ANDERSON — "Elwood is back" was uttered by many on Saturday afternoon, and not just the Panther faithful.
“Absolutely (Elwood is back), and I am proud of them,” Pendleton Heights coach Dave Cloud said.” (It is because of Elwood’s coach) Fred Short. He started from nothing, he has worked so hard and went through the struggles.”
The high praise came after Elwood dethroned Cloud’s two-time defending county champion Arabians 259-250.5.
It was clear from the onset that a close battle was brewing as Pendleton held a slim three-point advantage, 224-221, heading into the final round matches to determine first thru sixth places.
“It came down to just exactly what I (said) at intermission,” Short said. “Head-to-head and third place points.”
It was like he had the ability to see into the future. Each team had 14 wrestlers with final round matches; five of the matches pitted the two against each other. Perhaps the biggest was the final time they met, the 220-pound third-place match.
“All the old-time coaches taught me when I was young that it is nice to win the titles, but these third place matches a lot of times determine the tournaments,” Cloud said. “Worry about your team more than yourself— Elwood kids did a great job at that today and that is why they won.”
With Cloud in one corner and Short in the other and both barking orders toward their wrestler — nearly every set of eyes were fix on mat 1 as Elwood’s Ethan Morris and Pendleton’s Ryan Haynes locked horns for two scoreless periods. Then 11 seconds into the third, Morris got Haynes on his back with both shoulders on the mat for the pin and the deciding victory for Elwood.
“It was a dog fight,” Morris said. “I have been giving up so much weight and he felt a lot stronger than me. I think I wore him down a lot.”
Elwood went 9-5 in those final matches, 3-2 in the head-to-head bouts with Pendleton
Twelve of Elwood’s 14 wrestlers finished third or better including three who claimed individual titles, Dakota Cole at 126 pounds, Derek Bryant at 160, Sammy Mireles at 170.
“We are doing things right,” Short said with emotion in his voice. “This proves I have got a good coaching staff and a bunch of kids that work hard. They give me everything and more.”
Mireles received the Fred Lamb Outstanding Wrestler Award for his performance on the day. The award was given based on voting by the participating coaches.
“It is awesome,” Mireles said of his award and the championship. “Last Saturday we faced (Pendleton) at their tournament and lost to them by three points and we knew we were back. That was our whole momentum at practice this whole week.”
Pendleton had the most individual champions with four, Tony Flood at 113 pounds, Wes Robinson at 132, Sean Kirby at 138 and Spencer McCool at 182.
“I hope this taught our kids about scrambling through situations and not quitting on situations and how important every match is during the course of the day,” Cloud said. “I hope it will make up better, especially our younger kids.”
Anderson’s Zack Amos (145), Bryant White (195), Rome Kayzer (220) each won their weight classes to remain unbeaten for the season.
Long-time Anderson wrestling coach, and newly enshrined Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Al Ihnat had coach after coach stop by his mat-side seat with congratulations on his achievements. But, it was when Cloud had his Arabian squad meet and shake Ihnat’s hand that caused the 45-year coaching legend to have an emotional moment.
“That blew me away,” Ihnat said. “(Dave Cloud) has always been classy.”
Ihnat said that the wrestlers now know more about the sport and more about technical aspects than when he was coaching at the high school level. He believes that wrestling can teach student-athletes just as much about life than what happens on the mat.
“Wrestling is like life,” Ihnat said. “You get taken down a lot of times, a lot of times you escape a bad situation. It teaches responsibility, it teaches how to win and lose. It is not about just winning, it is about doing the best you can. If you get beat, you come back and get third place, don’t be satisfied with a fifth or sixth, you go for what you can get.”