By Al Stilley
Center Grove’s Brayden Littell, who thought about quitting after his freshman season, brought home the Southside’s only individual state championship medal Saturday in the IHSAA state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
After recovering from surgery last year, Littell bounced back this season and marched into the 120-pound title match and dominated Blake Boarman of Evansville Mater Dei, 9-3 in a rematch of the Evansville semistate title match. Littell, a junior, finishes with an undefeated season with 44 wins.
“This season was challenging because of my comeback,” Littell said with the champion’s medal hanging from his neck. “Physically I knew I would come back, but not being able to wrestle after my freshman year, I had thoughts of quitting because this (wrestling) might not be for me.”
Littell missed his second varsity season after suffering torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and meniscus tear. His recovery took nine months. He returned to the mat with the Outlaws national traveling team before returning to the varsity mat in the fall. Boarman, who was third at 113 last year, finished 40-2 with his only losses to Littell. The Evansville wrestler scored the first point Saturday night but Littell countered with a takedown.
“I was comfortable after that takedown,” Littell said. “I got the first one against him in the semistate and he kind of had that same look this time.”
Littell was one of four wrestlers representing Southside high schools who reached a title match in the 81st version of the IHSAA state finals. Perry Meridian’s undefeated and No. 1-ranked Alex Cottey, 106 pounds, ran into Culver freshman Brennan Cemus (38-2) who did not allow the Falcon a single point in a 6-0 shutout. Cottey had won 41 straight matches.
Roncalli’s Alec Viduya, 132 pounds, was stunned by Avon senior Asa Garcia who pinned the Rebel after 83 seconds into the first period. It was the first time they met this season. The quick ending to the match between No. 1 Garcia and No. 2 Viduya was expected to go the distance. In 2017 when Viduya won the state title at 113, Viduya was third as a CG’s Littell brings home state wrestling title sophomore.
Greenwood’s determined senior Nick Willham (36-3) fell to No. 1 and nationally ranked No. 5 junior Silas Allred (35-0) of Shenandoah, 9-3, a deceiving score. Allred had a takedown in the waning seconds of the second and third periods. Somewhat disappointed, Willham took Allred to the full six minutes after his opponent reached the title match by pinning three opponents. Willham improved from a distant sixth-place sectional finish as a freshman to a state runner-up as a senior. “It felt unreal at first but getting to wrestle here felt good other than not getting the title,” said Willham, who was a standout running back.
“I don’t think he (Allred) ever had a six-minute match, so I tried to keep the match score high. I was trying to get into him and make sure I scored first.”
Roncalli was fifth in team points to repeat champion Cathedral; Center Grove was 14th. Here’s how 10 more Southside wrestlers fared: Center Grove – Peyton Pruett, 160, 5th. Perry Meridian – Aiden Warren, 145, 3rd; Sammy Fair, 152, def. in 1st round; Brooks Davis, 160, 3rd; Austin Lane, 195, def. in 1st round; Sam Littlejohn, 285, def. in 1st round. Roncalli – Brayden Lowery, 120, 3rd; Tyce Frieje, 138, 3rd; Elijah Mahan, 170, 3rd; John Harris, 285, def. in 1st round.