INDIANAPOLIS — If Damon Howe wants to win a state title, he’ll have to do what no one else has yet been able to do this season.
And he’ll have to do it three times.
Howe enters the first round of the 73rd annual IHSAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday, along with fellow area heavyweights Jeremiah Harvey of Culver Community and Abraham Hall of Bremen, while John Glenn senior Cody Strange enters the 160-pound competition and Culver Academies sophomore Anthony McHugh joins the 119-pound field after each finished third at last Saturday’s Merrillville Semistate. The first round is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with the tilt finishing up on Saturday with a 9 a.m. start time.
Howe will try to better his fifth-place finish at last year’s state finals, but he faces an uphill climb in trying to do so.
He takes on Fort Wayne North Side’s Ta’quan Walker in the first round, and if he wins, he’ll likely face No. 1 seed Willie Henson of North Central Indianapolis in the quarterfinals. And even if he advances through 39-0 Henson, undefeated Martinsville junior Kaden Suter could be waiting in the semifinals, with the possibility of a match-up with 43-0 Bellmont senior Daniel Meyer — who takes the mat opposite Hall Friday — in the championship.
That makes three undefeated wrestlers in this year’s state heavyweight field.
“If I want to be a state champion, theoretically I’m going to have to go through three undefeated guys,” said Howe. “Everyone down there knows how to win so I’m going to have to go down there with the mentality that every match is going to be a close match.
“Once you get to the state tournament, every single wrestler is going to be as good as Harvey, as good as Hall, everyone that made it. It’s just pushing me even more to get better in the room and work harder... I’m feeling pretty good going into the tournament.”
One advantage Howe will try to capitalize on is his experience at the 2010 state finals as the bright lights and big stage at Conseco can dazzle newcomers.
“Last year I was fifth so I’m going to go down there, and I’m not going to be star struck by all the people or anything like that,” he said. “I’m going to know what to expect with my surroundings, the environment, all that stuff, so that’s not going to be much of a shock to me. I feel like I have an advantage over a lot of other people because I think there are only three other (returning) state qualifiers coming back. When you get down there you’re in awe because it’s something you haven’t experienced before.”
While Howe faces off against Walker, and Hall tries to hand Meyer his first loss of the year, Harvey drew Huntington North junior Andrew Mason.
The Culver Community senior is on a roll after coming off back-to-back championships, handing Howe his first loss of the year in the Rochester Regional semifinals en route to a dramatic double overtime championship win over Penn’s Kade Maggart, then following up with a rematch win over Howe at last weekend’s Merrillville Semistate title match.
“The coaches have been pushing me to strive for success, and I think I’m getting the hang of it,” said Harvey following his Merrillville Semistate championship.”
Strange will try to stretch his win tally to 40 when he takes on Tyler Rickenbaugh of Heritage Hills Friday, and McHugh will attempt to push his to 41 against Evansville Memorial’s Logan Wedding.