INDIANAPOLIS — Two Marshall County wrestlers found themselves staring each other down for the third time this season, but this time the stakes were a bit higher as a state championship awaited the winner.
Plymouth’s Damon Howe and Culver Community’s Jeremiah Harvey already wrestled twice this year, once at regional and again at semistate, with Harvey walking away with both victories.
Saturday night at Conseco Fieldhouse in front of a record crowd of 10,285, the pair battled again and it was Harvey that came out on top for the third consecutive match with a 3-1 victory in overtime.
“I had no doubts,” Harvey said after posing for the state championship team picture. “Every match I wrestled today, I wrestled with confidence. I put confidence in the mind and don’t go negative even if the situation is bad.”
With the win, Harvey became Culver Community’s first wrestling state champion and the school’s first state place finisher after qualifying four before him.
Harvey’s deceptive quickness, along with his aggressive style of wrestling matched up well against Howe, who shows those same traits in his technique, and gave the Plymouth wrestler trouble in each of their meetings.
“Harvey is a strong kid who has good feet, good balance and is a great athlete for how big he is,” Howe said. “I am the type of wrestler who is going to go, go and go because I am in great shape.
“I was excited about facing him because he is the only kid who has beaten me (this season), but it just shows how strong wrestling in Marshall County and our area is because you have me and him in the finals.”
Harvey is a rare breed in a sport where success usually depends upon year-round training and practice. He bucked that trend, wrestling in seventh grade until a broken leg caused the loss of half of the season, and after Harvey’s eighth grade year he stopped all together.
Not until his junior year did the two-time all-state football player decide to get back on the mat, and Culver Community coach Mike Buschman said the idea of using wrestling to get better at football is what drove him back to the mat.
“Jeremiah is such an athlete and he is so strong, so fast and has such good body awareness that he is able to overcome some of that lack of experience,” Buschman said. “Couple that with the fact that he is the most coachable kid and say here is the game plan for a match, he executes every time.”
Both Howe and Harvey pinned their first opponents in less than 30 seconds to advance to Saturday’s matches before their competition became stiffer.
Howe, ranked second in the state, pulled out a 1-0 victory over No.4-ranked Willie Henson in the quarterfinals and then won 4-0 in the semi-finals against unranked Eric Forrest of Jimtown.
Harvey, ranked seventh in Indiana, went to overtime before pinning Tyler Melby of Westfield in the quarterfinals and followed that performance by defeating No. 1-ranked and undefeated Daniel Meyer of Bellmont in the fourth and final overtime period.
While Harvey and Howe advanced to the finals, three other Marshall County wrestlers did not make it past the first night but take home the knowledge that they were among the top 16 wrestlers in the state.
No. 6-ranked Bremen heavyweight Abraham Hall (285) fell 4-2 in overtime against Meyer in the first round, negating his chance of a podium finish. Hall took a chance and left nothing on the table as he initiated a shot in overtime, but Meyer spun behind him for the takedown and the win
“I am proud,” Hall said. “I felt like I had nothing to lose. I am a junior and I have next year. It came down to I was going to beat the No. 1 kid in the state or I am not. I might as well give it my all and try to beat him. It didn’t work out, but I was in a position where it could have worked out.”
Culver Academies’ Anthony McHugh (119) fell behind early and could not make up ground quick enough in his first-round match, eventually losing 8-3 and ending the sophomore’s chances at a top-eight finish.
Cody Strange (160) of Glenn went in to the final period down 0-3, eventually falling 10-2 in his opening round, and it was not the way the senior who set lofty goals to reach this competition wanted to go out.
“For Cody’s first three years he did not make it out of sectional and now to end up down here, what more can you say,” Glenn coach Tim White said. “He had a solid season and you hate to see it end, but we are so proud of him.”