EVANSVILLE — Tristan Ruhlman physically wrestled four times at the Evansville Semistate on Saturday.
Mentally, the Bloomington South junior had been in twice that many matches.
That’s because both Tristan and his younger brother, Delaney, qualified for next week’s state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
”It is a little harder to see him when he’s getting in a spot he shouldn’t be in, but it’s so amazing to watch him wrestle and be right there with him,” Tristan said, “because I feel like I’m wrestling the match as he wrestles the match. I’m getting hyped with him, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
The Ruhlman brothers and Edgewood’s Cash Turner had plenty of reason to be hyped after winning their decisive second-round matches to advance at the Ford Center.
Delaney Ruhlman posted the best finish of the day, coming home second at 120 pounds after dropping the semistate title match to fifth-ranked Alec Freeman of Evansville Mater Dei. But that could hardly put a damper on a bright day by the Panther freshman.
He kicked things off with a pin in 44 seconds, then claimed his state berth with another pin in 1:21. Delaney’s third pin of the day came in 2:52 against No. 16 Sam Scott in a bit of a semifinal upset, picking up steam as he went.
“Delaney came out a little bit timid I thought, but once he got going, he really got going,” South coach Mike Runyon said. “That was good to see.”
And once he had the second-round win in his back pocket, there was plenty to feel good about.
”It feels really good,” Delaney said. “I probably upset people I shouldn’t have beat, and I just worked hard to continue through.”
It was up to Tristan to ensure a sibling celebration after advancing on a technical fall, 16-0, in the first round, and the 170-pounder delivered with a 6-1 decision over Greencastle’s Brach Carrington in the second round.
”Me and my little brother, that’s awesome,” said Tristan, who then lost his semifinal match before bouncing back to take third with a 9-1 decision. “I would’ve liked to see a few more (teammates) come through, but it’s a great moment to share with the family.”
It’s a moment the two didn’t speak of in advance, but there was an unspoken understanding.
“I wouldn’t say we talked about it, but we expected to make out,” Delaney said. “And it’s even better since we’re brothers.”
Making it to state was every bit as much of a family affair for Edgewood freshman Turner, whose father Toby twice reached the state championship match for Monrovia.
”It’s really cool, because my dad’s been to state a few times and he was runner-up twice actually, so it feels good to be able to follow in his footsteps,” Turner said.
Turner got off to a fast start Saturday with a pin at 3:30 of the first round and followed by clinching his state berth with a 12-2 major decision.
”I was just thinking, ‘Everybody’s beatable. You can get through anybody,’” he said. “That’s the round you really need to get through to succeed.”
A 2-0 semifinal loss to Evansville Memorial’s Kyler West, ranked 15th, was a minor blip on the radar, as Turner bounced back to pin No. 12 Coy Hammack of Tell City in 4:56 for third.
“Cash has so much talent and he’s just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of,” Edgewood coach Greg Ratliff said. “He comes from a competitive family and really that is what has driven him to 36 wins so far this year, but I still feel like he has more in the tank.”
And for Turner, there was no chance of just celebrating going to state.
”You really have to keep pushing. You can’t really relax,” he said. “That’s where it really helps, because my family really pushes me to succeed and helps with anything I need.”
While the Ruhlmans ruled the roost, the rest of the Panthers were left on the outside looking in.
In the first round, Ethan Roudebush was knocked out on a 3-0 decision at 113, Aiden Reynolds fell to No. 4 Kane Egli of Evansville Mater Dei 12-3 at 132, Cade Bengtson was pinned by Columbus East’s Jacob Shaver at 138, Boone Fowler was pinned at 182 by No. 3 Macartney Parkinson of Mater Dei and Conor Lucas was pinned by Mooresville’s Robbie Gentry at 285.
Nicholas Castelluccio started with a pin at 132 but dropped a 13-7 decision to No. 9 Ashton Hayhurst of Evansville Mater Dei in the second round. It was a similar story for lone senior Wade Presson, who won his opener 4-3 but fell 8-1 to No. 11 Sam Morrill of Columbus East in the second round.
“We had a couple of matches that were tossups and could’ve gone either way,” Runyon said. “This place is humbling. It’s brutal to even some of the best guys. One good thing is we only had one senior down here, all the other guys were underclassmen, so looking forward to next year and more.”
It was much the same for the Mustangs’ contingent outside of Turner, as breaking through in the decisive second round proved elusive. They all won their first-round matches, including three pins.
“Maybe we only got one (first-round win) that we weren’t sure of, but when you get one you aren’t sure of, you’re kind of setting yourself up that the next round is going to be a tough match,” Ratliff said. “Four in the quarterfinals is a pretty good day. We knew we’d be around in all of those matches, just wound up on the wrong side of a few of them. But we had three pins in the opening round, and I can’t say as we’ve ever done that.”
At 132, Lane Deckard won 12-0 in his opener, then ran into No. 13 Connor Holt of Plainfield, who lived up to the billing with a 9-4 decision.
