Tony Pescaglia can finally smile.
Pescaglia told his mom he wouldn’t smile for any pictures until he won a state title. Saturday, Pescaglia stood atop the podium on the Hearnes Center floor with a first-place medal around his neck, and smiled for all the cameras.
Pescaglia, a Hickman junior, claimed the 119-pound MSHSAA state wrestling title by defeating Jacob Nay of Oak Park 4-3. Pescaglia (37-5) is Hickman’s first individual state champion since 2002, and the 27th overall. Hickman has had one other 119-pound champion, Don Martin in 1976.
Down 3-2 going into the final period, Pescaglia made his move. After he got good position on Nay and drove him out of bounds, the wrestlers met at the center circle for a restart.
As the whistle blew to continue action, Pescaglia lunged for Nay’s right leg, scoring a takedown with 1:33 left to take the lead.
“I was just waiting for my shot to open up and it finally did at the end,” Pescaglia said. “He kept leading with the same leg and at the end he moved his arm a little bit and I saw an opening and took it.”
His only takedown of the match would end up being all Pescaglia needed to take the title. After placing third last year and receiving sixth place his freshmen year, the experience he gained to this point proved important.
“It was more exciting than last year,” Pescaglia said. “I just didn’t want to lose focus like I’ve done before. I figured I was probably going to be down at one point, so I wanted to keep my head in it and never quit.”
Pescaglia, who is usually calm on the mat, pumped his fists in the air and joined in a big hug with his coaches after the match.
“All that emotion is bottled up inside and I think he let it out,” Hickman coach J.D. Coffman said. “It’s a culmination of the emotions of the whole season. I was so proud for him to have his moment and excited for him because he’s been looking forward to this all season.”
After pinning his first two opponents in a combined time of five minutes and seven seconds, Pescaglia advanced to the final match by defeating Zach Anderson of Rockhurst 5-3 on Friday.
Tony wasn’t the only Pescaglia to shine for the Kewpies. His brother, K.C. Pescaglia (39-4), placed fourth in the 125-pound weight class. K.C. Pescaglia won his first two matches, but lost in the semifinal to Liberty’s James VanZant 4-2. He lost in the third place match 10-4 to Dylan Joiner of Oak Park. Only a sophomore, K.C. Pescaglia said he has room to improve.
“I don’t think I could have done anything,” K.C. Pescaglia said. “He was just a lot stronger than me. He kind of stalled the match out a little bit, which is nothing against him, but I didn’t get to go on top where I’m most effective. But I’m not too disappointed with fourth. I know I have two years left.”
Hickman’s other state qualifier 189-pound senior Zach Arnold (42-8) was not in action the final day. After placing third a year ago at 171 pounds, he lost his second round match to Ron Porter of Northwest. Arnold, up 10-2 in the final period, was pinned with one minute and 17 seconds left.
“It was a sad ending to Zach’s career,” Coffman said. “I was disappointed for him. We really would have liked to have seen him up on the podium tonight, too. He got caught in a headlock and put on his back and that was the end of that match.”
Rock Bridge wrestlers Justin Davis (34-9) and Cam Purcell (31-12) also failed to make Saturday competition. Both Davis and Purcell ended their tournaments Friday in second-round wrestlebacks. Davis, a 103-pounder, lost 3-2 in double overtime to Michael Toon of Blue Springs. At 171 pounds, Purcell lost an 11-2 major decision to Ryan Dickerson of Francis Howell.
Hickman finished 13th out of 52 teams in Class 4. Rock Bridge finished in a tie for 36th. Oak Park won the team title for the second year in a row with 177 points. Fort Zumwalt West placed second with 166.
Seniors Cody Rouse of Jackson and Louis Caputo of Blue Springs broke the record for most wins in a season with 52. Both were undefeated.
Sophomore Ashley Hudson of Lafayette became the first female wrestler to win a state tournament match, winning two matches before being eliminated in third-round wrestlebacks.
Brandon Morgan contributed to this report.