The Student News Site of Center Grove High School


The Student News Site of Center Grove High School


The Student News Site of Center Grove High School


From children to champions

As wrestling team celebrates senior night, seniors look back at a decade of friendship
Photo Contributed
The Center Grove elementary school wrestling team from 2017 poses in front of a trophy following the state finals. A majority of this state-winning elementary school wrestling team went on to wrestle together, such as senior Charlie LaRocca and junior Silas Stits.

Over the years, members of the Center Grove wrestling team have grown up together in the program. From training intensely under Center Grove High School strength-and-conditioning coach Marty Mills in their novice years to becoming state runners-up under the direction of wrestling coach Maurice Swain, this group of wrestlers has created a strong bond. A portion of the senior class – Charlie LaRocca, Noah Clouser, Reese Courtney, Nate Johnson and Kaden McConnell, as well as juniors, Eddie Goss, Julian Weems and Silas Stits – have grown up beside each other on and off the mat.

Mills had breathed his passion for wrestling into this group of kids since the beginning. Whether they were lifting in his garage or drilling with each other in the wrestling room, Mills always found ways to bring energy into practices.

“Coach Mills would bring a lot of energy, so he made it fun to work hard,” Courtney said. “It’s kind of an addicting feeling. It was nice to get into practice, work hard and feel good about it. It was all love, even when he was mad at you, You knew it was because he wanted you to do well.”

When the team tried to recall memories from their time wrestling together in elementary school, there was one common denominator, which was their relationship with Mills and his passion for the sport.

“There was one specific tournament we went to in elementary school where we were tied for first place with another team, but they didn’t let us wrestle the other team,” Clouser said. “The tournament just gave us second place, and Marty got really pumped up about that and let everyone at the tournament know how he felt about the unfair treatment.” 

Victories experienced by these wrestlers during their youth stick with them many years later, which can be nostalgic for some.  

“When we first won state in fifth grade with Marty, it was exciting because there were so many people on the team, and it was all of my childhood friends,” Courtney said. “State finals last year, when we were sitting at the hotel, it was exciting because it was the same group of friends but many years later in high school.” 

Although most breaks and summers were spent in the wrestling room, they found ways to enjoy time with each other outside of practices. 

“I remember when we used to always go over to Marty’s house and just play dodgeball in his basement. That was fun,” McConnell said. “In the old days, we would go swimming at Freedom Springs in the summer almost every weekend. Marty would just drop us off, and it was fun to go in the lazy river and pools with all the guys.”

The transition into high school practices as middle schoolers proved to be challenging at first, but the team environment that was fostered during this time helped with this adaptation. 

“I always looked up to the seniors because they were older than me,” Stits said. “The wrestling room was pretty intense for elementary and middle school kids. We’ve always stayed steady, just wrestling together and having fun, even though there were changes going on around us.” 

Practicing with one another extended outside of the wrestling room here at Center Grove, and it took form at Contenders. Under this academy, wrestlers would travel out of state and compete against other teams from across the country.

“During our middle school years, we would travel the country for different tournaments and we would beat these teams from different states,” Courtney said. “This made their coaches mad because they were losing to a middle school team. It was kind of that moment in middle school where we realized that things were different.”

Aside from their many achievements as a team during their time in middle school, some of McConnell’s fondest memories come from little conversations with his teammates. 

“In middle school, we would walk over to the high school for practices together,” McConnell said. “There would be a few funny jokes, and it was just the little things that mattered. Just being together in our own little group, away from everyone else, was special.”

Spending their childhoods training together has facilitated their growth both individually and as a whole. This friendship formed throughout the years assists in the practice environment, and the wrestlers reap these benefits. 

“It’s like iron sharpens iron. We’ve known each other for so long, that we know when to push each other and when to pull back,” Clouser said. “So some practices, we’ll be super hard on one another, and other practices we’ll just go through our moves. Off the mat, everything I do, I have the team in mind. There’s a lot of people watching Center Grove wrestling, so we have to make sure we aren’t doing anything to harm the team’s reputation.”

The bond shaped by the close-knit group has helped many wrestlers go through mental struggles individually. 

“We’re able to talk to each other about different aspects of our lives,” Stits said. “If we’re struggling with something, whether it’s personally or about wrestling, we can talk to each other and work through things together. Even if I didn’t wrestle, I would definitely still be friends with the guys on the team. They’re a lot of fun, and we’ve all been through the same experiences, which has brought us closer together.”

Although their bond has been apparent to people within the group, it has also been obvious to those around them. Coach Maurice Swain has been with this group since middle school, and has seen them grow alongside each other throughout his time as a coach.

“They’ve grown together as a group in terms of friendship, and it’s been really fun to watch,” Swain said. “They’re contending for the best class in Center Grove wrestling program history, results-wise. It’s been fun to watch them grow up and continue growing in ability.” 

This year’s senior class has not only made a lasting impact on the structure of the Center Grove wrestling program, but they have also heavily impacted their teammates.

“It’s honestly kind of unsettling to prepare for the seniors to graduate,” Stits said. “I want all of them to do well because it’s their senior year. I would like to help the team win a state title to send the seniors off on a high note. I’ve been with them since elementary school, so it will definitely be tough to see them go.”

The group has now entered their final season all together. They are looking to continue to grow the program throughout their season and use their unique bond as a way to set them apart from other programs across the state of Indiana. 

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