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Carroll wrestler misses state title by single point

– Seven-point-seven seconds left out there in that circle of light, and it was down to this Saturday night: two perfect records, one state title, one last chance for Carroll’s Riley Lefever to go out the only way he knew how.

Which was: on his feet, trying to take his opponent off his.

One last time he went for the leg and the takedown on Bobby Steveson of Merrillville at the IHSAA state wrestling finals in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and one last time Steveson survived. Score it 5-4 for Steveson in the championship match of the 170-pound class, between two wrestlers who were a combined 84-0 coming into the match.

Steveson finished 39-0. Lefever, who led 3-0 early in the second period, finished 46-1.

It made him the second area wrestler to come up short in the finals – earlier, Garrett Pepple of East Noble lost to Chad Redd of New Palestine at 106 pounds – and it left Lefever fighting as hard for words as he fought for everything else.

“Made too many mistakes,” he whispered, after several struggling moments.

A few more struggling moments.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I wrestled hard. It just wasn’t enough.”

In the end, his coach, Scott Raypole, said it was a reversal by Steveson late in the second period that turned the tide. It evened the match at 3-3, and from there, a takedown by Steveson in the last 25 seconds was the difference.

“I like how he wrestled,” Raypole said of Lefever. “I like that we were the aggressor. We didn’t wait around to see what was going to happen. You saw a lot of guys wait until OT, wait it out. But he went for the win, and that’s what we preach to him: Go for the win.”

Pepple, meanwhile, never really had a chance against 48-0 Redd, who took him down early and kept him down to win the 106 title, 4-0.

“He was tough on top, so I couldn’t get any offense because I was on bottom,” Pepple said. “That was it. The key to the match was just keeping me down.”

And it ended a season for him that was a long trip up. As a freshman last year, he wrestled junior varsity behind Connor Knapp at 113. This year, at 106, he went 43-2, losing to Redd and dropping a 2-1 decision to Garrett’s Hayden Lee, who wound up sixth Saturday, in the semistate championship match.

“This was a big step,” Pepple said.

Four other local wrestlers reached the semifinals Saturday.

At 113, Knapp lost 3-0 to Zachary Davis of Penn in the semis and Sawyer Miller of South Adams was pinned in 47 seconds by undefeated Stevan Micic of Hanover Central, who repeated as state champion. Miller beat Knapp to finish third.

At 152, Conner Brummett of DeKalb lost to Josh Farrell of Greenfield Central on an injury default when he popped an ankle at 5:32 in the semis. And at 170, Anthony Linnear of North Side went down to Steveson 10-1 in the semis.

Linnear pinned Jacob Reed of Muncie Southside in 4:27 in the consolation round to place third.

bensmith@jg.net

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