Braves junior looks to qualify for 1st state meet

Eighty-six career victories is an impressive total, but Indian Creek wrestler Gabe Pitzulo aspires for more.

The junior gets his chance in the 145-pound weight class at Saturday’s Evansville Reitz Semistate, where placing in the top four would qualify him for the state finals for the first time.

Pitzulo makes his second straight semistate appearance after a runner-up finish at the Bloomington South Regional. He lost the championship match there to Floyd Central senior Tristan Sellmer, who is undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the state, 7-2.

“Mentally, I went down there and kind of achieved my goal, but this time I want to make it to state,” Pitzulo said. “My coaches have been pushing me really hard. If you’re confident in yourself, you’ll succeed in your sport.”

Pitzulo wasn’t ranked in the top 20 when the postseason began, which means he’s not among the favorites this weekend. That could work in his favor as Pitzulo seeks the most important two-match winning streak of his life.

He’ll wrestle Jeffersonville junior Isaac Hall (29-15) in the first round. A win would place him opposite either Brownsburg’s Peyton Asbury or Evansville Mater Dei freshman Scott Fitts with the chance to reach semifinals and lock up a trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The top four in each weight class at semistate qualify for the state finals Feb. 16 and 17 in Indianapolis.

Pitzulo started his high school career at 103 pounds. He lost to eventual state champion Asa Garcia of Avon at regional and then moved up three weight classes to 126 as a sophomore.

He started this season at 152 pounds but went down to 145 in December before the Johnson County Wrestling Tournament.

“Gabe has never been good at cutting weight. He’s very athletic, so it’s worked out for him to jump up in weight the way he has,” said Indian Creek coach Pat Dowty. “It’s just learning to adjust your style to the competition.”

Indian Creek qualified four wrestlers for semistate, the others being sophomore Owen Sego (132 pounds) and seniors Brad Trietsch (138) and Grant Goforth (195).

All four played football for the Braves this season, with Pitzulo a starter at free safety.

The aura he brings to the defensive backfield is evident on the wrestling mat.

“The biggest thing with Gabe is just that he’s tough,” Indian Creek coach Pat Dowty said. “Anybody who steps off the mat with Gabe, they feel like they’ve been in a fight. And they usually aren’t anxious to get back on the mat with him.”

Evansville Reitz Semistate

Where: Ford Center, Evansville

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Tickets: $8 for finals, $10 for entire day

Advancement: Top four in each weight class move on to state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Feb. 16 and 17).

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.