A BOTHERHOOD

Pair of Southmont brothers leading Mountie wrestling

Southmont to compete at team state on Saturday

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NEW MARKET — Wrestling is a brotherhood.

Add in a little blood and it makes the bond that much stronger — and that’s what Southmont wrestling has in 2021.

Senior Evan Francis and his younger brother Zayden Dunn have enjoyed the bond as brothers and teammates for a few seasons, while freshman Wyatt Woodall joined older brother Riley in the Mounties lineup this season.

“I think it’s hugely special for those families,” Southmont coach Jamie Welliever said. “For the moms and dads and everybody else when they come and watch, it’s got to be extra special to have them on the same team. I got to do that a little bit as a Dad. It’s great for the parents, and a cool experience for the kids.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about high school sports, including how the Mounties operate things in the wrestling room. Wrestlers have divided into pods, and therefore partnered up with the same practice partner each day. While Riley and Wyatt are similar in size, Welliever decided to split them up. Sticking Wyatt Woodall with Dunn, and Francis with his senior teammate in Riley Woodall.

And so the competition began.

“It’s younger brothers vs. older brothers,” Riley Woodall said. “Younger brothers, they really don’t want to lose, but older brothers feel like they have something to prove all the time so that pushes us even more.”

Riley Woodall, who was a semi-state qualifier at 182 last year and is undefeated and ranked No. 13 this season at the same weight, and Francis are helping push each other and the rest of their teammates.

“I feel like we are staying more competitive with our little groups,” Francis said about the practice situation. I wrestle with Riley, and I feel like we are going hard every time.”

Their leadership is fueling a hot start to the season by the Mounties as they prepare for Saturday’s Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association team state duals in Fort Wayne.

“They’ve tried to lead in a vocal way and certainly by example as well,” Welliever said. “The goal setting was a little challenging this year when we met. We would have to be flexible as we go, but nonetheless we have really high expectations, and I think they recognize the talent on this team, not only from the seniors, but each class.”

The balance by class has been a big part, including Wyatt Woodall, who has spearheaded the rookie class with an undefeated season so far at 195. His early success comes as no surprise to many, and his older brother is a large reason why.

“It’s helpful,” Wyatt Woodall said of having an older brother on the team. “I’m getting advice that I wouldn’t from any other senior. Learning the ways. There’s definitely an arm over me. Shows me the ins and outs of what to do and not to do to be successful.”

For each pair of brothers there’s an added competitive incentive as well.

“There’s a competitive aspect too,” Wyatt added. “because if he goes out and wins, then I have to go out and win too, because I can’t let him beat me.”

For the Woodalls, Wyatt has passed Riley in size despite being three years younger, but for Dunn and Francis, their difference in weight has not always been the case, until Francis started shedding pounds a couple of years ago in order to live a healither lifestyle. Dunn, who spends time at both 220 and heavyweight for the Mounties, no longer has to worry about getting picked on by his ‘big’ brother, who has slid into the 160 slot.

“I know when he cut all the weight, he stopped messing with me as much,” Dunn joked.

Southmont enters the team state duals unseeded in Class A and will wrestle No. 6 Adams Central in the first round. Its the first appearance for the Mounties since they placed second in 2015-16. 

“I’ve been thinking about it since freshman year when coach mentioned it,” Dunn added about team state. “Because I wanted those rings honestly, and that’s all I’ve been thinking about. It’s one thing I circled this year. Hopefully we can go there and put our work on display.”

The goals the Mounties did make included team state. And after winning the Montgomery County title three weeks ago, their ready to check another one off the list — even if they are the underdogs.

“I think the end goal — it’s a pretty high bar that we’ve set for ourselves — the senior captains,” Riley Woodall said. “We are going into it with the mindset of winning.”

As seniors, Francis and Woodall have been the ones orchestrating a special season for the Mounties — but it will be up to the whole team — including their brothers and that special bond, to achieve all those lofty goals.

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