Reece Novak also started fast at 182 with a pin in 1:07, but No. 11 Drake Buchanan of Center Grove was too much to overcome. Buchanan pinned Novak in 1:30.
Matthew Archer began his day at 195 with a pin of Brown County’s Evan Bradshaw in 5:12, but No. 10 Harris Eason awaited. Archer was in the match but was playing catchup throughout a 7-3 loss.
“I felt pretty good that Lane would get the win, and I thought Archer would be right there with that kid,” Ratliff said. “This day every year is heartbreaking. I think I’ve had tears every year on this day, because you hate to see a kid like Matthew Archer, who does everything right, not get what might be his ultimate goal.
“And Lane Deckard, we talk about how hard he works, and it just felt like this was going to be the one for him.”
The biggest upset of the day came in the first round when Bloomington North heavyweight Race Stewart saw his undefeated record go by the board.
Ranked seventh in the state, the Cougar junior was making his first trip to semistate, and it showed as he fell in a 5-2 decision to Avon’s Ke’Tre Dickens.
“Basically, he just had a rough time,” North coach Ben Farmer said. “It was his first time being in a place like this, and I think it just overwhelmed him. He did wrestle hard and tried to get better, to do what he needed to do, but it happens, and we’ll work on it for next year.”
Teammate Justice Cash avoided the first-round upset, making quick work of Evansville Reitz’s Daniel Bittner with a pin in 48 seconds. However, in the make or break second round, Cash found himself in a battle with Center Grove’s Riley Rust, who held a 3-2 lead late in the match. But Cash came up with an escape in the final 10 seconds to knot things at 3 and force overtime.
“He wrestled really well, was smart and did what he needed to do,” Farmer said.
Nothing was decided in the first overtime, and the second also resulted in a stalemate. It wasn’t until the third overtime that Rust finally gained a one-point advantage, and this time there was no escaping for Cash.
“We were yelling in the corner that the kid was stalling, but with the time (winding down), we were just stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Farmer said. “Cash fought as hard as he could, it was just a case of wrong place, wrong time.”
Evansville Mater Dei 177.5
Center Grove 59
Floyd Central 43
Bloomington South 41.5
Columbus East 40
Heritage Hills 37
Franklin Comm. 36
North Posey 33
Evansville Central 25.5
Evansville Memorial 20
Terre Haute South 14
Tell City 12
South Spencer 11
Decatur Central 9
Gibson Southern 9
Columbus North 6
Bloomington North 4
Brown County 4
Crawford County 4
Evansville Reitz 4
Mt. Vernon 3
New Albany 2
West Vigo 2
106: Cash Turner, Edgewood, p. Jared Dunn, Princeton, 3:30; Turner md. Elijah Brooks, Whiteland, 12-2; Kyler West, Ev.Memorial, d. Turner, 2-0; Turner p. Coy Hammack, Tell City, 4:56 (third)
113: Joey Buttler, Whiteland, d. Ethan Roudebush, BHSS, 3-0.
120: Delaney Ruhlman, BHSS, p. Kelby Glenn, Tell City, :44; Ruhlman p. Chris Newman, Mt. Vernon, 1:21; Ruhlman p. Sam Scott, Heritage Hills, 2:52; Alec Freeman, Mater Dei, d. Ruhlman, 6-2 (final)
126: Nicolas Castelluccio, BHSS, p. Sam Castetter, Seymour, 1:10; Ashton Hayhurst, Mater Dei, d. Castelluccio, 13-7.
132: Lane Deckard, Edgewood, md. Matthias Gates, Mt. Vernon, 12-0; Connor Holt, Plainfield, d. Deckard, 9-4.
Kane Egli, Mater Dei, md. Aiden Reynolds, BHSS, 12-3.
138: Jacob Shaver, Col.East, p. Cade Bengtson, 1:09.
145: Justice Cash, BHSN, p. Daniel Bittner, Reitz, :48; Riley Rust, Center Grove, d. Cash, 4-3, 3OT.
160: Wade Presson, BHSS, d. Devin Scott, Mooresville, 4-3; Sam Morrill, Col.East, d. Presson, 8-1.
170: Tristan Ruhlman, BHSS, tf. Nigel Kaiser, Tell City, 16-0 (3:22); Ruhlman d. Brach Carrington, Greencastle, 6-1; Gabe Sollars, Mater Dei, d. Ruhlman, 8-2; Ruhlman d. Jalen Ward, Franklin Comm., 9-1 (third)
182: Reece Novak, Edgewood, p. Landon Hoover, Gibson Southern, 1:07; Drake Buchanan, Center Grove, p. Novak, 1:30.
Macartney Parkinson, Mater Dei, p. Boone Fowler, BHSS, :43.
195: Matthew Archer, Edgewood, p. Evan Bradshaw, Brown County, 5:12; Harris Eason, Franklin Comm., d. Archer, 7-3.
285: Ke’Tre Dickens, Avon, d. Race Stewart, BHSN, 5-2.
Robbie Gentry, Mooresville, p. Conor Lucas, BHSS, 1:31.