Time and again, they did what they needed to do.
As a result, the Cathedral High School Irish are Indiana state wrestling champions for a second time in five seasons.
The Irish – one of Indiana’s deepest and strongest teams throughout the 2017-2018 season – turned that depth and strength into a postseason run that ended with a victory in the 2018 Indiana High School Athletic Association State Meet at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on February 17.
“The only way we thought we could win was a total team effort,” Irish wrestling coach Sean McGinley said.
The Irish won the state title with 108 points, 7.5 points ahead of Brownsburg with 100.5 points and 9.5 ahead of Columbus East with 98.5 points.
“Columbus East and Brownsburg had a tremendous weekend also,” McGinley said. “If you had asked me a week before would I have taken that I would have said, ‘Yeah, that’s plenty of points,’ but we were barely able to squeak it out.
“It started off Friday night [in the first two rounds of the tournament]. We thought we had to have seven get through to have a chance. That’s what we got. We won a couple of close ones we thought could go either way, and it carried on through Saturday.
“We got on a roll on Saturday and never stopped.”
It was the second wrestling state title in school history, the first since the Irish won the 2014 title.
“In 2014 we went in as a favorite and if we just did our job we’d come out [on top],’’ McGinley said. “This one we knew [there was a chance] we could wrestle well and it still wouldn’t be enough. We wrestled extremely well – probably better than some people’s expectations.”
Cathedral junior Jordan Slivka won the individual state title at 145 pounds, and the team effort was keyed by six more top eight finishers: sophomore Logan Bailey, junior Lukasz Walendzak, junior Alex Mosconi, senior Zack Melloh, sophomore Elliot Rodgers and senior Jacob Obst.
Sophomore Caleb Oliver also made the state meet for Cathedral, as did freshman Andrew Wilson and senior Anthony Mosconi. The Irish’s state performances were as follows:
*Slivka (43-3), 145 pounds: Beat Yorktown senior Christian Hunt 1-0 in the state final after a 5-2 semifinal decision over Floyd Central senior Tristan Sellmer. Slivka also won the New Castle semi-state meet, the Pendleton Heights Regional meet and the Lawrence Central Sectional meet. “He’s so mentally tough,” McGinley said. “He said before the match, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.’ We took him at his word and he went out and pulled out a hard-fought win.”
*Bailey (39-3), 106 pounds: Beat Warren Central freshman David Pierson 8-0 in the third-place match at the state met after losing to eventual state champion/junior Jacob Moran of Portage 5-1 in the semifinal. Bailey won the semi-state meet, regional and sectional meets.
*Walendzak (41-6), 120 pounds: Lost to Avon sophomore Raymond Rioux 5-0 in the third-place match after losing to eventual state champion/junior Hunter Watts of Jimtown 6-3 in the semifinal. Walendzak won the regional and sectional meets.
*Mosconi (34-3), 132 pounds: Lost to Columbus East senior Graham Rooks 4-1 in the state final after beating Brownsburg junior Colin Kreitzer 11-0 in the semifinal. Mosconi won the semi-state, regional and sectional meets.
*Melloh (42-3), 138 pounds: Lost to Portage senior Kristian Rumph 9-6 in the state final after beating Brownsburg senior Blake Mulkey 3-2 in the semifinal. Melloh won the semi-state, regional and sectional meets. The three-time state final qualifier made the final in a loaded draw this year. “He didn’t win a state individual title, but he scored around 20 points for us to win the team state title,” McGinley said.
*Rodgers (38-6), 152 pounds: Lost to Brownsburg senior Brayton Lee in a 24-9 technical fall in the final after an 8-4 semifinal victory over Crown Point senior Noah Lamore. Rodgers won the semi-state, regional and sectional meets.
*Obst (39-5), 285 pounds: Beat Elwood senior Marcus Stone 4-3 in the seventh-place match after losing in the quarterfinals and the first consolation match. Obst won the New Castle semi-state and sectional meets. “He was probably our biggest surprise to make it to state,” McGinley said. “If you would have put bets on it as a junior it probably wouldn’t have happened, but he had a tremendous season. He became a real smart wrestler. He scored points for us and won a big match when every point counted in the state finals. We needed those points.”
Oliver finished 36-9 at 113 pounds and won the regional, with Wilson finishing 27-15 at 126 pounds and winning the regional and sectionals – and Anthony Mosconi finishing 21-9 at 160 pounds and winning the regional meet.
The Irish as a team won the sectional meet with 297.0 points ahead of runner-up North Central (221.5 points), then won the regional with 242 points ahead of runner-up Lawrence North (80.0) before winning the semi-state with 192 points ahead of runner-up Perry Meridian (113).
“We just kept getting better,” McGinley said. “Even if we didn’t win, the run we put together in the tournament was incredible. Even if we hadn’t pulled out the state championship I couldn’t have been happier. We did, and that was icing on the top. It was a capper to a great tournament run.”
McGinley estimated that 85 of the Irish’s 108 state title points return next season.
“Hopefully, we’ll be having the same conversation next year [about a state title],” McGinley said. “It will depend on what we do in the offseason and the commitment the kids have. If they do what they’ve been doing we’ll have the same conversation.”