By Ryan Palencer
After last year, the state team wrestling tournament was no more, as it was done away with.
The dilemma was partially solved when 23 invited schools joined at Westfield High School to compete on several different mats in three
different classes for state bragging rights Saturday.
Danville was one of the 23 schools that competed and they placed third in Class AA.
Coach Steve Pugliese was happy with the effort, but he realizes that the Warriors had a tough draw.
“I was pleased,” Pugliese said. “It was unfortunate how it was seeded. We ended up with the fourth seed, which meant that we had to wrestle No. 1-ranked Yorktown in the semis. The kids really wrestled hard.”
In the first round, the Warriors defeated No.6 Heritage Hills 51-24. In that round, Danville only lost four total matches.
However, Danville ran into Yorktown next, falling in a tight battle, 37-26.
“Against Yorktown, they were just a little bit better than us,” Pugliese said. “Our kids competed well. I’m not going to be too upset when they outwrestle us. You have to give them credit.”
Pugliese was also ecstatic about how his team continued to fight,
after the match with Yorktown was already decided.
Danville rebounded to dominate Culver Academy 55-9 to take third place, winning 12 of 14 matches.
When it came to individuals, Pugliese had several grapplers wrestle well. After returning from a broken hand, Brock Hudkins (106) wrestled in his first matches of the season and went 3-0 with three pins. Elliott Molloy (113) remained undefeated, going 3-0 on the day, after winning county last week.
In addition, Neal Molloy (145), Autry Pickens (195), and Mike Williams (heavyweight) each went 3-0 on the day for the Warriors. Pickens and N. Molloy each also won the county event last week.
Pugliese also said that several wrestlers also went 2-1 on the day. In the first year of the event, Pugliese was optimistic about its future and the success it garnered.
“I thought that it was a great tournament,” he said. “It was first class the way that they did it, for as many kids as they have to weigh in and for as quickly and efficiently as they got that done. Once the wrestling started, it really went off without a hitch. We didn’t have too much downtime between the rounds. It was a good tournament and I don’t think that you could tell it was the first time that it had been done.”
In addition, Pugliese was pleased to have the opportunities for the smaller schools in the event.
“I think that this is the best solution,” he said. “Under the old format, where you had to win the team regional, it was going to be awfully hard for us to ever get out of the team regional. We would have had to go through Perry Meridian, Bloomington South, and Franklin. I’m not one to usually say that ‘they are a big school and we can’t compete,’ but the reality is that when you have 2,500 students to 3,500 students, against 850, you’re going to have a chance to have a deeper lineup. They do football like they do for a reason.”