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Wrestling season outlook

Updated: December 26, 2012 9:50AM



REFRESHER COURSE

It would be tough to duplicate the 2011-12 season in terms of success, but region teams and wrestlers proved once again last year that some of the state’s best wrestling is in Northwest Indiana.

Whether the 2012-13 season proves to be as successful remains to be seen as last season was extremely memorable for local wrestlers as they brought home five state titles.

Hanover Central’s Stevan Micic finished unbeaten as a sophomore and won the 106-pound crown, while teammate Paul Petrov went undefeated and captured the 120-pound title in his final season.

Lake Central’s unbeaten Kyle Ayersman took the 126-pound crown in winning his third straight state title, while Crown Point’s Jason Tsirtsis went unbeaten at 145 and took an unbelievable fourth state championship. Tsirtsis became only the eighth wrestler to ever accomplish the feat. Crown Point’s Tyler Kral also was crowned a state champ at 220. The Bulldogs finished as state runner-up to Perry Meridian last year at the team state meet. The team state meet has been eliminated this year. Crown Point beat Merrillville for the team regional title and won its sixth consecutive DAC title, but the Pirates turned the tables and won the league tournament title to halt a four-year CP winning streak.

Lowell took the Northwest Crossroads Conference crown, but Calumet, which won the first four GSSC titles, was dethroned by River Forest.Morton won the GLAC for the third straight time, while Lew Wallace took the Northwestern Conference crown for the fifth year in a row.

P-T Top 5

1. Merrillville

Coach Dave Maldonado’s team is loaded with talent. The Pirates are well balanced, with a good mix of experienced seniors and juniors along with some talented sophomores and freshmen. Senior Adam Garcia, who was fourth in the state last year at 126, and sophomore Bobby Steveson, who placed fifth at 160, both return. Junior Michael Garza, who was a state-qualifier at 106, along with Eric DeLuna (182) also return. The Pirates have a couple of freshmen, who could help them become the DAC’s best team.

2. Crown Point

Four-time state champ Jason Tsirtsis and last year’s 220-pound state champion, Tyler Kral, are gone. That doesn’t mean coach Scott Vlink’s team isn’t still one of the state’s best. Darden Schurg, who placed fourth in the state at 113 as a freshman, returns, as do state-qualifiers Josh Fuqua, Tyler Burlison and Matt Langbehn.

While losses of competitors the caliber of Tsirtsis and Kral can’t be replaced simply by reloading, the Bulldogs should be one of the best teams around.

3. Portage

The Indians have been mentioned by a few league coaches as a legit contender for the DAC title. Julian Torres, who placed sixth in the state as a junior last year at 126, returns as do talented wrestlers like Jason Spence (138) and Exvonte Jones (182) for coach Leroy Vega. Highly regarded freshman Gaige Torres (113) is expected to make a huge impact even in his first year.

4. Lowell

The Red Devils won the NCC title a year ago and should repeat again this season. Coach Bobby Howard’s team has a load of talent in Mitch Roadruck (145); Alex Mavros (152); Kenny Hughes (160) and Ryan Patterson (195). Former two-time state champion, Eric McGill, has joined the coaching staff, which can only help. Howard said the team needs to fill a couple holes in the lineup, but should be set up well for individual tournaments.

5. Lake Central

The Indians lost three-time state champ, Kyle Ayersman, but should still be an improved team overall as 11 wrestlers return. Senior Matt Lechowicz (120) was 37-10 last season, while juniors Jeff Brassea (170) and Gelen Robinson (220) also return. Robinson (41-5) placed third at state as a sophomore. Others to watch include Kody Christenson (152); Jake Sebahar (145); Jordon Goodwin (138); Darius Arriaga (132) and Brenden Truver (113).

5 Darkhorse Teams

1. Chesterton

The Trojans have a nice mix of veterans back and some wrestlers who weren’t on the mat last season due to injuries. Coach Chris Joll’s team welcomes back seniors Ryley Harlow (Hwt.) and Dana Konchar (182) after the pair missed last season due to football injuries. Senior Chris Katsafaros (145); junior Jaycee Jensen (160 or 170) and sophomore Jack Davison (132) are being counted on heavily as is freshman Matt Estill (120).

