Jennings County wrestler Brendan Sutton was handed an early exit in last year’s ticket round of the Evansville Semistate, and he used that disappointment to help drive him to his second state competition in three years.

The senior wrestler came into the semistate as the 12th-ranked 285-pounder in the state, but there were four other wrestlers ranked in the top seven.

Center Grove’s Cory Heinrichs did not make it easy for Sutton to advance out of the ticket round. Tied 2-2 late in the match, Sutton managed to score the final point for the 3-2 victory.

He said the work Jennings County coach Howard Jones put him through has prepared him for tougher matches like that one.

“I win with my conditioning,” Sutton said. “I’m pretty comfortable in that situation. I wrestle well there … I didn’t really have a problem. I just (tired) the guy out.”

Sutton’s ticket-round win sent him to his first state competition since his sophomore year, when he lost to Richmond’s Nathan Trawich in the first round. Trawich went on to finish in second place that year.

Sutton said he came into this year wanting to do more after ending last season earlier than expected. Every time he found himself getting tired in practice, he would think about what it felt like to make it to state while remembering the disappointment of last year.

Sutton is pleased to make it back to state alongside his teammate, sophomore 145-pounder Brooks Wathen, who also qualified last year.

Sutton, who finished third in the semistate, has even bigger goals. He plans to win it all in his final year as a Panther.

“The thing about the state meet, is anything can happen,” Jones said. “It comes down to the luck of the draw. He got beat in the first round as state as a sophomore by the kid who finished second. Well, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The part that he needs to do is continue to grow from here.”

Both Sutton and Wathen drew undefeated wrestlers in tonight’s first round at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Wins would put them in Saturday’s quarterfinals and guarantee them a top-eight finish.

If you go

What: Wrestling State Finals

When: 6 p.m. today (first round), 9:30 a.m. Saturday (quarterfinals and semifinals), 5 p.m. Saturday (third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches), 7 p.m. Saturday (championship matches)

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Admission: $8 per session or $20 for all three sessions

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5632.