By TIM CREASON
EAST CHICAGO – It’s been a long time coming for Kyle Hatch.
Now, the question is: Can he finish the job?
Warsaw’s outstanding senior 152-pounder – one of Indiana’s best wrestlers throughout his high school career – finally got his long-sought semistate championship Saturday night.
He beat South Bend Riley’s Kassius Breathitt, 8-2, in the title match at East Chicago.
Now, it’s on to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where Hatch will launch a four-match quest to win the IHSAA individual state championship, starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
He will be joined by another local matman with championship aspirations, Wawasee sophomore Braxton Alexander, who earned semistate runnerup honors in the 120-pound class. More on that in a moment.
“I’ve already made the first step, getting past semistate,” said Hatch, now 47-0 on the season. “Now, I’m only worried about Friday night. It’s one step at a time.”
Wrestlers who win their first match at state are guaranteed a spot on the IHSAA awards stand Saturday evening, with the only issue being: Which step? It takes four consecutive victories to earn a title.
Hard to believe, but even though Hatch has been one of Indiana’s top wrestlers for years, he never made a semistate final before Saturday.
He finished fourth in the 106-pound weight class as a freshman and third at 120 as a sophomore. Last year, he didn’t even make it past the quarterfinals.
This, even though his career record is 165-15.
Those 165 wins are the program’s all-time record as Hatch surpassed Derek Crousore’s previous standard of 164 with his championship effort Saturday.
Hatch didn’t take any chances Saturday, pinning Andrean’s Luke Nicksic in 43 seconds to open the tournament, then sticking Merrillville’s Romeo Hoover in 55 seconds in the ticket round. He was all business.
“The first two matches, I felt great,” said Hatch. “After getting knocked out last year, I knew I had to do better.”
He took a 9-6 decision from Crown Point’s Noah LaMore in the semifinals, before squaring off against Breathitt (33-4) in a rematch of the Rochester regional finale.
Not much changed in a week, as Hatch scored an early takedown and finished the Riley senior off with a third period reversal.
Hatch, who said he was suffering from flu during the regional, was happy for another shot at Breathitt.
“It was a good thing, because last week, I was really sick, and this week I was only a little sick,” he said. “I lost a lot of conditioning, so I’m glad I was wrestling somebody I know. No surprises.
“I’m getting healthier every day. I’ll be ready to go next week,” said Hatch.
While Alexander may not be as well-known as Hatch, he is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of Indiana’s strongest 120-pounders.
He raised eyebrows at the Rochester regional when he literally threw down Penn’s Tanner DeMien, a three-time state qualifier, and pinned him for the individual title.
And Saturday, in a fierce semifinal contest against Colin Poynter of Portage, the Wawasee sophomore came from behind by muscling his opponent to his back and getting a fall in 5:50.
“I feel like I’m one of the strongest 120-pounders out there,” said Alexander, who is 40-4 this season.
“I may not be the best wrestler, my technique isn’t all that good and I may not be the fastest, but I spend a lot of time in the weight room.”
Alexander opened his day with an 11-3 major over Twin Lakes’ Kavyn Watts before winning on an injury default against Crown Point’s Kaelln Kelly.
In the finale, he ran up against a wrestler who was just as strong as he is – Hobart’s Tylor Triana (39-3) – and the pair threw each other around the mat, with Triana winning, 7-2, thanks to a pair of second-period takedowns.
“I haven’t faced many guys as strong as he is,” said Alexander. “I’m disappointed that I came up short, but I’m happy that I reached my goal of making it to state.”
As a semistate runnerup, Alexander will face the third-place finisher from a different semistate at Bankers Life. He stands a good chance of earning a medal.
“I feel I’m one of the top dogs out there, even though I’m overlooked a lot,” he said.
While Alexander moves on, three other Warriors ended their seasons at semistate, all in the ticket round, just one step from a state meet berth.
Garrett Stuckman (35-7) pinned New Prairie’s Brayden Ruiz in the opening round at 113, but then was pinned by Rensselaer’s Ryne Webb in the quarterfinals.
Sophomore Germia Brooks (19-3) won by fall over Logansport’s Jesse Dominguez as the day began, but was then eliminated by eventual champ Michael DeLaPena of Merrillville, 11-5.
And 220-pounder Jeremiah Dilley (31-11) made it through the first round with an 8-2 win over Highland’s Sammy Perez, but was stopped by Crown’s Points Justin Akers, who pinned him in the quarters.
It was a similar story for wrestlers from Triton. Malachi Greene (31-7), a senior, advanced with a 2-1 victory over West Lafayette’s Aaron Casillas in the 126-pound class. But in the second round, he fell to Lowell’s Colton Cummings, 6-1.
And at 132, Marcus Brown (21-17) was pinned by eventual champ Jeremiah Reitz of Griffith in the opener.
