It is widely held that the IHSAA’s finest state championship environment is its wrestling event. One of the high points is Friday night’s Parade of Champions. At 5:30, all of the young men who have earned the right to participate in this weekend’s event will parade around the floor of Bankers Life Fieldhouse representing their respective schools. It is an honor most wrestlers only dream of. For Roncalli’s Sam Hansen, Elijah Mahan, Alec Viduya, and Brayden Lowery, it will be a reality.
Expectations were high for the Rebels coming into this season. Based on the previous season’s results and the club program’s success in the off-season, Coach Wade McClurg believed his squad could be something special.
“Alec Viduya and Tyce Freije showed our team last season that you can win now, if you make a commitment to the sport by doing the things necessary in the off-season. We knew when school started this year that we were going to have a large group of guys that could take the next step and be at the State Finals. Brayden Lowery is a returning State Placewinner. Elijah Mahan and Sam Hansen lost in the ticket round at Semi-State last year (one round short of qualifying for State), and they, along with several others on our team, put in some tremendous off-season work in the weight room, in the wrestling room at Rebel Wrestling Foundation workouts, and while competing at many local, regional and, national level Freestyle events,” McClurg explained.
Despite dealing with several key injuries early in the season (Freije, in particular), Roncalli quickly showed McClurg’s expectations were well justified. While missing three “starters,” they managed to finish third in the Marion County Tournament, producing three champions (Lowery, Mahan, and Hansen). A few weeks later, they placed seventh in the IHSWCA 3A Team State Duals. From there, they continued to gain momentum.
When the Sectional finally arrived, they were healthy and ready. All fourteen Rebels advanced on to the Regional, with five claiming Sectional crowns. At the Regional, Roncalli finished second with eleven wrestlers advancing. Lowery, Viduya, and Hansen each brought home individual titles. At the New Castle Semi-State, four “punched their ticket” to the State Finals. Lowery also added another championship to his resume.
Brayden Lowery has had an unbelievable year at 113 lbs. He finished the regular season at 30-0. If that is not impressive enough, he has won ten of his twelve tournament matches by fall. He comes into this weekend ranked third in the state by Indiana Mat.
“When you think of Brayden Lowery, you think tough,” said McClurg. “It is a lot of fun to watch this kid train, he loves the process. We are proudest of the improvements he made this off-season in the neutral position. His attack rate on his feet has really improved, which is a credit to his willingness to get out of his comfort zone and learn how to attack the legs.”
“Coming into the season, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew I needed to come in with a competitive mindset,” recalled Lowery. “Now that we are at the finals, I am looking most forward to just doing what I love to do. I love wrestling and I can’t wait to do that this weekend!”
Lowery will be joined by defending state champion Alec Viduya. Viduya won Roncalli’s first state championship in over thirty years last February at 113 lbs. This season he jumped up two weight classes to 126 lbs. He will bring a record of 36-4 into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and a state ranking of #3.
“Alec is a much more complete wrestler than he was a year ago,” offered McClurg. “Everyone knows how good he is on his feet with his takedown ability, but he has been scoring a lot of his points from the top position and pinning opponents this year. We have also been able to choose bottom on very good wrestlers this season and earn our escape point.”
Junior Elijah Mahan will be making his first appearance at the Finals. A multi-sport varsity athlete, he led the Roncalli football team in rushing this past season with 752 yards on 122 carries. He also excels in the arts, having portrayed Conrad Birdie in the school’s fall musical, Bye Bye Birdie.
On the wrestling mat, he is ranked #11 at 170 lbs. His 34-6 record is a bit deceiving as many of his losses came while he was wrestling at 180 lbs.
“Elijah won a lot of matches on pure strength and athleticism last season,” McClurg detailed. “He was up two weight classes from a year ago for most of the season. This is a credit to his hard work in the weight room. Moving up to the bigger weight class really helped him dial in on being a more technical wrestler this year by using more learned skills.”
“I am more confident in my ability, and I work harder and smarter than last year,” agreed Mahan. He credits his coach with getting him to believe reaching the finals was not just a possibility but was inevitable. “I realized it was an obtainable goal after my coach told me every day, ‘You’re going be at state,’ over the summer. Now that I am here, I’m mostly looking forward to just being on the mats and being a part of the tournament.”
Rounding out the foursome is senior Sam Hansen. At 38-2, he is currently ranked #6 at 195 lbs. The two time Marion County and Circle City Conference champion is excited to have earned the opportunity to fulfill his dream.
“I first set this goal sometime during my freshman wrestling season. For some reason, I’ve always believed in myself from the start. Even when I was years away from my senior year, I always had this inner-confidence that if I worked hard at my wrestling goals for a long time, they could become a reality,” recalled Hansen. “I am excited about having the opportunity to achieve them. I have been waiting for this moment for a good portion of my life, and it is finally here. I have one opportunity to achieve it, and I will do everything I can to do so.”
“Sam lost in the ticket round last year, because takedowns and escapes were hard to come by against the better guys. This season, nobody has been able to prevent him from earning his escape point from the bottom position. He is able to get to his control ties earlier in his matches, which allows us to wear the guy down faster and set up our leg attacks much earlier,” McClurg explained. “We are scoring a lot more points this year with Hansen at 195, and it is a credit to his tireless work-ethic and drive to be the best version of himself that he can be.”
Sam thanks his father, Bishop Chatard Principal Joe Hansen, for inspiring him to always be his best.
“My father has been such a great help and guidance throughout my wrestling career. He has shown me what is important. While he never really pushed me hard into the sport of wrestling, he has always placed so much emphasis on effort and hard work. He has taught me and motivated me to never quit and to have fun, and he has helped me to acquire life skills that are going to benefit me forever.”
This weekend promises to be an exciting one for all involved. Again, the Parade of Champions is scheduled for 5:30; the wrestling will begin at 6:00.
“We want our guys to relax, enjoy the moment, and have fun,” McClurg offered. “The IHSAA Wrestling State Finals is the greatest spectacle in high school sports. We want them to embrace that atmosphere and wrestle hard leaving no stone unturned.”
PS – The following wrestlers wanted to share these messages:
Brayden Lowery – I can’t tell my family how much I love them. They have supported me through it all, especially this year. I appreciate each and every one of my coaches and teammates. They are very supportive in everything I do.
Elijah Mahan – Thank you coaches for believing in me and pushing me to be the greatest I can be. I wouldn’t be here without my family, who is always supporting me after every win and loss. Thanks to my teammates who hype me up and cheer me on and to my dawg Trent Smith who has been my drill partner since my first day at Roncalli.
Sam Hansen – I want to thank my Mom and Dad for always being there for me and for dealing with me when I have faced hardships. I want to thank my whole family for their constant support and confidence in my ability to be successful. I want to thank my coaches and teammates for challenging me, pushing me, and motivating me to be the best wrestler and man I can be. I want to thank all of my friends and teachers at school for being kind to me and for being a positive presence in my life. Finally, I want to thank Jesus Christ for guiding me and forming me throughout my entire life. God is truly great, and I have learned that in so many new ways throughout my life. All Glory to Him!