FORT WAYNE — When a wrestler gets to the final match of a long day at semistate, he knows it’s most likely going to be a test of strength and fatigue.
In the case of Garrett junior Hayden Lee, it was also a test of strategy.
That’s because Saturday at Memorial Coliseum, the opponent facing him was Garrett Pepple, an East Noble sophomore, who knew Lee’s talent and tendencies.
They are first cousins who have watched each other and practiced together, often.
Lee’s knowledge of Pepple won out Saturday as Lee earned the 106-pound championship with a 2-0 victory.
“I knew what he was going to do mat-wise,” Lee said. “More on his feet, when we used to wrestle in the summer, he would switch things up, as would I, so I didn’t know what to expect from him on his feet.”
Lee placed third in last year’s state finals at 106 pounds and opted not to move up in weight this season, setting up the inevitable family battle.
“We knew this match was coming,” said Lee (36-1), who handed Pepple his first loss in 41 matches. “When I chose to wrestle at 106 this year, we knew we were going to wrestle. We were supposed to wrestle at the Garrett Invitational, but I had a weight discrepancy and wasn’t on weight. I was kind of glad it didn’t happen. We had never wrestled before (in competition) and to do it here, I knew it was going to be more intense. Our whole family, I’m sure they were on the edge of their seats because it was so intense.”
Lee’s slim 7-5 victory over Fairfield’s Blake Glogouski in the semifinals was a motivating factor
“I was losing most of the match, and it was such a tough match that it made me realize that I had to turn it on and wrestle a lot better in the finals, especially if I wanted to beat my cousin. He’s a dang good wrestler,” Lee said.
Just as Lee had been looking toward the finals for a long time, so had East Noble sophomore Connor Knapp, who won at 113 pounds, helping the Knights to a second-place finish in the team competition with 99 1/2 points, 49 behind Yorktown.
“I had been thinking about this tournament, all of these matches, since last year when I lost in the semis,” Knapp said. “I trained really hard all summer and came in with a really, really good attitude. I told myself I wasn’t going to lose and I didn’t lose. I just wrestle my butt off all the time.”
Knapp (40-0) got a 6-2 victory over Concord junior DeLawerence Gayfield (36-3) in the finals.
At 170 pounds, Carroll senior Riley Lefever (43-0) got a 23-5 victory over North Side senior Anthony Linnear for the title.
Bellmont senior Brad Busse (34-2) pinned Adams Central senior Benjamin Pfister (39-5) in 3 minutes, 35 seconds, in the 182-pound finals.