MUNCIE, Ind. — Last year saw several East Central Indiana wrestlers compete in the Indiana High School Athletic Association state finals.
While some of those wrestlers graduated, several of those competitors from last year, including Jay County’s Mason Winner, Delta’s John Robinson and Monroe Central’s Logan Swallow, all return for their senior seasons.
For them, along with a number of other wrestlers in the area who have seen postseason success in their high school careers, the goal remains the same — make it to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the state finals in February.
Here are five area wrestlers to keep an eye out for this season:
Payne Blackburn (Delta, senior)
Delta’s roster includes a number of previous semistate and state qualifiers, including senior Payne Blackburn. Last year, Blackburn’s postseason run came to an end in the second match at semistate during a 6-2 decision against Jimtown’s Hunter Watts, who went on to finish third at 126 pounds. In 2018, Blackburn advanced to state at 126 pounds. Coming into this year as one of the unquestioned leaders on this Eagles squad, coach Gary Schliessman says Blackburn is “definitely motivated” to make another run at state this season.
“Payne had a really tough match at semistate,” Schliessman said. “He was right there, he was there the year before and sometimes that happens, you know? Once you get close to that state finals and things get tougher. But I can tell you this, these guys have put the time in, they’ve done the camps, they’ve done the tournaments they’ve done everything that we’ve asked of them and even more.”
Tytus Ragle (New Castle, senior)
A semistate qualifier at 152 pounds a year ago, New Castle senior Tytus Ragle finished last season with a 42-5 overall record. Ragle’s season ended in the New Castle semistate against Greenfield-Central’s Cooper Noehre, who ended up finishing second in the state at 152 pounds. Coming off back-to-back 40-plus win seasons and an individual sectional championship, coach Gary Black says Ragle is capable of whatever he puts his mind to.
“For him to get down to Bankers Life, to be a top-four finisher at semistate, to be a sectional and regional champion, which are our goals, he’s going to have to believe in himself,” Black said. “You know, his coaches believe in him, we’ve got high hopes for him. … He’s got all the skills necessary for him to get down to Bankers Life and wrestle even on Saturday to stand on the podium Saturday evening when the state tournament concludes.”
John Robinson (Delta, senior)
There are some guys that coaches have to push to do the right things and work hard year-round. Delta senior John Robinson, like his teammate Payne Blackburn, isn’t one of those guys. Robinson advanced to state last year at 120 pounds, finished the season with a 38-6 record and has made back-to-back semistate appearances. Schliessman expects that last year’s state finals experience will motivate Robinson in the final year of his high school career.
“Well, I think anytime a kid gets to that level, it kind of puts a fire behind him and it really motivates him for the next year,” Schliessman said. “I think John’s going to do just fine this year. I think he has every opportunity to make it all the way to the state finals this year.”
Logan Swallow (Monroe Central, senior)
Another state qualifier at 285 pounds last year, Monroe Central senior Logan Swallow will look to return to Indianapolis in February. Swallow finished last season 36-6 and lost a 5-3 decision during the first round of the state finals to eventual champion in Dorian Keys of Brownsburg. Also an all-conference football player, head coach Kevin Driskill said he’s seen a lot of growth in Swallow over the years and has even higher expectations for him this season.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” Driskill said. “His freshmen and sophomore year, I’m not saying he was weak, but he wasn’t as strong as he is right now. You know, I’m glad he’s realized that too. Being that big, you’ve got to have some muscle to back you, too, it helps. … He’s looking real good. He worked hard all summer long and I think he’ll make it farther than just Friday night this year.”
Mason Winner (Jay County, senior)
One of the best wrestlers in the area throughout his high school career, Jay County’s Mason Winner has won three semistate championships, qualified for state at 145, 160 and 182 pounds and boasts a career 127-12 record. With all he’s accomplished in his high school career, however, Winner is still looking to win a state championship. Coming back at 182 pounds this year, coach Eric Myers says he doesn’t want to overlook any match, but knows Winner is capable of just that.
“His goal his whole high school career has been to be a state champion,” Myers said. “So, you know, he’s been working really hard towards that. He puts in a ton of time in the offseason whether it’s going to different clinics or different practices, different camps or if he’s competing. He’s competed all over the place at some of the highest levels. That’s his main goal.”