By Jeff Robison
MOORESVILLE — The Danville Warriors wrestling team captured the program’s first team regional title, while four Warriors and two Avon Orioles also claimed individual blue ribbons as champions at the Mooresville regional Saturday.
Danville claimed its first team regional title and the first for a Hendricks County school since Avon won in 2008. The Warriors, who were ahead by one point over Franklin entering the final round of matches, stretched that lead to outpoint the Grizzly Cubs 170-160 in the final scores.
The title was the seventh regional overall for the school and only the second in a non-class sport.
Danville coach Steve Pugliese beamed with pride over his team’s achievement.
“I didn’t know if we had enough depth to (win the team title),” Pugliese said. “We had three or four toss ups in the first round, and we won every one of them and got bonus points in every one of them. We got bonus points in eight of nine first round wins, and that was the difference.”
Danville’s team title came from a wealth of contributions. Warriors Brock Hudkins (106), Elliott Malloy (113), Neal Malloy (145), and Brayden Montgomery (152) all scored individual titles and led a regional-high nine Danville wrestlers to the semistate round.
Not far behind Danville in fourth place came county rival Avon, which was paced by individual wins from seniors Jonah Zorniger (182) and Dylan Jones (220).
The key to Danville’s team win may have been two victories over Franklin wrestlers in championship matches, decisions by Hudkins and Montgomery over D. J Smith (4-3) and Jacob Stevenson (7-2), respectively.
“Franklin has been a consistent state power, and we beat them both times head-to-head in the finals,” Pugliese said. “To wrestle like we did was huge.”
Meanwhile, Avon coach Israel Blevins had plenty of reasons to smile about his team’s day. Six Orioles wrestled for titles, with Jones pulling out the day’s most dramatic result in a rally for a 5-3 overtime win over Franklin’s Connor Tolley.
“It looked like (Jones) was done,” Blevins said. “But, all of a sudden with a few seconds left, he got back in position to go to overtime and got the takedown in overtime. We were pleased to get six guys in the finals, but we would have liked to have had a couple more champions. Hopefully, when we get the draws, it will not hurt us too bad and we have a good chance of getting through to the state tournament.”
All in all, the regional offered success to all six Hendricks County schools, as every team advanced at least two wrestlers to semistate.
Second-place finishes went to Avon’s Brian Rassbach (113), Nick Etienne (120), Brendon Helm (160), and Evan Elmore (172); Plainfield’s Ben Macri (126); Cascade’s Zach Batts (138); and Danville’s Autry Pickens (195).
Batts, who was unbeaten through the year, took his first loss by a 7-5 overtime decision against Tyler Hupp of Indian Creek.
“(Tyler) was an awesome wrestler,” Batts said. “I just came up short at the end, but I hope to see him again next week in the finals.”
Other county wrestlers who will continue to semistate include Plainfield’s Isaac Gomez (106); Cascade’s Hunter Fox (113), Danville’s Isiah Scherrer (132), Jordan Shearin (138), Kyle Reeves (160), and Mike Williams (285); Tri-West’s Rick Perry (145) and Jon Staton (285); Brownsburg’s C. J. Damler (152), Stone Neese (170), Connor Ludwig (182), and Tyler Harlan (220).
Area wrestlers will continue the path toward the state championship meet this Saturday at Evansville Reitz, host of the southern most semistate. Opening round matches are slated for 9 a.m. Central Time.