Henry Clay sophomore Mike Whalen hopes to follow in his brother's footsteps to the top of the medals' podium at the state wrestling tournament this weekend.
Last year Joe Whalen capped his senior season at Henry Clay by winning the state title at 145 pounds.
Mike Whalen is undefeated (39-0) and ranked No. 1 at 106 pounds going into the state competition Friday and Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park's Alltech Arena.
Joe Whalen is now on the wrestling team at Campbellsville University, but he's still influencing his brother. "He's a good role model for me," Mike said. "He helps me be mentally prepared for my matches."
Never miss a local story.
If Mike is to win the state, he might have to beat a familiar foe along the way. Lafayette junior Luke Rearic is ranked No. 3 at 106 pounds. He and Whalen have met more than a dozen times in their careers, with Whalen winning most of the time. In the region finals last Saturday, Whalen prevailed 3-1.
Familiarity doesn't make for easier rematches, though.
"It's a little harder because we know what each other is going to do, so we gotta keep coming up with something new," Whalen said.
Rearic has enjoyed some success in the state tournament. He placed seventh as a freshman and fourth last year.
Henry Clay's John Hernandez and John Garrett, a football lineman, also won region titles. Hernandez, a sophomore, has a 32-10 record at 113 pounds. Garrett, a senior, is 18-6 at 182 pounds.
Tates Creek senior Terrell Moore, a defensive lineman in football, is in only his second year of wrestling. He's ranked fifth in the state at 285 pounds. He'll take a 35-3 record and high hopes into the Alltech Arena.
"I've been striving to get better every day, and my goal is to win the state finals," he said. "Anything is possible."
Lexington's other state qualifiers: David Tudri (126), Nathan Moore (170), Joe Tafolla (195), Zack Cooper (220) and Jordan Caldwell (285) of Henry Clay; Marshall Aiken (145) and Cole Craven (160) of Tates Creek; Justin Torgerson (113), Angel Vasquez (120), Rafael Vasquez (138), Jonathan Green (145) and Jackson Avant (160) of Lafayette; Jalen Longstreet (120), Anthony Smith (132) and Robert Watson (182) of Bryan Station; and Brad Milford (120) of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Woodford County won the region title, but Coach Joe Carr Jr. said the 13-time state champion Yellowjackets always have a higher goal. "Winning the region is great, but our expectations are always to place in the top three at the state. That's what we're working for."
Woodford County is led by region champs Corey McCall (145 pounds), Wyatt Courtney (160) and Wesley Morris (220).
Morris was unranked early in the season but is now No. 3, an achievement Carr said was "unthinkable. He's made a real commitment to trying to win a state title."
Johnson Central's J.J. Jude, who set the state career rushing record in football last fall, will try to repeat as undefeated champ at 170 pounds.
Union County is chasing its third consecutive team championship, but LaRue County is ranked No. 1 and produced eight individual region champs last weekend.
Campbell County, St. Xavier and Trinity are also considered contenders.