Rex Leavitt Invite opens wrestling season

Nov. 19—ELWOOD — The 2022-23 wrestling season began this weekend with four area teams competing in the annual Rex Leavitt Invitational at Elwood. Several state hopefuls started their campaigns in strong fashion while a pair of newcomers made early statements.

But it was Delta who made off with the team hardware, upending defending champion — and Hoosier Heritage Conference rival — Greenfield-Central 43-28 in the finals to claim the invitational title.

Clay Guenin of Greenfield and Neal Mosier from Delta were named 2022 Rex Leavitt Invitational MVPs.

A second set of conference rivals battled for third place with Alexandria winning the first five matches by fall and going on to a 48-33 win over Frankton.

Senior Isaiah Fye won 30 matches last year before bowing out at semistate and capped a 5-0 day with a win by fall in the first period at 113 pounds to stake Alexandria to a 12-0 lead over the Eagles. His win followed a Cade Reynolds pin — also in the first period — and the Tigers were well on their way.

Former Frankton state finalist Cody Klettheimer is now an assistant for the Tigers, and he brought in another former Eagles wrestler to help with Fye's development.

"Isaiah is a great wrestler, and I brought Drew Berkebile — he's a Frankton graduate — to work with Isaiah because they wrestle the same," Klettheimer said. "Isaiah is picking up on some things that Drew brings to the table, and he's taking off and running with them."

After Ezra Fye took the 120-pound match by fall in the second period, Alex freshman Clayton Martin won by fall in the first period at 126 pounds to finish his day also with a 5-0 mark, catching Klettheimer somewhat by surprise.

"I'm not expecting our freshmen to come in and beat up on some seniors and juniors," he said. "He was the one who really shocked me. If anyone deserves a team MVP for Alexandria, it's 100% Clayton Martin."

Will Rowland made it a 30-0 lead for the Tigers with a second period fall at 132 pounds before Carson Ward ended the streak for Frankton with a win at 138 pounds.

Eagles sophomore Thaiden Alexander made it two wins in a row — and a solid 4-1 day for himself — with a 7-1 decision at 145 pounds, trimming the lead to 36-9.

Frankton coach Courtney Duncan believes Alexander has plenty of potential for the season and years to come.

"Thaiden has been wrestling since he was in diapers, and he will give you everything he can give you," he said. "I thought he had an outstanding day. He wrestled a tough kid from Greenfield-Central, and that was his only loss of the day. I kind of think if he had another shot at him, it might be a different outcome."

The Tigers added wins from D.J. Egan (152) and Austin Devore (182) to seal the team victory.

Frankton's Elijah Knauer (160), Crew Farrell (170) and Braedey Martin (195) followed with victories before 2022 state finalist Hunter Branham wrapped up his 5-0 day with a 20-second fall in the 285-pound match.

Although two of Branham's wins were by forfeit, it was a strong start for the senior who hopes to return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in February and compete both Friday and Saturday this time around.

"We think our schedule we have, he's going to see some highly ranked heavyweights by the time we come to wrestle in sectional," Duncan said. "Hopefully, we've got him geared ready. His goal is to get on the podium (at state)."

The Tigers were paired with Greenfield-Central to open the tournament, and the result was a 56-21 loss. But Alexandria rebounded with a 63-9 win over a JV squad and a 66-15 win over the host Panthers. Delta stopped the Tigers 72-8 in the semifinals before Alexandria faced its Central Indiana Conference rivals.

Frankton opened its day with wins over Lapel (72-12) and Tri (57-22) before falling to Delta 60-18 to complete pool play. In the semifinal round, the Eagles lost 64-18 to the Cougars.

In their next outings, Lapel travels to Hamilton Heights on Monday, Frankton is at Guerin Catholic on Nov. 29, Elwood hosts Southwood on Nov. 30 and Alexandria will host Hamilton Heights on Dec. 1.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.