By KEVIN HARRIS
Gavan Jolley-Little did not achieve his ultimate goal for the 2013-14 high school wrestling season, which was a state championship.
The Jeffersonville High School heavyweight had plenty of accomplishments he is proud of during his senior year.
Those achievements have enabled him to be named this season’s News and Tribune Area Wrestler of the Year.
“It means a lot,” Jolley-Little said about earning the annual award. “I put in a lot of hard work this season. Even though I didn’t get to accomplish what I wanted to at [the IHSAA State Finals], it means a lot.”
Veteran Jeff wrestling coach Danny Struck says the Area Wrestler of the Year honor not only shows what Jolley-Little achieved during the high school campaign, but what he accomplished in the offseason. Last summer, Jolley-Little won his division at the FILA Cadet Greco Roman National Championships and became a five-time All-American.
“He advanced farther than any wrestler in the area,” Struck said. “Without a doubt, he’s the most accomplished wrestler, not only during the high school season, but year-round.”
Jolley-Little began the 2013-14 high school campaign by winning his second consecutive heavyweight title at the Capitol City Classic in Indianapolis. The meet featured several perennial state powers, including Indianapolis Perry Meridian.
On Dec. 21, Jolley-Little claimed his first championship in one of the Red Devils’ most important home meets of the season, the Jeff Classic.
In mid-January, Jolley-Little added his second straight Hoosier Hills Conference championship to his resume. He needed 51 seconds to pin Floyd Central’s Franklin Korte in the heavyweight title bout.
On Feb. 1, Jolley-Little pulled off the 3-peat at the Jeff Sectional. He won his third consecutive sectional championship by pinning Charlestown’s Christian Davenport at the 1:22 mark of the final.
A week later, Jolley-Little claimed his second Jeff Regional title in a row with a 2-1 overtime victory against Scottsburg’s Kolby Mount in the championship match. Then on Feb. 15, he earned his second straight state finals berth at the Evansville Reitz Semistate with a third-place effort.
Jolley-Little placed seventh at the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in late February.
He started state by winning a triple-overtime barnburner over Muncie Central’s Darrius Connell in the first round by a 3-2 decision, but his state championship dreams came to an end in the quarterfinals with a 6-0 loss to Merrillville’s Shawn Streck.
After a double-overtime loss in the consolation semifinals to Avon’s Guy Henson, Jolley-Little won the seventh-place match over West Lafayette’s John Duvall, 3-2. Jolley-Little’s season record ended up 46-4.
“At first, he wasn’t happy,” Struck said about Jolley-Little’s seventh-place finish. “But once it started sinking in, he thought about all the wrestlers in the state who did not get any medals. Of course, he wanted to finish higher, but he won sectional, regional and conference and had a pretty good year.”
Jolley-Little said placing seventh and earning a spot on the medals podium at state was a huge accomplishment.
“It was the biggest accomplishment of my career. That one is definitely my favorite,” Jolley-Little said. “I’m blessed that I placed at state, so I’m going to leave it at that. I thought I had a really good season. I felt I matured a lot as a wrestler this year.”
Along with his achievements on the mat, Jolley-Little received the Red Devils’ annual Inspirational Award for the 2013-14 campaign.
Jolley-Little earned the honor for the leadership and perseverance he showed while dealing with adversity during the past year. Jolley-Little’s father, Torris Little, passed away in March 2013. A few months later, Jolley-Little had knee surgery.
Jolley-Little has signed a national letter of intent to wrestle next season at Indiana University. He is already preparing himself to compete at the NCAA Division I level. He has made several visits to the Jeff High weight room and plans to work out with former Red Devil teammate and current IU wrestler Alonzo Shepherd in the offseason.
This week during Jeff’s spring break, Jolley-Little is training at the United States Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo. At the end of April, Jolley-Little will wrestle in the Las Vegas Open, which will include several first-year collegiate wrestlers from across the nation.
Jolley-Little says he plans to continue to develop his skills at IU.
“I just want to go out and do the best I can at whatever level I’m at,” he said.
2013-14 ALL-AREA WRESTLING TEAM
Gavan Jolley-Little, Jeffersonville, Sr. (Wrestler of the Year)
Hunter Castleberry, New Albany, Jr.
Yancey Crase, New Washington, Sr.
Jarrod Cunningham, Floyd Central, Fr.
Jo Jo Deleon, Jeffersonville, Sr.
Jacob Franklin, New Washington, Sr.
Noah Franklin, New Washington, Fr.
Matt Hayes, Providence, Jr.
Bryant Haynes, Charlestown, Jr.
Chase Herron, Floyd Central, Sr.
Zach Higdon, Charlestown, So.
Josh Hurley, Charlestown, Jr.
Cory Troutman, Floyd Central, Sr.
Austin Ward, Floyd Central, Sr.
Romarro Bradford, New Albany, Jr.
Brayton Brading, Eastern, Sr.
Sean Brown, Floyd Central, So.
Jordan Gray, Eastern, Sr.
Stevie Jones, Jeffersonville, Jr.
Patrick Landrum, New Albany, Jr.
Taivon Lucas, Jeffersonville, Sr.
Tre Lynch, New Albany, Jr.
Darion Newbolt, Jeffersonville, Jr.
Bryce Peavler, New Albany, Sr.
Chase Thompson, Jeffersonville, Jr.
James Wise, New Washington, So.
Luke Woods, Charlestown, Sr.
Lance Youtsey, Floyd Central, Sr.
Nick Burkland, Floyd Central, So.; Kevin Cain, Jeffersonville, Sr.; Christian Davenport, Charlestown, So.; Caleb Donoho, Eastern, Sr.; Daniel Doty, Christian Academy, Sr.; Dakota Erikson, New Albany, Fr.; D Frederick, New Albany, Jr.; Geary Gaines, Jeffersonville, Sr.; David Harrison, New Albany, Jr.; Karl Hauser, Floyd Central, Fr.; Max Hauser, Floyd Central, So.; Freddie Hudson, Jeffersonville, Jr.; Franklin Korte, Floyd Central, So.; Nick Lanham, Eastern, Sr.; Blake Logsdon, Providence, Sr.; Devyn Long, Jeffersonville, Jr.; Matthew Mosley, New Washington, Jr.; Dalton Mowery, New Albany, Fr.; Wayne Nicholas, Floyd Central, Fr.; Josh Sauer, Jeffersonville, Jr.; Donovan Smith, Jeffersonville, Jr.; Tobin Smith, Floyd Central, So.; Robbie Stein, Eastern, Fr.; John Strobel, Floyd Central, Jr.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Jeremy Campbell, New Washington