Preview: Four wrestlers advance to semi-state competition


Mario Faiman

Drake Buchanan pins a wrestler from Pike High School.

Mya Jones, Staff Writer

This weekend, the wrestling team will be represented by 4 boys at semi state starting at 9am in Evansville. Sophomores Hayden Watson (132), Drake Buchanan (182), Michael LaRocca (106), and junior Riley Rust (145) will be competing in hopes of advancing to the state finals. 

Though he knows the rigor of the competition they’ll be facing, Coach Swain has high expectations for his wrestlers. 

“In the semi-state tournament you’re always going to be wrestling someone that’s good as well, so we just have to be ready to wrestle and ready to compete to the best of our ability,” Swain said. “We want to advance as many individuals through the semi state to the state tournament as possible. We have 4 guys at the semi state so our goal is to get all 4 of them through to the state tournament.”

Buchanan and Watson both placed first in their regional, which serves as a benefit to them throughout this journey. 

“You either have to be a one or beat a one to make it at semi-state, so being a one really helps you out,” Buchanan said. “For me it was a really big relief and it just felt really good to win that because it put me in a really good spot to make it to state.”

Watson on the other hand, is relieved to have placed first, as he has made a comeback after a tough loss in last year’s regionals. 

“Winning regionals felt great because last year I got second and it put me in a tough spot to where I lost by a point to go to state,” Watson said. “So, this year I gained the better draw and it’ll probably get me all the way up to the finals in semi-state.”

Buchanan obtains a few strengths that he is confident will help him advance far. 

“I have really good neutral and on top and bottom. Usually on bottom, most people can’t keep me down, and on top I’m pretty good at stalling and getting back points off tilts. In neutral, I’m pretty strong with hand fighting and taking shots,” Buchanan said.
Many other sports tend to back away from intensity during practices when faced with a big upcoming game or match with the intention of allowing rest for the athletes’ bodies. However, Watson said that wrestling is different.

“Preparation this week has been a whole lot harder. We have a lot of obstacles that we have to go through during practice, like staying in the whole time while people keep rotating in on you, just to get you tired and conditioned for this weekend,” Watson said.

Buchanan adds that sometimes even the coaches will step foot on the match and act as an opponent to give him a challenge.

“During live Coach will push me sometimes by stepping in and pushing the pace with me. He has been really trying to push my conditioning because he knows that’s my weakness,” Buchanan said.

There are many little things the boys must focus on in order to be as ready as possible for the challenge that has presented itself.

“During drilling, I try to move as much as possible and act as if it’s a live match instead of just going through the motions,” Buchanan said. “It’s important to go as hard as you can all the time no matter what because it really adds up and helps you gain more strength in conditioning.”

Additionally, there are other outside factors that contribute to performance that can’t be tended to on the mat.

“I don’t really have to worry about going over weight because I’m wrestling up this year but I do have to make sure I maintain weight. I have to eat a lot of snacks throughout the day, a good lunch and try to drink as much water as I can,” Buchanan said.

As the 4 boys ready themselves for upcoming obstacles, their teammates have been by their side every step of the way.

“Just by being there in the room and coming back to help workout with us after they’ve had a tough loss in sectionals or regionals means a lot,” Watson said.  They’re really supportive and motivate me to want to do the best I can do.”

Updates: Hayden Watson (132) won his first match against Switzerland County’s Jacob Wolf for a 40-1 record on the season. If Watson wins his next match against Gibson Southern’s Christian Polen (40-5), he will advance to the state finals.

Riley Rust wins his first match against Jeffersonville’s Connor Giles for a 26-6 record on the season.

Drake Buchanan wrestles next.