Haug to live dream at state

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park senior Travis Haug (left) wrestlers Pike junior Maleec Stansberry in the 120-pound class Feb. 13 at the Jasper semi-state, which Haug won to advance to state.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — Travis Haug never went to the Indiana High School Athletic Association state finals for wrestling at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He figured that if he didn't qualify, then he wasn't going to go.

Now, the Forest Park senior is making the trip — and it still hasn't sunk in for him that he accomplished a goal of his to make it to state.

"It's every wrestler's dream to go to Bankers Life, and then to actually accomplish that goal and go there — it's going to be surreal," Haug (22-6) said.

Haug has the honor of being the first wrestler to represent Forest Park at state since Mitch Atkins, who graduated in 2007 and made it there in 2005. He's also the first Rangers grappler to qualify since Craig Recker became the team's head coach. He outlasted Pike junior Maleec Stansberry in the 120-pound class Feb. 13 at the Jasper semi-state to seal the deal, and received the fire truck treatment from the town of Ferdinand for his accomplishment.

"That's just the way our town is," he said. "You got a whole town backing you, it's a small town. Just knowing that everyone has your back and you're not just doing this for yourself anymore, you're doing this for your town, the people that are in it. It's a pretty big deal and I love it, it's pretty emotional."

Haug came into this year as a two-time regional qualifier, and Recker envisioned big things for Haug when he moved down from the 126 to the 120 as a senior, but not even he foreshadowed an appearance at state.

"We definitely were thinking semi-state," Recker said. "And state is always one of them things maybe in the back of your mind, you hope and pray, but I also feel like if you put that out there too much, it's almost like pressure for them."

Recker thought all three seniors for the Rangers worked and improved during the summer — Haug, Isaac Fuhrman in the 126 and Dylan Niehaus in the 132. He noted that Niehaus himself almost made it to semi-state this year.

The longtime Forest Park coach saw Haug be more aggressive and confident this postseason, compared to being more hesitant in the past. Recker noted that it's the strides that Haug made in his conditioning that led to the aggressiveness.

Haug himself admitted went all in this year because it was his senior year.

"I wanted it more this year compared to last year, honestly," Haug said. "It's my last year of wrestling, I'm never going to able to do this again. I made a goal to go as far as I can, and I accomplished that goal."

He's focusing on conditioning this week, as he still wasn't feeling 100 percent on Tuesday following an injury to his lower rib cage that caused him some breathing problems. Yet, he persisted in his match with Stansberry. He recalled the adrenaline carrying him through that, with his pain being a six or a seven with the adrenaline, then "a 15 out of 10" when Recker talked to him during an injury timeout.

Haug thought to himself, though, that he had to do it — to make Recker happy, to make his team happy, to make his goal a reality.

His first match is set for Friday against East Noble junior Aidan Sprague (29-1).

"He's going to have to stay with the mindset and keep going after him and wrestle for the full six minutes," Recker said. "Hopefully, something goes right for him in the match."




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