Thirst for first
Avon’s Ray Rioux striving for state wrestling title at 126 pounds
By Mike Beas
The gradual incline of an awards podium is an ideal visual aid to the high school wrestling career of Avon senior Ray Rioux.
Avon senior Ray Rioux is seeking a state wrestling championship title this season at 126 pounds. (Photo by Rick Myers)
In three seasons in an Orioles singlet, Rioux (pronounced Rio) has made it to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, placing sixth (106 pounds) as a freshman, third (120) the following season and runner-up (126) last February.
Literally and figuratively, Rioux knows the next step to take.
“I’m taking this season as though I need to go win a state title,” said Rioux, the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 126 pounds this season. “I’ve worked so hard for so many years to get to this point. Winning a state championship would mean the world to me.”
Ray, the eldest of Matthew and Lauren Rioux’s five sons, started wrestling as a 5-year-old after fliers were handed out in an attempt to gauge the interest of his kindergarten class. Rioux found his niche athletically after previously attempting other sports such as football, soccer and hockey.
He made a return to football in middle school, but by the start of high school Rioux chose to be solely devoted to wrestling.
As an Avon freshman, Rioux posted a 34-8 record at 106 for an Orioles squad that finished 11th in the team standings at state. The program improved to ninth the next winter as Rioux capped a 33-10 campaign with the third perch on the podium at 120.
Rioux moved up a weight class to 126 as a junior. He advanced to the championship match before dropping a 6-0 decision to Crown Point’s Jesse Mendez beneath the intense glare of the spotlight and collective gaze of thousands of patrons inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
As a team, Avon placed second, only six points behind titlist Cathedral. This tied the 2004-05 Orioles for the best state tournament showing in program history.
At 5-foot-9-inches, Rioux is considered tall for his weight class. He’s uses his leverage to succeed, though third-year Avon coach Zach Errett knows the senior’s success is due to a variety of other factors.
“First of all, he’s wrestled for a long time, and that’s one of the reasons Ray is where he’s at. He has some of the best shot defense I’ve ever seen,” said Errett. “Ray adapted his style over the years in order to continue to be successful. I certainly think a state title is his plan this season, and so far he’s looked really good. I think he’s handling it very well.”
Rioux, who carries a 3.2 grade-point average at Avon, plans to attend the University of Indianapolis where he’ll major in elementary education and wrestle for the Greyhounds.
In the meantime, he has unfinished business to concentrate on.
“Our coaches put together plans that help us peak at the right time,” said Rioux. “We focus on the little things in order to improve.”