overpowered him into a pin.
With four losses, Pendleton Heights’ hopes remained with Bynum.
As the whistle blew for Bynum’s match against Brandon Sturm of Rushville Consolidated High School, both wrestlers took shots at each other but were too equally matched for any major gains.
Bynum took the match into the second period 0-0, but unfortunately Sturm received an escape point just seconds before the second period ended.
Going into the third period, Bynum wasted no time tying the score with an escape of his own and quickly scored reversal points; with a 3-1 lead, Bynum needed only to run down the clock to win the battle.
Unfortunately for the Arabians, however, Bynum received a stalling call against him. The call gave Sturm an extra point, closing the deficit.
“That was very frustrating for us, because we didn’t feel like that was warranted at that time,” Cloud said. “It was very upsetting, but you’ve got to reset and go on. You can’t be sitting there moping about the point that got away from you.”
Sturm managed to escape Bynum for the second time, and the score was tied 3-3 as the third period ended.
Going into triple overtime, Bynum and Sturm exchanged points, but finally, in a split-second reversal, Bynum was able to seal the deal 5-4 and go on to the next round.
In the second round of sudden-death matches, Bynum’s new competitor came in the form of Tristen Tonte of Warren Central.
Tonte and Bynum exchanged aggressive moves, but Bynum was overwhelmed by Tonte and was pinned.
“It’s always hard, because it ends so suddenly,” Cloud said. “It’s not like a football game where you’ve got a whole football game, and half-time — you’ve got six minutes. For one moment you’re going 100 miles an hour, trying to wrestle hard in these matches, and all of a sudden it’s over. Your career either goes on, or it ends.
“Our seniors, I’m glad for them, because they get to go out on a winning team. For all the seniors, I think it was a great season; we had a lot of success among them,” Cloud said. “We’re happy about our seniors and all they accomplished, and we’re happy about all of the kids that we got back.”