Wrestling trio looks ahead to stateFebruary 17, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Sam Schroeder, Phoenix Rodgers and Sam Scott have achieved a lot in their careers, but those three seniors are still taking themselves to uncharted territory, even as those careers are coming to a wrap.
All three qualified for semistate as juniors last year, but all three also bowed out in the opening round at Evansville. Heritage Hills’ Scott lost his match in the 120-pound class, Southridge’s Schroeder lost his first match in the 170-pound class and Rodgers was one-and-done in the 182-pound class. Things changed in a big way for all three of them this year.
“I feel like I’ve definitely pushed myself a lot more this year than I did last year,” said Rodgers, who has lifted more this year. “Having the great support system we do here at Heritage Hills from our coaches and from our staff and from our student body, it’s been great.”
“I had a lot more confidence going into my matches,” Schroeder said. “I felt that this year I belonged instead of last year. I kind of just fell into making it to semistate and I didn’t really belong there, but this year, I felt like I belong there.”
“I don’t know much really changed,” said Scott, who qualified all for semistate all four years. “I think it was just more of just how hard I practiced in the room and stuff and just really having my teammates to drive me to be who I am.”
Scott stayed at 120, but Schroeder moved down to 160 and Rodgers moved up to 195. The trio grabbed success this year at semistate, with Schroeder taking fourth, Scott taking third and Rodgers finishing as the semistate champion in his class.
“With that last 10 seconds coming down, I had just gotten that last take down,” Rodgers said. “I knew that I had it sealed up. I definitely started getting excited. I started smiling a little bit towards the end of the match. It was unbelievable. I’m super proud of myself.”
Getting that win got Rodgers over the hump in another way, too. Evansville Central senior McKinley Kemper had beaten him multiple times during his high school career, but this time, it was Rodgers who reigned supreme. Rodgers admitted there was doubt heading into that match that Kemper might get the better of him again, but he had to believe in himself, trust in what he was doing during the week and trust in the plan.
“I was more aggressive,” he said. “I was just going after him more than I have previous and that just helped me get on top.”
Rodgers and Scott join the graduated Aidian Rea from last year as the three wrestlers coach Adam Zollman has taken to state as the Heritage Hills coach, but Rodgers is the first semistate champion Zollman's had while coaching the Patriots.
“When Phoenix gets that win, it’s awesome,” Zollman said. “I’m excited. I’m pumped for him, but he knows that that’s that step, that’s the expectation to win that match because winning that match sets us up even better for Friday night at state.”
Southridge’s Kurt Collins is in his first year as the head coach of the Raiders, and already he’s got his first wrestler he’s taking up to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Schroeder is the 20th wrestler to go to state in Southridge history.
“I’m not going to take the credit for Sam’s success,” Collins said. “This is my first year coaching Sam. Sam’s been coached by a lot of good people for a lot of years and he personally has put himself in a lot positions to advance to where he’s at here. This doesn’t really have anything to do with me so much. The only thing I’m successful at is I didn’t mess him up this year.”
The Bellarmine University (Ky.) signee had no trouble crediting Collins, though. Schroeder opened up on struggling with self confidence and intensity on the mat. He sees himself as more of a technical wrestler, but Collins has brought a new level of wrestling to him that’s helped out a lot his senior season.
“I’ve learned how to go into matches with a lot tougher mindsets and knowing that, ‘This person’s not going to beat me, and if they do, they just got me this time and they’re not going to get me the next time,’” Schroeder said.
Schroeder believes that it’s his heart that could lead him to have a successful outing at state on Friday and Saturday. He’s not going to give up, no matter what happens, whether he’s up by 10 points or down by 10 points. Schroeder will only quit when the whistle blows and it’s over.
He’ll be wrestling fellow senior Elliott Rodgers of Indianapolis Cathedral in the first round Friday. Rodgers was the state champion in the 152-pound class last year, and moved up to 160 last year, but Schroeder’s mindset is wrestling is a weird sport. It’s a new year and anything can happen.
“You just got to go into every match (and) try to wrestle your best,” he said.
Scott will meet fellow senior Carson Eldred of Westfield in the opening round.
“I watched a little film on Eldred, but I think as long as I stay on my attack, I take it to him, I’ll be okay the whole match,” he said.
Rodgers, meanwhile, will go at it with Chesterton sophomore Gage DeMarco.
“I’m expecting him to definitely come after me,” Rodgers said. “I mean, it is the state finals. We’re all state qualifiers. I’m not expecting anything less of him, and I’m expecting him to know that I’m going to be coming after him, too. He’s a big kid. He attacks. I just got to know how to defend shots and stay on my offense and take my own shots.”
All three of them are just four wins away from standing atop of the podium Saturday. Such an experience will mean so much to all three of them. Collins said Schroeder is as capable of standing atop as anybody else there. Schroeder has a list of goals he has set out for himself. He declined to specify what those goals were, but said there’s one goal he has left to achieve. Schroeder and his Raider teammates spent a night locked in back in December, with some alumni meeting with them then. Stanley Gress was one of those alums. Gress won the state championship in the 189-pound class in 1988, and he told Schroeder, and the others, about the importance of setting goals.
He took a picture of the list and put it as his screen saver. Schroeder sees that list first thing in the morning when he wakes up from his alarm going off, and he sees it every night when he goes to bed.
“You’re not supposed to make your goals easy,” Schroeder said. “You’re supposed to make them hard. Even if you don’t accomplish them, it’s just that you have something to work towards during the season. That’s the importance of goals. It’s not, ‘See how many you can get done.’ It’s the journey of trying to get them done. You have to make them as tough as possible.”
“It would mean everything,” Scott said of standing atop of the podium in the 120-pound class. “Everything I’ve ever worked for, it’d mean so much — all the time, all the effort put into this sport. It would mean everything.”
“It’d mean the world to me,” Rodgers said. “I’d love it. The people surrounding us would love it. It’d be amazing, especially having my previous state appearance in football, having another medal around my neck, it’d be awesome.”
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