When Northeastern wrestler Heather Crull arrives at the Ford Center in Evansville for the state wrestling meet this weekend she will see a familiar face.

Cambridge City resident Jerry Ingalls got the call from the IHSAA he has been hoping to receive. Ingalls has been selected to be an official at the Indiana High School State Wrestling finals, to be held at the Ford Center in Evansville on Friday, Feb. 16 and Saturday, Feb. 17.

There are only 12 officials selected statewide and Ingalls will be one of two “rookies.” His selection, which is for two years, means that he will also officiate the 2025 state finals.

A small sampling of the many awards Ingalls earned as a wrestler. Supplied

Ingalls has devoted much of his adult life to helping local youth learn to wrestle. He has served as a coach at several east central Indiana schools at all levels, and has officiated the sport since 1998. He is also a sentimental guy. When he reminisces about his relationships with current and previous wrestlers and coaches, sometimes tears come to his eyes. 

It is hard to imagine anyone who has worked harder, or who is more deserving of the honor. Ingalls has touched nearly every aspect of wrestling. He is always willing to help further the skills of area wrestlers and coaches and frequently does so.

During his coaching career he has coached at Lincoln, Rushville, Tri High, and Connersville at the varsity level and has helped with kids at the lower levels.

”I got out of coaching when my kids started participating in sports so that I could follow and support them,” Ingalls said. “The best way to do that and still stay connected to wrestling was to become a referee.”  

Ingalls proposes to his now wife, Misty, at a wrestling match. Supplied

Wrestling is clearly a passion for Ingalls, but he is not married to the sport. He is married to his wife Misty. He does admit, however, that he proposed to her at a wrestling match.

Ingalls, an educational assistant who works with special needs kids at Lincoln High School, is a humble man who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Ingalls wrestled competitively until his late 30s. He was a seven-time All-American and a three-time national champion in his weight class while competing in the USA Wrestling Association.

“My experience with kids who decide to wrestle has been that most like it,” Ingalls said. “It is a humbling experience. There is no hiding behind a teammate didn’t pass me the ball, or the lineman didn’t block for me. It is you and your opponent. No excuses. There is nothing like it. It is a character-building sport. It raises self-esteem and confidence. Once you have wrestled everything else seems easy.”

Ingalls also supports girls participating in wrestling.

“Without the addition of girls, we would have a numbers problem and create forfeits because boys’ numbers were declining,” he said. “With the addition of girls, wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports.”

Ingalls, who was assigned to officiate at the East Chicago semi-state last weekend, is flattered to have been selected to officiate in the state finals, but he knows that it won’t be about him this weekend. “My goal is to be unseen,” Ingalls said. “I want to enjoy the experience, and I know that I will get appreciation and respect from the coaches and athletes, but I am not there to affect the outcome. I am there to enforce the rules and ensure the safety of the athletes. This event is all about the kids who earned the right to be there.”

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A version of this article appeared in the February 14 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Dan Harney is a sports reporter at the Western Wayne News.