By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
When Austin Jamison walked into the New Albany High School wrestling room as a freshman in the fall of 2009, he set an ambitious goal for himself — to qualify for the IHSAA State Finals.
Jamison has come close to achieving that goal. He has reached the Evansville Semi-state the past three seasons, and unfortunately each time he did not finish in the top four sports of his weight class to qualify for state.
But that does not mean that Jamison has stopped trying to reach his ultimate goal.
The 126-pound wrestler hopes to finally make his goal a reality in his senior year.
“That’s everything I have worked for during my high school career. I mean, that has been my goal,” Jamison said about his quest to compete at state. “In my freshman year, I walked in day one and said, ‘I will qualify for state.’”
But Jamison is still not satisfied in just advancing to state. He wants to place at state and earn a spot on the podium, which would require him to finish in the top six of his division.
“Now, it’s become more I’m going to place at state. I’m just not going to qualify this year. Top six is my goal,” he said.
In the past three semi-states, a tough opponent has taken Jamison down each time. He lost in the first round to the top-seeded wrestler in the 112-pound weight class his freshman year.
The past two seasons, Jamison’s hopes to reach state have ended with losses to the same opponent, Evansville Mater Dei’s Josh Pierre. But Jamison will not have to worry about facing Pierre this season, as the Wildcat junior will be competing in the 132-pound division, a weight class above Jamison.
New Albany coach Eric Burres says it all comes down to determination for Jamison if he wants to reach the state finals.
“The biggest thing that has kept him from getting out of semi-state in the past is just winning,” Burres said. “It’s just determination. When you go out there, you are constantly fighting those small battles. You can’t concede. You’ve got to work through the problems and win the small battles.
“Austin is a good enough wrestler to qualify and possibly place at the state tournament. But just because he’s good enough doesn’t mean it’s a given. He’s going to have to work extremely hard and he’s just going to have to wrestle hard. Just like anything else in life if you want something, you’re going to have to reach out and take it.”
The semi-state losses have made Jamison more determined to advance to the state finals.
“It’s tough, but it’s also motivation,” Jamison said. “I know how much it hurts to lose in those big matches and I don’t want that to happen again. I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that from happening.”
Jamison has gotten off to a great start to the 2012-13 campaign. He currently sports a 12-1 record, which includes going 7-0 at last weekend’s Hoosier Hills Conference Duals. His HHC Duals performance included two hard-fought victories against Floyd Central’s Austin Ward and Jennings County’s Marshall Holwager.
Jamison’s lone setback this season happened in a five-way meet at Yorktown on Nov. 24. He lost to Yorktown’s Schuyler Phillips, who was the state runner-up at 113 pounds last season and currently the top-ranked 120-pound grappler in Indiana.
“I’m satisfied with the season I have had thus far,” Jamison said. “I feel like I’ve done well. But I’ve seen areas that I can improve on and I plan on doing that. I’ve got a couple of big matches coming up, so I’m excited about those.”
When you look at Jamison’s past achievements, he is definitely the top leader by example for the Bulldogs.
Last season, Jamison led New Albany in victories, takedowns and pins. His lone sectional championship happened as a sophomore at 119 pounds. Jamison won the regional at 126 pounds last season.
But Jamison also has become a vocal leader for the Bulldogs.
“A lot of the younger guys on the team do look up to me because of me being a senior and having past success,” Jamison said. “I try to stick to pretty much what I did last year and lead by example. When I’m in practice if they see me working hard, they’re going to want to work hard. They’re going to want to emulate me and try to emulate my success. That’s kind of the way I feel like I need to be the leader.
“I do vocalize a lot. If you’re at any of our meets, you can usually hear me yelling stuff to them while they’re wrestling. A lot of the time, I try to help them with their wrestling as much as I possibly can.”
Burres is proud of the way Jamison has embraced being one of New Albany’s leaders.
“He works extremely hard in practice. He’s pretty driven.” Burres said. “But at the same time, he’s willing to go over and sit down with the younger wrestlers and say, ‘Hey look, I was younger once, too. These are some of the things that happened to me, but this is how I got better.’”
Jamison wants to wrestle in college and has gotten some interest from Wabash College, the University of the Cumberlands and Campbellsville University.
Burres thinks Jamison has the capabilities on the mat and in the classroom to make it as a collegiate wrestler.
“I think most definitely he can wrestle at a small school somewhere, and that’s what he’s kind of looking at,” Burres said. “Academically, he’s a very intelligent kid and has a high [grade-point average]. A college coach is going to look at just how good of a wrestler you are, but they are going to look at the student, too. They are not going to invest their time in a kid who can’t cut it academically at the high school level because if you can’t cut it at the high school level, you are not going to be able to cut it at the college level.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• Highlanders go 7-0 at HHC Duals: Floyd Central had a stellar start to the 2012-13 season by going 7-0 in the Hoosier Hills Conference Duals last weekend. The Highlanders won each of their dual meets by an average margin of 44.9 points.
Floyd Central’s Terrence Kennedy, Cory Troutman, Nick Ottersbach, George Emily and Jackson Randall each went 7-0. Going 6-1 for the Highlanders were Tyler Crowl, John Meldrum, Chase Herron, Ian Bagwell and Ward.
Jeff wound up going 4-3, while New Albany was 3-4. The Red Devils had two undefeated wrestlers in Stevie Jones and Gavan Jolley-Little.
• Mustangs fourth at Fugate Memorial Duals: New Washington posted a 6-3 record to place fourth at the Robert Fugate Memorial Duals last weekend in Scottsburg.
Mustangs’ team captains Brady Meenach, Jacob Franklin and Yancey Crase each went undefeated during the two-day meet. New Washington coach Jeremy Campbell also lauded the efforts of Dalton Bingham, James Wise, Jacob Blackwell and Matt Mosley.
“This tournament was a good benchmark for us to determine what needs to be highlighted in the practice room in the coming weeks,” Campbell said. “Although we did not place as high team-wise as our goals were, our kids understand that the reason we are given setbacks is so that we can learn to overcome them. I have full confidence they will.”
WRESTLER OF THE WEEK
Gavan Jolley-Little, Jeffersonville
The junior heavyweight posted a 7-0 record at the Hoosier Hills Conference Duals last weekend. Jolley-Little defeated three wrestlers at the meet that he lost to last season.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
The Highlanders dominated the Hoosier Hills Conference Duals last weekend, recording a 7-0 mark. Floyd Central beat each conference foe by at least 21 points.
• TODAY: Southwestern at Charlestown, 6 p.m.
• THURSDAY: Providence at Paoli, 5:30 p.m.
• SATURDAY: Charlestown, New Albany at Mid-Southern Conference Duals at Charlestown, 10 a.m.; Floyd Central at Traicoff Invitational at Calumet High School, 9 a.m.; Jeffersonville at Castle Invitational, TBA; Providence at Evansville Memorial Tournament, 8 a.m.