Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette Columbia City wrestler Hunter Reed holds down the head of Bishop Luers' Chandler Woenker in the 160-pound title match during last week's. Reed is 39-0 this year and ranked sixth in his weight class, according to IndianaMat.com.
Friday, February 09, 2018 1:00 am
'Free-for-all' awaits Eagles' Reed
Bitter memories of state finals last year propel this season's 39-0
Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette
Admission: $8 for final session, $10 for season pass
Top four place winners in each weight class advance to the state finals. Pairings for state finals announced Sunday at 4 p.m. on IHSAAtv.org.
(at Memorial Coliseum), 8:30 a.m.
Feeder Regionals: Carroll, Goshen, Jay County, Peru.
Defending champion: Yorktown (current streak – 5)
East Chicago Central
Feeder Regionals: Crown Point, Hobart, Logansport, Penn.
Defending champion: Chesterton
Hunter Reed received plaudits aplenty after an eighth-place finish at 152 pounds in the state wrestling finals last season. Everyone surrounding the then-Columbia City junior praised him for earning a spot on the podium.
Reed didn't see the joy in the moment. Finishing eighth meant three straight losses to end his season. Even though Reed qualified, then placed at state, those defeats led him to tell coach Blane Culp he was done with the sport entirely.
“That was heartbreaking,” Reed said. “Everyone was trying to get me to see the good in that, but to go out there and represent my school and take three losses in a row?”
Granted, the words were uttered in the heat of the moment. Despite finishing 38-5 last year, the sting of seeing his opponent's arm raised thrice on the season's final day created powerful emotions.
While the initial crushing blows eased their impact over time, that imagery has lingered in Reed's mind. Now, they're used as fuel to power the senior's 39-0 record at 160 pounds headed into Saturday's New Haven Semistate at Memorial Coliseum.
“He told me later that he left a lot on the mat, that he could have been a fifth-place kid,” Culp said. “I think that kind of set a goal for him, that I don't want to feel like I don't want to wrestle again.”
To return to the state finals, Reed will need to navigate a stout semistate field. Reed earned a runner-up finish there a year ago, and could potentially face a returning semistate champion in the semifinals this year in Jay County sophomore Mason Winner (40-2).
Get over that massive hurdle, and another stiff challenge awaits in the form of Bishop Luers senior Chandler Woenker (37-2), or unbeaten Eastbrook senior Christian Bratcher (47-0), or one of any number of talented competitors.
Culp continues to work with Reed to prepare him for semistate – both physically and mentally.
“He'll have a lot more challenges with kids knowing exactly what he does, and they have the ability to stop it,” Culp said. “(Hunter's) a guy that likes to watch the internet and see what people are saying.
“It's really trying to keep him off the computer and telling him he's one of the best that's ever been here, now he has to go out and act like it.”
And the numbers back up Culp's claim. Currently sixth all-time in Columbia City history with 123 career victories, Reed could reach third on that list if he wins a state title. His 39 triumphs this year rank tied for ninth for single-season wins, five back of current record-holder Bryan Deutsch, who won 44 times in 2005.
“Even in the practice room, you can see that he's elevated above the rest of the guys,” Culp said.
Although there's no doubt Reed's the Eagles' top dog, he's flying a bit under the radar when comparing the favorites to claim the state championship in a tough, but wide-open, weight class at 160.
“It's a free-for-all,” Reed said. “There's (several) guys that can win a state title, and I'm right there in that mix and I'm ready to go.
“I don't know if people know who I am. I'd rather them not, and I'd rather surprise them. Everyone's like, he's ranked sixth, he'll probably place. I'm ready to go out and steal the ring.”