By KEVIN HARRIS
Charlestown sophomore Bryant Haynes and New Albany senior Austin Jamison walked out of Johnson Arena on Saturday afternoon uttering the same statement: “I am a Jeff Classic champion for the first time.”
Both wrestlers were the lone champions from the Clark-Floyd area to capture individual titles this weekend at the 36th annual tournament.
Haynes had the most dramatic final of the two local champs. In the 120-pound title bout with Haynes holding a 2-1 lead, Jennings County senior Gary Engelking executed a three-point takedown with less than 30 seconds left in regulation to go up 4-2.
But Haynes responded a few seconds later with his own three-point takedown to take the lead for good at 5-4. Haynes managed to score three more points after that to prevail by an 8-4 decision.
“I was just thinking about all the hard work I’ve put in, all the running and extra things I’ve been doing,” Haynes said about his thoughts when he got down one point. “I just thought I wasn’t ready to lose. I just laid it all out and gave it all I had.”
Charlestown coach Adam Doherty lauded the way Haynes persevered after being down 2-1.
“It was good to see him respond to that,” Doherty said. “It’s good to see him not show any panic. I thought that showed a lot of maturity for a sophomore.”
In the 126-pound final, Jamison faced a familiar foe in Jennings County senior Marshall Holwager.
For the second time this season, Jamison defeated Holwager by one point in a 3-2 decision. The Bulldog grappler downed Holwager in the Hoosier Hills Conference Duals a couple of weeks ago, 4-3.
Jamison said the key in his Jeff Classic victory was to get up early, as he made a two-point takedown on Holwager in the first period.
Jamison felt he made a strong statement in winning a Jeff Classic title.
“It tells people, ‘Hey, I’m not messing around this year. I’m going out there and I’m going to try to win it all,’” said Jamison, who lost to Holwager three times last season. “It’s good momentum going into the Mater Dei [Holiday] Classic [in Evansville] in a couple of weeks. I’m going to try to win that one, too.”
New Albany coach Eric Burres was impressed with Jamison’s toughness during the Jeff Classic.
“Austin wrestled tough. He went out there and took care of business,” Burres said. “There were a couple of different challenges and he met those challenges. Wrestling is a grind. You’ve got to win the small battles and he did that today.”
The only other area wrestler to reach the finals was Charlestown’s Seth McCutchen. But the senior lost by pin to Bloomington South junior Dakota Thacker at the 3:49 mark of the 182-pound championship match.
McCutchen had been dominant in the Jeff Classic up to the title bout with three victories. In those wins, he pinned two opponents and prevailed in the other match by major decision.
“He just ran into a good kid,” Doherty said about McCutchen’s final. “He was aggressive, but he got a little too aggressive. But he had a great day. He wrestled well all day and I’m proud of him. You’re not going to win them all.”
Jeff finished the highest among the four area squads in the team standings. The Red Devils were sixth with 134 points, as they had nobody reach the finals.
Senior Jasi Coureur was the highest-finishing Jeff wrestler, placing third at 113 pounds. He pinned Bloomington South’s Michael Cole in the third-place match at the 1:10 mark. Three Red Devils placed fourth in Oscar DeLeon (132 pounds), Tyler Fridley (152) and Gavan Jolley-Little (285).
Jeff was without five starters because of an assortment of injuries. But Red Devil coach Danny Struck was happy to see the substitutes who replaced them step up and fill those holes. A couple of those subs, who were unseeded, placed in the top eight spots in Eddie Kaster (170) and Nick Stewart (138). Stewart wound up seventh and Kaster finished eighth.
“It was a team effort to even get sixth because we didn’t have any superstars. But we had 10 place, so we did what we could there,” Struck said. “I think for the ones that did get to go in [for the injured wrestlers], it was a positive learning experience.”
New Albany wound up ninth as a team with 105 1/2 points. Bulldog junior Bryce Peavler (120) placed fourth, while teammate Hunter Castleberry (138) ended up fifth. Finishing sixth for New Albany were freshman Damon Dillon (113), sophomore Tre Lynch (132) and senior Nick Lynch (195).
“I think the kids did all right,” Burres said. “We’ve got two weeks before we go to Mater Dei. We’ve got to rest up a little bit and bounce back. [Dillon] has made some big strides.”
Charlestown finished 11th with 86 points. The Pirates had two other wrestlers besides Haynes and McCutchen place in the top eight. Junior Octavio Gomez finished seventh at 113, and senior Zach Green was eighth at 195.
“I was happy with everybody’s effort,” Doherty said.
New Washington ended up 13th with 77 1/2 points, as it had two wrestlers finish third. At 138 pounds, Mustang senior Brady Meenach won the third-place match over Bloomington South’s Brennan Barlow by a 3-2 decision.
New Washington junior Yancey Crase prevailed by a 7-5 decision over Jennings County’s John Flynn in the 145-pound third-place bout.
Also for the Mustangs, junior Jacob Franklin was fifth at 160 and fellow junior Dalton Bingham finished sixth at 152.
Bloomington South, ranked fifth in the latest Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Top-20 poll, won the Jeff Classic with 289 points. Jennings County finished second with 217 1/2 points, followed by Louisville St. Xavier (182 1/2), No. 17 Muncie South (141 1/2) and Madison (139 1/2).