Staff Writer

“We said we were going to wrestle them straight up, take our best shot at them.”
That’s how AC wrestling head coach Tony Currie described his staff’s mindset leading up to Saturday’s Team State Duals at the Coliseum. When crunch time came, however, Adams Central made a move to bump up their heavier weights to take a shot at three-time defending 1A Champs Prairie Heights. The shift worked to perfection and Adams Central capped off a dominating day with a wild, 35-32 win in the title match.
Three weeks after losing to the Panthers at the Yorktown super dual 38-30, Currie swapped his 160 and 170 at the beginning of the dual. The two teams split those weights in the first meeting, but Currie felt that Paul Faurote might have a better shot at beating Bennett Johnson than against Seth Sutton after Sutton beat him 8-5 earlier.
The move was perfect. Bates was all over Sutton from the start and after eight nearfall points in the second period, the senior finished off a 17-1 tech fall.
Currie may have been a bit uneasy about the move when Faurote yielded the opening takedown within ten seconds to Johnson, but it was the only points he scored in the match. Faurote got a reversal and then a takedown of his own in the second period before getting a fall halfway through the bout.
“Paul Faurote was huge tonight. I switched Paul and Bates, hoping to get better matchups. And for Paul to step up and get a win, it’s really the difference in us falling short or winning this thing.”
The switch amounted to an eight-point swing, wiping out the advantage that Prairie Heights and coach Brett Smith had held three weeks prior. That Currie in a position to go for the win by inserting Monty Hill into the lineup at 182, where he won his second match of the year against Prairie Heights, despite having just four wins all season. Scoreless through two periods, Hill scored all his match points from top in the third period in a 6-1 win.
Adding Hill to the lineup moved Noah Bollenbacher, Jacob Manley, and Jashawn Berlanga all up a weight to try to win two out of three instead of losing two like they did in December. A strong Jon Messer took out Noah Bollenbacher at 195, scoring six points, but that left Manley and Berlanga at 220 and 285 with the goal of splitting or coming out ahead by a point or two.
What unfolded over the next roughly ten minutes is something any Jet fan in attendance will never forget. Manley, wrestling up a weight and facing a much bigger Kole Schrock, did his best Rocky Balboa impression in one of the wildest and roughest bouts one could ever see. Manley’s bottom lip was busted wide open early in the match, leading to blood timeout after blood timeout.
Manley tried to pummel and go upper-body with Schrock but it was the Panther wrestler with the early opening takedown and back points and then the rare four-point nearfall while Manley was cradled because of blood. In hindsight, Roger Griffith’s correct call to stop action had a huge impact on the final scoreline.
At least four times Griffith stopped the action as Currie, Hunter Bates, and even Alicia Bates attempted to stop the bleeding in Manley’s mouth. Running out of blood time would have been disastrous to the Jets’ game plan. Manley came out of several of the timeouts with simply a piece of gauze in his mouth, pressed between his tongue and his lip to keep the blood flow at bay.
By the time Manley got a reversal and nearfall at the end of the first period, it seemed like the match was over, with many not realizing that only two minutes of actual action had occurred. The second and third periods were low-scoring, but Manley mustered absolutely everything he could in the name of his team and got a point with 30 seconds remaining to hold the match to a seven-point decision.
Manley came off his back three times, avoided the default because of blood, and somehow only gave up a decision, swinging the pendulum Adams Central’s way for the first time truly in the match. From that point on, the always raucous Heights crowd was muffled, as they began to sense that they had already missed their window.
“It was a slugfest,” said Currie. “[Manley] was on his back, they were on their back, I tell ya… He split that thing wide open and just… what an effort to stay on his feet and fight back the way he did.”
Currie’s coaching genius then paid off as Berlanga, who is having one fine year, flattened Jan Fischer in the first period for a 20-12 lead. Fischer had pinned Devin Lotter in the match in December.
“It was kind of a last-minute change,” said Berlanga afterwards about the shift up to heavyweight. “I just thought, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be some fun right here.’ I knew he was going to be tough and he was, and I had fun.”
Prairie Heights did find a glimmer of hope when they got a fall at 106 in a match that was 11-10 in the previous dual, but the momentum was short-lived because of PH’s forfeit at 113.
Evan McAfee saved the Jets two points when he avoided the fall against Sam Levitz and freshman Alex Currie took care of business just before the end of the first period, giving AC a ten-point lead with three matches to go.
With Logan Mosser and Logan Macklin remaining, Adams Central needed just three more points to get the state title. Mosser wrestled a controlled, calculated match against Zeke Rowdon, winning 7-2 in the same way he did in December. The win was almost anti-climactic for the Jets who had celebrated so much in the previous bouts, but there was still on piece of important business remaining: revenge for Macklin against Ryan Rasler.
After a very good Nick Buchanan, ranked 7th in the state, took out Cayden Shaffer, the area’s #2 and #3-ranked 145s squared off again for bragging rights. Rasler defeated Macklin in the middle of the dual in December 8-7.
Macklin took Rasler down to his back and led 5-0 after a minute, but halfway through the second period, Rasler returned the favor, putting Macklin’s shoulder in a dangerous position to prompt an injury timeout. Macklin used all two minutes of injury time and with the state title already won, there was no real sense in risking further injury, leaving Macklin and Currie with the difficult decision to default.
A win by Macklin would have given the Jets a 38-26 scoreline that would have rightly shown how well they wrestled. In the end the margin didn’t matter as the trophy and banner were still the Jets’.
“These boys wanted it bad. We had some great senior leadership on this team,” remarked Currie afterwards. “Across the board, these seniors got it done. We subbed them all in today. Trey Brunner got a big win earlier today, Mason Gledhill got one. Mont Hill and Bollenbacher wrestled well today. Our regulars, they all did their job. They’re just good, tough kids. And I’m more excited for them than I am for myself or the program. They work hard and they deserve to have some fun with this.”
There was little drama earlier in the day for AC, as everyone following the 1A race knew that it was a two-team race all the way. In the opening match against Eastside, the Jets dropped just two matches, both to the Blazers top wrestlers. Laik Minnick won the battle of the area’s top two 170s, pinning Bates in the third period and Chase Leeper, the top 285 in the semi-state, got a fall at heavyweight.
Adams Central got nine falls in a row to begin the dual with #7 Wabash and by the time the Apaches got to the heart of their lineup, the match was over. Adams Central won the dual 60-21.
The semifinal match was just as lopsided, with Adams Central winning eight of the first nine bouts. Mason Gledhill and Devin Lotter had big wins in that streak and freshman 106 Aiden Cummings got his first win of the year on the mat with a one-minute fall in the 53-15 victory.
More worried about rolling up the three red mats the team brought to the event than getting his trophy, the always-humble Parker Bates couldn’t help but smile.
“I feel great. It’s awesome. Coming up short these last three years, it sucked. To the same team each time, I mean, this has been a long time coming. It was awesome to be able to come out here, make some moves, and get the win that we deserved tonight. After falling short in football, we had to get this one. We had to.”
Berlanga talked about how big the win was and what being in the program meant to him.
“Being in this sport and on this team has taught me how to be mentally prepared and tough and how to rely on other people and how to be reliable for others. These guys, they have my back no matter what.”
Unseeded North Posey ended up in third place, beating Centerville 46-24. Eastern (Greentown) were fifth after a 48-31 win against Central Noble. Southern Wells had an outstanding day and finished seventh of twelve teams, beating Eastside 44-36.