State Recap: Perry Meridian wins third consecutive wrestling state title
February 22, 2013By Rich Torres of VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By Rich Torres
VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
The team wrestling state tournament format might have changed, but for defending state champion Perry Meridian it was the same result.
Behind three individual state champions and seven state place-winners overall, the top-ranked Falcons dominated the 75th Annual IHSAA Wrestling State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 16, to win their third consecutive team championship.
For the first time since 1995, the team wrestling state tournament was incorporated into the individual state finals. Perry Meridian had little trouble with the new setup, racking up a decisive 102.5 team points.
To put Perry Meridian's victory into perspective, state runner-up Yorktown amassed a mere 62 points while Mishawaka finished third with 53.
A proud and remarkable feat for the program, said Perry Meridian coach Jim Tonte, but not quite as charming as the previous two.
"Winning is fun anyway you look at it, but I am a little sad because our whole team wasn't here," said Tonte, who didn't support the decision to merge the team and individual state tournaments in 2012-13. "There's not that big match at the end to win it with everyone jumping up and down and meeting in the middle of the mat. From that standpoint, I think we lost that atmosphere. I hope some day we get it back."
In the past, teams would advance through a separate tournament bracket, leading to a team state finals the week after the conclusion of the individual state tournament. This year, points were earned based on each wrestlers placement, match results and advancement on the final day of the individual state finals.
Fan interest didn't waver regardless of the new format, which now more closely mirrors how the NCAA crowns its national championship team.
Through the two-day state meet, a total of 27,650 people walked through the Fieldhouse doors. For the evening's championship matches, 10,355 fans witnessed the crowning of 14 state champions. Three of those weight classes went to the Falcons.
Top-ranked junior Cody LeCount (40-0) won the 132-pound title with a 16-1 tech fall against Mishawaka's Grant Martsolf (40-7). Senior Riley McClurg (37-3), ranked eighth in the state, upset No. 1 Austin McCloskey (45-2) of Western Boone with a 2-1 triple overtime thriller at 160. Top-ranked senior Donte Winfield (41-2) scored a 5-1 decision against Rushville's Joseph Garland (39-4) to win the state title at 285. Senior Jake Masengale (40-3) finished state runner-up at 182.
"We had four in the finals and three guys win. That's big," LeCount said. "Everybody that won it, worked so hard, it was great to see."
For all three, the titles marked their first.
LeCount, a state runner-up last season at 126, improved his career record to 140-2. A three-time sectional and regional champion, LeCount's only career losses occurred his freshman year against Dominique Price of Indianapolis Tech and last year to three-time state champion Kyle Ayersman of Lake Central by decision 1-0.
"Getting beat here last year 1-0, it was heartbreaking," LeCount said. "I worked all summer with my coaches just to get here and dominate in the finals. I was able to do that."
In his four state finals matches, the 21-time ISWA state champion won two by fall and only allowed five points to finish the season undefeated.
"He was so slick on his feet. To tech fall someone in a state championship match means you are on fire," Tonte said.
McClurg, a Cleveland State University recruit, met McCloskey for the second time in as many weeks to decide the 160-pound title. Defeating McCloskey at the New Castle Semi-State by decision 4-3 with a come-from-behind victory in the championship match, McClurg once again rallied to pull the upset.
Down 1-0, he scored a late escape to force overtime. Through the bonus periods, McClurg overcame a bloody forehead, which delayed the match several minutes as trainers wrapped his head with bandages to clot the scratch.
A determined McCloskey, who placed third at 152 last year, battled to the end, but after McClurg scored another escape in the fifth period, he was able to hang on from the top position in the next period for the win.
"You have to stay tough. You have to stay on it. I was a little bit more confident because I had that win last week at semi-state," McClurg said. "If you keep your head and keep your composure, then good things will happen."
Winfield won his championship match by decision 5-1. He concluded his career with a 91-4 record.
"We felt Donte was going to win it last year, but he got out of position on Friday night and got pinned. He decided over the summer that he wasn't going to let it happen again," Tonte said. "He's been on a mission ever since, and he did it."
As a team, Perry Meridian's collective effort sealed the victory.
Advancing seven wrestlers into the round of 16 and four into the elite eight, Perry Meridian trailed Yorktown early in the day. The Tigers went 5-for-5 in both rounds prior to the semifinals, but lost four of its next five matches, struggling to keep pace with the Falcons in the championship bracket.
In the semifinals and consolation rounds, Perry Meridian pulled ahead, winning all four winner's bracket matches and gaining points from fifth-place finishes by Jacob Cottey (113) and Brandon James (126). Nick Bova placed seventh at 138.
"What I like about those three guys is that they battled back and scored points for us," Tonte said. "You want all your kids to win, but I have to give those kids credit. They didn't quit even after losing in the morning. That's big."
"We started out a little slow, but we got it going when we needed it," LeCount added. "To bring home a third title means a lot to the team, the crowd here and the coaches."
For the Falcons, it marked the second team state championship they earned this season. In December, they won the Inaugural Indiana High School Coaches Association Dual Championship Meet team state title for Class 3A. The three-class team tournament was created by the IHSWCA. Eight teams per class competed in the event, which the IHSWCA intends to continue yearly.
"You can never be upset about winning," Tonte added. "We won the IHSWCA Dual this year, but until you win the IHSAA title, no one really recognizes it. This is big for the school. This is big for our program, but it would have been nice to have that team feeling here."
Pride of the Tigers: Senior Luke Blanton solidified his place in Alexandria wrestling history at the IHSAA state finals. The first student-athlete in Alexandria wrestling history to compete for a state title, Blanton finished runner-up at 138 pounds. The Indiana University recruit concluded his final prep season with a 51-1 record and won 40 of his matches by fall.
A three-time sectional, regional and Madison County champion, Blanton has been named Academic All-State twice.
At the conclusion of the state finals, he was recognized by the IHSAA Executive Committee as the 2012-13 Ward E. Brown Mental Attitude Award winner.
Blanton, the son of Calvin and Denise, ranks eighth in his class with a 3.84 GPA. He served as team captain of the wrestling team the last three years and on the football team as a junior. He has lettered three years in football and is pursing an academic honors diploma.