Last year, Lebanon's Kellen VanCamp made it to the IHSAA State Finals, but didn't accomplish what he wanted, losing 9-3 in the first round.
This year, he has been on a mission to reach his goal of being a state champion. Friday night, in the opening round of the IHSAA State Wrestling Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, he took a big step toward that, topping Peru's 12th-ranked Peyton Sturgill 8-0 to advance to the quarterfinals at 152 pounds.
"It feels really good to get that first win," VanCamp said. "It takes a lot of pressure off just getting that first match done. Now I can focus on advancing my way through the tournament."
VanCamp (43-1) said last year's experience helped him as he prepared for the state finals.
"Last year's experience was great, but I didn't accomplish what I wanted," VanCamp said. "That experience got me in the right mindset though and I knew what to expect this year."
The sixth-ranked VanCamp got an early takedown and back points to take a 4-0 lead after the first period.
He said it was important to jump out in front of his opponent.
"It is always good to score the first points," VanCamp said. "Coach always talks about going out, scoring the first points and imposing your will on your opponent. That is a good way to get a victory."
VanCamp started the second period on bottom and Sturgill rode him out for the entire two minutes.
The Peru junior chose top to start the third period, but VanCamp got a reversal and more back points to gain some seperation.
"He was tough on top, I knew that going into the match," VanCamp said. "I just tried to stay in a good position the whole time and that reversal gave me a lot of confidence to secure the match."
Now VanCamp will face 10th-ranked Cayden Whitaker of Martinsville.
"I am just going to recover and eat a little bit," VanCamp said. "I am going to come in, make weight and go win a state title."
Joining VanCamp in the quarterfinals will be Erik Hart at 220 pounds.
The 13th-ranked Hart topped ninth-ranked Kasha Wilder of Ben Davis 3-1 in overtime.
"It is exciting to advance," Hart said. "We practiced all week for the same situation and we got it done. My first time at state, to get a first-round win, feels amazing."
Hart said that coming into the day, he was just soaking everything in from his first state experience.
"I just looked around and it was amazing to see all the wrestlers here and all the top athletes in the state," Hart said. "It was a honor to be here with all of them."
The match was scoreless in the first period.
Wilder escaped from the bottom in the second period to take a 1-0 lead, then Hart matched the escape to start round three.
In overtime, Hart cramped up 20 seconds into the extra period in his leg and had to be stretched out.
"I was kind of mad that I was cramping," Hart said about what he was thinking about on the mat as he was stretched. "I could tell he was getting winded and I was starting to get going and take my shots. It set us back a little bit, but I was able to get the job done."
With about 20 seconds left in the first overtime, Hart was able to get in deep with a shot. He finished the takedown with 10 seconds left to send himself to the semifinals.
"Usually in close matches for me it comes down to overtime," Hart said. "I able to fight through it."
For more of this story, read Saturday's Lebanon Reporter.