NEW PALESTINE — The mission was clear. “Leave an impact,” New Palestine wrestling coach Alex Johns told his Dragons on Wednesday before Senior Night against No. 11 Zionsville.
“Leave an impact on the night. Leave an impact on the crowd. Leave an impact on your team,” Johns emphasized. “That’s what tonight was all about.”
The Dragons lived up to their coach’s message, nearly upsetting the visiting Eagles before a late rally by Zionsville led to a 41-35 loss.
In front of several New Palestine youth wrestlers, family and alumni, including 2008-09 undefeated state champion Kyle Ulrey (46-0 at 152 pounds), the Dragons muscled up with five pins and a technical fall to push the Eagles.
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“Senior night is a meaningful night for these guys, and we had a few guys who never wrestled varsity ever as seniors, who had an opportunity to do that,” Johns said.
The Dragons’ top seniors were on point as usual with 16th-ranked Landan Burton (33-1) scoring the team’s fastest fall of the night in 1 minute, 27 seconds at 220 pounds.
Logan Robinson recorded the Dragons’ first win of the dual with a fall in 1:35 at 160, which cut into Zionsville’s early 9-0 lead. Robinson is now 25-8 on the season.
“I started realizing it’s almost over, and it’s kind of sad,” Robinson remarked on the season. “But a lot of the guys stepped tonight and I think wrestled good. I’m proud of that.”
Freshman 106-pounder Christian White posted an 18-3 technical fall against Zionsville’s Aiden Dorsey, who was filling in for freshman Hudson Harreld.
“Those three guys are the hammers on our team. They set the tone for us in the room. I think they are on pace to have a successful postseason. We have 10 days left (until sectional,” Johns said.
Zionsville led 32-12 after an 18-1 technical fall by Brian Fuller at heavyweight before White’s five-point swing, but Nelson’s fall and a pin by junior Jared Diep in 2:31 at 120 brought the match within three points, 32-29.
“I thought it could be close if we didn’t bring our A-game,” Zionsville head coach Jared Williams said. “We had a couple of guys outs, but the guys we put in there, I felt confident in, and I told them, ‘you’re filling in but we expect you to perform. We expect you to go out, fight and compete.’ I was disappointed in that some of them didn’t fight harder. I felt we didn’t wrestle well.”
The Eagles were without Harreld, Matthew Mangus (138) and No. 16 Logan Wagner (120).
A 4-0 decision by Shane Bates extended Zionsville’s lead 35-29, and a fall in 1:23 by Chase Poynter put the match away for the Eagles at 132.
“That was big. Chase is banged up, and I told him, we were going to need him tonight,” Williams said. “He stepped up, and he did what he was suppose to do. Chase is someone we feel is a state tournament caliber kid. That’s what should happen.”
The Dragons (17-7) won the final match of the dual with a pin by Max Jones in 4:52 against Joe Wiltrout.
The Eagles, who won their 15th dual on the season, had four pins. The fastest went to Luke Davis in 1:13 at 170. Sam Gobeyn, ranked 12th by Indiana Mat, won with a fall in 1:16 at 182.
No. 6 Kody Wagner, a sectional and regional champion at 138 last year, pinned New Palestine’s Chris Hafley in 4:15, which put the Eagles ahead 9-0.
“When he gets his offense going and gets into his attacks and doesn’t wait around, he looks pretty tough,” Williams said.
The Eagles are hoping to do the same as a group once sectional opens Jan. 27. Williams, who formerly coached Lawrence North to a runner-up team state finish in 2010-11, also steered Avon to second in 2004-05. The Eagles haven’t won a sectional team title since 2001-02.
“Honestly, I think we might be better than a top-10 team. We’ve been knocking on that door for quite some time,” Williams said. “We were state runner-up one year and in the final four another year, so those were really good teams (at Lawrence North). But I feel the team we have right now is as good as some of those.
“What those teams did was put it together at the end of the year. That’s what this team needs to do.”
No. 11 Zionsville 41, New Palestine 35
145: John Gobeyn (Z) def. Noah Wright (NP), dec. 13-6
152: Kody Wagner (Z) def. Chris Hafley (NP), fall 4:15
160: Logan Robinson (NP) def. TJ Streepy (Z), fall 1:35
170: Luke Davis (Z) def. Laine Schonauer (NP), fall 1:13
182: Sam Gobeyn (Z) def. C.J. Faubion (NP), fall 1:16
195: Thomas Penola (Z) won by forfeit
220: Landan Burton (NP) def. Matthias Einterz (Z), fall 1:27
285: Brian Fuller (Z) def. Hunter Holcombe (NP), tech. fall 18-1
106: Christian White (NP) def. Aiden Dorsey (Z), tech. fall 18-3
113: Chase Nelson (NP) def. Cooper Cecil (Z), fall 5:30
120: Jared Diep (NP) def. Josh Carney (Z), fall 2:31
126: Shane Bates (Z) def. Matthew Carter (NP), dec. 4-0
132: Samuel Poynter (Z) def. Marcos Osuna (NP), fall 1:23
138: Max Jones (NP) def. Joe Wiltrout (Z), fall 4:52