Little guys find big assets

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Dillon Hurst, center, was Jasper’s 106-pound wrestler his freshman year. Two years later as a junior, he’s still at 106. Hurst hasn’t yet grown out of wrestling’s lightest weight class, but he comes equipped with plenty of toughness and has used his experience to grow into a regional champion in a division where mostly freshmen and sophomore compete. Saturday, he’ll be part of a contingent of local wrestlers competing in the semistate at the Ford Center in Evansville.

Herald Sports Writer

Catch a glimpse of Jasper wrestler Dillon Hurst on the sidewalk in a set of street clothes and you may not be blown away.


At 100 pounds and change, the junior is not, at least at first glimpse, the most imposing figure out there.

But spot him during the Wildcats’ practice looking like he was this week — sweat-covered, blood seeping from the bridge of his nose, eyes bulging — and you’ll think twice about overlooking the 106-pound sectional and regional champion.

Hurst is one of the lightweights, one of the athletes at the bottom rung of the wrestling weight classes. Though Hurst and his opponents may not impress with immediate size and strength, they do possess a quickness and agility that can be enthralling to watch and devastating to foes. The hope for Hurst and other local wrestlers is that the skill set will be on display in Saturday’s semistate at the Ford Center in Evansville.

Hurst has been the little guy his whole life, but it’s never stopped him from competing. Before he picked up wrestling, he played football in grade school and developed a strategy to compensate against bigger opponents.

“I had to play with a little more confidence because of my size,” Hurst explained. “I definitely didn’t want my size to hold me back in any way, and my dad just said, ”˜Hey, you’re just a kid, and just remember, your opponents can’t run without their legs.’”

The tackling was effective enough that Jasper wrestling coach Jace Brescher spotted Hurst while working the chain gang at a seventh-grade B-team football game. Hurst said he had “like 11 tackles” and Brescher approached him after the game and convinced him to join the wrestling team. In Hurst’s first season, he wrestled at 80 pounds and finished the season as a conference champion.

In three years at Jasper, Hurst has wrestled at 106, the lowest weight class. As an upperclassman in a division filled with freshmen and sophomores, age comes in handy.

“I feel like it does give me sort of an advantage because I have a little more high school experience,” Hurst said. “There is a big jump from eighth grade to high school that some of the kids don’t realize. ... So I hope that extra experience of my extra two and a half years is going to really give me a pretty good advantage.”

But part of that advantage will always be built on capability. At the lower weight classes, Hurst and Brescher both agree technique and agility will always trump strength.

“Very technical, quickness, flexibility plays a big role, too,” Brescher said of the keys to wrestling at 106. “And the scrambling — the ability to scramble in a situation where somebody might think they have a move and you kind of keep rolling around, putting your body in a different position to make sure they don’t get control.”

“(Hurst) has always been kind of a lighter-weight, quick guy,” he added. “And he’s getting better and better at combination wrestling from one move to the next.”

Those dynamics, as well as extra time spent in the summer and after practice this year, have elevated Hurst from runner-up at the Big Eight Conference meet a year ago to champion this year; from third at the regional in 2013 to a regional champ this year. It’s also the same kind of work first-time semistate qualifier Cody Flamion from Forest Park has put in this season.

For Flamion, the biggest difference this season hasn’t been strength or stamina, it’s his technical approach. There is more size at the 126-pound division, but simply bowling opponents over won’t suffice.

“In the lower weights, it’s a little more technical with your moves,” Flamion explained.
“This season I just kind of worked on more shots so I could take people down, because that first takedown is always key to get those first points and not start from behind.”

With a third-place finish at regional, Flamion recognizes the challenge that awaits him in Evansville. But he’s eager and ready.

“It’s just going out there and trying to do my best against some good competition,” Flamion said. “Just do my best and whatever happens, happens.”

Flamion isn’t the only one who will be tested. If Hurst wins his first match, his likely competitor will be Mount Vernon freshman Paul Konrath, the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 106. This week, Brescher and Hurst have spent time honing in on strategies and developing what Hurst calls “home run moves” — do-or-die maneuvers to grab points if he’s down late in the third period. The hope is that it won’t come to that, but Hurst welcomes the opportunity.

“He’s going to be  pretty tough, I know that. So I’m just trying to stay positive throughout this week and stay confident that I maybe I can go to the big dance,” Hurst said.

“I think there are two different types of athletes,” Brescher added. “No. 1 is a guy that sees you’ve got the No. 1-ranked kid in the state and you just count yourself out. ... Then there is the one that says, ”˜Hey, nobody expects me to win this one, but I know I can.’ Maybe it’s only once out of a hundred matches, but if you can win one time, why not make it this Saturday?”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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