FOR most of his high school wrestling career, Columbus East 126-pounder Dalton Noblitt has concerned himself with “what the other guy was going to do.”
That’s no longer the case.
After finishing third Saturday at the Evansville Reitz Semi-State Tournament, Noblitt said he is in control of his destiny on the mat.
His immediate destiny takes him to the 75th annual IHSAA Wrestling State Finals on Friday and Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It might be pie-in-the-sky stuff to think that Noblitt will land a place this season. He faces Crown Point’s Josh Fuqua (30-1) in the opening round and the weight class is stacked with premier wrestlers such as Jimtown’s Nick Crume (34-0), who finished third in the state tournament the past two seasons. Four other wrestlers in the weight class, including Castle’s Luke Welch, who beat Noblitt 13-2 on Saturday, have just one loss this season.
But the sky will be the limit going into next season when he enters his senior year with no limits on his goals.
“This was a big confidence boost,” Noblitt said of qualifying for the state tournament. “Now I know I can get there. I can get there for sure. It’s been one of my biggest dreams since I was 4. Now I want to be standing on top of the podium (at the state tournament).”
Noblitt was the only area wrestler to earn his way to the state tournament. He decisioned Decatur Central’s Angelo Robles 9-1 in the opening round of the semi-state tournament and then edged Terre Haute North’s Eric Elia 2-1 in the quarterfinals to earn his state berth. Noblitt reversed Elia in the second period with a sit-out to a switch, and then rode him out.
After losing to Welch in the semifinals, Noblitt came back to pin Greenwood’s Bailey Schober for third place.
“Winning (against Elia) was a huge relief because I knew I was going to the next week,” Noblitt said. “Welch was really good. He was just better than me.
“After I lost, you just have to think of it as you can’t be content. I had wrestled the Greenwood kid earlier in the year and had beaten him 7-5. This time I dominated the match. I wanted a better seed at the state tournament.”
Whether or not he is an underdog, Noblitt will be experiencing the state tournament for the first time and that should serve him well next season. His brother, Ben, is a former state meet qualifier.
“Ben said the worst part is the parade of champions (before Friday’s start),” Noblitt said. “You look up and see all those people.
“But it’s just a wrestling meet.”
Noblitt was second at the sectional as a freshman but dislocated his left shoulder in the finals and couldn’t advance. In 10th grade, he injured the same shoulder at the conference meet and needed surgery. This season, he was healthy all the way through.
“He’s had a great year,” East wrestling coach Chris Cooper said. “He’s improved a lot, although I always thought he had the talent level. He started to add that solid technique. Before, he had relied on his explosiveness and his athletic ability. He’s starting to realize his potential.”
Noblitt admitted that his focus has shifted.
“The past two years, I worried about overpowering kids,” he said. “Now I am learning my technique. If you don’t do everything perfect, the other kid will find a way.
“Coach (Cooper) said you have to do everything 1,000 times in practice. My freshman and sophomore years in practice, I was just messing around in practice.”
Cooper said Noblitt earned the respect of his teammates with the hard work he delivered this season. That showed itself Monday, when six of his teammates, with their own seasons finished, showed up to help Noblitt at practice.
“It’s really good to know my team is behind me,” he said. “Six guys stayed. And it’s not like they were just showing up.”
It was one more positive that Noblitt has experienced in his time with wrestling. What has it meant to him?
“Everything,” he said. “It’s not just a sport. It teaches you to work hard in everything you do. It teaches you to be the best you can be.”