Wrestling has always been a family-oriented sport, one driven by father-son relationships for generations.
That fact was on full display Saturday for the South Adams Starfires, who had two major milestones at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Head coach Robert Loshe coached his own son, Titus, at the semi-state. The freshmen’s great tournament run lasted into a third week after a big win in the blood round at regional.
A few hours later, a proud Ramsey Bollenbacher, a state qualifier for South Adams back in 2000, watched on as his son, Colton, finally punched his ticket to the State Finals as a senior at 144 pounds, becoming the first father-son combination to reach the State Finals in school history.
Colton’s career has culminated with an outstanding string of victories as the senior wrapped up titles at the ACAC, sectional and regional. His third-place finish Saturday at 144 included his first loss in a month at the hands of eventual champion Easton Doster of New Haven.
The win by Bollenbacher also signified a return to the sport’s biggest stage for the Starfire program. Not since AJ Dull’s appearance in 2020 had the Stars competed with the big boys in Indianapolis. While this year’s Finals are in Evansville, it will still be just as sweet for the Starfire faithful.
Back when Ramsey qualified, the Starfires were still coming out of the Adams Central sectional in the old tournament format. The school had only ever had three state qualifiers when Bollenbacher and teammate Dan Schwartz qualified together in 2000. Now in Colt’s lifetime, there have already been 18 qualifiers, making himself the 19th qualifier since he was born for the Starfires.
The honor of wearing the Starfire singlet on the IHSAA mats was certainly earned.
After winning the titles for three straight weeks, Bollenbacher faced a difficult bracket at the Coliseum, beginning with Aiden Pesick of Concordia, a wrestler with more wins this year than Colton. After watching his freshman teammate, Titus Loshe, fall in the opening round and knowing that it was just he and Isaiah Meyer left in the tournament, Bollenbacher wasted no time, taking down the Cadet wrestler and turning him for a fall within two minutes.
Bollenbacher then stood by and watched as Jadon Teague of DeKalb dismantled David Conner of Kokomo, despite the fact that the WildKat wrestler had 42 wins as a sophomore.
Ranked near each other throughout the season, the ticket-round bout between Teague and Bollenbacher was one of the classic toss-ups of the day, but there was no doubt in Colton’s mind who was going to get one of those precious 224 tickets.
The opening takedown was scored by Colt in the opening 30 seconds and it put him in the position that he wanted to be in – riding on top. Bollenbacher spent the rest of the first dominating Teague and despite not scoring, set himself up for the win.
The Starfire senior chose down in the second and got his escape early, but yielded a takedown late in the period to draw the score to 3-2.
Having suffered underneath long enough in the first period, Teague had no intention of choosing bottom with his choice in the third and opted for neutral.
Nobody loves a 3-2 match quite like Colt Bollenbacher and he did everything right to keep the third period scoreless and punch that valuable ticket.
After falling to the undefeated Doster in the semis, Colt bounced back and smoked Emilio Liscano of Oak Hill on his feet, taking him down once in each period. Just as with Teague, Bollenbacher dominated once on top and never gave up an escape, winning 8-0 and taking third place.
Colt Bollenbacher Career Summary
Senior Year: 29-4
Junior Year: 23-13 (Eliminated in regional blood round by eventual state qualifier Kaeb Stebbins of Delta)
Sophomore Year: 24-13 (Eliminated by eventual semi-state champion Dylan Stroud of Manchester)
Freshman Year: 20-10 (Eliminated by eventual state qualifier Hayden Brady of Garrett)