INDIANAPOLIS — Calumet senior wrestler A.J. Fowler was emotional after winning the state championship at 220 pounds.
As Fowler stood on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse floor Saturday just a short distance from the mat where he rallied to pin Brownsburg’s Lawson Aiken in dramatic fashion in the final, he was asked what was going through his mind.
“What I’m going to say to my mom whenever I get upstairs,” said Fowler, who finished his stellar season with a 43-2 mark. “I don’t know, I’m probably going to start crying.”
And that’s OK, because it’s all about family with the Fowlers.
Fowler and four of his brothers have donned the Calumet singlet, and collectively they’ve amassed more than 500 wins.
In the postmatch TV interview, Fowler thanked his parents Deanna and Artty, his brothers and his teammates, among others. It hadn’t sunk in yet.
“I don’t know what else to say,” he said to two newspaper reporters. “I feel so accomplished in myself with just everything that’s happened today. I feel like I came out as a different wrestler.”
A.J. Fowler trailed by three points with about 30 seconds left in the third period and turned desperation into action.
“I was thinking I just had to go no matter what,” he said. “If I had to go down, I was going to go down swinging. Luckily, I didn’t.”
Venerable coach Jim Wadkins, who said he’s been at Calumet for “about a thousand years,” had a few words for his star.
“I was just trying not to screw up. I was trying not to get in the way,” Wadkins said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘Just keep going.’ We thought (Aiken’s) tank was gone and was looking for a chance to catch breath, and we just didn’t want to give him a chance to regroup.”
A.J. Fowler went into football mode, taking down Aiken near the side of the mat and finished with an overpowering pin with 12 seconds left.
“I knew right then. It’s like blood in the water for a shark,” A.J. Fowler said. “You’ve just gotta keep attacking, so I pulled out my multi-sport football tackle as best as I could.”
A.J. Fowler become the fifth Warriors wrestler to win an IHSAA state title and the first since Thurman Stone in 1999. Caitlin Clark also won an Indiana High School Girls Wrestling title in 2017.
“They’re getting harder and harder to do,” Wadkins said. “You'd like 'em to be a lot closer together than that.”
A.J. Fowler shared the experience with his brothers, including Nick Fowler, who finished sixth in the state in 2015.
“They all came and supported me, and I can’t thank them enough for being here for me and supporting me for these last 13 years of my life,” A.J. Fowler said.
But he one-upped them all.
“I won, and I’m going to dangle this (his first-place medal) right in front of their face,” A.J. Fowler said.