INDIANAPOLIS | The first time Drew Hughes attended the state wrestling finals, he was a first-grader traveling to what was then called Conseco Fieldhouse to watch Hanover Central star Andrew Howe.
Friday, in the same arena, now known as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Lowell freshman was on the floor, rather than in the stands, competing in the first round at 120 pounds, where he dispatched Maconaquah's Chase Wilson by technical fall in 4:15.
"I've been working for this since I was 6 years old," Hughes said. "My main goal is to win it. I felt pretty confident going into the match. I was disappointed I didn't get the pin. I just couldn't hold him on his back. At least I got the tech."
Hughes was among three region freshman to advance to today's quarterfinals. Portage frosh Gaige Torres (33-2) topped Castle's Jacob Brown 5-3 at 113. Torres scored a second-period reversal, taking a 4-0 lead, and hung on for the win.
"I was kinda nervous, but I know I just had to stick to the game plan -- stay away from his shots and set up my shots, make him move to my angles," Torres said. "I definitely feel I have more in me. I feel I could've gotten more shots. I've got to come out (Saturday) and get more mentally prepared."
Merrillville frosh 285 Shawn Streck needed a takedown with 13 seconds left to get by Goshen's Hayden Schmucker.
"It was first-match jitters. It's been like that the last few weeks," Streck said. "I just had to try to get it out of the way. I'll be ready. I believe my conditioning's better. I just had to take it to him, not let up."
Streck was joined in the 285 quarters by Hanover's Josh Bartoszek, who escaped with 15 seconds left in regulation and hit a takedown in overtime to win 3-1 over Eastside's Matt Beard (41-2).
"You just have to keep pushing through, make it your match," Bartoszek said. "I felt good. My cardio had a big impact in my performance. It was getting tough, but you just have to wait until it's there. I want to go all the way."
Highland's Mark Maldonado erased the disappointment of not making state last season with an 8-5 decision over Carmel's Ben Krege at 160.
"It's been my goal since Day One this season to place," Maldonado said. "It's finally happened. I'm relieved the monkey's finally off my back. Whatever it took, as long as I got the win. I'm glad it's over with. Now I have to stay focused on my next three matches."
Maldonado was the only 160 to move on of the four local qualifiers.
Unbeatens Stevan Micic (113, Hanover Central), Bobby Steveson (170, Merrillville) and Gelen Robinson (220, Lake Central) all prevailed in varying fashion. Micic, the 106 champ in 2012, recorded a second-period pin, Steveson racked up his usual bundle of takedowns in a 3:52 technical fall, and Robinson had to grind out a 5-2 decision.
Northwest Indiana advanced 12 of its 32 qualifiers, led by Merrillville's three. Perry Meridian topped the field with seven.
Crown Point's Trevor Burlison (132) and Dusty Schurg (152) were both upset as No. 1 seeds, each coincidentally losing to Hamilton Southeastern opponents.