Wabash Valley —
Look at them now.
That seemed to be the theme for families of Wabash Valley wrestlers Tsali Lough of Terre Haute South and Aaron See of Northview as their stellar careers were winding down at the state finals Saturday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
When I asked Jeff Lough where to find his son that evening, before the final round of matches started, he said he didn’t know — but he knew what Tsali was doing: beating himself up over two losses earlier in the day.
(Twitter can confirm that, by the way.)
“He’s not very happy,” Jeff said, “but I told him to look back when he was in middle school and see if he thought then that he’d wind up one of the best seven wrestlers and one of the 50 best football players in the state his senior year.”
I haven’t met Aaron’s mother, but I’m certain she shares that feeling. Coach Dan Mikesell of Northview said late Saturday night that when Aaron’s seventh-grade wrestling season started, his mother had expressed surprise that her son was going out for the sport again. He hadn’t won a match his entire season when he was, in Mikesell’s words, “a chubby little sixth-grader.”
(I’m writing that a second time only because I don’t think Aaron knows where I live.)
I enjoyed the long weekend with those guys for a couple of reasons: they are both fantastic interviews (honest, candid and occasionally hilarious) and because I could always find them in a crowd, the pre-match chat with Tsali’s father notwithstanding.
Tsali always wore that bright yellow hoodie that may or may not glow in the dark (I’m betting it does) and Aaron could easily be spotted in his pink stocking cap; in a sport with more than a little posturing involved, I got a big kick out of that.
Aaron told me the cap was to honor an aunt fighting cancer (not to dare somebody to say something about it, although I hold out the possibility that could be a secondary reason). I don’t know if there’s a story involved with the yellow hoodie or not.
I do know that in a sport with as much family atmosphere as any (admittedly the kind of family where the best thing about the family is the chance to beat up your brother), our guys were usually in the middle of a crowd, swapping stories with other wrestlers and making friends around the state; they also both had big contingents of fans to support them. I was as proud of both of them as you all are.
I was also happy to see the best matches of both their careers: Tsali’s pin of previously unbeaten Swade Oser of Heritage Hills (picture a 160-pound cement block, only bulgier) for the semistate championship, and Aaron’s come-from-behind win over previously unbeaten Seth Biberstine of Southern Wells (now make that a 220-pound bulging cement block) in the state quarterfinals.
As Aaron rallied from an 8-3 deficit to dominate the kid picked to win the state in his weight class, the wrestling was almost as much fun as watching Mikesell, assistant coach Zach Stultz and manager Keirsten Mikesell, who abandoned her scorekeeping chores in the excitement. I was also tickled to see that Tsali used his “cement mixer” throw, or a variation of it — the one that makes coach Gabe Cook make faces on the sideline, I’m told — for the last pin of his career, just as he’d used it on Oser.
Other notes from a wacky state finals, that saw upsets galore and plenty of excitement. Unbeaten wrestlers dropped like flies. Evansville was shut out of the championship matches for the first time in many years. Everyone was vulnerable except …
• Clark Kent — I watched the Crown Point wrestlers parade in on Friday and noticed one kid who seemed out of place. The Bulldogs, coached hard and tough by former Sycamore wrestler Scott Vlink, had one guy with them who was obviously a wrestler (the ears, duh) but who wore glasses and looked like he should have been giving me computer advice.
Once he took off the glasses, I realized I was right about him not belonging with the other wrestlers — he was way better than all of them. It was, of course, Jason Tsirtsis, the best 145-pounder in the nation, who wrapped up his fourth straight state championship approximately 24 hours later in brutally efficient fashion.
• No Miracle ... yet — I made a special effort to be there for Friday’s 106-pound matches to see sophomore Kayla Miracle of Culver Academies, the first girl to reach the state finals. She lost 4-0 to eventual third-place finisher Hayden Lee of Garrett, but she’ll be back. For one thing, she looked as strong as any 106-pounder at the meet.
Cook remembers Miracle, who is from Bloomington, from youth wrestling. “She used to kick my kids’ butts, and then afterwards they’d all flirt with her,” the South coach said.
In a couple of nonwrestling items:
• One of my favorite people who is also an athlete has been nominated for a national award.
Aly Bennett of Sullivan, whose Golden Arrow basketball career ended Saturday (and who may be in a batting cage getting ready for softball as we speak), is the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s nominee for the national Spirit of Sport Award.
