State Recap: Senior wrestlers perfect to the end
February 22, 2013By Rich Torres of VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By Rich Torres
VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
After winning his first state title a year ago, Mitch Sliga entered his final prep season determined to make a statement. The Fishers High School senior succeeded in his quest.
Making it look easy, Sliga powered through the IHSAA wrestling state tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to defend his 195-pound title with a flawless 49-0 record. In the process, he left an impression that will be difficult to forget.
"Compared to last year, I knew I wanted to dominate all the way through. It was easier then I thought it was going to be," said Sliga, who held the state's top-ranking at 195 the entire year. "I'm just happy I was able to finish. I feel I left a statement for my career."
A two-time third-place finisher before winning his first 195-pound state title with a 49-0 record as a junior, Sliga, a Northwestern recruit, leaves Fishers as the most decorated wrestler in program history.
This year, he tied his own program record for wins in a single season. He set new standards for takedowns in a season and a career. He surpassed former record-holder Brad Farrell (143) for career wins with 178 compared to only four losses. He ended his career with a 99-match winning streak.
Sliga's pin records will also be difficult to match.
Sliga's final match under the lights at the state finals ended with a record-setting 34th fall this season and 107th in his career. His last pin only took him 31 seconds against South Bend Clay's Jaylin Allen (45-8) to decide the 195-pound title.
"I wasn't planning on a pin, but he went to his back, and I wasn't going to let him off," Sliga said.
Sliga racked up three falls during the state finals and had three the week prior during the New Castle Semi-State. At regional, he logged two falls.
Throughout the season, no match went the full six minutes for Sliga until the state semifinal against second-ranked Clayton Fiddler (47-1) of Bloomington South. Sliga defeated Fiddler by major decision 13-4.
"This one was just about going out there and having fun," he said. "Everything I've worked for this season paid off."
A four-time sectional and regional champion, there weren't many titles Sliga didn't capture in his career. He was a three-time semi-state winner, a four-time Hoosier Crossroads Conference champ and a three-time Hamilton County first-place finisher.
A 24-time ISWA state champion, he excelled on the national stage by winning the 2012 USA Wrestling Triple Crown and was a four-time Fargo National Champion.
Other than two setback seasons his freshman and sophomore campaigns at the IHSAA state finals, Sliga achieved all he set out to do with no regrets.
"(The first two years) didn't go exactly how I wanted, I would have liked to have been a four-timer, but I was happy with what I was able to do overall," he said. "I'm really thankful for everyone that's help me through these past four years. I'm glad I had the opportunity to leave that legacy."
The Warrior Way: Inevitably, wrestling fans will debate the controversial ending to this year's 145-pound state championship match between Yorktown's Eli Walker and Danville's Neal Molloy.
But for Danville head coach Steve Pugliese, the real question isn't whether or not Walker finished his fireman's carry before the final buzzer or if he had control of the desperation last-second takedown attempt?
The only one question Pugliese believes warrants attention is: How tough is Neal Molloy?
Of course, he already knows the answer.
"His performance was gutsy. People didn't realize, but he popped an ankle in the first match and fought through it all day," Pugliese said. "He wasn't his normal offensive self, but he was able to get through it."
Ranked No. 1 at 145 pounds this season, Molloy scored four decisions on Saturday, Feb. 16, with the narrowest margin of victory in the championship match, 4-3, against Walker (43-2), who was ranked third in the state.
Molloy finished the season a flawless 43-0 to win his second state title in his career. He claimed his first title at 130 pounds as a sophomore with a perfect 50-0 record.
His bid for a second straight championship was derailed last year when Molloy lost to Alexandria's Luke Blanton in the state quarterfinals. Before the loss, he was 43-0. Ultimately, he had to settle for fifth-place at 132 pounds.
"Sophomore year, I got it. Junior year, I got upset," said Molloy, who finishes his career with a 178-5 record. "It feels good to finish my last high school match on top."
"That's all he's talked about, getting back to the top of the podium," Pugliese added. "He's a kid that doesn't cut corners. There's probably no one more deserving of a state title then him."
A four-time sectional and regional champion, Molloy holds numerous program records and collected three semi-state titles in his career. He's placed at Fargo and was a Super 32 runner-up.
In the All-American's final match, every second counted.
Against Walker, Molloy trailed early, falling behind 2-0 in the first period before racking up three straight points via an escape and takedown. Heading into the final period, he led 4-2, but Walker cut into the deficit with an escape.
"He had a nice low single, and I didn't really see it coming," Molloy remarked on the first period. "He's not a very offensive wrestler, so he caught me off guard a little bit. I had to be on my guard the rest of the match."
With both wrestlers in the neutral position with 37 seconds left in the match, the duo locked into a battle of attrition until the final buzzer.
"He came in with shots and I down blocked. I came up and he hit a real nice firemen's and he dumps it. I pinched both arms and his head, and he couldn't get it," said Molloy, an Indiana University recruit. "It was close."
Walker slid under Molloy for the fireman's just as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Initially, the throw was ruled a takedown, but after a meeting between both officials and the table judge, it was waved off.
"I don't think it was a takedown. I don't think it was controlled. I think the buzzer went off even before he took him down. The officials confirmed that," Pugliese said. "We feel lucky to get away with that win. I'm proud of what he was able do out there."
Perfect Ending: A state runner-up last year, Greenfield-Central's Josh Farrell walked away a state champion in his final season. Finishing the year a perfect 48-0, Farrell defeated third-ranked Vinny Corsaro (46-4) of Cathedral by decision 3-2 in the 152-pound championship match.
Ranked second in his weight class this year, Farrell was impressive throughout the state finals, scoring a tech fall and a major decision to reach the championship match.
As a junior, Farrell was second at 138. As a freshman, he placed sixth at 103 and was seventh at 119 in 2011.
A Purdue recruit, Farrell concluded his career with a 174-15 record and the program's record holder in career wins, takedowns, tech falls and wins in a single season.
His final victory required a late surge. Down 1-0 entering the third period, Farrell executed an escape and a takedown to pull ahead 3-1 before Corsaro scored an escape.
In the semifinals, Corsaro defeated defending state champion and top-ranked Isaiah Bradley of Muncie Southside in overtime 4-3.
Corsaro, a junior, collected his second consecutive state runner-up medal. He was second at 145 pounds last year and is a three-time state place-winner. He was sixth at 135 as a freshman.