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JENNINGS County wrestling coach Howard Jones pulled quite the trick on student Colton Castetter, and it is paying dividends.
Now a senior, Castetter was a sophomore whose one and only athletics endeavor was football.
Jones explained to Castetter that wrestling would help him with his balance, strength and endurance, all things that would make him a better fooftball player.
Castetter took the bait.
Now in his third season of wrestling, the 6-foot-2 Castetter is one of the area’s top hopes to earn a spot to the state wrestling tournament. He raised his record to 8-0 on Tuesday with a 3-2 win against Columbus North’s Brandon Woods, another terrific 220-pounder.
And football for the Panthers’ Castetter, who won the sectional wrestling championship last season, no longer is No. 1.
“Actually, I liked football more than wrestling at the start,” Castetter said. “But I ended up liking wrestling more.”
Although college football coaches have been texting Castetter about football opportunities, he would like to pursue wrestling.
“I didn’t think I would like wrestling at first because I thought I would get destroyed,” said Castetter, who was an all-Hoosier Hills Athletic Association lineman in football. “But I hate football practice. Wrestling is bearable.”
Jones really did believe that wrestling would improve Castetter’s football stock, but he is happy the senior is successful
“I want kids doing things,” Jones said. “When I talked to him, he wasn’t going to play basketball, and I knew he was going to be a pretty tall kid.
“He was like that puppy dog that was going to grow into those feet. I talked to him about wrestling because I always try to get kids to do something else. I am a firm believer in cross training.”
As a high school freshman, Castetter hadn’t played any organized sports to that point. His mom, Heather Tempest of Scipio, made sure he concentrated on his academics.
As a freshman, he moved in North Vernon to live with his dad, Rusty Castetter, a three-time state wrestling qualifier who graduated from Jennings County in 1989.
“Sports just hadn’t been a big emphasis,” Colton Castetter said. “And we didn’t have football or wrestling at Hauser. I moved in with my dad so I could play football.”
Rusty Castetter was happy that his son was playing football, but he wasn’t going to push him to wrestle.
“I didn’t want him to do it because of me,” Rusty Castetter said. “But I did want him to do it because it was going to make him a better athlete. I really didn’t think it would happen because he had his heart and soul into football.”
When Colton Castetter decided to give wrestling a try, his father joined the coaching staff as an assistant.
Then before his junior season began, Colton Castetter told his dad that he wanted to become a sectional champion.
“I told him, ‘You are going to have to put work into this,’” Rusty Castetter said. “I told him every time that a wrestling mat was rolled out, he had to be on it. So we stayed after practice every night and worked. He became a sectional champion.
“I wish I had a video so we could see the progression from where he started out. He had no muscle, no physique. He was a big, dumpy kid. But he always has had great work ethic, and he changed himself into a man. It’s great to be a father and to be able to see your son grow like this.”
Whether or not Colton Castetter was a great athlete in ninth grade, Jones said he always has been a great kid.
“He is the type of kid I would want to have as my own son,” Jones said. “When he was in ninth grade, he was a pudgy kid, not an athletic kid. But he has put the work in, the effort. He’s paid the price.
“His goal is to make the state finals, but he knows from whence he came. He is appreciative.”
Considering that Jones only has wrestled for three years, it would seem he would be far behind many of his competitors, who have been in a wrestling program for 10 years or more.
“In my experience, these kids (who don’t have previous wrestling experience) come in and they don’t have bad habits,” Jones said. “It’s kind of a blessing.”
That being said, Jones had a lot of learning to do. This past summer, he attended wrestling camps at Purdue and Edinboro University (Pa.).
It also helped that his sophomore season, he practiced with Iyan Bass, who posted an 111-12 record through his Jennings County career.
“I learned the moves from him,” Castetter said.
After winning the sectional crown last season, he finished second in the regional to Floyd Central’s Nick Ottersbach, who has since graduated.
Colton Castetter has been going full bore with his dad since to try to qualify for this season’s state tournament.
“It has been great,” Rusty Castetter said. “But he did tear up my knee about three months ago. I tore the meniscus.”
Rusty Castetter doesn’t mind a little pain.
“I can tell you right now,” the proud dad said. “Through my years of wrestling until now, I’ve never had a greater sectional than I did last year watching him.”
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