Just when things seemed to be turning around …
Aiden Reynolds had a great sectional, winning his first postseason wrestling title. The Bloomington South junior wrestler at 145 pounds had rallied from a 6-2 deficit in the final moments to win 9-6.
“I’m really excited because it sets me up for a good spot at regional,” Reynolds said that day. “That’s the main reason I’m happy. I am happy I won the sectional, but more because it places me well for regionals.”
Reynolds knew all too well the importance of that.
Last year, he beat Terre Haute South’s Gabe Recknor for third place at sectional and managed to win his first match at regional, but ended up losing to Recknor to settle for fourth at regional. So he was faced with one of the state’s best in Evansville Mater Dei’s Kane Egli in his opening match at semistate. Egli went on to take fourth at 132.
So his goal was to avoid that fate this year. Winning sectional was a start, and so was his pin of 3:14 in his regional opener. Then just a few seconds into his semifinal he got caught and was choked out and pins. South’s coaches argued it was an illegal move to no avail.
And there wasn’t enough time to get cleared by a doctor to wrestle his third place match against the same wrestler from West Vigo he’d beaten for the title the week before.
“To not even get a chance to try was a bummer,” said Reynolds (19-5), who is still shaking his head over it, but knows he has to move on. And that means that once again, he will face a regional titlist from Mater Dei. This time, it’s eighth ranked Ashton Hayhurst.
Maybe the change of venue to Jasper will improve his luck. He’s counting more on a change of attitude and will and another year’s worth of experience.
“I just feel like I have to come out on fire,” Reynolds said. “I tried to come out on fire against Egli my sophomore year, I just didn’t put enough into it. This year, I’m definitely going to go all out.”
Semistate just doesn’t hold a lot of fond memories at the moment. As a freshman going 25-14 after a pair of runner-up finishes at sectional and regional, his stay in Evansville ended before it started as he had to drop out via injury default.
“It’s been a lot of things,” he said. “You don’t expect anything to happen, then it does. It hits just when you don’t expect it. This year, you have COVID and regionals that was real bad, but can’t do anything about it.”
Wrestling is sometimes a ride over which he sometimes feels he doesn’t have full control. He works as hard as anyone in South’s room, it just doesn’t always click on match day.
“Really, it’s just some days, I’m feeling it and some days, I don’t feel as energetic or aggressive,” Reynolds said. “On those days I’m energetic, it’s fun to come in here. I feel ready to wrestle. And some days, it’s just slop all the way through.”
Getting in the muck is usually a good thing for Reynolds. It’s how he got in the sport in the first place at age 7.
His dad was a martial artist and his son was pulled in as well. He got good enough to teach others.
“I liked the ground fighting in it,” Aiden said. “My dad said, well, wrestling is kind of like it. There’s more rules, but you can do what you want. I’m like, let’s try it. I did a bunch of sports when I was young, but wrestling really stuck. I made a lot of family there.
“I really liked the people I met along the way. I built a whole different family there. They’re more than just friends. It’s like family because we work hard and push each other. It’s a whole different aspect. That’s why I think in wrestling you learn more than you do in other sports.”
It was the perfect sport for a rambunctious kid and when he got to South, scrumming with Lukas Walendzak, Cade Meier and Nick Castellucio made him better. He was a quick learner. A few things he picked up in martial arts were also able to carry over.
“I like martial art and how it connects,” Reynolds said. ‘You have to have good muscle and mid control and be able to move yourself correctly.”
He moves well when he’s on the mat. That’s where that love of ground fighting comes in handy.
“I do work pretty well on top and bottom,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned from Meier is to keep moving when you’re on bottom. Roll, switch, go back and fourth, keep moving. In neutral, I’m kind of week, so that’s why I’m always working on it.”
He’s also hoping to work out the peaks and valleys of his performances. He knows he’s lucky just to have a season, and if so, now is the time to make the most of it.
“My mindset is really just, I know I made mistakes in the past, but I need to push really hard,” Reynolds said. “I wasn’t perfect during regional, obviously. I got caught a bunch, and I didn’t wrestle in great position.
“Now, I just need to go out there on fire and take the match.”
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