By Travis Whitton
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — NEW CASTLE — All the hard work that wrestlers put in is for one goal — to make it to the pinnacle of Indiana high school wrestling and win a state championship.
Two local wrestlers will get their shot at a state title in Bankers Life Fieldhouse next week. Pendleton Heights’ Tyler Flood and Alexandria’s Nate Ryan both finished fourth in the New Castle semistate to qualify for a trip to Indianapolis.
Flood, in the 113-pound weight class, started off the morning by knocking off Warren Central’s Erik Owens (28-12) in a 3-1 decision. In the second round, he beat Andrew Hayes of Carmel by a 6-0 score, automatically qualifying him for the state finals.
In his third match, the Arabians grappler fell to Hamilton Southeastern’s Austin Holmes (37-2) by way of a pin with 21 seconds left in the second period. Flood also was pinned by Cathedral's Skylour Turner with 1:10 left in the final period of his last match.
“We thought all along he was good enough to get there, and I still feel that he’s good enough to be a place winner,” Pendleton Heights coach Dave Cloud said. “He fulfilled our expectations. We had to battle through some injuries and illness this year. It’s been a good season for us.”
Pendleton Heights regional champion Spencer McCool (30-5) took a 6-2 decision from South Vermillion’s Tanner Smith before bowing out to Greg Johnson Jr. 4-3 in the second round. Also advancing to the second round for the Arabians was David Bryant (21-7) with a pin over Colton Handley (31-8) 51 seconds into the final round.
In the 152-pound weight class, Alexandria’s Ryan (29-6) pinned South Dearborn’s Brandon Manning (38-6) as the buzzer sounded to end the second period in his first match.
His second-round foe was the No. 5-ranked wrestler, Conner James (34-2) of Roncalli. Ryan used his skill to take a 4-3 decision and qualify for a trip to the state championship.
“Coming in I can only expect one thing out of Nate Ryan, and that’s win,” Tigers coach David Lund said. “We expect the best. Granted he’s not going to win the (semistate) tournament, but he’s going on to state. That’s the first time for him going to the state championship. It’s a big deal for anybody. Top 16 in the state.”
Lund said for Ryan to come in as an unranked wrestler and qualify for the state exceeded all his expectations.
“I’m beyond proud of Nate,” he said. “Coming in this season, he’s a senior, for sure the best kid on the team, yeah, you expect a lot out of your best kid. I didn’t expect anything but him going to the state tournament. I expect that out of him. I demand that out of him.”