Branden Simmons wasn’t worried.
The Frontier senior trailed Merrillville freshman Lucas Clement by a point after two periods in the 113-pound opening round Saturday at the East Chicago Semi-State meet. But Simmons scored five points in the final 58 seconds to win, 10-4, and earn White County’s lone victory at the semi-state meet.
“I kinda started seeing that after the first period, got a feeling that he didn’t want to be there,” Simmons said. “He just didn’t seem like he was fighting back.”
Clement led 4-1 after one period, then 6-5 after four minutes as Simmons earned a reversal and late nearfall.
Simmons (23-10) was on the bottom to open the third period, and Clement scored a three-point nearfall for a 9-5 lead. Simmons quickly scored a reversal to get into top position, then recorded a three-point nearfall for a 10-9 lead. Thirty-eight seconds later, Simmons hit another three-point nearfall for a 13-9 advantage.
Clement escaped for his final point, then Simmons hit a takedown with four seconds left to close the scoring.
“You don’t really think about it,” Simmons said of the deficit. “You keep on going, keep on pushing on the gas. Most kids, they kind of just give up.”
Simmons then fell to Valparaiso’s Stefan Vitello in a 14-0 major decision in the quarterfinal, or “ticket round.”
“I don’t think he was better than me, but he was more composed,” Simmons said of Vitello, who went on to place third. “He kept holding my hands, and it prevented me from getting most of my points.”
Vitello led 9-0 after one period, adding a takedown in the second and a three-point nearfall in the third.
“Once he got on top he just started throwing these crossface cradles in and there wasn’t much I can do to stop it,” Simmons said. “I’m sad to see it end, but I’m glad it happened.”
Simmons continued a streak of the Falcons garnering at least one victory in four consecutive semi-state meets. Colin Reagan reached state in 2017 and 2018, and went 1-1 in 2019.
“It’s something to be thankful for because we come from a really small area and unlike the other schools, we don’t have a large selection of kids that can make it through,” Simmon said. “I think it’s just about putting in the time, being dedicated and just keep going through the practices day in, day out.”
Teammate Denny Wendling lost by technical fall, 16-1, to LaPorte’s Tyson Nisley in the 138-pound quarterfinal. Wendling (25-6) trailed 4-1 midway through the first period, but gave up 10 points in the final 48 seconds.
“He definitely wasn’t in the position he would have preferred,” Simmons said. “Needless to say, he went out and tried his hardest.”
North White’s Anthony Ball fell to Kankakee Valley’s Aiden Sneed in a 9-0 major decision. Ball (28-4) trailed 2-0 after one period, then 5-0 after the second. The senior went all six minutes in his final match.
Twin Lakes’ Wyatt Clevenger (22-15) was pinned by Merrillville’s Jason Streck just before the opening period ended. In a battle of juniors, Streck earned a takedown 52 seconds into the first period and turned Clevenger just before the buzzer.