The heart of Bellmont wrestling beats on, even years later. Caden Friedt considers it his mission, his legacy.
The 195-pound Braves grappler is the nephew of legendary Bellmont coach John Friedt, who guided the program to numerous titles in his 36-year tenure before dying suddenly just two days before the 2011 state finals.
Friedt will take his 33-3 record to the mat Saturday at Memorial Coliseum with a singular goal – qualifying for the state finals.
“He made probably the biggest impact on my life,” Friedt said. “I knew him as a coach, and I knew him as an uncle, but many others knew him as a brother, and a grandpa and a friend. When he passed away, I set out on a mission, and I'm on a mission to finish what (my uncle John and I) started many years ago.”
That mission stopped one match short in Friedt's freshman and sophomore years. Relative inexperience and wrestling up a weight class spelled the difference in ninth grade. As a sophomore, Friedt's state series path crossed with the eventual state runner-up, Jordan Rader of Peru, in the semistate quarterfinals where a win would secure your ticket to the state finals.
A broken leg suffered in the final week of Bellmont's football season sidelined Caden for six weeks his sophomore year even though he had already wrestled 11 matches.
The initial X-ray and an MRI showed no fracture after a hit Friedt took to his leg. But after enduring unbearable pain at a wrestling tournament at Indianapolis Cathedral, a second X-ray revealed the fracture, leading to the layoff that ended just before the state tournament.
In December of his junior year, injury struck again. This time, Friedt tore two ligaments in his knee, ending his season prematurely.
With his last taste competing in the Coliseum's main arena double that of many multiple-time semistate qualifiers, the Bellmont senior stands more than ready to get back.
“It's obviously made a difference in his wrestling and he's doing better,” Bellmont coach Paul Gunsett said. “(His return) made a big impact on us.”
Friedt served as a Swiss army knife of sorts during the Braves' undefeated dual-meet season. He competed in the182- or 195-pound class depending on where Gunsett most needed a grappler of his ability to compete. For the state series, Friedt stepped up to the higher class.
“No matter where I would have went, I was going to run into competition,” Friedt said. “Everyone has their strengths and everyone has their weaknesses, so it was just a matter of where I fit in and what was the best way to accomplish my mission.”
That mission continues to weigh on Friedt – not weighing him down, but rather serving as an ultimate motivator. He honors the fallen coach not just through his success on the mat, as Friedt has inscribed his uncle's initials on his headgear and wrestling shoes since 2011, continuing the tradition to this day.
“When I was in first grade, he invited me to come up and practice with the middle schoolers, and I thought it was the coolest thing,” Friedt said. “At that time, I didn't realize how much of a gift that was to me.
“The family legacy is still very important.”
When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Coliseum
Admission: $12 for entire tournament, $10 for finals only
Advancement: Top four in each weight class advance to state finals. Brackets for each host site available via TrackWrestling.com
Feeder Regionals: Carroll, Goshen, Jay County, Peru
Defending champion: Jimtown
Area Semistate Championships: 18 – Bellmont (2nd statewide, 24 – Evansville Mater Dei), 3 – Columbia City, 2 – Snider, 1 – North Side, Warsaw, Wawasee