For Columbus East 126-pounder Dalton Noblitt, being a junior has its rewards.
Noblitt, The Republic’s Athlete of the Year for wrestling, will get another shot at making it to the state tournament.
The only county wrestler who advanced past the semi-state level, Noblitt thought that the state tournament wouldn’t rattle him since he has competed at a high level for so many years in both high school and club wrestling.
He was wrong.
“I think my head wasn’t all the way into it,” he said about his first-round 7-2 loss to Crown Point’s Josh Fuqua at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. “I was nervous and there were a lot of people there. Once I got on the mat, everything went away, but it didn’t feel like a full match. It’s a lot different once you actually get there.”
Noblitt finished 39-9 and with an even greater determination to get one more shot at the state’s best.
It was a season of both individual and team success for Noblitt. He won a sectional championship, was second in the regional and third in the semi-state tournament. Columbus East captured the Jennings County Sectional title.
“Probably my best moment was winning my round to go to state,” said Noblitt, who beat Terre Haute North’s Eric Elia 2-1 in the semi-state quarterfinals to punch his ticket. “Looking up, being on top 2-1 with only a couple of seconds left. I knew I had one.”
He also enjoyed a great moment at the state tournament. “The Parade of Champions was a great experience,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it. I was at Bankers Life, which was filled to the top. The flash of the cameras. It was special. I had a bunch of people who came for me. They were right beside the tunnel where I came out.
“It was pretty cool knowing I was the only one from the area to make it through.”
While it all was a great experience, it did add to his nervousness. “Definitely next year, I will be ready for it,” he said.
He expects to return as a senior as a 126-pounder, saying it “shouldn’t be that hard.”
Noblitt already has begun participating with the Olympian Wrestling Club, although he will miss the upcoming folkstyle state tournament because he is going to Florida during spring break. He said it will be a nice mental break from the sport.
He then will return and participate in freestyle through the summer, including the AAU Scholastic Duals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. “You match up against the best in the nation and see where you stand,” he said.
It will all lead to a long, hard work schedule to prepare him for his final shot as a senior.
“I’m going for it all next time,” he said.