MISHAWAKA — OK, you’re a high school wrestler. You’ve just been defeated in the finals of your conference tournament. You’re unhappy.
A) Go home and sulk … or …
B) Go find a video of your match, study it, and figure out how to fix your mistakes the next time?
Guess which route New Prairie’s Grant Johnson is going to take?
“I’m going to learn from this. I’m going to learn from this and carry it into the post-season,” said Johnson following a gut-wrenching loss to Penn’s Rockne Hurley in the finals of the 195-pound weight class at Saturday’s Northern Indiana Conference wrestling championships.
It was a true battle of northern Indiana heavyweights on the mats at Mishawaka High School. Hurley, a senior, entered the match ranked No. 5 in the state power poll, sporting a 21-1 record. Johnson, also a senior, was 36-1. Momentum – and the lead – swung back and forth like a pendulum, with Johnson taking a 9-7 lead on a takedown with 1:38 remaining.
However, as the clock ran down, Johnson lost concentration for a split-second while trying to switch positions, allowing Hurley to get his hips free. A moment later, Hurley slapped on a headlock and took Johnson straight to his back for a fall in 5:49.
“I made a mistake and let up for just a second. I can’t do that again,” said Johnson. “This is going to fuel me in the practice room. I’m confident in my ability and the work I’ve put in. I’ll go back and watch the video and figure out how I can control the situation better.”
It’s entirely possible that Johnson and Hurley will meet again at the East Chicago Semistate a month from now. But there’s a sectional and regional to worry about first.
“This will push me to get ready for the (IHSAA tournament), for sure,” said Johnson.
As a team, New Prairie finished fifth in the NIC standings, scoring 168 1/2 points. To nobody’s surprise, Penn claimed five individual champs and scored 275 to claim its eighth consecutive NIC title.
Mishawaka, with four champs, was second at 249. Jimtown finished third.
The Cougars emerged with two runners-up. In addition to Johnson, senior Brayden Ruiz was second in the 132 class.
He pinned Penn’s Nate Hadary and John Burford of South Bend Adams to reach the finals. That’s where Ruiz ran into Jimtown’s undefeated and third-ranked Matt Gimson (31-0). Gimson pinned Ruiz (34-3) in 1:05.
“He’s just so strong,” said Ruiz. “There’s times I can beat stronger kids with better technique, but he’s just at another level.”
Like Johnson, Ruiz plans to study video and be better prepared when the tournament begins.
“I’m telling myself I can do it,” he said. “I’ll look at the tape a little and then just forget about today.”
Austin Lesniak finished third for New Prairie at 145, while Luke Lenig (170) and Hunter Whitenack (285) each finished fourth. Fifth-place awards went to Ryan Voreis (106), Daniel Lukowski (126) and Javi Padilla (220).
“We’ll take everything that happened today and make it motivation for the rest of the season,” said New Prairie coach Bobby Whitenack. “We have really hard-working kids and they will do what they need to do to get the job done.”
The Cougars coach said he didn’t know team scores Saturday until the end.
“I don’t pay attention to the team scores, we just try to win our individual matches one at a time,” he said. “If you do that, the team score takes care of itself.”
New Prairie finishes the regular season against John Glenn on Thursday.
NIC Wrestling Tournament
New Prairie finished fifth with 168 1/2 points.
NORTHERN INDIANA CONFERENCE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019
TEAM SCORES: Penn 275, Mishawaka 249, Jimtown 222 ½, South Bend Riley 173 ½, New Prairie 168 ½, Elkhart Central 144, South Bend Washington 75, South Bend Clay 69, John Glenn 62, South Bend Adams 59, Bremen 37, South Bend Saint Joseph 23, Mishawaka Marian 12.
106: Ryan Purvis (Penn) pinned Sean Johnson (Elkhart Central), 5:29.
113: Brodie Fogarty (Mishawaka) pinned Elijah Hipskind (Riley), 0:19.
120: Vince Sparrow (Penn) maj. dec. Eric Garcia (Elkhart Central), 12-1.
126: Hunter Watts (Jimtown) pinned Logan Hill (Penn), 3:58.
132: Matt Gimson (Jimtown) pinned Brayden Ruiz (New Prairie), 1:05.
138: Connor Gimson (Jimtown) pinned Gabriel Weeks (Mishawaka), 1:54.
145: Jeffrey Harper (Penn) maj. dec. Landon Buchanon (Jimtown), 11-1.
152: Drew Mason (Mishawaka) pinned Dion Hall (Washington), 1:33
160: Austin Garcia (Elkhart Central) dec. Michael Garcia (Penn), 3-1 in OT.
170: Joseph Walker (Mishawaka) pinned David Sheley (Riley), 1:21.
182: Jacob LaPlace (Mishawaka) pinned Ben Kahl (Penn), 1:02.
195: Rockne Hurley (Penn) pinned Grant Johnson (New Prairie), 5:49.
220: Johnathon Thomas (Adams) dec. Adam Berta (Penn), 8-4.
285: Yehezquel Devault (Penn) pinned Keenan Perkins (Jimtown), 0:52.
(For 3rd Place)
106: Adriel Macedo (Riley) dec. Nathan May (Glenn), 11-6.
113: Hunter Funderburk (Jimtown) tech fall Maxx Szucs (Clay), 16-1 in 3:54.
120: Terrance Jones (Riley) pinned Jordan Bonk (Mishawaka), 4:08.
126: Trevor Penrod (Riley) pinned Brad Felder (Elkhart Central), 0:41.
132: Nate Hadary (Penn) dec. Simeon Norton (Riley), 5-4.
138: Droshawn Lewis (Riley) dec. Alex Slates (Penn), 4-2.
145: Austin Lesniak (New Prairie) dec. Brandon Becker (Glenn), 8-5.
152: Nate Dibley (Elkhart Central) pinned Dominique Clark (Adams).
160: Cody Timmerman (Mishawaka) pinned Jacob Werts (Jimtown), 2:26.
170: Peyton Anderson (Elkhart Central) pinned Luke Lenig (New Prairie), 3:56.
182: Ethan Forest (Washington) pinned Elijah Asuquo (Clay), 2:42.
195: Commander Jenkins (Riley) maj. dec. Jason Williams (Clay), 14-6.
220: Garrett Sandefur (Mishawaka) pinned Terrence Johnson (Washington), 2:16.
285: Brody Miskimon (Glenn) pinned Hunter Whitenack (New Prairie), 4:29.
Conference MVP: Hunter Watts (Jimtown).