IHSAA WRESTLING SEMISTATE
At East Chicago
TEAM SCORES: Chesterton 144 ½, Portage 128 ½, Hobart 88 ½, Penn 76, Merrillville 75, Crown Point 60, Kankakee Valley 37, Harrison (Lafayette) 32, Rensselaer Central 32, Wawasee 31, South Bend Riley 30 ½, Mishawaka 30, Munster 30, Plymouth 29, Griffith 27 ½, South Bend Washington 24, Warsaw 24, Lowell 21, Culver Academies 20 ½, Hammond Morton 17, Valparaiso 15 ½, Wheeler 15 ½, Lafayette Jeff 14, River Forest 12, Winamac 12, Bremen 11, Frontier 11, LaPorte 8, Rochester 8, Hammond Gavit 7, Calumet 4, Michigan City 4, South Bend Adams 4, Benton Central 3, Logansport 3, Caston 2, Lafayette Central Catholic 2, LaVille 2, New Prairie 2, North White 2, Triton 2, West Lafayette 2, Hanover Central 1.
STATE QUALIFIERS: Portage 8, Chesterton 6, Crown Point 4, Hobart 4, Penn 4, Merrillville 3, Kankakee Valley 2, Mishawaka 2, Plymouth 2, Rensselaer Central 2, South Bend Riley 2, Bremen 1, Culver Academies 1, Frontier 1, Griffith 1, Harrison (Lafayette) 1, Hammond Morton 1, Munster 1, Lowell 1, Lafayette Jeff 1, Rochester 1, South Bend Washington 1, Warsaw 1, Wawasee 1, Winamac 1, Wheeler 1, River Forest 1, Valparaiso 1.
106: Eli Hickman (Rensselaer Central) dec. Danny Tolin (Chesterton), 3-2.
113: Brock Peele (Portage) dec. Kory Cavanaugh (Penn), 3-1.
120: Tylor Triana (Hobart) dec. Braxton Alexander (Wawasee), 7-2.
126: Michael DeLaPena (Merrillville) maj. dec. Reese Rodriguez (Hammond Morton), 19-6.
132: Jeremiah Reitz (Griffith) dec. Jack Tolin (Chesterton), 9-3.
138: Brendan Black (Hobart) tech. fall Kris Rumph (Portage), 17-1 in 5:52.
145: Jason Crary (Munster) dec. Kasper McIntosh (Portage), 3-2.
152: Kyle Hatch (Warsaw) dec. Kassius Breathitt (Riley), 8-2.
160: Diego Lemley (Chesterton) dec. Oszkar Kasch (Crown Pt), 7-2.
170: Jarod Swank (Penn) dec. Zack Fattore (Hobart), 10-7.
182: Lucas Davison (Chesterton) dec. Austin Faulkner (Mishawaka), 4-1.
195: Andrew Davison (Chesterton) pinned Nick Schoonveld (Kankakee Valley), 1:14.
220: Eli Pokorney (Chesterton) maj. dec. Donnie Crider (Harrison-Lafayette), 14-6.
285: Isaiah McWilliams (Washington) dec. Brandon Streck (Merrillville), 6-4.
(For 3rd Place)
106: Colin Reagan (Frontier) dec. Jake Armstrong (Winamac), 5-4. 113: Jose Diaz (Wheeler) tech. fall Ryne Webb (Rensselaer Central), 17-2 in 3:41. 120: Colin Poynter (Portage) won by inj. def. over Tanner DeMien (Penn). 126: Colton Cummings (Lowell) dec. Ian Dembowski (Valparaiso), 5-0. 132: Manzona Bryant (Culver Academies) dec. Miguel Prado (Portage), 4-1. 138: Graham Calhoun (Plymouth) dec. Jacob LaPlace (Mishawaka), 3-1 in OT. 145: Dante Colsa (Hobart) dec. Mario Traficanti (Crown Pt), 7-6. 152: Noah LaMore (Crown Pt) maj. dec. Clay Jones (Lafayette Jeff), 10-2. 160: Micah Calhoun (Plymouth) pinned Jacob Atkins (Riley), 3:23. 170: Ismael Cornejo (Portage) dec. Bradley Groover (River Forest), 5-4. 182: Jeremy Torres (Portage) dec. Tyjonn Lockett (Merrillville), 3-2. 195: Tyler Moser (Bremen) dec. Anthony Maceo (Portage), 1-0. 220: Justin Akers (Crown Pt) dec. Will Vakalahi (Penn), 7-2. 285: Aron Ceglarek (Kankakee Valley) dec. Dan Clark (Rochester), 3-1 in OT.
NOTE: Top four finishers in each weight class advance to IHSAA state finals in Indianapolis on Friday, Feb. 17.