As Good As Gold
Writer / Kevin Conrad – Photography Provided
Center Grove High School freshman Drake Buchanan earned an opportunity of a lifetime in September. The 14-year-old was one of 10 wrestlers selected to represent USA Wrestling in the 2018 U15 Schoolboy Pan American Championships in Villahermosa, Mexico.
Buchanan wrestled in the 62kg weight class, winning the gold medal in Freestyle and the Silver in Greco. His triumphs helped Team USA win the Freetstyle and Greco team titles and the combined championship.
“I felt honored to have had the opportunity to represent USA and CG,” Buchanan says. “To be honest, it was a big relief to win gold in Freestyle. It was really surreal being on the award stand and hearing the National Anthem.”
Buchanan has been preparing for this occasion since beginning his wrestling career in the Center Grove Wrestling Club in first grade. His club head coach, Mike Hesser, has been training him for the past eight years.
“He was very honored to represent his country,” Hesser says. “It really hit him when he tried on his singlet for the first time and saw the USA on his chest. It was a proud moment. He went down there and represented his country with skill and sportsmanship. We couldn’t have sent a more competent ambassador for our country and our sport.”
Drake’s father, Joel Buchanan, takes great pride in his son’s accomplishments, too.
“Very proud of how he took the pressure in stride,” he says. “I know the weight of it really hit when the uniform showed up. USA on one side and his name on the other. It’s Drake’s work ethic that makes him have success.”
Buchanan credits Center Grove High School wrestling head coach Maurice Swain, along with Hesser and his Center Grove teammates, for preparing him for the Pan American Championships.
“Coach Hesser and Coach Swain put in extra time to help run my practices along with teammates Drue Young and Sam Howe, who put in extra time in the evenings to help me get ready,” Drake says.
“He has a very cerebral approach,” Hesser says. “You can show him technique, but he wants to know why we are doing it. Once he understands the philosophy behind our approach, then he trusts the technique and is able to offer advice on how to make it more effective. His body type is also unusual for wrestling. He is tall for his weight and has long arms and legs. He is also very strong with a good sense of how leverage and body pressure works. He has a high wrestling IQ. He does a lot of good things that can’t be coached.”
Former Center Grove High School wrestling head coach Cale Hoover says Buchanan has those intangible skills that make him special.
“He has some natural gifts that you just can’t teach kids,” Hoover says. “He is a highly driven perfectionist, which pairs well with his work ethic and drive. In the wrestling world, he has been exposed to training and competition in a thoughtful plan by his parents. He has always participated in numerous sports and activities to provide balance in his life. He has been improving rapidly each year, and I believe he will continue this trend. I have always thought he was a special guy who was going to do big things and I look forward to watching him progress.”
“The sky is the limit for Drake,” Hesser adds. “He consistently has been a top-five wrestler in the nation for the past three to four years. He should be able to compete at the highest level now that he is a freshman in the IHSAA. He is humble yet confident. He always looks to improve. He takes that attitude wherever he goes, in the classroom, on the football field or on the mat. It will be a joy to watch him as he competes in high school.”