Archive for Eastern

EVAN ELLIS CLAIMS 285-POUND STATE TITLE, A FIRST FOR THE EASTERN COMETS

In the opening round of the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals, Eastern's Evan Ellis defeats Brendan Sutton of Jennings County 9-3 despite a split lip. (SJ Photo/Dean Hockney)

In the opening round of the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals, Eastern’s Evan Ellis defeats Brendan Sutton of Jennings County 9-3 despite a split lip. (SJ Photo/Dean Hockney)

 

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

INDIANAPOLIS – It was a perfect ending to a perfect season for Eastern High School’s Evan Ellis. In front of nearly 12,500 wrestling fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Feb. 18, the senior soared to an altitude no other Comet had obtained – an IHSAA wrestling state championship.

“It is a blessing,” said Ellis after the championship match. “I have been training for this for 14 years. It is not just a season, it is a lifetime.”

The grappler nearly missed getting out of the opening round the night before. In what may have been the gutsiest performance of his career, Ellis battled back from a split lip that the medical staff could not get to stop bleeding. In a last-ditch effort and up against the injury clock, the medical team wrapped Ellis’ lower mouth shut around the back of the head, resulting in Ellis finishing the match with an open mouth packed with gauze. Back on the mat, Ellis finished his first round with a 9-3 decision over Brendan Sutton of Jennings County to advance to day two and the medal round.

In the quarterfinals, Ellis knocked off Brandon Streck of Merrillville 1-0 before defeating Robert Samuels of Lawrence North 3-2 in the semifinals.

That set up a state championship match at 285-pounds between a pair of undefeated wrestlers – No. 2 Ellis and No. 1 Isaiah Williams of South Bend Washington. With three pins in the state finals, Williams was heavily favored over Ellis, but a first minute takedown put the Greentown native up 2-0. He was in the down position to start the second period but quickly escaped for a 3-0 advantage. Ellis (46-0) then sealed the perfect season with a third period takedown for an insurmountable 5-0 lead.

“It has been a really good senior season,” said Ellis. “But I had so many emotions this week.”

Those emotions had nothing to do with wrestling – on Tuesday of state championship week, his grandmother, Ginny Ellis, passed away. The night before he had promised her he would win the state title – a promise that came true.

Ellis is the first wrestling state champion from Eastern and the 15th in Howard County history. Ellis ended a 25-year draught for a Howard County wrestler standing on the top of the podium at the IHSAA state finals – the last Howard County state champion was Western’s Chad Shepherd at 135-pounds in 1991.

Ellis is the first individual state champion from Howard County since Bethany Neeley crossed the finish line in first place in the 1,600-meter run in 2013. He is the fifth Comet to win an individual state championship, joining Jeremy Ashcraft (1994 pole vault), Grant Cole (2013 long jump), Bethany Neeley (also won the 2012 1,600-meter run) and Brittany Neeley (2013 800-meter run).

With a career record of 160-18, Ellis has three IHSAA state finals medals – this year’s state title, a 220-pound third-place medal from 2016 and an eighth-place 220-pound medal from his sophomore year. He will next take his skills from the Hoosier Heartland Conference to the Ivy League’s Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“It is going to be a challenge,” he said. “It is an awesome atmosphere out there and will be a great four years.”

Three other Howard County wrestlers participated in the state finals, with all three bowing out in the opening round. Kokomo senior Jabin Wright lost 12-6 to Colin Poynter of Portage at 120-pounds, Western freshman Hunter Cottingham dropped a 4-1 decision to 126-pound state runner-up Blake Mulkey of Brownsburg and Kokomo senior Gavin Herrera fell to 195-pound state champ Andrew Davison of Chesterton.

2016 MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: JOSIAH PRICE, MICHIGAN STATE FOOTBALL

yir-2016-male-athlete-of-the-year-josiah-price-graphic

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Choosing a Male Athlete of the Year is always tough in the star-studded field of Howard County athletics. Should one of our professional baseball players earn the honor? Or how about an all-star performer? In the end, it was an outstanding career with a record-setting senior season that propelled Eastern High School graduate and Michigan State University senior football standout Josiah Price to the top.

Price, who was graduated earlier this month with a degree in hospitality business, played tight end for the Spartans in what might be the best NCAA Division I career for any Howard County native. He departs MSU as the program’s all-time leader among tight ends (and fourth for any position) with 21 touchdown receptions. In 51 career games, he caught 104 passes for 1,238 yards.

During his senior season, he was second on the Spartans with 38 catches and third with 387 receiving yards. His five touchdown receptions were the most for any Big Ten Conference tight end. Price was named to the Mackey Award watch list twice and was a two-time All-Big Ten third team selection.

But just as sensational as he was on the field, some consider his off-the-field persona even bigger. He was a 2016 semifinalist for both the National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete and the Wuerffel Trophy for Outstanding Community Service and is one of 25 players in Spartan history to be named Academic All-Big Ten four times. Price is also a two-time recipient of the MSU Football Players Association Community Service Award. He also earned the Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service & Leadership Award.

For his efforts on the field, in the classroom and in the community, Josiah Price has earned the title of Sports Journal Male Athlete of the Year. And who knows, this might not be the last we hear from Price – could the NFL be next?

2016 STORY OF THE YEAR: EASTERN BOYS BASKETBALL WINS FIRST SECTIONAL TITLE IN 60 YEARS

yir-2016-story-of-the-year-eastern-wins-bbb-sectional-graphic

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

GREENTOWN, Ind. – As many of you know, the Sports Journal of Central Indiana has just finished its sixth year of telling the tales of the local sports scene through stories and vivid pictures. As we look back fondly on 2016, we thought long and hard as to what the top story of the year was – IU Kokomo volleyball, Kokomo High School football and Post 6 baseball are among the top stories we covered. In 49 states it’s just basketball – but this is Indiana! And thus, Hoosier Hysteria tops the list after the Eastern Comets won the school’s first boys basketball sectional championship in 60 years.

To say it was a long time coming is an understatement. For 59 years, the Eastern Comets entered the IHSAA boys basketball tournament, only to be turned away in the sectional round. But on March 5 in Elwood, that all changed when the Comets defeated Taylor 53-49 to hoist its first sectional championship trophy since 1956 – a championship 60 years in the making.

In front of a rocking John W. Ward Gymnasium crowd – more than 1,000 sporting the green and gold of Eastern – the Comets took control in the second half only to stave off a furious Taylor rally in the closing minutes of the Class 2A Sectional 39 title bout. But when the final horn sounded, a long celebration began that concluded with a fire truck escort of the Comets back into Greentown and an impromptu pep rally in front of the EHS gym.

“I can’t describe this feeling right now,” said Eastern senior Braden Evans, who earlier in the season became the sixth member of the Comets 1,000 Point Club. “We have worked so hard to accomplish this. We went to the sectional championship two years ago, and now to do this – man, this is amazing.”

The Comets finished 21-6 under the guidance of Mike Springer. Few in Greentown will remember the first 20 wins, but they will all remember the last one of the 2015-2016 schedule. And for that, the magical ride during Hoosier Hysteria of the Eastern boys basketball team is the Sports Journal Story of the Year.