2. Hanover Central

Paul Petrov, last year’s state champ at 120 is gone, but the Wildcats return a talented group that should continue the program’s success. Junior Stevan Micic, who went 47-0 and won the state title at 113 last year, returns to defend his crown. Micic also finished third in the state at 103 pounds as a freshman. Regional qualifier Issac Cortez (106) returns as does two-time semistate-qualifier Tyler Scott (182). Josh Bartoszek (Hwt.), another regional qualifier, is also back. A couple wrestlers to keep an eye on include freshman Evan Larsen — former Hanover Central star Greg Larsen’s son — along with junior DJ Neil (120).

3. Valparaiso

Coach Jim Smith’s team expects to continue to improve as 12 starters return from last year’s 16-8 squad. The Vikings should be competitive in a tough league as long as they can stay healthy. A pair of two-time semistate qualifiers return in Chris Gallo (120) and Max Buckley (126), the latter of whom was injured prior to the postseason last year. Smith is also counting on Luke Davis (195), a one-time semistate qualifer, along with regional qualifiers Tyler Schwartz (106); Alex Bravo (113) and Mack Neal (138).

4. Griffith

Coach Travis Walls expects the Panthers to be among the top teams in the NCC along with Lowell and Hobart. Why not? Especially with three, two-time semistate qualilfiers back in juniors Eric Peek (103); Nathan Rietz (126) and senior Preston Nelson (152). Another semistate qualifier, Conner Guzior, also returns. Other Panthers to watch include Cedric Fassoth (113); Ryan Camp (160); Ryan Dunlap (170) and freshman Ben Stassin (182).

5. Kankakee Valley

The Kougars have a lot of talent with Jimmy Marich (145); Johnny Morrison (160); Tim Schoonveld (182); Joel Bolen (195) and Matt Berdine (220) leading the way. Marich and Berdine were both semistate qualifiers last season. Dylan Jackson, a freshman, who will wrestle 170, is a talented athletic kid who could make an impact.

5 Wrestlers
to Watch

1. Stevan Micic,
Hanover Central

The Wildcats standout seeks a second consecutive state title at 106 pounds. The junior went undefeated (47-0) and won state a year ago, taking the championship match at 106 pounds after placing third at 103 as a freshman.

2. Gelen Robinson,
Lake Central

The junior finished third in the state at 220 pounds a year ago, ending up 47-5 overall. This talented three-sport standout has what it takes to capture a state title and is strong and quick enough to accomplish the feat.

3. Adam Garcia,
Merrillville

Placed fourth in the state at 120 pounds last season, finishing with a 44-5 overall record. He’s expected to compete at either 120 or 126 this season.

4. Darden Schurg,
Crown Point

Burst on the scene as a freshman a year ago and enjoyed an incredible season, placing fourth in the state at 113 pounds, while finishing with a 39-4 record.

5. Julian Torres, Portage

The Indians standout ended up sixth in the state at 126 pounds as a junior and garnered a 35-8 record. He should play a key role for coach Leroy Vega’s team in his senior season.

5 New Faces

1. Gaige Torres, Portage

Indians coach Leroy Vega plainly stated: “The kid knows how to win.” The highly touted freshman has won more than a few age-group national titles and placed in nearly every tournament he’s been in. He’s currently ranked No. 9 in the state at 113 pounds and the season just started.

“I expect a lot out of him,’’ Vega said. “I’ve actually coached him since he was five, when I had Vega Wrestling. He’s been through battles. He’s been through wars and he knows how to make weight.’’

2. Drew Hughes, Lowell

Comes into the Red Devils program with big accolades. “I expect him to make an immediate impact,’’ said Lowell coach Bobby Howard, who knows what it takes to be a champion, having won the state title at 119 pounds in 2000 at Lowell.

3. Shawn Streck,
Merrillville

The Pirates heavyweight hasn’t even wrestled a varsity match, yet the freshman is ranked No. 13 in the state by IndianaMat.com.

Having wrestled a lot of national tournament matches, Streck started as a defensive lineman for Merrillville’s football team from the beginning of the season.

4. The Miranda brothers, Morton

Josh and Jose Miranda transferred from Clark in 2011, but didn’t wrestle last year as juniors. Jose will wrestle at either 138 or 145, while Josh will go at 126.

Throw in younger brother, Julien, a freshman, and this family has the potential to be a triple threat for coach Kevin Persley’s Governors.

5. Cole Easterday,
Lake Central

Coach Rod Wartman is excited about the 106-pound freshman’s potential. The problem is, with the Indians returning 11 wrestlers, including eight semistate qualifiers, it’s going to be difficult to find a spot for him in the lineup.

— John O’Malley,

Post-Tribune correspondent



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