By KEVIN HARRIS
Gavan Jolley-Little has a simple, yet ambitious goal for the 2013-14 wrestling season.
He wants to be crowned the 285-pound state champion at the IHSAA State Finals in February at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“I’m very determined. My goal is to be a state champion, not just placing [at state] or qualifying for state,” said the Jeffersonville senior, who is currently ranked fifth in the state in the heavyweight division. “State champ is my goal and I’m not going to be happy if I don’t do that.”
Jolley-Little got a taste of what it was like to compete in the state finals last season when he made his first appearance in Indiana’s ultimate high school wrestling tournament.
Jolley-Little suffered a first-round loss to Indianapolis Cathedral’s Wesley Bernard in the 285-pound division. The Red Devil standout was pinned at the 3:22 mark.
Jeff coach Danny Struck says Jolley-Little is focused on redeeming himself at the state finals this season.
“He’s absolutely motivated to do better than he did,” Struck said. “Winning state is a tough thing. I’ve never had a state champion yet. We’ve had a lot of good heavyweights and he’s definitely the most accomplished offseason heavyweight we’ve had. His goal is to be the most accomplished in any season.
“I think Jeff High has had two third-place heavyweights. But they’ve never had a heavyweight in the finals and he would like to do that.”
Jolley-Little said he got taught lots of valuable lessons about competing at the state finals. He hopes that experience will help him return to state and win it all this year.
“I learned not to go out of your comfort zone as much as I would a regular match,” Jolley-Little said. “I learned I had to wrestle to my strengths and not put myself in situations where I’m going to wrestle outside of my strengths.”
Jolley-Little says a big factor in his state championship quest is if he can get his knee back to full strength. Jolley-Little tore his lateral collateral ligament and his lateral meniscus in April. He had surgery to repair his knee after he won his division in the FILA Cadet Greco Roman National Championships in May in Akron, Ohio.
“I need to get my knee back to 100 percent strength,” Jolley-Little said. “I definitely need to improve my bottom wrestling and in moving my feet.”
Before trying to qualify for the state finals, Jolley-Little has several other goals he wants to accomplish in 2013-14.
One of them is capturing his first Jeff Classic championship on Saturday. Jolley-Little enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed at 285 with a 7-0 record. He has made three pins this season.
“It would mean a lot because last year I was kind of upset at the tournament and lost two matches that I should’ve won. To come back and win it this year would mean a lot,” Jolley-Little said about winning a Jeff Classic title. “I think there will be some pretty good competition. There are two ranked guys besides me [at 285] and I wrestled one of them last weekend and I won. So I feel like I’ve got to get past those two guys if I want to come out on top.”
Later in the season, Jolley-Little wants to repeat as the Hoosier Hills Conference heavyweight champion and claim titles in all of the postseason tournaments like sectional, regional and semistate.
“An undefeated season is a big one and I’d like to get 30-plus pins,” Jolley-Little said about two additional goals he has for his senior season.
Another reason Jolley-Little wants to perform well this season is because his late father expected him to do his best all the time.
Jolley-Little’s father passed away on March 11. Since then, Jolley-Little has taken on more responsibility in taking care of his family.
“He has kind of become the man of his house,” Struck said. “A lot of times he’ll be taking his brothers to the dentist or his brothers to get their haircuts or to their sports practices. A lot of times, he has them [at practice] with him. They have been like an extended family. I think he has grown up a lot in the last six months.”
For the past few seasons, Jolley-Little has prepared himself for the high school campaign by competing in several offseason tournaments. His success in those tournaments has helped him earn All-America honors five times.
“It’s just kind of like an extra sense of pride in myself,” Jolley-Little said about being an All-American. “I use it as motivation for the high school season. I use it to get better and as motivation to do better in the high school season as I did in the offseason.”
Another offseason event for Jolley-Little was his visit to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., during the 2013 spring break.
Jolley-Little says his offseason wrestling activities is beneficial to him.
“It keeps you in shape. It keeps your conditioning up and it keeps you in your skill sets,” Jolley-Little said. “Sometimes when you don’t wrestle for a long period of time, your skills aren’t as sharp as they should be.”
Jolley-Little has been getting some interest from college teams. He has talked to two NCAA Division I programs in Indiana and Old Dominion and a pair of Division II schools in Northern Michigan and Indianapolis.
Struck thinks Jolley-Little has the potential to persevere at the college level if he keeps working hard.
“I think he’s definitely determined to do the best he can at any level,” Struck said.
• DATE: Saturday
• TIME: 9 a.m.
• PLACE: Johnson Arena.
• PARTICIPATING TEAMS: Bloomington South, Charlestown, Franklin County, Gibson Southern, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, Louisville Male, Louisville St. Xavier, Madison, Muncie South, New Albany, New Washington, Northview, Paoli, South Dearborn, Southwestern.
• NO. 1 SEEDS: 106 — Kyle Lewis, Jennings County; 113 — Mike Weber, Franklin County; 120 — Griffin Schermer, Bloomington South; 126 — Nathan Boggs, South Dearborn; 132 — Devin Broukal, Bloomington South; 138 — Hayden Baehl, Gibson Southern; 145 — Hunter Castleberry, New Albany; 152 — Justin Lampe, St. Xavier; 160 — Jordan Partee, Madison; 170 — Tanner Young, Madison; 182 — Zack Dobos, Bloomington South; 195 — Dakota Thacker, Bloomington South; 220 — Colton Castetter, Jennings County; 285 — Gavan Jolley-Little, Jeffersonville.
