Linden — The Zionsville wrestling team had an impressive display on Saturday at the North Montgomery regional.
The Eagles had eight wrestlers competing, and all eight moved onto the semi-state. The team also had four regional champions, tied for the most with Carmel and Lebanon, and placed second as a team with 135 points, just four points behind first-place Carmel.
"We set ourselves up really well for next week," Zionsville head coach Jared Williams said. "Overall, I am just really happy with how our guys competed today. We were tough, and when things got difficult, our guys fought through some things. In the end, that is what you want to see."
The first Zionsville champion was at 138 pounds with junior Kody Wagner.
Wagner pinned Fountain Central's Brian Tucker and then defeated Southmont's Dakota Ball 6-2 in the semifinals.
In the championship match, he faced Attica's Hayden Estes, and came away with a 5-1 win.
"I am really happy for Kody," Williams said. "Hopefully this puts him in a good position to do well next week. We still feel like he can still open up more, and I think that once he comes out of his shell a little bit and attacks, he will really separate himself."
Three weight classes later, Zionsville senior Matt Wertz won the regional title at 160 pounds.
Wertz pinned Crawfordsville's Gage Gerdes and Frankfort's Dallas Davis to advance to the championship match. In the final, he faced Justin Miller, whom he faced last week in the sectional title match.
Wertz got a takedown late in the second period to take a 2-1 lead, but found himself taken down in the third period to tie the match at 3. Wertz got an escape, then another takedown to win 6-3.
"Matt is just a tough kid," Williams said. "He wants to be coached, he wants us to tell him what to do, and when he sticks to that, he is tough to beat. I am really proud of him, he has come a long way. Last year, he didn't make it out of the sectional. But he fights hard, he is in shape and I am really happy for him."
In the next weight class, Thomas Penola improved to 38-1 on the season in winning the regional title.
Penola pinned Fountain Central's Wayde Bentley and Carmel's Logan Hart. The third-ranked Penola then faced No. 2 Tanner Webster of North Montgomery in the championship match.
Webster jumped out in front early, leading 2-1 after a period, then 4-2 after two periods. Webster recorded an escape early in the third period to go up 5-2, but then Penola went to work.
He got a takedown with 1:25 left, then cut Webster to make it 6-4. Penola added another takedown late in the third period to force overtime, and recorded another takedown early in overtime of an 8-6 victory.
"Thomas does a really good job of applying pressure throughout the match," Williams said. "He stays close enough, that when his conditioning starts taking over in the third period, he can score. We would still really like him to tighten up his defense in the first period, and he still has to vary his attacks a little more. It was a good win, but he still has work to do for sure."
Drew Williamson added a fourth championship at 195 pounds.
Williamson pinned North Vermillion's Bryson Carson in the first round, then faced 11th-ranked Cole Slavens of North Montgomery in the second round and beat him 7-3. In the championship match, he faced 10th-ranked Liam Jagow, who had beaten Williamson in the finals of the HCC and sectional tournaments.
Williamson won the match 3-1 advancing to the semi-state for the first time.
"There were a couple monkeys on Drew's back," Williams said. "The first was getting past the first round of the regional, because he had been beat here the last three years. Then obviously, beating the Westfield kid. I think once Drew got through that first round, there was some pressure off of him there. The North Mont. kid was really tough to score on and Drew found a way to get it done, and the same thing in the championship match. I am just really happy for Drew."
At 132 pounds, Azariah Ellis advanced by beating North Montgomery's Brady Miller and Attica's Jordan Douglass, before falling to Lebanon's 10th-ranked Zak Bowling 3-2 in the championship match. At 152 pounds, Sam Gobeyn topped Crawfordsville's Steven Latre and Hamilton Southeastern's Kyle Wagner, before falling to seventh-ranked Jack Eiteljorge in the final.
Also advancing by placing third were John Gobeyn at 126 pounds and Josue Hill at 182 pounds. Zionsville went 6 of 8 in their final matches on the day, something that has been a point of emphasis for the team.
"That is huge and it is something that we talk about all the time," Williams said. "We want to finish the period, finish the match and finish the day. We have been better with that this year. We have had a couple of days here and there, but I never attributed it to a lack of effort or lack of fight, which it was at times last year. One of the things that I have been most proud of in this team is our fight and our effort has been consistent."
The semi-state will start at 9 a.m. at New Castle next Saturday.
Two wins advances wrestlers to the state finals. Williams said a strong regional doesn't get you much of anything heading into semi-state.
"You want to be wrestling well at this time of the year obviously, so we feel good about that," Williams said. "It should put you in a good spot in the bracket, but you never know week to week. You can't think that because you wrestled well the week before, that you will wrestle well this week. You have to be ready for the next one and take it one match at a time."