By KEVIN HARRIS
Matthew Hayes has developed a unique reputation in his two years as a member of the Providence wrestling team.
That reputation is no matter what weight class the Pioneers’ sophomore competes at, he finds a way to succeed at the Jeffersonville Sectional.
Last year as a freshman, Hayes finished fourth in the 195-pound weight class at sectional to advance to the Jeffersonville Regional.
At last weekend’s sectional, Hayes dropped to the 182-pound class, his normal weight class, and proceeded to win his first sectional title by defeating Jeffersonville junior Brandon Spangler in the final by a 9-1 major decision.
Hayes sports a 28-14 record and he was the runner-up at 182 pounds in the Southern Indiana Wrestling Conference meet earlier this month. This weekend, Hayes is focused on trying to earn his first semi-state berth at the Jeff Regional. Hayes must finish in the top four spots at 182 to advance to semi-state.
On Tuesday afternoon, the News and Tribune stopped by Providence High School to talk to Hayes about his recent sectional title, how playing football at Providence assists him during the wrestling season and other matters.
QUESTION: It has been a few days since you won your first sectional title. How special was it to win that championship last weekend?
HAYES: “It was a great feeling. My dad [Don] when he was in high school, he wrestled also. He was a wrestler at Jeff and one of his greatest memories was winning the sectional title for his weight class. That really helped me do my best to win sectional.”
Q: You won your sectional final pretty convincingly. What were some of the keys for you to win that match?
HAYES: “Definitely, staying low and being smart - not doing any stupid moves. Also definitely listening to my coaches. They were a big help in telling me what to do and helping me win.”
Q: What do you think of your chances of getting out of regional this weekend and qualifying for semi-state?
HAYES: “I don’t really know. I have never gone up against any of my opponents before. I’ve just got to keep working hard this week and keep pushing myself. I’m going to do the best that I can and listen to my coaches, and hopefully the results will be in my favor.”
Q: Overall, what have you thought about your season?
HAYES: “I had a pretty good season. I’ve got to wrestle in my weight class this year at 182, which was nice.”
Q: Conditioning-wise, how do you prepare yourself for the wrestling season?
HAYES: “I usually do sports year-round. I play football and then shortly after football, I have wrestling season. Then after wrestling, I’ll do weightlifting and then during the early football season, I’ll swim. I make sure I do sports year-round and keep my body active. Training myself, no matter what time of year, helps me a lot.”
Q: How tough was the competition you faced in the regular season?
HAYES: “Some matches were tough and some were easy. I don’t think anybody can really say they had an easy season. All of my opponents had some skill about them that made them unique and good in their own way. It was good to wrestle against so many types of people and different abilities.”
Q: Do you think that competition helped get you ready for the sectional last Saturday? If yes, why?
HAYES: “Yes, it did. It gave me a boost of confidence and the losses made me want to improve myself more. I had some hard matches that made me work harder and get better.”
Q: How did it come about for you to wrestle at 195 pounds last year?
HAYES: “The thing was we had almost a full team last year and we had three kids at the 170-pound weight class. A junior last year, Daniel Fernandez, wrestled that and Dorian Noel, who was a sophomore last year, wrestled at 182. We didn’t have anybody that was the right weight to go to 195. Since I could bump up a weight class, I decided to try it out at 195. I did decent at it.”
Q: How has dropping down to 182 helped you this season?
HAYES: “It’s helped me more to wrestle guys at my weight, so they don’t have a huge weight difference on me. When you are wrestling somebody that’s a lot bigger than you, it’s harder for you to keep holding them because of their bigger size. When you wrestle people the same weight as you, you have an easier time handling them because they are about the same weight.”
Q: How does playing football help you on the wrestling mat?
HAYES: “A lot of the abilities in football, such as tackling and staying low, are very helpful in wrestling. It keeps me conditioned definitely for wrestling. It keeps my body well-rounded and ready for anything that I really have to work at.”
Q: You are only a sophomore, so you still have a couple of years to accomplish your goals. What do you want to achieve as a wrestler before you graduate from Providence?
HAYES: “I’d like to make it to [the IHSAA State Finals] by my senior year. I’d like to keep working hard and doing the best that I can. I’d like to see everyone that I have wrestled with do real well and just keep working hard throughout their whole lives in everything they are doing. I hope because of my teammates’ help and my coaches’ help that I’ll be able to go to state and do well.”
SECTIONAL NEWS AND NOTES
• Last Saturday at the Jeff Sectional, four area wrestlers repeated as sectional champions in the weight class they competed in last year. Those four wrestlers were Floyd Central’s Terrance Kennedy (106), Cory Troutman (138) and Nick Ottersbach (220) and Jeff’s Gavan Jolley-Little (285). In fact, Kennedy won his third straight sectional title as he claimed the 103-pound title as a sophomore.
• New Albany senior Austin Jamison redeemed himself at sectional last week. After finishing second at 126 last year, Jamison captured the 126-pound crown last weekend with a win by a 3-1 decision over Floyd Central’s Austin Ward. Jamison claimed the 119-pound sectional championship as a sophomore.
• Hayes was one of seven area wrestlers to win their first sectional title last Saturday. The other first-time champions were Jeff’s Jasi Coureur (113), New Albany’s Hunter Castleberry (145) and Ethan Lee (170) and Floyd Central’s John Meldrum (152), Chase Herron (160) and Brennan Banet (195).
• For the first time since 2009, Christian Academy did not have a wrestler advance to regional. Juniors Daniel Doty (126) and Trey Sturdy (138) each finished fifth at sectional. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advanced to regional.
REGIONAL PREVIEW FRIDAY
Check out Friday’s News and Tribune for a Jeffersonville Regional preview. Floyd Central, Jeff and New Albany each will have more than 10 wrestlers competing in Saturday’s regional. The top four wrestlers in each weight class will qualify for the Evansville Reitz Semi-State on Saturday, Feb. 9.