As a two-time state wrestling champion and a nationally-ranked wrestler, Hickman senior K.C. Pescaglia has competed in his fair share of high-pressure matches. Each time, he used a familiar tool to deal with the pressure: humor. Prior to his state championship match, Pescaglia was seen smiling and laughing with the Hickman coaching staff before assuming his business-like demeanor upon exiting the tunnel into the arena.
“If I think about it (the match), it’s really nerve-wracking, but I just tell a few jokes to take the pressure off,” he said. “I kind of get my coaches to play along with me to keep me relaxed before matches, because if I get too nervous before a match, I screw up a lot.”
There were no screwups in the title match. Pescaglia defeated Kyle Hachtel of Francis Howell North 4-0 to win the Class 4 125-pound title Saturday at Mizzou Arena, finishing the season with an unblemished 37-0 record. The match marked the end of an impressive high school career, one in which Pescaglia captured two state titles, and medaled on another occasion, finishing fourth in 2005.
Out of all those accomplishments, Pescaglia said his first state crown was his most memorable accomplishment.
“I’d have to say last year, in the state finals,” Pescaglia said. “My brother (Tony Pescaglia) had just won the state title that year, and I went out there and did exactly what he did. I came off the mat, and he was there waiting for me, and gave me a big hug. The same thing happened this year with my little brother.”
Vince Pescaglia, K.C.’s younger brother, was a 112-pound medalist, finishing fourth. Teammate Drae Cox also placed fourth in the 152-pound weight class. Rock Bridge’s Taylor Crane battled back from an early defeat to finish third at 135 pounds.
Kewpies coach J.D. Coffman said that he has enjoyed the experience of coaching Pescaglia the past four seasons.
“It’s been really exciting,” Coffman said. “When K.C. came in as a freshman, I was just an assistant coach. I took over, actually, in his sophomore year. So seeing him come to state and medal the past three years has been real exciting.
“He’s grown as a wrestler and continued to improve in his sport, and he’s grown as a leader for our team as well.”
If the magnitude of the match didn’t create enough pressure for Pescaglia, the 20 members of his family in attendance, who occupied a suite above section 109, added to that pressure. But, Pescaglia said, it’s welcome.
“It adds a lot of pressure, but you know, the good kind of pressure, the kind that makes you want to wrestle harder,” he said. “They come to all these big tournaments. Especially during state, they try and set up a site and come out and support me, me and my little brother.”
The support of his family extends beyond the wrestling mat. Pescaglia credits the academic success of his older brother Tony as a factor that drove him to his own academic success.
“My brother’s always told me that I’ve been smarter than him, but he always got better grades,” Pescaglia said. “Up until his graduating year, he had a 3.8 or 4.0, and I was always hanging down below at 3.7. So this year, I had to work really hard to get up to that 4.0 so my brother couldn’t outdo me again.”
Whether in the classroom or on the mat, Pescaglia’s hard work has been the catalyst to his success. But while he said that he will miss the thrill of competing on the state’s top stage, Pescaglia is looking forward to a break.
“Miss I’m not so sure about, but not miss? I’m not going to miss the weight cutting. I’m not going to miss the wear and tear on my body throughout the entire season,” he said.
Even with a break from the physical burden of wrestling, the hard work doesn’t end quite yet for Pescaglia, who will attend MU.
“A lot of off time first,” he said. “Then I’ll get back into freestyle. No competition, just a lot of rolling around, getting ready for college.”