Munoz earned a berth in the State Finals with an outstanding performance Saturday to claim a runner-up finish in the tough Merrillville Semistate.
Munoz went 3-1 on the day to place second in the 120-pound division for the Tigers. He will now compete in the State Finals, which begins with first-round action Friday night at 6 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“It’s fantastic,” said Warsaw coach Justin Smith late Saturday night in a phone interview as the Tiger contingent made their way home from Merrillville. “Every senior wants to end their season in Indianapolis.
“Luis is really happy and we’re excited for him. He had a very good day and wrestled well the whole day. Our goal was for him to win two matches (to qualify for State) and he won three.”
Munoz was a top seed at Merrillville after winning both sectional and regional championships the last two weekends at Plymouth and Rochester. He performed like one too in arguably the toughest of the four semi states statewide. He won his first two matches with pins in the third period and then post an 8-1 victory in his third match. Munoz was then pinned late in his title matchup versus freshman Drew Hughes of Lowell.
“Luis wrestled well on his feet today and controlled his opponents,” Smith said. “He had strung together nine postseason wins before losing the final today. That’s an impressive run.”
Munoz has also made the most of his senior season after not being able to wrestle in the state tournament a year ago due to a medical issue with his heart. The talented senior then suffered a concussion late in the regular season this year and had to miss the NLC Championships.
“If Luis would not have had to be sidelined last year due to the issue with his heart, he would have been in the state conversation then,” pointed out Smith. “He only had 3-4 losses last year before that came up.”
The State Finals begin Friday for Munoz, who will be a No. 2 seed among the 16 grapplers at 120, and goes in with an impressive 26-4 record on the season. He will face South Adams senior L.J. Moser (28-1) in his first-round matchup.
The first round winners Friday night advance to the quarterfinals beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with the semifinals to follow. The consolations are at 5 p.m. with the finals starting at 7:30 p.m.
“Our approach for Luis will be to go down there and win that first match on Friday to get in the top eight,” said Smith. “He will be in good position as a No. 2 seed from the toughest semi state in the state.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him at State. He’s really wrestling well right now.”
A quartet of other area wrestlers also competed at Merrillville Saturday. Those included the Wawasee trio of seniors Nick Rozow (160) and Brian Clark (195) and freshman Tristan Ponsler (113), along with Tippecanoe Valley sophomore Wyatt Nelson (126).
Nelson and Rozow both earned a win in their first matchups. Nelson pinned Lafayette Jefferson’s Cordaro Armstead at 3:57 to move to the final eight, but would be beaten by tech fall, 15-0, to class runner-up Josh Fuqua. In Nelson’s final match, Kevin Bayley of Lafayette Harrison would score a pin at 4:27. Nelson finished his sophomore season with a 33-14 record.
Rozow also reached the round of eight with an 8-4 decision over McCutcheon’s Caleb Medrano. The ride came to a halt in the next round as class runner-up Damien Gomez of Bishop Noll reversed the rolls with an 8-4 decision on Rozow. In his final match, Rozow would fall victim to an 8-0 loss to South Bend Riley’s Chase Hack. Rozow concluded his senior season 31-10.
Clark and Ponsler would not have additional action after the first round, both suffering losses. Ponsler would lose by tech fall, 17-2, to Portage’s Gaige Torres while Clark was pinned at the 5:22 mark by Crown Point’s Morgan Kral. Torres would finish third in the 113-pound class while Kral, who suffered just one loss this season, lost at the wrong time in the round of eight and had to settle for fifth despite a 36-1 season record. Ponsler concludes his freshman campaign 23-16 while Clark bows out of his senior season at 25-11.