By Will Willems
It was one of the most anticipated match-ups of Friday’s opening round of the IHSAA State Wrestling Finals.
But in the end, it didn’t really match the billing. No. 1-ranked Austin McCloskey showed why he is the one to beat in the 160-pound weight class, topping 2nd-ranked Kenny Hughes 11-3 to advance to today’s quarterfinals.
“If I wrestle to win, I will win,” McCloskey said. “In the past three or four weeks I was wrestling not to lose and it caught up with me. Today I wrestled to win.”
McCloskey suffered his first loss of the year last week in the semi-state final.
The Western Boone junior said that loss refocused him.
“It sounds weird, but I am so glad I lost,” McCloskey said. “It got all the pressure off and I can just focus on me.”
Western Boone head coach Kyler Kearby said that McCloskey has no doubts he can win the state title and will take confidence away from Friday night’s match.
“To go out and major decision a kid like that, that is going to boost him up big time,” Kearby said. “He is pretty confident no matter what, but that is going to bump him up.”
McCloskey set the tone for the match in the opening period.
Within the first 30 seconds of the match, McCloskey took down Hughes and put him on his back for two more points to take a 4-0 lead. After letting Hughes up, McCloskey took him down again to go up 6-2.
McCloskey added takedowns in the second and third period and never looked threatened in the match.
“It was very important,” McCloskey said of the opening takedown. “That takedown and the second takedown broke him.”
For more of this story, read Saturday's Lebanon Reporter.