By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
A year ago, Sammy Mireles broke his hand messing around toward the end of the wrestling season and made an earlier than expected postseason exit.
A week ago, Mireles gambled and was pinned in the semifinals of the sectional at Hamilton Heights.
But the Elwood junior made no mistakes in Saturday’s regional, and he left the mat at Pendleton Heights as one of three individual champions from Madison County.
“Last week was really just about getting here,” Mireles said. “Today is really what matters. I made a mistake (at sectional) and got pinned. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Mireles (37-2) atoned for that mistake in the regional semifinals when he scored a late takedown to hand Noblesville’s Mitch Hensley just his second loss of the season. In the 170-pound final, he built a big second-period lead against Lawrence North’s Joe Fowler and held on for a 16-14 victory.
The county’s other two champions — Pendleton Heights freshman Tyler Flood (22-4) at 106 and Alexandria senior Luke Blanton (44-0) at 138 — repeated their sectional crowns.
Two other local grapplers — Elwood senior Alfonso Guevera (21-15) at 106 and Pendleton Heights junior Jeremiah Roosa (16-9) at 113 — finished as runners-up in their weight class. In all, 12 wrestlers from Madison County finished in the top four and will advance to next week’s semistate at New Castle.
For Mireles, another showdown with Hensley likely is pending. It’s a rivalry the Panthers star enjoys.
“He’s a real cool guy, we were talking (at the podium) and stuff,” Mireles said. “He beat me once, I beat him once. We’ll see next week. Anything can happen.”
Mireles knows that better than most.
He competed in both basketball and wrestling in middle school, but had to make a difficult decision between the two as a freshman. He initially chose hoops, but that call lasted just one year.
“In wrestling, it’s just me out there,” he said. “If I mess up, it’s all on me. I can’t blame my teammates.”
He likes that one-on-one dynamic, and it has served him well. Mireles looked to be headed for a promising postseason as a sophomore before breaking his hand while doing back flips on the mat at the Central Indiana Conference championships. He finished the season despite the injury but failed to advance out of the regional.
He credits Panthers coach Fred Short with keeping him focused in Year 2 and has his sights set on a berth in the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in two weeks. To get there, he’ll need to continue following one of Short’s credos.
“He’s always getting after us in practice,” Mireles said. “He says if we can go hard for an hour, these six minutes (of actual matches) are gonna be easy.”
Flood also knows a thing or two about intense practices.
He’s been working out with former Pendleton Heights wrestlers Matt and Mason Todd, each a former state finalist in his own right.
“They’re helping me a ton,” Flood said after scoring a 7-3 victory against Elwood’s Guevera in the 106-pound final. “I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for them.”
It was a thrill for Flood to win the regional title in his home gym, but an even bigger achievement could await next week. Mason Todd — who won the 112-pound state title in 2011 — is the only freshman in the Arabians’ wrestling history ever to qualify for the state finals.
With his regional crown in tow, Flood now is a favorite to join him.
“It’s a really good feeling,” he said of the thought of matching his mentor’s accomplishment. “That would be really cool. That’s my goal.”
Blanton’s goal hasn’t wavered since he lost in the semifinals at the state finals a year ago.
He’s dead set on winning a state championship and his 20-5 demolition of Lawrence North’s Juwan Bartlett in the 138-pound regional final proved he’s right on track.
Blanton scored a flurry of points on takedowns in the third period, and he said he was simply practicing for potential future scenarios. Now, if he needs to score points quickly to win a match late, he knows he can.
The senior superstar has allowed his focus to lag in the semistate round in the past, but he said that won’t be an issue next week at New Castle.
“I’ve got to take it one match at a time,” he said. “I can’t look forward to the next two rounds. I learned in the last two years I can’t look past anybody.”