INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Hatch definitely saved his best for last Friday night.
The Warsaw wrestler rallied in the final seconds to earn a thrilling victory in the IHSAA State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hatch, a WCHS freshman, posted an incredible come from behind 13-12 win by decision over Lakeland senior Lukas Long in first-round action in the 106-pound weight class.
Hatch, who rallied from being down 7-1, avenged a loss to Long earlier this season to move into quarterfinal action Saturday morning. Long had defeated Hatch 14-5 in the finals of the East Noble Invitational on Jan. 11. Long was a top seed entering action Friday night after claiming a semi state title, while Hatch came in as a No. 4 seed after his fourth-place finish at the Merrillville Semistate a week ago.
None of that mattered on the mat for the well-conditioned, never-say-quit Hatch when it counted the most Friday night.
“It was just fantastic,” said Warsaw coach Justin Smith about the win in a phone interview Friday night. “It seemed like the whole arena was watching this match. I know this one will stick in my mind forever.”
Hatch trailed 9-3 entering the third and final period. He got three takedowns to pull within 12-10 late in the match before getting the final three points in the final few seconds on a stalling call on Long and a final takedown just before the match concluded for the 13-12 victory.
“Everyone, including us knew the score and that Kyle had won 13-12,” recounted Smith. “But, Kyle thought at first it was 12-12 and he went back to the center ready for overtime. He then found out he had won and was jumping up and down and screaming like the rest of us.”
Hatch depended on his conditioning and game plan devised by his father and Warsaw assistant coach Dan to come up with the amazing win.
“Long really came out and took it to him and Kyle was down 7-1 in the second period and it looked bad,” related Smith. “But Kyle kept wrestling and pushing the pace. His conditioning was on and he was still fresh at the end.
“It was just a great match. My hat’s off to Kyle and Dan. Kyle worked hard all week and all the extra time and conditioning he has put in paid off tonight. He just showed a lot of fortitude to keep wrestling. Dan had a great plan put together from the first time Kyle wrestled him and Kyle executed it.”
Smith pointed to the outstanding conditioning of Hatch as a big reason for his win. Long had to take an injury timeout in the final minute of the match.
Hatch will now take a 35-7 mark into the quarterfinals Saturday morning. He will face New Palestine freshman Alec White, who is 36-7 on the season.
“Kyle’s ready to go for Saturday,” Smith said. “He’s going to have another tough match, but he’s not stopping now.”
Hatch’s father Dan placed eighth at the State Finals for Warsaw in 1992.
The season ended Friday night for Devin Childers of Tippecanoe Valley. Childers lost a 7-6 decision to Heritage junior Sam Lovejoy in the first round at 132.
Childers, who was a runner-up at the semi state, ends his junior season with a 41-6 mark.
Lovejoy, now 29-3, advances to face Bloomington South senior Devin Broukal (43-1) on Saturday in the quarterfinals.