Trio of Panthers earn MSC titles
A week prior to the start of wrestling’s postseason, five Mid-Southern Conference wrestling programs competed in the league meet Saturday in Charlestown.
Although the host had no trouble earning the team honors, a trio of Corydon Central grapplers ‘ Bailey LaHue, Ezra Paden and Austin Smith ‘ took top nods in their respective weight classes.
‘We’re a real young team,’ Smith said. ‘We have either newer wrestlers or most of us are freshmen or sophomores. We can’t wait until the next few years to compete with Charlestown. We missed three weight classes, so we’ll need to fill those next year. I think we did really good as a team.’
Arguably the most exciting championship match of the 13 weight classes went to the 132-pound competitors. Paden came away with the bragging rights in a back-and-forth bout with Scottsburg’s Zach Adams that took overtime to decide.
It took Paden less than a minute to score a takedown in the first period; he eventually led 4-1 after two minutes. The second period didn’t go so well for Paden. Adams scored repeatedly in the period, including near falls while Paden eventually survived to the buzzer.
‘The kid threw in the legs, and he’s good at it,’ Paden said. ‘I knew that if I could get out of the leg, I would be fine. I am most comfortable on my feet, so I knew if I could get there, I’d be fine.’
On his feet, but trailing 7-4, Paden scored on an escape then notched two points for a takedown, eventually sending the match to overtime. Paden would score a takedown in the overtime, leading to plenty of cheers from teammates.
‘Right before I ran it, running through my head was, ‘second place would really suck,’ and I saw him make a mistake with his leg and scored,’ Paden said of the overtime.
Smith had an easier time in his championship round, defeating Charlestown’s Austin Church, 9-2, at 145.
Leading to the win, Smith had a takedown in the first period then a near fall in the second to open a 5-0 lead. He would hang on to the lead the rest of the way.
‘I was going into the match with confidence because I beat him during the season already,’ Smith said. ‘He was stronger and longer than me, and I could tell he was head-hunting. So, I kept my head low and I heard my coach yell ‘slide by.’ I noticed it was there and had an easy take-down.’
Smith was excited when he stepped to the top of the podium after the win.
‘This is the first tournament I’ve won in high school, which is cool,’ he said. ‘My freshman year, my muscles and body wasn’t in the shape it needed to be in. I’ve now gotten stronger, weigh less and can tell I’m quicker. I’m real happy right now.’
LaHue, meanwhile, had a rather easy time at 120, rolling to a 15-0 technical fall victory over Charlestown’s Bryant Haynes. A fifth-place finisher at state last season (at 113), LaHue scored often in the second and third periods. Haynes entered ranked among one of the top six expected to reach the Evansville Semi-State.
The 15th point, reaching the maximum, took place with 55 seconds remaining in the third period.
Competition in practice has led to the recent success of the MSC individual champs.
‘I’ve been blessed this year with Bailey as my wrestling partner along with Nate Kurz, Austin Smith and Mason Kaufer,’ Paden said. ‘It’s a good group to practice with, and you can see our progression. We have wonderful coaches, too.’
As a team, the Panthers had eight wrestlers reach the finals. Charlestown placed first with 197 points, followed by Eastern (Pekin) with 144 and the Panthers with 141.
Kaufer placed second at 106. He trailed 7-4 entering the final period, and scored a takedown with less than a minute to go. It brought the score to the eventual final, 7-6, won by Scottsburg’s Justin Wright.
At 138, Corydon Central’s Kurz lost by tech fall to Charlestown’s Cameron Stuart 17-2. Nathan Dobson earned a victory by pin in his semi-final bout for the Panthers but was pinned by Charlestown’s Zach Higdon in the first period during the championship at 160.
Corydon Central’s Tristen Blake trailed 8-0 in his semi-final match against Salem’s Devon Grant but rallied to win 15-10. Blake was unable to carry the momentum into the final, losing to Eastern’s Devon Donoho by pin in 1:36.
Jacob Williams (220) took a similar path for the Panthers. He erased a 5-0 deficit in the semis to eventually pin Charlestown’s Jeffery Lopez to reach the final. Williams met his match there, falling to Bryan Arnold of Eastern by pin in the second period.
The 75th annual state tournament will begin Saturday with the Jeffersonville Sectional at 9 a.m. with nine teams participating. The top four place winners in each weight class will advance to the Jeffersonville Regional. Admission is $6.
Team standings ‘ 1. Charlestown 197, 2. Eastern (Pekin) 144, 3. Corydon Central 141, 4. Scottsburg 86.5, 5. Salem 76.
Individual results ‘ 106: Woods (Ch) dec. Kaufer (CC) 7-6; 113: Smith (Ch) pin Jenkins (E) 0:12; 120: LaHue (CC) tech. fall Haynes (Ch) 15-0; 126: Gomez (Ch) dec. Purlee (E) 8-1; 132: Paden (CC) dec. Adams (Sco) 9-7 OT; 138: Stuart (Ch) tech. fall Kurz (CC) 17-2; 145: Smith (CC) maj. dec. Church (Ch) 9-2; 152: Brading (E) dec. Heil (Ch) 13-8; 160: Higdon (Ch) pin Dobson (CC) 1:18; 170: Terry (E) dec. Bacon (Sco) 7-2; 182: Green (Ch) pin Moulder (E) 0:31; 195: Donoho (E) pin Blake (CC) 1:36; 220: Arnold (E) pin Williams (CC) 2:36; 285: Mount (Sco) pin Stevenson (Ch) 0:19.