Athlete of the week: Zionsville Community High School senior wrestler caps special athletic career


Zionsville Community High School senior wrestler Luke Penola had some special moments in his wrestling career.

“Luke is one of the best to ever wear a Zionsville singlet,” Eagles coach Doug Welch said. “He’s the fifth multiple-time state-place winner in the history of Zionsville wrestling.”

Penola, who finished his career with a 113-23 record, had IHSAA state finals finishes of third in 2023 and seventh this year, both in the 190-pound weight class. He then capped it off by winning the Mental Attitude Award, given to a senior wrestler at the state finals.

“Luke’s exceptional leadership, sportsmanship and dedication to both athletics and the community make him truly deserving of this honor,” Penola said. “His commitment to excellence is inspirational, and we are incredibly proud to have him as part of our school.”

Penola was surprised when the Mental Attitude Award was announced.

“Once we had got to the tournament and started wrestling, I forgot about the award, so when it was announced at the end it definitely surprised me,” he said. “I didn’t have the finish I wanted for my wrestling on the mat, but that award was a very cool way to end my career.”

Penola added winning the Al Smith Invitational as another cool achievement.

“But I’d say a lot of the best times have been with my coaches and teammates in practice, getting food together after a match, or at big tournaments like the Al Smith where we stay overnight,” Penola said.

Penola said a big improvement he has made, especially these last two years, has been with his mindset. 

“Wrestling is obviously a very physical sport, but the mental side is a huge part,” he said. “Working with my coaches, I’ve been able to wrestle much more confidently these past two years, trusting in my training and offseason work I’ve put in. When I’ve done that and focused just on wrestling hard, not on the result, I wrestled my best.”

Penola started wrestling at age 8 and began playing football at age 11. A three-year starter for the Eagles, he played inside and outside linebacker.

In the fall, he will play football at Hillsdale (Mich.) College, an NCAA Division II school.

“I prayed, talked to my family, talked to coaches and just felt that playing football was the best thing for me and would help me with my plans after college,” said Penola, who plans to major in math and minor in statistics. “I had a brother play at Hillsdale and have a sister (Lizzie) there right now, so I knew the school and program pretty well. I felt that it fit my values well, gave me a chance to compete at a high level in football and had great academics. Overall, I felt it was the best fit for me and gave me a chance to keep growing into who I want to be.”

His brother, Scotty, graduated from ZCHS in 2013 before playing at Hillsdale.

AA ATHLETE OF THE WEEK 0319 head shot


Favorite athlete: Zaire Franklin

Favorite movie: “The Dark Knight”

Favorite subject: Math

Favorite genre of music:  Christian music