INDIANAPOLIS — Last year, Abraham Hall’s fourth-place finish at semistate earned him a tough draw heading into the state wrestling finals, and he missed the cut from Friday’s opening round to the second day of the tourney Saturday.
The Bremen senior’s heavyweight championship at Merrillville last Saturday gave him a more favorable draw this time around, and he’s hoping to capitalize with a top finish as the 74th Annual IHSAA Individual State Wrestling Finals get underway Friday at 6 p.m. with the quarterfinals set to begin Saturday at 9:30 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Hall will be joined by a trio of area wrestlers from Culver as Culver Community’s Matt Hurford enters the 182-pound field after a third-place finish at Merrillville Saturday, while Culver Academies wrestlers Anthony McHugh and Kayla Miracle enter the tourney at 132 and 106, respectively.
“Last year we were in an unfortunate situation with a tough draw,” said Bremen head wrestling coach Shawn Campbell. “You’re going to get those situations where you’re going to have to wrestle those matches at some point, but definitely going in as a champion is where you want to be, especially with some of the quality wrestlers that we’re going to see down there.”
Hall’s road to state last year was a rough one as he faced sectional, regional and semistate fields populated by the state’s top two finishers in Culver Community’s Jeremiah Harvey and Plymouth’s Damon Howe, two wrestlers that tested the Lions heavyweight throughout the series.
Headed into this year’s Plymouth Sectional, Campbell was concerned his Indianamat.com second-ranked grappler hadn’t really been challenged yet this year. That’s no longer the case after Wawasee’s Dimetri Kaplanis tested Hall not once but twice with a pair of down-to-the-wire championships at the Plymouth Sectional and Merrillville Semistate, the latter of which Hall gutted out in overtime for a 4-2 win to remain unbeaten at 46-0 on the year.
“Earlier in the season I was a little concerned about his being as battle-tested late in the season as he was last year with all the tight matches he had. It’s been good since sectional, he’s had some really challenging matches,” said Campbell. “He wrestled the Kaplanis kid from Wawasee in the sectional championship match, and I think it was 3-2, and I don’t think that Abe had really wrestled his style of match. After that we went back and watched some film and just tried to change his mentality about things, about just going out and staying aggressive and wrestling his style of match and doing the things that he’s good at. We tried to work on that, and he’s done a great job the last two weeks through regional and semistate of just his focus and turning up his intensity in the practice room a little bit.”
McHugh joins Hall as a two-time state qualifier, while Miracle and Hurford make their first trip to Conseco Friday.
In fact, Miracle’s berth marks the first state qualification by any female wrestler in the tournament’s history after the CGA sophomore won her first two semistate matches on a 17-0 technical fall and 10-0 decision to move on with a fourth-place finish at Merrillville.
After seeing teammate and wrestling partner Harvey win the heavyweight title last year, Hurford has had dreams of reaching the state finals for more than a year. With his ultimate goals in sight, the third-ranked Culver Community junior is taking it one match at a time as he opens with fifth-rated Dakota Thacker of Bloomington South this weekend.
“It’s been a good week of practice. Matt’s very focused on his first match,” said Culver head coach Louis Posa. “We’re just totally focused on taking it one match at a time. We have Thacker the first round. We know he’s a good wrestler and we’re going to have to wrestle well. It’s all about your first match and then moving on from there.”
“We’re hoping all the hard work is paying off at the right time,” added Posa. “He’s working toward his goals for the season. We believe he’s wrestling his best at the right time.”