Prep wrestling

Gough is Wheeler's first conference champion in wrestling

2014-01-21T17:00:00Z 2014-01-22T02:32:07Z Gough is Wheeler's first conference champion in wrestlingJim Peters james.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
January 21, 2014 5:00 pm  • 

Years from now, Ryan Gough will be the answer to a Wheeler trivia question.

At this point, his title in Saturday's Greater South Shore Conference tournament, the school's first in the sport, is anything but trivial, a cornerstone for a program in its initial full varsity season.

"It's big for the rest of the kids to see, that if you work hard and do the right things, you can win," Bearcats coach Scott Houldieson said. "They see it in practice. Ryan is one of our hardest workers and he gets the results."

The top-seeded Gough pinned his way through the tourney at 152 pounds, but he wasn't thinking in terms of history.

"It made me happy to be a conference champion more than being the first to do it," said Gough, who took second at the same weight last year. "It means a lot. I hope it motivates guys to go further than me, to push even harder, to accomplish more for the team, for the school."

On a team full of fledglings, Gough is an exception to the rule, already possessing a grasp of the basics.

"He's been a leader from day one," Houldieson said. "The kids voted him captain, which shows what they think of him. They look up to him. (His background) gives him body awareness on the mat, (good) positioning, technique. He's got a very good support group in his parents, which is a big part in the success of young kids."

While living in Merrillville, Gough's parents put him in the wrestling club during elementary school. He wrestled through middle school, placing second in the conference meet as a seventh-grader at Pierce. His family moved to Union Township before Gough's freshman year, at which point Wheeler didn't have wrestling.

"I just figured I was done," he said. "I was really excited when they started it. It's by far my favorite sport. It's fun to me. It's always been what I was best at. I like to try to push myself. I don't like giving up. You can't rely on anybody else. You get out of it what you put into it. It's your own fault if you lose."

That's only happened once in 19 matches for Gough, his sole loss coming against Lake Central's state-ranked Cody Christenson. All but three of his victories have come by pin.

"I'm in way better condition," Gough said. "My skills have improved a lot. I'm a lot more fluid with my moves. I just try to feel out a guy, see what I can do, then try to break them down and work whatever move I can. Coach Scott and coach Corey (Crew) have caught me up on what I missed."

While it came against a back-up, Gough ranks his win over Crown Point at the top, given the Bulldogs' status as a state power.

"I like to see good competition," he said. "It's good to wrestle tough matches. It tests my ability."

That'll be the case in 10 days when Wheeler competes in its first sectional.

"It's his last shot, his one and only shot," Houldieson said. "We've got a little mat time left. All we can do is try to get better, keep grinding it out in practice and see how far it takes us."

The brutally tough Crown Point site features five of the teams from this week's Times top 10.

"I'm excited. I've never been to a sectional in a sport," Gough said. "I'm not going to be wrestling in college, so I know this is it. I'm just going to try to go out there and have fun, wrestle my best and go as far as I can go."

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