By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – Wawasee wrestling has raised the bar for itself regardless of who is on the mat. The bar remained sky high for the program this past season, as a new crop of Warriors carried the flag for a team that is continuing its storied history of champions.
Wawasee graduated a ton of talent from a team that moved all 14 of its athletes to the regional the past two years. Per the standards of head coach Frank Bumgardner, this past season was even a tiny bit of a downer as Wawasee lost two dual matches in the Northern Lakes Conference round robin and then couldn’t catch Northridge in the conference tournament. The Warriors, as good as they have been in recent years, haven’t won a NLC team title since 1998.
“Let’s be honest, we still are chasing a goal with that NLC title,” Bumgardner said. “We have built a program, but we still haven’t won a conference title yet. Give a lot of credit to (Northridge head coach Eric) Highley, they are doing a heckuva job.”
It’s been the state postseason, however, where Wawasee has really made it’s name. A sectional championship that had 13 of its wrestlers advance, the Warriors topped host Plymouth by nearly 40 points to clobber the field. The title made it 23 in the decorated history of the program, which moved it into a tie with Wawasee gymnastics for most in school history.
At Plymouth, Wawasee had five champions in Logan Stuckman (106), Dylan Tom (120), Jace Alexander (126), Gavin Malone (138) and Garrett Stuckman (152). Hunter Miller (113) was a runner-up, and four more were third place in the tournament. Seven Warriors would advance through the Penn Regional brackets, including championships from both Stuckmans and Alexander.
Widely regarded as the toughest semi-state circuit in the state, Garrett Stuckman would continue his undefeated march with a 4-0 showing at East Chicago. Stuckman made his first state finals with a second-round pin in the championship. Alexander earned his second state appearance by scoring a decision in the third-place match, finishing off a 3-1 day. Logan Stuckman and Malone both won their first match before losing in the ticket rounds. Miller, Dylan Tom and Logan Baugh all lost their only matches at East Chicago.
“This year we just had a lot of fun,” Bumgardner said. “We didn’t have any fires to put out. October to February we were in a great place to be. The young kids were getting better, the older ones were doing a phenomenal job getting better. They showed how to get better. They really cared about this year.”
The team should be in good shape going forward despite losing Garrett Stuckman and the other four seniors. Four of the eight sectional competitors were freshmen, three were sophomores and two juniors. Bumgardner noted the pipeline is also well-stocked.
Wawasee’s seniors went a combined 93-59 in 2019-20 through all levels.
“We have a lot of age disparity in our program,” Bumgardner said. “A lot of the guys are new in terms of age to the high school program, but they’ve been wrestling for a long time. They know the program, they know the mentality and what we expect as coaches. It’s not surprising to see kids like Logan Stuckman and Hunter Miller come in and succeed right away. Logan was a legit 106 and earned third at the Al Smith and got the ticket round at semi-state. Those are the kids we are bringing in each year.”