By Rick Teverbaugh, Herald Bulletin Sports Writer
ANDERSON â€” For some high school athletes, there is a big jump from that level to competing for an NCAA Division I program.
Highland senior wrestler Camden Eppert, a state champion as a sophomore, has chosen Purdue for his college and the step up might not be that large.
â€œI feel like Iâ€™ve been preparing for college instead of for high school,â€ Eppert said in a phone conversation Monday night. â€œI donâ€™t think (the step up) will be as bad as some might be thinking. I set a goal not to go as a high school wrestler but as a college wrestler.â€
He just returned from a national tournament in Greensboro, N.C., this past weekend, where he knocked off the nationâ€™s No. 2, No. 3 and No. 9 wrestlers at his 119-pound weight class.
â€œI had some pretty big wins there,â€ Eppert said. â€œThe whole summer, Iâ€™ve pushed the tempo. I want to wrestle like me. I know I can hit and score on anyone I wrestle. When I touch a leg, I want to finish it.â€
He had three visits before making his college choice. He went to Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., and to Indiana University.
â€œWhen I visited Old Dominion, I just didnâ€™t like the atmosphere,â€ said Eppert. â€œThey didnâ€™t take me in like they did at Purdue. At Indiana, I knew a lot of people there. But when I asked some people how they knew where to go they said it was a gut feeling, and I knew right then that it wasnâ€™t the right place because I didnâ€™t have that gut feeling.â€
But he received that vibe at Purdue from coach Scott Hinkle.
â€œCoach Hinkle just started last year,â€ Eppert said. â€œI knew him and the assistants that I met from them being at other tournaments. I like being around them. They brought me in like I was a teammate already. There was a lot of diversity there. There were hillbillies and goofballs and guys who were nonchalant. I just like where they are going with the programâ€™s mentality. They want to be a national champion.â€
Highland wrestling coach Kyle Poyer believes that Eppert has made a wise decision and that itâ€™s completely in character.
â€œCamden has always put himself in the best possible position to succeed,â€ Poyer said. â€œWhatever his goal, heâ€™s capable of reaching it. Heâ€™s never satisfied. Heâ€™s constantly refining what heâ€™s doing.â€
Eppert was fourth in the state as a freshman and then claimed the state title as a sophomore at 103 pounds. Last year, he was state runner-up at 112 pounds and he enters his senior season with a prep career record of 116-9.
He already has a good idea of a possible major while in West Lafayette.
â€œI always liked punching numbers, so I was thinking about accounting,â€ Eppert said. â€œBut then my brother pointed out that I wouldnâ€™t be happy sitting behind a desk all day, and he was right. So Iâ€™m thinking about getting into exercise science or nutrition. I really love anatomy and learning about the human body.â€