By Jake Thompson
AVON — AVON — After several years of knocking at the county wrestling door, Danville’s wrestling program has truly arrived. Following last season’s sectional title with a county championship this year, and after adding another sectional title on Saturday, the Warriors now have a solid foothold.
Leading by 22 points headed into the final round of wrestling at Avon, the Warriors had a bit of a cushion. Danville widened that margin just a bit through the last round of wrestling action, taking the win by 26.5 points over second-place Avon.
That’s a complete sweep for the Warriors this season as they’ve taken conference, county, and sectional titles. For Danville coach Steve Pugliese, this season’s sectional win may be a bit more satisfying than last year’s.
“It’s good to repeat,” he said. “That way, it’s not just a one time, flash-in-the-pan type of deal. We kind of backed it up and after winning by a half point last year and winning by a much larger margin this year speaks to the depth we have now.”
Danville had four champions on the day and two of them — Neal Molloy (145) and Brayden Montgomery (152) — became four-time sectional champions. But as satisfied as both felt afterward, it was the team accomplishment and legacy they’ll be leaving that really hit home for the pair of seniors.
“It feels pretty good, but I’m just glad we got another team championship to add to our team collection,” Montgomery said. “This year we were the favorites and we were on both ends of it after being underdogs last season. I thought that’s what was really neat about it. It’s important to set a lot of tradition because we don’t have a lot of that. It’s important to set that.
“I have to give credit to our coaches because they’ve turned this program around. We were placing ninth at sectionals when Steve (Pugliese) came in. He’s turned it around and everybody is competing. I hope we can just keep this going.”
Molloy was happy with his victory, but shared Montgomery’s sentiments about the team accomplishment and the coaches.
“I’ve worked hard and it’s a good feeling,” Molloy said. “I did my job and the team did great, winning their second sectional. It’s awesome. These guys put their time in and it feels good. It’s a huge deal. I’ve said this a lot, but (coach) Pugliese brought us up from rock bottom.”
Also bringing home championships for the Warriors were a pair of freshmen that Molloy and Montgomery can now hand the torch off to. Molloy won’t have to travel far to find one of them, probably just down the hall of his house.
Elliott Molloy (113), Neal’s brother, and Brock Hudkins (103) each won their final matches with Hudkins scoring an 18-0 technical fall and Molloy taking a 9-4 decision.
For the Orioles, who also finished second to Danville in the county, the loss was disappointing, but not unanticipated.
“Probably as expected, I guess,” Avon coach Israel Blevins said. “For the most part, we wrestled as we were seeded.”
Avon also took home four titles as Dylan Jones (220) repeated as a sectional champion and Nick Etienne (120), Brendon Helm (160), and Evan Elmore (170) all took wins.
Brownsburg had two champions on the day with senior Austen Arnold (126) winning by a 15-0 tech fall and Connor Ludwig (182) taking an epic match, 2-1, over Avon’s Jonah Zorniger.
Ludwig and Zorniger have battled multiple times over the past two seasons with Ludwig’s sole victory coming last year in the form of a regional championship.
“(Connor) definitely showed a lot of heart today,” Brownsburg coach Jason Catellier said. “I think that’s probably the eighth time those two have wrestled in the last two years. We went with our game plan and I’m really happy it worked. He’s really happy that it worked. He’s probably going to have to wrestle him again. It’s good they battle back and forth and hopefully they can do it all the way to the state finals.”
Cascade’s Zach Batts remained undefeated on the season, capping his day with a pin in the final seconds of his championship match. It was the junior’s second consecutive sectional title after winning at 126 last season.
Of the 10-team sectional, county schools took home 11 of 14 titles. Overall, out of 56 available spots, 33 county wrestlers advanced to the Mooresville regional next weekend.
Danville leads the way with 12, followed by Avon with nine, Brownsburg with seven, Cascade with three, and Tri-West with two.
Ben Davis finished third with Brownsburg in fourth, Cascade in seventh, and Tri-West in eighth.
Plainfield finished sixth at the Mooresville sectional as Franklin claimed the team title. Plainfield advanced seven wrestlers to next weekend’s Mooresville regional and had two runner-ups, Isaac Gomez (103) and Dayton Clements (152).