While recovering from her bout with cancer, the three-sport athlete designed a chest protector to cover the chemotherapy port that can be used in competition by athletes who are also cancer patients.
The national award will be presented during the National Federation of State High School Association’s summer meeting.
• Gatorade’s Indiana girls soccer Player of the Year is Brooke Backes of Carmel.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at email@example.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321. Follow @TribStarAndy on Twitter.
Wabash Valley —
Look at them now.
- Amey Takes Aim
Amey Takes Aim: Tourney provided a few Classic moments
This column was falling into place nicely until about 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Then youth and inexperience reared up to bite it.
This time don't use your head
My personal suggestion is leather helmets.
As frightening data on concussions filters its way from the National Football League on down to colleges, high schools and youth leagues, I can’t help but think back to the time when I was standing on the sidelines watching my teammates play.
AMEY TAKES AIM: WNBA is part of travel plans
Columnist prepares for vacation destinations.
Amey Takes Aim: NHL playoffs to put TVs to good use
If Jenny had known, she probably wouldn’t have bought that TV.
But four or five years ago, my Fathers Day present — for those unfamiliar with Amey family traditions, the Fathers Day one is “let’s get something we all really want and pretend it’s a gift for Dad” — was a 42-inch Vizio. It’s been used even more than the cell phone I never would have bought for myself, or the TomTom that disappeared since Jenny’s smartphone arrived.
And it came with high-def.
I’m not going to insult you by telling you how great high-def is, because to do so would be to imply that you are even farther behind the technological curve than I am. I’m guessing, however, that not all of you have yet discovered what it does for hockey.
Amey Takes Aim: Can’t bottle the joy of Amey vacations
The first bad sign was the Gatorade bottle.
In the Bataan-Death-March drive to Orlando that got the Amey family spring break vacation off to a bad start, seeing it between lanes of I-24 — as we zipped along at a 100-miles-in-five-hours clip — filled with an ominous yellow liquid was a little bit scary. And although we didn't stop to check for sure, I'm fairly certain I knew about its contents.
And the person stuck in the same traffic jam with us, the one with the existential license plate YMIHR4, couldn’t have asked a more pertinent question.
But, after seeing a lot more of Oak Grove, Ky., than we’d planned, and after enduring more traffic slowdowns in Nashville, we were on our way. Even some rain in the dark in the Smokies didn’t slow us down much, so you would think our first-day troubles were over.
You would be wrong.
ANDY AMEY: Farewell to basketball
I believe you’ve heard me say before — just about a year ago, perhaps — that a boys high school basketball season that ends with the Tribune-Star in Bankers Life Fieldhouse can’t be considered a bad one, which is why we have a little celebrating to do thanks to the Linton Miners.
Lover of irony that I am, I’ve also got to point out that this season was another branch sprouting from the Wabash Valley’s most legendary coaching tree, that of Joe Hart.
Joe never got much credit for his work at Dugger, but he took Brody Boyd, Clark Golish and the Bulldogs to a state championship game in 2000, and since then three of his former players — Joe Pigg, Clint Swan and now Joey Hart, his son — also have coached teams in the final game of the season.
Joe probably wishes he could take credit for Doc Nash, another down-home type who gave a banjo lesson earlier Saturday in leading Borden past a bigger, more athletic Triton team (banjo lesson is a Howard Sharpism, for you younger readers), but his lineage is still the best I can think of around here.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Maroons, Rox final a true Classic
I don’t make predictions nearly as often as I used to, but I had one several months ago that was proven correct last week.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Nitpicking aside, West Vigo Hall of Fame selections spot on
I can’t imagine a better first class of inductees into the West Vigo High School Athletics Hall of Fame than the one that was feted Saturday night in the Jim Mann Green Dome.
Tough bunch of people
I’m getting my warm clothes ready for a trip to Linton this week, and if a few thrills from the Miners, Casey or North Vermillion happen the next couple of weeks, I hope I get to see them.
But high school football is over in Vigo County for the season — as coach Chris Barrett of Terre Haute North said, prematurely — and I’m sadder to see it go than usual.
Walking the sidelines and doing midweek or postgame interviews enables me to meet quite a few of the guys whose names you are about to read, and haven’t been more impressed than I was this fall. What outstanding groups of young men. What a tough, tough bunch of people.
Many know that one of my favorite athletic adjectives appeared consecutively in the previous sentence.
AMEY TAKES AIM: A weekend to remember with ISU’s ’72 football team
They’re all still pretty hale and hearty, the boys of the fall of 1972 who returned to campus over the weekend to honor their former football coach.
