PENDLETON — New Palestine finished runner-up to Yorktown in the conference wrestling championship for a second straight year on Saturday.
From here on out, second place won’t do for the Dragons.
In its final multi-team meet before the state tournament begins, No. 9-ranked New Palestine fell 277-233 to No. 6 Yorktown at the Hoosier Heritage Conference tourney.
Each squad pinned down five individual championships, but the Tigers were better top-to-bottom, finishing top three in all 14 weight classes: five 1sts, four 2nds and five 3rds. New Palestine had five runner-up ribbons to go along with its five titles, but not a single third-place finish, missing out on valuable team points.
“They’re kind of stacked at every weight,” said NP’s Noah Grable, the 220-pound HHC champ, of Yorktown. “And they’re consistent with getting pins when they need to.”
Greenfield-Central, with three individual titles, finished third with 162.5 points, ahead of New Castle (156), Delta (130), Pendleton Heights (125), Mt. Vernon (77) and Shelbyville (34).
Grable was part of a clan of Dragons who helped the fire breathers dominate the lower and upper weight brackets.
New Palestine opened the championship round with three straight victories: Alec White (106 pounds), Eugene Starks (113) and Chad Red (120) all claimed titles to continue standout seasons.
White, a freshman, and sophomore Starks improved to a combined 49-7 on the year. Defending state champ and No. 1-ranked Red is 28-0 as a sophomore (and still unbeaten in his career).
“We’ve got some young guys, and that matters because they’ll be coming back,” said NP coach Chad Red, father to the Dragons’ sophomore of the same name. “And they’ll be coming back for a couple more years, so we just want to keep improving, starting this week.
“We’ve got a huge meet Wednesday with (No. 1-ranked) Franklin at home. It’s a good stepping stone … and that’s our last match before sectional. This was obviously a good preparation point and that will be another great preparation right before sectional.”
New Palestine’s sectional at Shelbyville is Feb. 1, and Grable and Brian Wagner will join their bantam teammates in securing regional qualifications with victories, they hope. (Top four advance out of the sectional, but a sectional win means a better regional draw).
Grable, a junior, moved to 26-2 on the season, after finishing off Yorktown’s Noah Little with a 4-2 championship decision Saturday. The match was tied 2-2 with five seconds remaining in the third and final period when Grable secured a takedown.
“I just knew I needed something, because I didn’t really want to go into overtime,” Grable said. “I wanted to finish it right then, so I went for the shot.”
One match prior, No. 7-ranked Wagner had an easier time in his 195-pound title bout, taking a 5-0 decision over Hunter Hiestand of Yorktown. Wagner, a senior, is 26-2 on the year.
Rylan McCarty (126), Jared Timberman (132), Jayln Wallace (138), Nick Brickens (160) and Andrew Yazel (heavyweight) notched second-place finishes for New Palestine. All of the Dragons’ runners-up are sophomores, except for senior McCarty.
“Overall, we did pretty good,” coach Red said. “Can’t complain. It’s hard when you get 10 in the finals and still don’t win, but Yorktown’s pretty tough. And we battled with them, they just had a little more firepower at the end.”
Yazel was the Dragons’ final runner-up and he fell to Greenfield-Central senior Tyler Beeson in the big-man battle. Beeson, who also won the HHC title as a sophomore, pinned all three of his opponents Saturday — in a total of two minutes, four seconds.
Beeson, 28-1, was motivated after losing to the now-graduated Tyler Uhls of Shelbyville in last winter’s HHC championship match. No. 11-ranked Beeson, a state finals qualifier in the shot put last spring, also admitted his focus was better this time around.
“Last year my head wasn’t quite right, but this year I think my head’s in the right place,” he said. “Last year I think I was ready for track and I was on to other things, and I let that get the better of me.”
Beeson aims to make the best of his final go-round on the mat, and he’s got at least two teammates who could make a deep run into the state tourney.
