Eagles sweep to invite championship

Dec. 28—FRANKTON — The constant battle to stay in peak physical condition is about to take another turn for Frankton heavyweight Hunter Branham as the calendar page is turned from December to January.

After transitioning from football conditioning to wresting over the early weeks of the season, the sixth-ranked 285-pounder and 2022 state finalist will now focus on preparing for a postseason that could see a number of matches go the full six minutes.

That journey began late in Wednesday's six-team Frankton Invitational.

Branham (26-0) outlasted Batesville's Max Amberger for a 3-0 decision in his final match of the day, finishing a perfect 5-0 and claiming the Most Outstanding Wrestler award for the day. His efforts helped Frankton also win all five duals, including a 63-12 win over defending champion Batesville, to claim the team championship.

While Branham recently reached the 100-career win milestone, he has never won this award at an invitational during his career.

"It's nice, especially at your home meet to win the award here," Branham said. "It's a good feeling."

It was a day that saw Frankton's depth pay dividends early, winning eight matches by forfeit in each of its first two duals. The Eagles opened with a 66-18 win over Knightstown before bettering Lutheran 48-30. In the latter match, all Eagles points were scored by forfeit.

Lutheran junior 220-pounder Jack Beard won the Most Pins Award, needing just 4:08 to win all five of his matches by fall.

Their fourth dual also featured six forfeit wins in a 75-6 victory over Scecina.

"Indianapolis Lutheran obviously is traditionally a really good team that comes to this tournament," Frankton coach Courtney Duncan said. "They bring a lot of good athletes. They just didn't have numbers, and that was the difference in our dual."

The third dual of the day against Speedway featured two full rosters, no forfeits and may have been the most beneficial of the day for the Eagles.

In that dual, Branham recorded one of nine Eagles wins by pin, and Frankton held off Speedway 54-30. Duncan credited senior Carson Ward (132 pounds) and sophomore Thaiden Alexander (138) with opening the dual with wins over tough Sparkplug opponents. Duncan said if those matches had gone the other way, Speedway might have been the team to finish 5-0.

"There were a couple matches that stuck out in my head that were big swing matches at 132 and 138 where Carson Ward got a pin for us and Thaiden Alexander as well," Duncan said. "Two quality kids from Speedway and if those matches go the flip side, we could be on the losing end of the dual."

In the finale against Batesville, Frankton again benefited from a short-handed roster as the Bulldogs had to forfeit seven times in the Eagles' win. It was also a dual in which Alexander and 220-pounder Garek Ellis had to grind out victories by decision, 2-0 for Alexander and 9-6 for Ellis, in addition to Branham's hard-fought 3-0 win.

"That match was good for Hunter because he hasn't been out of the first period or the second very much this year," Duncan said. "To get a hard-fought match where he's got to wrestle for six minutes hard (is big)."

"It really tested my conditioning," Branham said. "I didn't stick him like I needed to or wanted to, but still getting the win was nice. It showed my conditioning is where I need to be right now."

Alexander, Branham and 106-pound freshman Jaden Hughes were each undefeated Wednesday.

Hughes — who won two matches by fall Wednesday — will compete Jan. 6 in the girls regional qualifier with hopes of advancing into the state tournament Jan. 13 at Mooresville. The Eagles will also next be in action Jan. 13 at Elwood as they battle in the Central Indiana Conference tournament.

Contact Rob Hunt at

rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.