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“A season to remember,” one voter said in The Post & Mail’s best of the decade contest.
Voted second in the best team of the decade, the 2005-2006 Columbia City Eagle wrestling team had big shoes to fill. The previous two teams had set high standards with both of them reaching the IHSAA team state finals and finishing in the top four each year.
The 2006 team lived up to those expectations returning the Eagles to the team state finals for a top four finish for a third consecutive season.
Following a season opening 39-21 loss to the Bellmont Braves the Eagles lost only one more time during the regular season, that during the Lake Central tournament against state-ranked Carmel, 31-29.
The 2006 Eagles squad claimed the title at the Wawasee Classic Invitational, downing Whitko, West Noble, Wawasee, Kokomo and Bishop Dwenger in the process.
Columbia City won the Carroll Sectional with 280.5 points, out scoring runner-up Whitko by 75 points. In the Garrett team regional first round, the Eagles squared off against Fort Wayne Snider. Columbia City downed the Panthers 51-16 to advance to the team regional finals where they met the Whitko Wildcats. The Eagles downed the Wildcats 41-27 to advance to the Columbia City team semi-state.
The Eagles downed the Elkhart Memorial Chargers by a 33-24 score to advance to the 2006 team state finals at Center Grove High School.
In the opening round of the state finals, the Eagles squared off against Bloomington South. The Eagles used a string of four straight wins from juniors Nick Peppler and Kyler Kearby, and seniors Shae Gerardot and David Ernst to break a 15-15 tie and power on to a 42-33 win to advance to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, the Eagles met Northeast Hoosier Conference foe Bellmont. The Eagles fell to the Braves, missing a trip to the finals but still finishing the season with a 21-3 record and a top-four finish in the state for the third straight year.
“A good wrestling team will have holes in their line-up, but a great one does not,” a voter noted. “Team worked great together...What an exciting season...Outstanding team members,” and simply put “this team defined greatness.”
The 2006 Eagles also captured individual honors, with four of the Columbia City wrestlers advancing to the individual state finals. Eli Michel, Wes Walter, Bryan Deutsch and Shae Gerardot all worked their way through the tournament series with Gerardot finishing fourth at 171 pounds, and Deutsch placing second at 160 pounds.
““He was a tremendous athlete, but an even better competitor. Nobody had the desire to win more than Bryan Deutsch,” a voter commented.
“When Nick (Peppler) wrestled there was no stopping him. Nick was often in the shadow of others, but was also their biggest cheerleader.”
Another nominee made its own appearance in the state finals with the 2000 semi-state softball team from Columbia City.
One voter praised the Lady Eagles work not only on the field but in the classroom as well.
“Stellar teams through the decade. Great sportsmanship and camaraderie. Good students. Most graduating seniors in top 10 percent of class,” and “Semi-State Champs.”