Panthers 1st: Two bound for state
Corydon Central took a group of four wrestlers, all underclassmen, to the Ford Center to take part in the Evansville Semi-state Saturday.
Although they were a young group, the Panthers were able to advance two ‘ Mason Kaufer (106-pound weight class) and Bailey LaHue (120) ‘ to the state finals, which will take place this weekend.
LaHue is no stranger to state, making his third showing in as many years. Meanwhile, Kaufer, a sophomore, was in awe of his accomplishment.
‘It’s pretty much indescribable,’ said Kaufer, who finished third in his weight class. ‘It’s insane. Once I won that second match, all pressure was released. You’re going to Bankers Life (Fieldhouse). You’re top 16 in your weight class in the state. It’s insane how happy I am.’
Veteran Corydon Central coach Richard Clipp was proud of the accomplishment for the program he started. It will be the first time the Panthers will send two to the state finals in the same year.
‘We had a good group all year long,’ Clipp said. ‘I thought bringing four kids down here was excellent, and taking two to the state finals is super. I don’t think anyone else from our sectional is taking two to state. It’s pretty good.’
LaHue, a two-time semi-state champion, had to settle for second place this go around.
It wasn’t an easy road at semi-state for the No. 2-ranked LaHue, having to go through three wrestlers with experience at the state finals.
Following a face-off under the spotlight at the Ford Center, LaHue (24-1) met No. 7 Brock Hudkins of Danville in the championship. Hudkins, a sophomore, was familiar to the bright lights, winning semi-state last year at 106 before placing fifth at state.
Neither wrestler was able to score points in the opening period despite each taking shots before whistles blew for several stalemates. Going ahead in the second period, LaHue scored a single point for an escape.
The third period, however, didn’t get the start LaHue envisioned. He was penalized for multiple cautions, starting before the referee’s whistle blew, giving Hudkins a point. Hudkins took the lead with an escape and eventually scored a take-down late to hand LaHue his first loss of the season, 4-1.
‘The final, we wrestled but ended up with fewer points,’ Clipp said. ‘I’m sure it will motivate him. It’s like his freshman year when he got beat in the sectional then came back.’
The road to the final was tough for LaHue. He was able to score a first-period pin of Crawford County’s Andrew Patton in the opening round in 40 seconds.
Advancing to the quarterfinals, LaHue took on Castle’s Jacob Brown, a two-time state qualifier. Ranked No. 17, Brown gave LaHue a battle, taking him the full three periods. LaHue came away with a relatively wide, 8-4 decision, assuring his spot at state.
In the semi-final, LaHue was locked in a tussle with No. 8 Griffin Schermer from Bloomington South. LaHue scored a take-down in the opening period and eventually rode Schermer out for a 2-1 decision. Both Brown and Schermer hold 38 wins each on the season.
‘The Castle kid was tough, and Bailey wrestled well there,’ Clipp said. ‘He wrestled just well enough in the semi-final. I’d say we were in control but not comfortably in control.’
After the loss to Hudkins, LaHue reiterated that, ‘It’s not over.’
‘He had three pretty tough matches today,’ Clipp said. ‘They are not going to be easy when you get this far along.’
The road to semi-state for Kaufer (27-6) had a run-in with New Washington’s Noah Franklin. At sectional and regional, Franklin used a headlock technique to eventually end Kaufer’s championship hopes.
Lessons were learned for Kaufer by the time the two met again in Saturday’s consolation at 106. Like the previous two meetings, Kaufer scored the match’s first points with a take-down. In the second period, Kaufer increased his lead to 4-0, scoring on a reversal.
With his head held high, literally, Kaufer rode Franklin out for a 4-0 decision. It earned Kaufer third on the podium and a spot at state.
‘Headlock,’ Kaufer said of the difference this week in his meeting with Franklin. ‘The headlock is coming. Bailey and I worked on it this week. We worked on my legs to pressure better and keep my head away. That kept me out of trouble.’
‘He’d been hammered pretty hard by everybody about the last two Franklin matches,’ Clipp said. ‘It’s hard to beat a good kid three times, especially in consecutive weeks.’
Panthers assistant coach Russell Kopp said Kaufer went with a two-on-one technique to counter’s Franklin’s strength of using a headlock for gaining points.
‘It’s become a rivalry,’ Kaufer said. ‘The first time we saw each other was in sectional. He wrestled 105 my seventh-grade year against (teammate) Colt May and beat him. I don’t understand how he didn’t grow, but he stayed at 106. I knew he was pretty good because his older brother is pretty good.’
To reach a spot at state, Kaufer won his first two matches. The first was a majority decision over Bloomington South’s Luke Stull, 9-0. In the quarterfinal, Kaufer led from the start against Decatur Central’s Kadin Poe and eventually won 7-3.
In the semi-final, No. 3-ranked Will Egli (Evansville Mater Dei) defeated Kaufer with a tech fall, 20-5, late in the third period, sending the Panther sophomore to the consolation round. No. 1 ranked Paul Konrath of Mount Vernon defeated Egli in the championship, 9-1.
