Wrestler of the year: Crown Point’s Jason Tsirtsis
BY JOHN O’MALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent March 24, 2012 11:34PM
Crown Point senior Jason Tsirtsis, photographed Tuesday March 6, 2012 in Crown Point, Ind., is the 2012 Post-Tribune Wrestler of the Year. Tsirtsis is a four-time state champion. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 26, 2012 8:28AM
CROWN POINT — Scott Vlink ultimately put the high school wrestling career of Jason Tsirtsis in the proper perspective.
When Crown Point’s head wrestling coach was asked about the legacy of his four-time state champion, he offered an interesting take on an absolutely incredible student-athlete and individual.
“Jason’s legacy is, not only is he the best wrestler to ever come out of Crown Point, but he’s the greatest athlete to ever come through this school — counting every sport — and I don’t care what sport it is.’’
Vlink isn’t bashful about his opinion when it comes to Tsirtsis, who along with older brother, Alex, form 25 percent of a select group of eight wrestlers who’ve made history by capturing four state titles.
Tsirtsis joined a pair of Griffith graduates — brother Alex (2004) and Angel Escobedo (2005) as the third region wrestler to accomplish such an incredible feat.
“There are times when we’re sitting around the coffee shop, or relaxing after playing golf with a bunch of Crown Point people, where the question comes up,’’ Vlink said. “ ‘Who’s the best athlete to ever come out of Crown Point High School?’
“I’ve been around for 33 years, and some of the guys I play golf with, have been around since the 50s — either as students, coaches, or teachers — and it’s always debatable. But in my opinion, the debate’s over. It starts with one person and it ends with one person — Jason Tsirtsis.
“There’s nobody in the history of this school that’s accomplished what that kid has accomplished. Not only is he an outstanding wrestler, he’s an outstanding student — a two-time, academic all-state wrestler. I’ve never heard a bad word spoken about him by any teacher.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Any teacher who had an opportunity to get to know him, just can’t say enough good things about him.’’
It should come as completely no surprise to anybody that Tsirtsis is the only logical choice for the Post-Tribune’s Wrestler of the Year.
“Winning a fourth straight state title was probably the way I pictured finishing (my career),’’ said Tsirtsis, who finished the season 45-0, and his career 176-2 overall with both losses coming by 3-2 scores his freshman year.
“I wanted to go out there, take care of business, and perform well, and just know, or prove to myself, that I could be as dominant as I was. Individually, I really couldn’t have been much better accomplishment-wise. I did what I wanted to do. It was a good senior year. Individually, it was great. I had only five or six matches that weren’t pins, and team-wise, we had a good run, too, so it was a good way to end it all, for sure.’’
His high school career might be over, but the best could still be yet-to-come for the talented and highly competitive Tsirtsis.
As you might guess, the Northwestern University-bound star — who carries a 3.6 grade-point average — has some very lofty goals for the future.
When asked what makes him such a great wrestler, Tsirtsis didn’t hedge.
“It’s waking up every morning and thinking about being an NCAA champion, and an Olympic gold medalist,’’ Tsirtsis said. “Every morning I wake up and I think about that and it really pushes me. I wake up sometimes at 5 a.m., to go get a workout in, and I have to tell you, I don’t want to get up at 5 a.m., but I think about what I want to accomplish, and what I’m doing to separate myself from my competition. I think it just comes down to my work ethic. It just really makes me improve and get better. There’s my love for the sport, too. I love it. It’s my passion. I’d say that’s what makes me the wrestler I am.’’
So what’s his legacy?
“Legacy-wise, I don’t know,’’ Tsirtsis said. “I guess what I do on the mat is what people will remember me for most. For anyone that doesn’t know me, my accolades as a four-time state champ will be my legacy.
Hopefully, people will remember me as being positive and tough, and a good team member, too.’’
Vlink realizes his good fortune, having coached an athlete the caliber of Tsirtsis.
“I really think that the God up there,’’ he said smiling, as he looked up, “saw an old, worn out wrestling coach, and said: ‘You know what? I’m going to bless you with Eric Roach and Jason Tsirtsis.’
“The wrestling gods were smiling down on Scott Vlink about six years ago — trust me. You could throw in a lot of them — Tyler Kral and kids like that — all of them, really. The majority of my career we were struggling to get a state champion. Then, in the last six years, we’ve got a bunch of them. I’ve been blessed.’’