By Jeff Robison
BROWNSBURG — It was a long time coming. Forty years, in fact.
On Saturday, the Danville Warriors ended a 40-year drought as they captured the 2012 Hendricks County Wrestling Tournament title.
The Warriors, who had a narrow loss in last year’s tournament, took home five first places, and scored top three finishes in 12 of the 14 weight classes, generating 222.5 points, more than enough to top Avon’s 193.5 points, and end the Orioles’ eight-year run atop the county mat world.
Host Brownsburg placed third in the final team standings with 147 points, followed by Plainfield (113), Cascade (100), and Tri-West (50).
For a program that hadn’t taken home the title since 1972 and was last in the county just six years ago, the win completed a journey started when Danville coach Steve Pugliese took over at the Warriors’ low point.
“My first thought was we should have won this last year,” Pugliese said. “With this group, we’ve won back-to-back conference titles, we’ve won the first sectional title in school history, and now we’ve won the first county title in 40 years. This really is about the kids and parents who believed in what we’re doing. Everybody’s bought in.”
Pacing Danville’s title run was 145-pound champion Neal Malloy (16-0 this year), who became just the 10th four-time champion in county tournament history. Malloy won his weight class with a flourish, pinning all three opponents this year, including runner-up Rick Perry of Tri-West.
“These guys have worked so hard for this, and they’ve earned it,” Malloy said of his teammates. “Coach Pugliese is a great coach. He teaches great technique, and knows what he’s doing. He’s built this program from rock bottom, all credit to him.”
Still, the Warriors won their team title in true team fashion, as they picked up top-three place finishes from 12 of their 14 wrestlers.
It also set up the Warriors well for next weekend’s first Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Duals Invitational at Westfield — effectively, the state’s team dual meet championships. The Warriors will be competing as the fourth seeded team in the medium school Class AA group, up first against Heritage Hills.
“This certainly gives us confidence going in (to the Duals),” Pugliese said. “With our lineup, I think we can match up well with anybody there. These kids aren’t afraid of anyone. We’ll be alright.”
Other Danville champions were Elliott Malloy (113, 11-0 for the year), Isaiah Scherrer (132), Brayden Montgomery (152, a three-time county champion), and Austin Pickens (195). Runner up placements went to Jordan Shearin (138), Kyle Reeves (160), Asa Lynch (170), and Mike Williams (285).
Though Avon dropped to second place, coach Israel Blevins said he felt good about his team’s placement, especially coming with a lineup that included eight sophomores.
“We come here every year expecting to win,” Blevins said. “(Danville) has some older kids, primarily seniors, and they’re wrestling well. Our team is primarily sophomores. We want to remember how it felt to lose (county) and use it to motivate and improve.”
Avon gained four individual titles from junior Nick Etienne (120), sophomore Brendon Helm (160), sophomore Evan Elmore (170), and senior Dylan Jones (220).
Brownsburg may have only had one winner and two runners up, but their third-place team effort was gained via six individuals placing third — most consolation wins of all teams. The lone champion for the Bulldogs was Conner Ludwig (182), while Austen Arnold (126) and Tyler Harlan (220) were second in their classes.
Plainfield and Cascade split the other four individual titles. Cascade’s champions — Zach Batts (138, 18-0) and Lukas Stoutenour (285, 15-0) — continued unbeaten seasons in winning their divisions. The Quakers took home titles when Isaac Gomez (106) and Ben Macri (126) captured championship wins.