Watson, Buchanan earn state wrestling titles

INDIANAPOLIS

Hayden Watson had 52 weeks to think about it.

His heart broken by a second-place finish at 145 pounds at the 2021 state finals, the Center Grove senior was on a yearlong mission to not only make it back to Gainbridge Fieldhouse, but manufacture a better result.

In his mind, the only result.

Watson pinned East Central junior Rider Searcy in Saturday night’s 145-pound title match, enabling him to finish his high school career exactly the way he’d envisioned since he began attending the state finals as a spectator as a 7-year old.

“The last four years, I’ve really wanted this,” said Watson after completing a 43-1 season. “Every day, I saw that photo where I was on my knees after coming in runner-up, and it just kind of motivated me even more.

“I had my dad send it to me so I could just look at it. And not want to feel that ever again.”

Center Grove senior Drake Buchanan outpointed Crown Point senior Orlando Cruz to claim the 182-pound championship. Buchanan, too, hardly lacked motivation, as he was last season’s runner-up in the same weight class.

Buchanan’s 4-1 triumph meant the Trojans produced two state champions the same season. Franklin had been the last Johnson County school to accomplish that feat in 2014; Indian Creek did so in 2011.

“My whole life’s been leading up to this moment, and it just really feels good to see all the work I’ve put in over the last 13 years pay off on this stage,” said Buchanan, who also won the Mental Attitude Award at meet’s end. “Just being able to be here and win that match, you think you know what it’s going to feel like, but it’s so much greater.”

Whiteland junior Joey Buttler had also worked his way through the bracketing to wrestle in the 126 finale, but came up short against Crown Point’s Logan Frazier, 5-3.

Buttler, an eighth-place finisher at 113 a year ago, plans to use the experience of the past weekend to construct an even more memorable senior season. He finished this season with a 39-2 record.

“I know I’m closer than I was last year,” Buttler said. “I could have probably done some things that would have won me that match.”

Asked if he plans to return, Buttler said: “I will. I’ll be at the top next year.”

Franklin senior Jacob Johnson won a fourth-place medal at 285 pounds to complete a 40-5 season. Johnson came close to making it four finalists from the county, but he lost to eventual champion Marshall Fishback of Rochester in an ultimate tiebreaker, 3-2, during the semifinal round.

“It’s been long days,” said Johnson, a three-time state finals qualifier. “We really thought we were going to win this whole thing, and then come semis, things didn’t really go my way in that match.

“But it’s been fun. I had two different coaches at Franklin (Bob Hasseman and Jim Tonte), and both were amazing. It was great.”

Center Grove soph Wyatt Krejsa completed his breakthrough campaign by garnering a fifth-place medal at 132 pounds. Krejsa (39-6) scored a 12-8 victory against New Castle junior Bevan Thrine to advance to the quarterfinals but lost to Anthony Bahl of Crown Point, the eventual runner-up.

“It feels pretty good. It kind of stings a little bit because I was starting off in the quarterfinal with a really good match, and thought I was going to finish strong,” Krejsa said. “Sometimes you don’t get what you want, and that’s why the sport is so great, because you’ve got to figure out how to bounce back.

“My goal wasn’t to get fifth here, but I’ll just take what I can get right now. This was definitely a great stepping stone to get my name out there, because last year I wasn’t very good, to be honest.”

The difference between seventh- and eighth-place status at 113 pounds came down to a match between Indian Creek junior Jackson Heaston and Center Grove freshman Eddie Goss. Heaston prevailed, 6-3, to complete a 42-4 season, while Goss ended up 32-15.

“The last two days, they were really educational,” Heaston said. “To be at the top, you’ve got to be on your A game in every aspect. It’s just something to work on over the summer.”

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Mike Beas is the Daily Journal's veteran sports reporter. He has been to more than 200 Indiana high schools, including 1990s visits to Zionsville to profile current Boston Celtics GM Brad Stevens, Gary Roosevelt to play eventual Purdue All-American Glenn Robinson in HORSE (didn’t end well) and Seeger to visit the old gym in which Stephanie White, later the coach of the Indiana Fever, honed her skills in pickup games involving her dad and his friends. He can be reached at [email protected]