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Feb. 18—INDIANAPOLIS — Four area athletes are preparing to make an appearance on the biggest stage of the year for wrestling — the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Jared Brown of Pendleton Heights, Seth Lawson from Frankton and Daleville's Julius Gerencser will compete in the 138-pound class while Max Naselroad of Alexandria will do likewise at 145 pounds.
The competition begins with first-round matches Friday at 11 a.m. and continues Saturday with quarterfinal and semifinal matches in the morning before the consolation and championship matches Saturday evening.
Brown (19-4) is the state finals veteran of the group, making his third straight February trip to Indianapolis. After a fourth-place finish at the New Castle semistate last weekend, he has drawn Brody Arthur (38-1) from Oak Hill. Arthur was the Fort Wayne semistate champion and advanced to the state finals last year at 132 pounds.
Despite the records and the seedings, PH coach Dave Cloud feels it is a good matchup for Brown. Arthur's only loss was to a wrestler who Brown has beaten before.
"We're excited. We think it's a good draw for him," Cloud said. "We feel like it's a good matchup for him. We've got some video. He's actually undefeated except for one loss on the season, and that was to Seth Lawson of Frankton."
Brown and Lawson have split four matches with each other this season.
Defeating Brown to earn third place at New Castle last week capped a tough postseason run for Lawson (31-4). He has had to navigate tough fields at the Elwood sectional and Pendleton Heights regional as well, which his coach said has him ready for this weekend's competition.
"I've always told our kids year in and year out when they advance to the New Castle semistate, if they get out of that gauntlet of a semistate, hopefully the chances of them getting on the podium is better than if they'd gone through a different route," Frankton coach Courtney Duncan said. "We're battling the Cathedrals, the Perrys (Perry Meridian), the Warren Centrals, the Lawrence Norths and all the Indy schools, and Coach Cloud and I were talking after the match with (Seth) and Jared Brown on Saturday, not very often do you get two kids from the same weight class, out of the same county, the same sectional, regional and semistate."
While it won't be a fifth matchup with Brown, the opponent for Lawson will be another familiar one. He will meet Fort Wayne semistate runner-up Julius Gerencser (32-2) of Daleville. The two have not met in high school competition but have competed outside of school and have worked out and practiced together. Daleville coach Dalton Baysinger says Gerencser — just the third Bronco to ever advance to the state wrestling finals — has plenty of respect for Lawson.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for Seth. He's a great kid," Baysinger said. "We expect him to be ready and be tough. ... He's a very hard-nosed kid, and we expect a tough match. We're just excited for the opportunity."
Naselroad (30-2) became the fifth Tigers wrestler — and first since Nate Ryan in 2014 — to advance to state with a fourth-place finish at New Castle. He was undefeated before dropping his last two matches at semistate, adding some fire to his belly Friday when he faces Jaden Reynolds (37-1) from Avon.
"Max knows those last two matches he did not wrestle up to his ability," Alex coach Norman Rayford said. "I didn't have to beat that into him. He knows. He knew that he did not wrestle up to his potential and, that being said, we know based on his drive throughout this week, he's going to give his opponent everything he has. He's going to leave it all on the mat."
The common strategy for this quartet is to simply ignore the surroundings and be themselves.
"You tend to not be yourself when you wrestle defensive or over scout," Rayford said. "We're working and training with Max to be exactly who he is and the wrestler he is, just being aggressive and working on his strengths."
"I just need Julius to be him," Baysinger said. "At the end of the day, stick to your grassroots and stick to who you are. Just show up and be you. It's been pretty successful so far."
"We told him it's just another match," Duncan said. "Go out and take it one match at a time and wrestle the way you've done all year, and hopefully he'll come out the victor."
"Mainly, it's about being yourself at this point," Cloud said. "Just go out and be the best version of you because that's what got you here."
Contact Rob Hunt at email@example.com or 765-640-4886.