FORT WAYNE – The contact lens popped out less than a minute in, and suddenly Jason Nicodemus’ world was half a blur.
Yeah, that was an unneeded distraction, the Churubusco 220-pound wrestler joked later, still breathing hard from the effort of his perfection-vs.-perfection showdown with Nolan Wilson of Leo.
Strange, then, that in the end it helped him see his way clear.
Those couple of minutes he spent putting his lens back in gave Nicodemus time to plot strategy, and he went on to beat Wilson 8-3 in one of the day’s marquee matches Saturday in the Carroll wrestling regional, the 220-pound championship round.
Wilson entered the day 32-0 and Nicodemus came in 24-0, and at the end Nicodemus was one of three undefeated champions. Riley Lefever of Carroll (42-0 at 170 pounds) and Matt Beard of Eastside (40-0 at 285) were the others.
Carroll, with 180 points and 11 wrestlers advancing to semistate, easily won the team title over runner-up Churubusco (92.5).
As always when the season gets to this point, familiarity bred, if not contempt, at least equal measures advantage and disadvantage.
Take Hayden Lee of Garrett, 34-1 and ranked No. 2 in the state at 106 pounds. In the finals Saturday, he took on Ben Cauffman of Carroll for what Lee figures was the fifth time in the last two years. This time it went to Lee by a 20-3 technical fall.
Last week I beat him 16-7 and I wasn’t pleased with the way I wrestled, so I wanted to come out here and put on a good show, he said.
Ditto Lefever at 170. Once again in the finals he was looking at nemesis Anthony Linnear of North Side, who came in 29-3 and was looking to finally knock off Lefever for the first time this year. Instead, Lefever methodically built a 6-0 lead and then caught Linnear late to pin him in 5:38.
He came out really hard this time, Lefever said. So I knew I just needed to stay in the top position, ward off the attack he was putting on me and just keep pushing the pace after that attack.
I like wrestling people a lot. It doesn’t really matter if I wrestle (an opponent) a lot of times or not.
That wasn’t an issue, obviously, for Nicodemus and Wilson. Nicodemus got an early takedown to go up 2-0, lost the lead, went up 6-3 after a period and parried Wilson’s moves the rest of the way.
Neither one of us had wrestled each other before so we were kind of feeling each other out, said Nicodemus, who reached the regional on three previous occasions but lost in the first round every time. After (the early takedown) I knew I could win it. It just comes from digging deep. Both of us are dead-tired out there, and I was kind of having thoughts in my head about all the times back in the wrestling room practicing when I didn’t want to be. That’s when you’ve got to dig deep right there.