BOURBON — Vincent Helton was in the middle of a busy summer wrestling schedule, preparing for his senior high school season at Triton when something unexpected happened — his appendix nearly burst.
That unforeseen setback sidelined Helton — also a middle linebacker for Triton’s football team — early in the fall preseason. Long back at 100 percent, Triton co-head wrestling coach Ron Brown is expecting big things from the middle weight this season.
“It was on the verge of exploding while I was doing summer wrestling,” recalled Helton of his appendix. “I missed all of the last part of the summer, and that kind of sucked because everybody was just getting into the grind of football. I was missing out on a lot of the stuff and team bonding. Once the season started I was pretty much back to 100 percent, and I was just ready to get back with the team.”
“I think that he is poised to have a breakout season,” said Brown. “ The kid knows how to deal with adversity. He’s mentally tough. He has a great attitude, and he has a nice skill set of moves that I think are going to take him a long way this year. He’s a senior, and he’s going to be one of our leaders on the team.”
While Helton slots into the Triton lineup in the 160 to 170-pound range this season, there are plenty of other wrestlers returning to the mat for the Trojans.
Like Helton, D’Angelo Shumpert brings a hard-nosed mentality to the Trojans at 106 pounds, and Brown believes fellow sophomore Connor Pitney is poised to have a breakout year with the team as well. Bryce Coppes and Nate Riggins will be in the mix in the lower weight classes, while fellow juniors Bo Snyder and Billy Smith return after busy summer seasons. Ryan Snyder, Wyatt Steffan and Riley Chickering all bring experience to the middle weight categories with Helton, while Caleb Lemler, Andrew Parker and Jacob Wilson lend their talents to the roster, too.
The 2017-18 Triton wrestling team — which opened the season at the Culver Academy Super 6 over the weekend — doesn’t have any real marquee names, but it’s a group that should be solid from top to bottom, says Brown.
“Each team is different,” Brown explained. “Some years you have standout superstars, and other years you have a compilation of a lot of good kids, and I would rather have a whole bunch of good kids than just a few superstars. I think that speaks more to what you’re doing as a whole and the development of the kids and the skill level and the culture that you want to have around your program.”
Triton football fans may recognize more than a few names on the Trojans’ wrestling squad.
Bo Snyder, Helton, Coppes, Riggins, Shumpert, Pitney, Smith, Lemler, Parker and Wilson are all transitioning from the football field to the mat after helping push Blue and Gold football to a banner season that featured an 8-4 finish, one of the program’s all-time best. It’s a coachable group that knows how to train and how to win, and the Trojans are hoping some of their fall success can carry over into the winter sports season.
“Hey, from the field to the mat, I guess Triton is where it’s at, right?” said Brown.
“I think more than anything it’s doing it the right way and doing what your coaches ask and having trust in individuals. That also goes to our parents in our community. They trust us with our children, and they know we’re going to do what’s best for them. That’s what we’re about here at Triton — doing what’s best for kids.”
If there’s so much carryover from Triton football to Trojan wrestling, it’s not by accident. Brown also helms the football program, and he and co-head wrestling coach Matt Arvesen have recruited from the football program heavily to bring up the wrestling numbers at the Class A school. That effort has paid big dividends for both teams, too — Triton’s football program has transformed itself into a serious sectional and HNAC contender, while the wrestling team has garnered enough recognition to be invited to the IHSWCA team state duals the past two seasons.
Helton, a fourth-year wrestler at Triton, has personally witnessed the turnaround.
“The program started out really small and then Coach Brown and Coach Arvesen got ahold of things, and they just started recruiting people and we really just started getting it together,” he said. “They’ve got a really good program going on. It’s been an honor to wrestle the last four years with them.”
While so many athletes are making their return to the Triton wrestling roster, the name that stands out most in many minds is the name that won’t appear on this year’s roster.
Junior Cameron Scarberry, who wrestled for the Trojans at 195 last season and was a two-way starter for the football team, lost his life in a car accident in mid September. Friends, teammates and coaches will all feel his absence as the winter season starts in earnest. The tragedy of Scarberry’s passing is something that those who knew him continue to process, but, as they did during the fall, they’re trying to honor his memory and what he stood for this season.
“In doing some of my exit interviews from the football season, the kids have seemed to get the message of you don’t know when something is going to happen so you’ve got to appreciate what you have while you can and basically represent yourself in a way that’s going to be positive. That’s what Cameron did,” said Brown. “Of course we’re going to miss him dearly during wrestling season, and as a person we’re going to miss him. It’s something that we’re still getting over.
“There’s definitely going to be a gap in our lineup. We will find someone to wrestle there, but there will obviously be a place there.”
“Don’t take anything for granted — that’s what we learned a lot this year, and I just really can’t express that enough,” echoed Helton.
“It has been in my mind. We’re going to base (the season) on him because he didn’t get to finish out his high school wrestling career. We just want to do our best for what he would like and what he would want as a wrestler.”