KNIGHTSTOWN — Eastern Hancock’s Jordyn Wills could barely hear himself think, let alone decipher his coaches’ instructions bellowing from the corner of the mat inside Historic Hoosier Gym on Tuesday night.
Locked in a tight 5-4 match early in the second period against rival Knightstown, Wills heard the cheers reverberating off every rafter and bouncing from the suspended basketball goals within the legendary bandbox.
Yet, despite the intense decibel level, the 160-pound senior could clearly read the scoreboard. And it was time to take a stand.
“It’s a great rivalry place. It’s a great atmosphere,” Wills remarked on the home gym of the fabled Hickory Huskers where the Royals and Panthers tangled for a second straight year. “When you wrestle in here, you can really feel the fact that it’s a rivalry match because it gets so loud. There’s a lot of energy in here.”
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Wills used the ambiance in his favor, erupting for seven unanswered points en route to a 12-4 major decision. While the win did little to chop down the Class A No. 8 Panthers’ stranglehold, it was a statement, one the Royals needed.
Down 48-0 to Knightstown, Eastern Hancock made its charge late, winning four of the dual’s final five matches to erase the Panthers’ shutout bid, 54-16.
“We were coming in here hoping to pull off an upset, but it wasn’t our night,” Willis said. “We had some mishaps we need to fix at practice. But we’ll definitely come back from this and hope for a better outcome.”
The key for Knightstown was efficiency. Before a pin in 3 minutes, 46 seconds by Eastern Hancock senior Logan Francis at 152 pounds to stop the bleeding, 48-6, the Panthers racked up six falls and two decisions to go up big.
Knightstown finished with seven pins overall to win its fifth consecutive dual win against Eastern Hancock in the all-time series.
“Momentum is everything, and they came out aggressively,” Royals head coach Keith Oliver said. “I credit them, tonight. They were aggressive at pretty much every weight class, and that was the difference.”
The same could be said for the Royals’ victorious four, especially Francis (5-0), who trailed 4-0 and 8-2 before flipping the script with a reversal in the final 40 seconds of his match.
After Francis’ comeback, the Royals won two straight, beginning with Wills, who improved to 25-8 on the season.
“It got us going,” Oliver said. “Francis is a senior, and he’s always been JV. We never had a spot for him, but he came up big tonight. He’s a good wrestler. He just needs the opportunity.”
Eastern Hancock 170-pound sophomore Garrett Friesen (21-9) kept the swing going, turning a 9-6 deficit late in the third period into a 13-9 win in overtime.
“I love that kid. He’s something else. He’s a hard worker. He does the offseason stuff. That was huge for him. That was huge for his confidence,” Oliver said. “The future is bright for him.”
Initially, Friesen thought he missed his shot, scoring an escape and a takedown in the final 10 seconds of regulation.
“I honestly thought I lost by one or two, so I was a little heartbroken,” Friesen said. “But once (the official) told me, I was ready to go. I was exhilarated. By that point, I was thinking, I had to make something happen. I had to get a win.”
Friesen burnt 17 seconds off the clock in overtime to win, rolling up Liam Orcutt with a takedown and a two-point nearfall to slice the team score 48-13.
“The main thing, just like the coaches teach us, don’t give up. Just keep working and that’s what I tried to do,” Friesen said.
Senior Clayton Cochard ended the dual with a 7-3 decision at 195 pounds to push his season record to 24-7.
“It stinks a lot because it’s my senior year, and I really wanted to get the win, but there wasn’t anything we could do about it,” Cochard said. “They’re a good team, and the competition will get us ready for sectional.”
The Royals host Oldenburg Academy on Thursday for senior night for their final dual of the year. They host the Mid-Eastern Conference Meet on Jan. 20 before entering the postseason.
Knightstown 54, Eastern Hancock 16
220: Charlie Moore (K) def. Kaleb Maynard (EH), fall 2:33
285: Burias Wisner (K) def. Alexander Burton (EH), fall 3:32
106: David Peck (K) def. Dylan Anderson (EH), fall 0:29
113: Kalen Carter (K) won by forfeit
120: Thomas Sollars (K) def. Kegan Kendall (EH), fall 5:04
126: Kaleb Buchanan (K) def. Chase Sweet (EH), fall 1:17
132: Jacob Hanna (K) def. Ethan Boyer (EH), fall 0:50
138: Bruce Nichols (K) def. Caleb Giddings (EH), dec. 5-4
145: Nick Walsh (K) def. Avery Wills (EH), dec. 10-3
152: Logan Francis (EH) def. Evan Woles (K), fall 3:46
160: Jordyn Wills (EH) def. Ben Newby (K), maj. dec. 12-4
170: Garrett Friesen (EH) def. Liam Orcutt (K), dec. 13-9 OT
182: Connor Brockman (K) def. Ben Furlani (EH), fall 3:02
195: Clayton Cochard (EH) def. Josiah Halvorsen (K), dec. 7-3