Don't tell Perry Meridian wrestling coach Jim Tonte that his team's victory Saturday was anything less than a state championship.
Perry Meridian won the previous two team state finals, but the IHSAA discontinued the team event after this past season. The coaches came up with the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association (IHSWCA) Team State Dual Meet Championship as a sort of replacement and invited eight schools each in three classes. Perry Meridian, No. 1 in the IHSWCA Class 3A rankings, defeated No. 3 Franklin 46-11 Saturday at Westfield High School.
"Whether it's an IHSWCA title or an IHSAA title, what it means compared to the others . . . all I know is it meant a lot to Indiana wrestling, and it meant a lot to Perry Meridian, and we're not taking it lightly," Tonte said. "The first one was awesome. The second was awesome. I'm going to call this the third one, and this was awesome as well."
Perry Meridian sophomore Brandon James was named outstanding wrestler in 3A, while D.J. Smith of Franklin was honored for his technical superiority.
In Class 2A, No. 1 Yorktown defeated No. 3 Evansville Memorial 54-21. Yorktown's Chandler Carroll was outstanding wrestler, and Jimtown's Nick Crume was honored for his technical superiority.
In Class 1A, No. 1 Adams Central defeated No. 3 Churubusco 46-23. Adams Central's Cody Walburn was named outstanding wrestler, and Churubusco's Brandon Wormcastle was honored for technical superiority.
Attendance was estimated at 1,500 by an event official. One side of the stands was out and about three-quarters filled. Fans were standing all the way around the upper deck area, which went around three of the four sides.
"It's still a great deal," said Perry Meridian's James, who competed nine days after an appendectomy. "It's still a team thing. We've got to go out and do our best to win, and we won."
The coaches' association worked with the IHSAA on the format, and Yorktown coach Trent McCormick said it worked.
"It's been a nice two-way street," McCormick said. "We'll evaluate things afterwards, but we think for the first shot, it filled a void that was left, and in a successful manner."
McCormick said Saturday's event was especially good for the smaller schools. Wrestling is not a class team sport because the IHSAA considers it an individual sport, so it always was difficult for smaller schools to be competitive in the state meets. On Saturday, two of the state's most respected small-school programs got a chance to shine.
"It's all perspective," Adams Central coach Doug Schultz said. "You see some of the big schools that like the old format. You won't find many small schools, even in the 2A division, that don't appreciate this. When you can draw from 3,000 or 4,000 kids or draw from 300 or 400 kids, you're not going to get the same mix."
It also gave the small-school kids a chance to experience the atmosphere of competing in a larger venue than usual.
"Well, the school is huge," Walburn said. "This gym's almost as big as our school. It was neat seeing so many schools, so many fans. It's really cool."
Tonte always felt there should have been classes in the IHSAA meet.
"I've been preaching for 16, 17 years that we should class this team thing," he said. "If we would have classed it a long time ago, they (IHSAA) would have had the success that they wanted."
Tonte said he hopes Saturday's event paves the way for a bigger and better IHSAA-sanctioned event.
"I know this tournament was successful, and if the IHSAA can take a look at this and see what happened, that they've got to look down the road and say this is something we should be involved with."