Article by Jeremy Hood; Video by Ken Sothman
Perry Meridian proved once again why they are the dominant wrestling program throughout the state of Indiana. The Falcons were able to soar past Yorktown 102.5-62 and three-peat as state champions and have now gone four years in a row finishing as champions or runner-ups.
“I got to give our kids credit, even the kids that got beat this morning, because we had kids that weren’t on top of the podium tonight that very well could have been.”
Three out of the four wrestlers who succeeded at making it to the top of the podium Saturday night for the Falcons were Cody LeCount, Riley McClurg, and Donte Winfield.
Cody LeCount by far had the most dominating performance of the night. Despite being eliminated in the finals last year, LeCount dominated the 132 weight class by controlling the match early and winning by a technical fall against Grant Martsolf of Mishawaka 16-1, ending his senior year undefeated with a 40-0 record.
“I did just did what my coaches told me to do to the best of my ability” LeCount said, “I went back and trained hard with my coaches all summer just to get here and dominate the finals.” When I went up 13-1 in the third I knew I could get the tech fall and that’s what happened, it was just so unreal.”
It was an all-out war in senior Riley McClurg’s match against Austin McCloskey of Western Boone in the 160 class. In the second period with just over a minute left, McClurg received a devastating cut above his eye stopping the match briefly to be attended to. With a bandage around his head and all, McClurg outlasted McCloskey in a 2-1 victory in three overtime periods.
“I’m actually a big wuss when it comes to blood” McClurg said. “But I’ve learned that you just got to be mean and got to be tough if you want to outwork the other man, and that goes a lot further than people think.”
“I’m really happy for Riley because nobody expected him to win”, head coach Jim Tonte said, “to see him come through like that is really exciting.”
To cap off the night for the finals and for the Falcons, senior heavyweight Donte Winfield showed off his emotions with a loud scream followed by immediately running over to one of his coaches and hoisting him up. Winfield won 5-1 in a decision defeating Rushville’s Joseph Garland in the 285 pound battle. This was Donte’s first individual state title after being eliminated early in the first round last year.
“Last year I wanted to practice so bad with the guys that made it, and I told myself that I wasn’t going to be that person again who got out early, I’m going to go to the finals and I’m going to win state and that’s what I did. I’m just so grateful for what I have achieved and am so blessed.”
There were many more notable performers throughout this exciting night on the mat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Freshman Chad Redd of New Palestine ended his perfect season on a high note with two key takedowns and outlasting sophomore Garrett Pepple 4-0.
“I had to get that first takedown to really set the tone”, Redd said. “He almost got up a couple of times but I was able to get him back down and control him.”
Warren Central’s Deandre Wilson proved why he was one of the fastest wrestlers in the 120 pound class, by getting two quick takedowns to Lowell high school’s Drew Hughes. Wilson would not let him get away as and would walk away as Warren Central’s only state champion.
What was arguably the best match of the night came in the 145 weight class between Danville’s Neal Malloy and Yorktown’s Eli Walker. Down 2-0 early, Malloy was able to take the lead at the end of the first period with a quick takedown. With a few quick escape points however, Walker was able to get back within a point meaning a takedown could win it. With three seconds left it appeared as if that had happened. Walker hit Malloy with the fireman’s carry as the buzzer ended the third period. Initially, Walker was awarded the two points which would have given him a 5-4 victory, but after a long discussion from the referees, they reversed the decision, keeping Malloy’s undefeated season and state championship alive.
“I don’t think he got it” Malloy said after the match, “I was able to pinch both his arms and head enough to where he couldn’t get on top, but it was close.”
It was a first time experience winning the state title for senior Josh Farrell of Greenfield-Central. Farrell came up just short a year ago in the 138 final, but put on some weight to compete and succeed in the 152 weight class this year. Farrell completed his season with a perfect 48-0 year tonight edging Vinny Corsaro of Indianapolis Cathedral with a scoring decision of 3-2.
Fishers’ Mitch Sliga wasted no time repeating as state champion in the 195 pound class, by pinning South Bend Clay’s Jaylin Allen in just 31 seconds. This was the only match of the night that was decided by pin fall.
“My goal was to just go dominate like I have the whole season” Sliga said. “I was just ready to go, my shots felt crisp, and everything I worked for this season has really paid off.”
It was former NBA standout Glen Robinson’s son Gelen Robinson of Lake Central high school who stood at the top of the podium for the 220 pound class. Robinson drew first blood late in the first period with a nice headlock takedown, followed by another takedown midway in the second to take a 5-1 lead. Robinson would not let that lead slip away, winning by decision 7-2.
The Falcons may be losing key seniors, but coach Tonte still has a fourth title in a row in his sights.
“We’re going to be young next year, but things go in cycles, we’re going to have to fight hard to stay where we’re at; it’s tough to stay at this level.”