For Kaufer, he has wrestled his sophomore campaign at 106, but, last year, he was well under that weight.
‘At regional, I weighed in at 98 when you can weigh in at 108 with the two-pound allowance,’ he said. ‘This year I stayed around 109, 110 which isn’t as good as it looks because kids are cutting (weight) from 120 or so. I’m ready for next year when I continue to get stronger.’
The sense of excitement is there for Kaufer.
‘I feel like I’m on top of the world; I’m going to Bankers Life,’ Kaufer said.
At 138, Corydon Central sophomore Ezra Paden was making his second appearance at the semi-state level. Paden’s tournament came to a close in the first round, falling to No. 16-ranked Ross Abram of Bloomington South.
Winning by pin at the 4:29 mark, Abram ended Paden’s season with a 20-5 record.
Abram (37-7) would go on to qualify for state, placing fourth.
As the lone freshman, competing at 152, Corydon Central’s Austin Kopp had a tough draw to start. Facing one of the top seeds, Terre Haute South’s Phoenix Adams, Kopp was pinned in the first round (1:07). Kopp finished the year with a 24-8 record.
Adams, ranked No. 6 in his weight class, was upset by Brownsburg’s C.J. Damler in the quarterfinal by a 3-2 decision.
‘It’s one of those things where this was the experience of being here,’ Clipp said of Kopp. ‘Next time down, let’s see what it is really like.’
Jeffersonville heavyweight Gavin Jolly-Little placed third at 285, defeating Bloomington South’s Guss Dajani in the consolation round by a 1-0 decision to continue in the tournament.
From the Jeffersonville Regional, Madison is sending Jordan Partee (160) and Mitchell Sandlin (195 champion) to state.
The first round at state finals will take place Friday at 6 p.m. Action will pick back up Saturday with the quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m. with semi-finals to follow. Consolations will begin at 5 p.m. with the finals taking place at 7:30.
At 106, Kaufer’s opening-round match pits him against New Palestine’s Alec White (34-7). White is ranked No. 8 in the state. The winner will advance to Saturday’s action to face the best between No. 11 Lukas Long (Lakeland, 37-2) vs. Kyle Hatch (Warsaw, 33-7).
‘My goal is to win the first one then see where I can place,’ Kaufer said. ‘The experience will be good for me going into next year, maybe take the nervousness away.’
At 120, LaHue’s opener comes against No. 18 Ruben Rodriguez (Hammond Morton). The senior carries a 32-4 record into state. The winner will face off against the victor between No. 1 C.J. Red (New Palestine, 40-0) versus No. 15 Brad Laughlin (Yorktown, 34-9).
Red, a sophomore, was the state champ at 106 last season; he went 48-0.
‘He wants to place high in the state,’ Clipp said of LaHue. ‘To do that, he’ll have to beat good people. It doesn’t matter if you are beating No. 1s, No. 2s, No. 3s or No. 4s at this point. They are all going to be good up there. I thought they were all good here.’
Admission Saturday will be $8 per session or $20 for both days (three sessions total).
Team scores: 1. Franklin Community 94, 2. Evansville Mater Dei 86.5, 3. Bloomington South 50, 4. Avon 49, 5. Edgewood 39.5, 6. Madison 38, 7. Evansville Central 33, 8t. Ben Davis 31.5, 8t. Danville 31.5, 8t. Evansville Reitz 31.5, 11. Greenwood 30, 12. Mt. Vernon 28, 13. Martinsville 26, 14. Mooresville 24, 15. Corydon Central 23, 16. Center Grove 16, 17. Brownsburg 15.5, 18t. Columbus East 14, 18t. Princeton 14, 20. Heritage Hills 12, 21t. Cascade 9, 21t. Jeffersonville 9, 23. New Washington 8, 25t. Evansville Memorial 6, 25t. Southridge 6.
Individual results: 106 ‘ Konrath (Mt.V) maj. dec. Egli (EMD), 9-1; 113 ‘ Smith (Frank) dec. Ferguson (Ev. Reitz), 5-2; 120 ‘ Hudkins (Dan) dec. LaHue (CoCent), 4-1; 126 ‘ Lee (EMD) pin Harris (Avon), 0:34; 132 ‘ Broukal (BloomSo) dec. Davis (Ev. Reitz), 4-0; 138 ‘ Lykins (Frank) dec. Fleener (CenGrov), 9-8; 145 ‘ Schober (Greenwood) dec. Karges (Prince), 5-1; 152 ‘ Kelley (Ev. Cent) pin Damler (Browns), 3:35; 160 ‘ Koontz (Edge) dec. Partee (Madison), 5-1; 170 ‘ Stevenson (Frank) dec. Fisher (ColEast), 12-8; 182 ‘ Chambers (Edge) dec. Petrole (Frank), 9-3; 195 ‘ Sandlin (Madison) pin Scott (Moores), 2:36; 220 ‘ Tolley (Frank) pin Schoolcraf (Martins), 2:29; 285 ‘ Oglesby (BenDav) dec. Henson (Avon), 5-2.