AMEY TAKES AIM: ISU reunion raises more questions than answers
One of the wrestlers I used to hang out with occasionally claimed to be a pretty good second-story man — although he may have just been talking, since I never saw any of the goods — and it was with him in mind that I was able to get access to the Indiana State Wrestling Alumni Reunion late Saturday night.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Deciding not to ‘vacate’ during ‘vacation’ – & other ventures
Flaunting the law, setting a bad example for the kids in other ways, grooming and acquiring dogs … not a typical Amey family vacation, but an appreciated one just the same.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Huntsville’s Stars, Havoc take back seat to GGS
The second-best thing about the Amey family’s spring-break trip to Huntsville, Ala., is that we left a lot of things on the table to do the next time we’re down there.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Rox well represented on Amey teams
If having the state finals in town makes it a successful girls high school basketball season, then certainly having a team to follow at the state finals makes it a very successful boys high school basketball season . . .
AMEY TAKES AIM: A feeling of pride, not disappointment, comes from watching Rox play
It’s not going to come as a startling admission that I — once the rest of the local opposition has been eliminated from consideration — am an unabashed fan of whatever team the Wabash Valley sends onward in postseason high school sports competition.
AMEY TAKES AIM: This private school plays basketball the right way
Any girls high school basketball season that ends with state championship games in Hulman Center is a pretty good one — even though I wished I’d seen Riverton Parke and Seeger knock off a couple of private schools the week before to even the public school-private school battle a little bit.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Even 2 of state’s best once had doubts
Look at them now.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Getting ready for the dance
Terre Haute North got the good news Sunday night — or did it?
AMEY TAKES AIM: Harrowing path for state hopefuls
The bad news is that the winner of Class 4A Sectional 13 in boys basketball heads northeast instead of southeast for regional play in March — to Hinkle Fieldhouse instead of Seymour as a result of Indiana High School Athletic Association’s changes.
AMEY TAKES AIM: A superior all-star arrangement
I don’t work on Wednesdays, so I wasn’t able to attend the first Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association draft last week to set up the annual all-star game that will be June 23 this year.
AMEY TAKES AIM: The biggest & baddest of a holiday classic
There are more things to love about the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic than could fit in this newspaper, but one of this year’s best things was that for an hour or so on Wednesday, it was Justin Paddock’s world and we were just living in it.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Taking note of ISU’s latest football win
The biggest difference I’ve noticed, as I transition from the high school football beat to quasi-official status as the Indiana State football beat writer for a few weeks, is the length of the games.
AMEY TAKES AIM: IHSAA playoff draw not as bad as it could have been
First reaction to the Indiana sectional football pairings drawn late Sunday by the Indiana High School Athletic Association? It could have been a lot worse.
ANDY AMEY: Between the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & a hard place
Just in case any of you noticed — with some anticipation — the recent lack of my bylines, I can tell you that your wish (and mine) did come true. It was vacation week for the Amey family.
Amey Takes Aim: UFC fighter’s bloodines traced back to ISU brothers
As a mild-mannered reporter from a great metropolitan newspaper — or thereabouts — I admit I haven’t paid much attention to the burgeoning mixed martial arts scene.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Predators’ win is music to new fan’s ears
For many, many years, the number of live games televised on WGN has been cited as perhaps the main reason for the popularity of the Chicago Cubs (it’s got to be something besides masochism, right?).
AMEY TAKES AIM: You’ll be having a good ol’ time on vacation with the Ameys
When one of the first people you meet is Tammy Wynette’s stepdaughter, when you’ve stepped on the feet of people you haven’t met while trying to navigate Ernest Tubbs’ old Silver Eagle tour bus, and when the activities director of your resort is, well, Elvis, you might be vacationing in Nashville.
AMEY TAKES AIM: The Annual All-Amey basketball teams close out the prep season
The most encouraging boys high school basketball event I’ve attended so far in 2011 has been the Lafayette Semistate a couple of weeks ago.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Family remembers Cheryl Weatherman as caring grandmother
As far as Riley and Keely Davis are concerned, Cheryl Weatherman was simply their grandmother, and a pretty darn good one at that.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Honor to see Turkey Run girls close out memorable career
I don’t know if anyone in this part of the state could actually say they enjoy going to Fort Wayne and back, but I was glad to see the Turkey Run Warriors play one last time during the girls basketball state finals Saturday.
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