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Injuries to seniors leave Panthers to youth

Injuries to seniors leave Panthers to youth
Injuries to seniors leave Panthers to youth
Corydon Central wrestling coach Eric Rowland, center, leads practice Monday. Intensity at practice has picked up as the season nears for the Panthers. Photos by Brian Smith

Double legs, shots and take-downs filled the pair of wrestling mats at Corydon Central High School on Monday.
Intensity and technique have been the focus in the opening weeks of the preseason work put in by the Panthers grapplers.
‘We’re picking up the pace this week and getting use to the intensity of what a match would be like,’ Corydon Central coach Eric Rowland said.
The first-year head coach comes into the campaign with his two most accomplished and experienced wrestlers on the sideline. Ezra Paden, a three-time semi-state qualifier, and Mason Kaufer, a state qualifier as a sophomore, are currently out with injuries. Both are the program’s lone representatives in the senior class.
Paden reached semi-state last year at 145 pounds, but, in the offseason, tore his ACL during summer football.
‘Ezra has been in here every day he doesn’t have physical therapy to work with the guys,’ Rowland said. ‘He’s still part of the team, which is great for leadership. It’s been killing him not to be able to show them things on the mat the first few weeks.’
Kaufer had surgery after the first tournament last year to his shoulder. He’s still recovering from the injury.
‘We’re not sure what the issue is with Mason,’ Rowland said. ‘He’s at the doctor again today to see if he’s OK to go. We hope in a few weeks we’ll know more.’
Paden is still hopeful to return before the season ends.
‘He’s trying to come back,’ Rowland said of Paden. ‘He’s working hard to rehab and in the weight room because he wants to come back. I don’t know if it is a reality or not, but he’s trying to make it back if there is any possible way.’
Rowland becomes the second coach in program history at Corydon Central. He succeeds Indiana High School Wrestling Hall of Fame member Richard Clipp, who retired after starting the program in 1978.
A Corydon Central alumnus, Rowland was a member of the Panthers’ wrestling program. Once his teaching career began at Meade County (Ky.), Rowland joined their wrestling coaching staff for two years before returning home.
‘Once I came to Corydon, Clipp called me the day after I was hired and wanted to know if I wanted to be part of the program’ Rowland said. ‘I then became the junior high coach for a couple of years and took over as an assistant last year.’
Within practice, Rowland said he has morphed coaching philosophies learned from Meade County and Corydon Central.
‘We tried to get back to the basics the first few weeks,’ Rowland said. ‘There are some things as coaches we thought were lacking, places we want to fix some holes. With Ezra and Mason hurt, we are young. There are some good wrestlers but inexperienced. We really are trying to focus on the basics the first few weeks.’
Among the top returners is Paden’s younger brother, sophomore Zach Paden. Within practices, Zach has stood out to the coach, but he hasn’t wrestled at the high school level due to a pair of early season concussions last year.
‘We’re looking for him to be our leader on the mat early in the year,’ Rowland said. ‘He’ll pretty much set the weight classes around him. He is at 138 now and may go 132. The other guys will fall in around him until they can beat him.’
Two returning wrestlers ‘ junior Robby Leuthart and sophomore Ben Grimes ‘ have seen postseason success. Each has made the regional level once in their careers. Leuthart, wrestling in the heaviest weight class, offers power.
‘Robby is so strong,’ Rowland said. ‘He doesn’t know how strong he is.’
Grimes, in the lighter weight class, has battled an illness in the early going, so Rowland is eager to see improvements from him.
Another junior, Jack King, has been working with Zach Paden.
‘Jack is looking really good,’ Rowland said. ‘He hasn’t been able to complete a full season due to nagging injuries from football.’
Seth Simmerman and Eric Burres are two additional juniors coming over from the football program.
Juniors Cameron Herthel and Matthew Applegate also return. Herthel was a fifth-place finisher at 170 at sectional a year ago.
‘We want Applegate to stay healthy, and Cameron brings back experience,’ Rowland said.
In the sophomore group, Tyson Trumpower has shown a great deal of improvement from his frosh campaign.
‘Tyson has probably impressed me the most athletically between then and now,’ Rowland said. ‘He looks so much better and like an athlete. He’s matured.’
Keith Murray also returns in the sophomore class.
One of Corydon Central’s freshman, Colin Smith, could have an impact early.
‘Coming up from eighth grade, Colin had done really well as a youth,’ Rowland said. ‘Fundamentally, we’re working on things to make Colin better. We know technically he’s pretty good on the mat.’
In the offseason, Rowland encouraged his athletes to play a fall sport or hit the weights.
‘I really tried to push the weights with them and, if they aren’t doing that, I’ve pushed to play football, soccer or another sport,’ he said. ‘I want them to be a little bit stronger.’
With 18 wrestlers on the roster, numbers are low in terms of filling weight classes. Several are slated to be in the same weight class or close to it.
Besides an increased tempo of practice, the hope is to better prepare competitors for a match.
‘We want to imitate the intensity needed in a match,’ Rowland said. ‘Hopefully, our (physical) shape will pay off. I hope we’ll be able to last and go hard. We want hard-nosed wrestling.’
There is an effort to build for the future.
On Thursday nights, Corydon Central holds a practice for little kids. It’s a time to introduce youth to the sport of wrestling. There is increased focus on the junior high program as well.
‘We’ve put the pieces in place to, hopefully, build our numbers,’ Rowland said.
The Panthers will open their season Dec. 1, hosting Crawford County. The schedule also features tournament trips to Castle, Meade County, Connersville and Jasper.
‘Connersville moved their date to accommodate the state duals,’ Rowland said. ‘Connersville will be a very tough tournament.’
Corydon Central will host the annual Old Capital Classic on Saturday, Jan. 9.
‘I’m excited to see what we’ll do,’ Rowland said. ‘Our numbers are low, but, from the beginning of the year to the end, I think we’ll see some great improvements. The key is keeping everyone healthy and start to build some excitement.’