By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – Wrestlers often have a story of redemption or an overcoming of situations to get them to where they are in the sport.
Well, Wawasee’s Jace Alexander certainly had quite a story that followed him to and from Indianapolis this past wrestling season and his appearance at the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals.
Already on the heels of his brother, Braxton, who was a state runner-up himself at the IHSAA State Finals, Jace spent a couple years making a name for himself. A sixth-place finish at Banker’s Life FIeldhouse as a sophomore was the best he had to show in three trips to Indy, but what happened this past season was a story that will likely turn into the stuff of legend.
Alexander had nary a loss through the regional round of the state tournament, the Wawasee senior looking every bit like the top-five wrestler he earned through a 21 straight wins and a 138-pound Penn Regional title.
There was no harm done in suffering his first loss of the season, a pin at 3:59 of the East Chicago Semi-state semi-final to nationally-ranked Jesse Mendez of Crown Point. Alexander would come back and earn a pin to take third, and earn a solid draw in Indianapolis the following weekend.
But as Friday night unfolded, some muscles in Alexander’s back began to tighten, and eventually turn into a problem. Barely able to move on Saturday, Alexander had to literally gut out a 16-14 marathon against Oak Hill’s Brody Arthur while his back seized up.
Virtually unable to move ahead of the 138-pound championship semi-final match against Bloomington South’s Delaney Ruhlman, Alexander still went out there on the whim that something might happen. It didn’t, as his health was gone, and Ruhlman got a quick cover.
That would be the final moments of Alexander’s illustrious career. He took a medical default in the third-place match, dropping him to fourth in the weight class, but an unbelievable ride by one of the best to ever wear a Wawasee singlet.
Alexander ended his season with a 26-3 mat record, the final two losses unfortunately as memorable as the 26 wins that preceded them. But that doesn’t wash away undefeated runs through the Northern Lakes Conference, Plymouth Sectional and Penn Regional brackets.
For his career, Alexander compiled a 135-23 record and made state finals appearances in four different weight classes, his sixth place finish in 2019 topped by a fourth place in 2021.
With his wrestling career now behind him, Alexander is taking on a much bigger opponent as a recruit for the United States Marine Corps.