By Jake Thompson
— After fighting through some injuries earlier in the season, the Danville wrestling team seems to be peaking at the right time. At the Sagamore Conference championship this past weekend, the Warriors captured their third title in four seasons and avenged an early season dual meet loss to North Montgomery in the process.
Danville (260) bested second-place North Montgomery (212.50) by 47.5 points. Southmont placed third, followed by Lebanon, Frankfort, Western Boone, Crawfordsville, and Tri-West.
Danville had 13 grapplers place in the top four with six champions, two runner-ups, and four third-place finishers, along with a fourth- and a fifth-place finisher.
“A great team performance,” Danville coach Steve Pugliese said. “The kids wrestled hard and competed in every match. In addition, North Montgomery had beaten us (earlier) and there was a lot of talk about how they should have been at team state and that they were a better team than us.”
Two of Danville’s freshmen had a stellar outing for the Warriors.
Brock Hudkins (106) , undefeated since returning to the line up, pinned each opponent en route to his first conference championship. No. 11-ranked Elliott Molloy (113) bested his North Montgomery opponent, who he defeated by just one point earlier in the year, by a major decision in the finals.
While the younger wrestlers did shine, the Warriors also counted on some of their veterans, most importantly seniors Neal Molloy (145) and Brayden Montgomery (152).
No. 1-ranked N. Molloy collected his fourth consecutive conference title, winning by a major decision over No. 7-rated Colin Campbell of Lebanon.
No. 8-rated Montgomery won his second conference title with a 7-5 overtime win over North Montgomery’s Nick Borta, ranked No. 7 in the state.
Juniors Asa Lynch (170) and Autry Pickens each claimed individual titles for the Warriors. Lynch defeated the No. 1-seed before winning his title in overtime with a takedown while Pickens scored two major decisions and a fall.
Freshmen Kyle Smith (120) and Mike Williams (285) finished as runner-ups. Smith defeated Tri-West’s Justin Wright, a wrestler he had lost to earlier in the season, in the semifinals.
The Bruins finished eighth and had three wrestlers place in the top four, two thirds, and one fourth. Wright and Jon Staton (285) placed third while Holden Ottinger (138) took fourth.
“Overall, I felt it was a day of highs and lows,” Tri-West coach Nick Sullivan said. “We had some disappointments, but also some moments where some guys wrestled to their potential. As we move forward we look to focus on some areas of concern and look to perfect our strengths.”
Also placing for the Bruins were Justin Graham, Cole Purdy, Adam Boles, and Rick Perry.
Danville and Tri-West each now look to sectional action approaching Jan. 26.
“I think we are on track for sectionals,” Pugliese said. “We told the kids that the season wasn’t over after county and team state and it certainly isn’t over after the conference. We’ll wrestle twice this week and then turn our attention to the state tournament series. I feel good about where we are as a team, but think we need to work harder, especially with the way in which we drill and our conditioning.”