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State-driven wrestlers set for season’s grind

State-driven wrestlers set for season’s grind
State-driven wrestlers set for season’s grind
Corydon Central wrestlers Ezra Paden, right, and Mason Kaufer, left, work on live mat drills while in the down position at a recent wrestling practice. Partners on the mat were Ezra's younger brother Zach Mason (left) and Nate Kurz. Photo by Brian Smith

There is varying experience on the wrestling mats at Corydon Central.
Some wrestlers return with experiencing regional, semi-state and state levels from previous years. Sprinkled in are also newbies and others with a year or two of mat time.
‘There is only a few guys that are brand new,’ veteran coach Richard Clipp said at a recent practice. ‘A lot of them have the basic techniques and fundamentals. They need to be a little more refined. We have some guys that wrestled through junior high and high school and others that just began in high school. There are some that just began three weeks ago, so it’s all different levels.’
At the top of the class is returning junior Mason Kaufer. Competing in the lightest weight class (106 pounds), Kaufer placed second at sectional and regional last year. He earned a bid to the state final after taking third place at the talent-filled Evansville Semi-state.
Coming into this season, and staying at the same weight class, Kaufer has garnered high praise from throughout the state. Preseason polls have him ranked No. 2 at 106.
‘He’s grown up with a wrestling background,’ Clipp said of Kaufer. ‘He really improved as the season went on.’
Personally, Kaufer has upped his aspirations this year. As a freshman, Kaufer was undersized (weighing less than 100 pounds) and didn’t make it to regional. As a sophomore, Kaufer grew and was spot-on as far as weight. The added poundage helped and led to him qualifying for state.
‘My goal is to stand on top of the podium,’ Kaufer said. ‘I know it’s possible. Last year, I had no expectations of going to state in the beginning … I was in awe at state.’
Kaufer admits he often has dreams about standing at the top of the podium at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
‘I feel a lot stronger,’ Kaufer said. ‘I’ve been through it. This year will be a lot different. Going to semi-state and state, wrestling in big arenas wasn’t something I was ready for. I’m mentally ready for it now. It’s crazy being in front of all those people.’
A semi-state qualifier a year ago, junior Ezra Paden also returns. He competed at 138 then, earning runner up at sectional, and likely will again this time around.
‘State,’ Paden said when asked about his expectations. ‘That’s the goal every year. I had a down year last year, but I’m hoping to bounce back. It’s definitely not going to be easy.’
Paden is one of the athletes who took some convincing to wrestle in junior high school.
‘We begged him to come out in the eighth grade,’ Clipp said. ‘He’s come a long way. He’s now become a leader and runs our pre-practice drills. He’s done a good job with it and knows the routine.’
‘People would ask me before, and I always said no,’ Paden said of joining the team. ‘I figured wrestling was stupid. I came out for one practice to try it, and I was hooked. You can’t get me off the mat now. It’s become a big part of my life.’
Paden’s younger brother, freshman Zach Paden, looks to make an impact this year as well. He’s been working out with Ezra and Kaufer.
After placing fourth at sectional last season, Robbie Leuhart looks to build on his debut as a freshman.
Other returnees with post-season experience include Tyler Robinson and Nathan Dobson. Austin Smith and Nate Kurz also return after battling injuries much of last season.
‘There are 17 of us right now,’ Clipp said of the roster. ‘It’s pretty well spread out among (grade levels), but we’ll have some holes in weight classes.’
Clipp said there are plenty of smart kids on the mat as well.
‘We have the No. 1 and 2 kids in the senior class (Drake Mattingly and David Brann), and Mason is No. 1 in the junior class,’ Clipp said.
Clipp missed the first few weeks of practice due to an injury, but assistant coaches Russell Kopp, Dennis Kaufer and Eric Rowland filled in nicely.
‘They are making good effort and headway,’ Clipp said. ‘It was tough on them with the instability of their coach. When I came in and watched three or four practices before committing every day, Russell, Dennis and Eric had their section of practice they ran. I thought it went great.’
The veteran wrestlers see improvements thus far with so many back for another go.
‘I think it is a group that wants to learn and willing to learn,’ Ezra Paden said. ‘We’re ahead at this point of the year than we have been in past years. We lost three key guys. It’ll be exciting, but I always am.’
‘Austin is looking pretty good,’ Mason Kaufer said. ‘He’s improved a lot since he first started wrestling. He’s getting better; we just need to keep him uninjured. (Matthew) Applegate is doing a lot better and worked out over the summer. He’s a lot stronger than he was last year. Robbie should do pretty good at heavyweight since he made regional last year.’
Kaufer said he gained confidence by wrestling during the summer. He traveled to Michigan and fared well against top lightweights from the Great Lakes region.
‘I wrestled a lot of good competition in Michigan, state placers,’ Kaufer said. ‘It really helped me mentally.’
The team got the season going yesterday (at Crawford County). The Panthers will hit the road Saturday to participate in the Castle Invitational, and, on Saturday, Jan. 10, they will host the Old Capital Classic.
‘The kids that are out, I think these guys work pretty good,’ Clipp said. ‘We’re going to be missing some weight classes, so it will be tough for us to win as a team. I think we’ll have several successful individual seasons.’

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