Carmel Wrestling Team Looks to Build on Strong Foundation
Heading into every new season, Carmel High School varsity wrestling coach Ed Pendoski looks for intrinsic results rather than extrinsic ones.
“The goals haven’t changed that much,” Pendoski says. “We want to end the year wrestling our best, and we want to start beating the people that nobody thinks we’re supposed to beat. That’s not a measurable thing.”
After advancing six wrestlers to the IHSAA state finals in the 2019-2020 season, the Greyhounds look to make even more noise this season, with several upperclassmen making their return. Entering the 2020-2021 season, the Carmel High School varsity wrestling team ranked at 8 in the Class 4A team dual ranking, and 11 in the overall Power Poll ranking. Additionally, the Greyhounds kicked off their season with six individual wrestlers ranked in the top 16, including sophomore Isaac Ward at 113 pounds (ranked 14), junior Brac Hooper at 120 pounds (ranked 3), junior AJ Gunn at 132 pounds (ranked 13), senior Jake Shafer at 152 pounds (ranked 9), senior Robert Major at 160 pounds (ranked 3), and senior Zach White at 195 pounds (ranked 5).
Like most sports programs in 2020, the Greyhounds wrestling team dealt with a few setbacks leading into the 2020-2021 season.
“The world shut down in March, and that affected everybody in different ways,” Pendoski says. “If we look at the positives of [being in] Carmel, when the world shut down in March, our kids, for the most part, eat very well. So nutrition is a part that didn’t hurt us. Not being able to spend that time on the mat set us back a little bit, but we’re hoping that didn’t set us back physically.”
Despite any unforeseen hurdles, the Greyhounds do have veteran leadership they can count on, with several returning upperclassmen from last year’s roster along with a new, seasoned competitor.
“With Major being new to the program, he’s come in and fit in very well, and is doing a great job of trying to take a leadership role – he’s an amazing worker,” Pendoski says. “With Shafer, it’s his work habit and his ability to learn. He works really, really well with Robert. The two of them are really getting after it and helping each other grow.”
In particular, Pendoski believes last year’s wrestling team gave this year’s squad a solid base to grow from.
“We always talk about the culture of the wrestling program, and each year’s team has a place that they need to go,” he says. “The seniors and the upperclassmen are in charge of leaving a footprint on the program. Last year, we had another great group of seniors that were in our lineup. They were amazing athletes, and they were great workers.”
With all of his wrestling teams, Pendoski preaches three key elements.
“In our sport, you need to have three things – physical, mental and technical,” says Pendoski, who has coached with Carmel High School since 2012. “All three of those complement each other, meaning if you’re strong, you don’t have to be as good technically, and if you’re a super gritty, tough guy, you don’t have to be as strong because you can handle the amount of cardio it’s going to take.”
Pendoski believes his 2020-2021 squad has a firm grasp on these pillars of success.
“Now that we’re starting to have some experience, it’s really going to help us technically to be able to be in those matches and catch that top echelon,” he says.
While team success is something he strives for each year, Pendoski also hopes his wrestlers take away life lessons once they move on from Carmel High School. In particular, he references a quote from wrestling legend Dan Gable, which states, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”
“When we have them push, they’re pushing until failure,” Pendoski says. “I’m going to push a guy, and he’s going to push me back until one of them falls down. It’s really, really neat when you go through the grind. Some guys cry. You just can’t handle it, and you fall down. When you do that in a wrestling room, that’s a badge of honor. The phrase we say as a staff to them is, ‘People think wrestlers are crazy, and they’re probably right.’”
At the end of each season, Pendoski hopes his wrestlers walk away better equipped to go out and succeed in the world.
“What we do at this level isn’t always fun, and if you think it’s fun, something’s the matter with you,” he says. “What you can do is go home and stick your chest out, because you’re a wrestler, and you’re going to be better prepared for life.”
To stay up to date with the Carmel High School wrestling team’s progress, be sure to visit GoCarmelGreyhounds.com.