FORT WAYNE – One is an interesting number for three area wrestlers.
It is the combined number of losses for East Noble sophomore Connor Knapp (113 pounds), Garrett junior Hayden Lee (106) and Carroll senior Riley Lefever (170), and it is also the goal for each of them – as in being No. 1.
Lefever (43-0) and Knapp (40-0) will enter the state finals at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis with undefeated records, while Lee (36-1) has the lone loss of the three semistate champions.
Ranked No. 3 in the state, Lee’s lone loss came to No. 2 Jake Sinkovics of Mishawaka in a 6-2 decision. A two-time semistate champion, Lee was third at state last year at 106 and will face Lebanon’s Caleb Bocock (27-13) in the first round today.
I have trained my mind and my body in ways most people would find insane so I know I am ready, Lee said. To win a state title, it takes an extra burst of will and desire, and I am sure I have what it takes to take home that blue ribbon (first place) this weekend. I feel I am wrestling the best I possibly can at this point in time in the season. I am just going to go out there and wrestle like how I have been trained my whole life to do.
New Palestine freshman C.J. Red (44-0) is No. 1 in the state at 106.
Though I have two equally tough opponents (Red, Sinkovics) in front of me, I can’t worry about those two so right now, and my main focus is on my Friday night opponent, Lee said. Once that is over, then I can worry about the other matchups.
Also in the running at 106 is Lee’s cousin, East Noble’s Garrett Pepple (40-1), who lost in the semistate title match to Lee. Pepple is ranked No. 7 in the state.
Knapp was a state qualifier last year and is ranked No. 4 in the state. He faces Zionsville’s Mitch Webster (31-10) in the first round. Hanover Central junior Steven Micic (44-0) is the defending state champion and ranked No. 1.
I think I am wrestling better and better every tournament, every week, Knapp said.
But my coaches and I both agree that I haven’t even peaked yet. Hopefully it happens this weekend. My draw is very good – I have a senior from Zionsville in the first round, which is what I’m worrying about first. From there on it is a mystery, but I can, and will, wrestle through it.
Lefever is ranked No. 2 in the state at 170 and is making his state finals debut. Lefever has Lawrenceburg’s K.C. Hedger (43-4) in the opening round.
To win a state title I will have to wrestle my best, Lefever said.
I will have to take the tournament match by match, not overlook anyone, and go out and wrestle and pour it all on my opponents. That’s what it’s all about, wrestling the best when it matters, and I feel I am.
Merrillville’s Bobby Steveson (35-0) is ranked No. 1 in the state but wouldn’t meet Lefever until the finals.
The draw doesn’t really matter to me because you have to win them all anyway to get first, with that being said, it’s a nice draw, and I’m excited, Lefever said. This is my last high school tournament, no regrets. I want to go out and dominate.
The fourth area wrestler to win a semistate title last week is Bellmont senior Brad Busse, who is 34-2 at 182 and ranked sixth in the state.
He finished seventh at 182 last year at the state finals. Busse faces Fishers’ Seth Riley (38-6) in the first round.