MID-SOUTHERN CONFERENCE DUALS
• CHARLESTOWN HIGHLIGHTS: Zach Higdon (170), 5-0, four pins; Josh Hurley (220), 5-0; Luke Woods (113), 4-1; Bryant Haynes (126), 4-1; Cameron Hopson (138), 4-1; Christian Davenport (285), 4-1.
• QUOTES: Charlestown coach Adam Doherty said, “It came down to a couple of matches that could’ve gone either way. We’re still young and we’re trying to win tough matches.”
• NOTES: The Pirates finished second with a 4-1 record. They defeated their four MSC rivals — Corydon Central, Eastern, Salem and Scottsburg. Charlestown lost to meet winner New Albany, 43-34.
• FINAL SCORE: Charlestown 59, Southwestern 17.
• CHARLESTOWN WINNERS: Woods (113), Haynes (126), Dillon Gray (132), Hopson (138), Conner Applegate (152), Higdon (170), Joey Lace (182), Jeffrey Lopez (195), Hurley (220), Davenport (285).
• DUAL-MEET SCORES: Corydon Central 60, Eastern 12; Charlestown 60, Eastern 22; New Albany 63, Eastern 18; Scottsburg 42, Eastern 36; Eastern 45, Salem 24.
• EASTERN HIGHLIGHTS: Caleb Donoho (182/195), 5-0, four pins; Braydon Brading (152), 4-1, three pins; Jordan Gray (106/113), 4-1, one pin.
• FINAL SCORE: Mitchell 45, Eastern 21.
• EASTERN WINNERS: Nick Lanham (220), pin; Mike Hall (145), decision; Robbie Stein (106), decision; Gray (113), decision).
• DUAL-MEET SCORES: Westfield 51, Floyd Central 5; Floyd Central 43, Calumet 24; Floyd Central 39, South Bend Riley 27; Floyd Central 41, Lawrence North 36; Hanover Central 42, Floyd Central 28.
• FLOYD CENTRAL HIGHLIGHTS: Chase Herron, 5-0; Corey Troutman, 4-1; Tyler Crowl, 3-2; Jarrod Cunningham, 2-1; Tobin Smith, 3-2.
• QUOTES: Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson said, “We struggled early on in the day. We lost a lot of close matches. But we continued to get better as the day went on. It was a tough first weekend, but we did get better.”
• NOTE: The Highlanders have canceled the Floyd Central Invitational on Saturday. They replaced the meet with a tournament at New Haven near Fort Wayne this weekend.
• DUAL-MEET SCORES: Bloomington South 69, Jeff 3; Jasper 47, Jeff 27; Castle 61, Jeff 12; Evansville Mater Dei 70, Jeff 9.
• JEFF HIGHLIGHTS: Gavan Jolley-Little (285), 4-0; Chase Thompson, 3-1.
• QUOTES: Jeff coach Danny Struck said, “We don’t like losing, and losing bad is no fun. But we do what we do. We try to get 1 percent better every single day at practice. We try to instill the drive to be the best version of ourselves we can be, and we go after wrestling the best, no matter what. We wrestle the toughest schedule in Southern Indiana, and I’d put our schedule up against the best in the state.”
• NOTES: Along with Jolley-Little and Thompson, the Red Devils’ Stevie Jones, David Pulliam and Josh Sauer each won their respective matches against eighth-ranked Jasper.
• FINAL SCORE: Louisville St. Xavier 53, Jeff 18.
• JEFF WINNERS: Sauer (138), decision; Freddie Hudson (145), decision; Thompson (195), pin; Jolley-Little (285), pin.
• DUAL-MEET SCORES: New Albany 58, Scottsburg 15; New Albany 72, Salem 12; New Albany 63, Eastern 18; New Albany 43, Charlestown 34; New Albany 63, Corydon Central 15.
• NEW ALBANY HIGHLIGHTS: Anthony Strong (138), 5-0; Hunter Castleberry (145), 5-0; Tre Lynch (152), 5-0; D Frederick (160), 5-0; Dalton Mowery (195), 5-0; Dakota Erickson (113), 4-1; Bryce Peavler (132), 4-1; Patrick Landrum (220), 4-1.
• QUOTES: New Albany coach Eric Burres, “All of our kids responded this weekend and it was a team effort. Everyone did their part and I was happy to see our kids compete.”
• NOTES: Castleberry currently undefeated for the season at 11-0, as he heads into this weekend’s Jeff Classic as the No. 1 seed at 145 pounds.
EVANSVILLE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT
At Evansville Memorial
• PROVIDENCE HIGHLIGHTS: Matt Hayes (182), second place, 3-1; Evan Rogers (106), fourth; Drew Wiseman (220), fourth.
• NOTES: The Pioneers finished seventh. Earning victories were Carter Mullins (113), Cody Sprigler (120), Micah Oberhausen (132), Cameron Hazen (195), Zach Schansburg (160) and Justin Wheatley (285).
• FINAL SCORE: Providence 45, Paoli 33.
• PROVIDENCE WINNERS: Rogers (106), forfeit; Mullins (113), forfeit; Sprigler (120), forfeit; Oberhausen (132), pin; Nick Murner (170), forfeit; Hayes (182), pin; Robbie Logsdon (220), forfeit; Wheatley (285), pin.