Wrestling: Portage beats Merrillville in DAC showdown
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent December 5, 2012 11:02PM
Portage's Louis Escobedo works on Merrillville's Michael Martin at 113 pounds Wednesday evening at Merrillville High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2013 1:30PM
MERRILLVILLE — Don’t look now, but there’s a chance this year’s Duneland Athletic Conference race might not come down to only Merrillville and Crown Point.
Coach Leroy Vega’s Portage team demonstrated during Wednesday night’s match with the host Pirates, they’ll definitely be serious contenders.
Portage used pins by Danny Roach at 152, Exvonte Jones at 180, Gaige Torres at 113 and Jason Spence at 138, to knock off the Pirates, 40-24.
The Pirates, the No. 4 team in the latest IHSWCA Poll, were competing without sophomore sensation Bobby Steveson, who had the flu, and Eric DeLuna.
The absence of that duo caused Merrillville coach Dave Maldonado to shuffle his lineup quite a bit. He bumped some wrestlers up a weight class and subbed in a couple of others in order to put the best team he could on the mat.
“With a team like Portage, you have to show up with your full squad,’’ Maldonado said. “We put the best team out there we had, but they really showed up to wrestle today. We’ll be fine. They don’t start the state tournament until February. We’re going to continue to work and continue to improve. As long as we’re doing those things, we’ll be fine.’’
Vega said the No. 17 Indians’ win over Merrillville was the program’s first in eight or nine seasons.
“It’s nice to come into their house here and get the job done,’’ he said. “We had to come in here and get the monkey off our backs, and we were able to do that. We can celebrate tonight and soak it all in, but tomorrow we have to go back to practice, make weight and get ready for Calumet on Saturday.’’
Vega said the win over the Pirates was for former Indians head coach Pat Wilkins, now an assistant coach under Vega.
“This was for him, from me,’’ Vega smiled. “Coach Wilkins is a class act and a great coach. Everything he did, it was all about making Portage better.
“This is a nice steppingstone for where we want to go. At school, we put all of our trophies we’ve ever won in a case outside our wrestling room. What’s missing from that case is a state championship trophy and that’s what we’re work ing for.’’