Sam Locke, the state’s 8th-ranked 132-pounder, lived up to his billing Saturday with a conference title, holding off the Dragons’ Timberman 7-5 in the final. Locke is 27-1 this winter.
G-C coach Josh Holden said Beeson and Locke are everything he could ask for in a pair of veterans.
“They came up through the elementary program and they’re the first guys since I’ve been here that have done that, that have come all the way up through elementary,” Holden said. “They’ve just been wrestling a long time. They know how it’s done. They know how to prepare.
“They’re seniors, so everyday is about getting better and taking your last shot and winning this thing.”
Cameron Nuckols, in one of the day’s upsets, gave the Cougars three winners with a 7-5 triumph over No. 13-ranked Myron Howard-Anderson of Yorktown at 182 pounds. Howard-Anderson (23-4), who had previous wins over Nuckols in their careers, was the only ranked top seed not to win his weight class Saturday.
The 182-pound championship was tied 4-4 heading to the third round. Nuckols allowed Howard-Anderson to stand up from his down position, giving Howard-Anderson a 5-4 lead with two minutes remaining. Nuckols wanted his foe on his feet, so that he could secure a takedown. And, with 25 seconds to go, the Cougars’ junior recorded the match-winning takedown.
Holden noted that Nuckols, now 23-6, continues to improve.
“Compared to the past, he’s got a little more offense, so he’s going to score more points,” the coach said. “To me, the keys are: Can I take you down and can I get away? No one has held (Nuckols) down yet. He gets to his feet and he gets away every time.
“He just wrestled a solid match, no mistakes.”
The Dragons and Cougars maintained their 2-3 team finishes of a year ago, while Mt. Vernon moved up one spot after taking last place in 2013.
Colin McAtee (24-6) and Chance Ahlbrand (19-6) grabbed third place at 126 and 195, respectively, for MV.
Notes: New Palestine’s Senior Night match against Franklin begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. … G-C will visit Beech Grove Thursday at 6:30 p.m. … Mt. Vernon will travel to Shenandoah Wednesday for a 6:30 p.m. start. … New Castle’s Billy Decker (160) was the only HHC champ not from Yorktown, New Palestine or Greenfield-Central. The unranked Trojan defeated Kyle Uhls of Shelbyville 9-3 in the 160 championship. It was the first loss of the season for Uhls (21-1). ... G-C was the team conference champ in 2012.
* Hoosier Heritage Conference Wrestling Meet championship matches, and local top 6 where applicable.
106: White (NP) def. Flood (PH), fall 5:09. 4th, Miller (GC).
113: Starks (NP) def. Flood (PH), 6-3. 6th, Couch (GC).
120: Red (NP) def. Laughlin (YT), fall :55. 3rd, Wright (GC).
126: McCormick (YT) def. McCarty (NP), 4-0. 3rd, McAtee (MV).
132: Locke (GC) def. Timberman (NP), 7-5. 6th, Campbell (MV).
138: Stephenson (YT) def. Wallace (NP), 6-1. 3rd, Johns (GC); 4th, Cooper (MV).
145: Decker (NC) def. Uhls (SH), 9-3. 4th, Mullins (GC); 5th, Johnson (NP).
152: Carroll (YT) def. Gray (DE), 12-2. 4th, Fogle (GC); 5th, Hunt (NP).
160: Hiestand (YT) def. Brickens (NP), 8-2. 4th, Tackett (MV); 5th, Morris (GC).
170: Jackson (YT) def. Evans (DE), 8-5. 5th, Gibson (GC); 6th, Montgomery (MV).
182: Nuckols (GC) def. Howard-Anderson (YT), 7-5. 5th, Milesi (MV).
195: Wagner (NP) def. Hiestand (YT), 5-0. 3rd, Ahlbrand (MV); 5th, Wetli (GC).
220: Grable (NP) def. Little (YT), 4-2. 6th, Denman (GC).
HWT: Beeson (GC) def. Yazel (NP), fall :52.