CROWN POINT | Scott Vlink isn't the kind of person that you talk to for 30 minutes, walk away and then ask yourself, "I really, really wonder what that guy thinks?"
The Crown Point wrestling coach is sharp, clear and to the point when discussing many topics.
His favorite word theme over that past four years has been Jason Tsirtsis. And no, Vlink will not back down.
"Jason is unquestionably the finest athlete to ever come out of Crown Point High School," Vlink said. "If anyone disagrees with me then they're just sports bigots. We've had some good ones here before. But none of them have accomplished what Jason did.
"He played his one sport better than anyone in the state of Indiana has ever done. Period. In my opinion, he's the best wrestler in Indiana history."
Tsirtsis became the eighth individual in IHSAA history to win four straight state championships. He beat Cathedral’s Vinny Corsaro 22-7 on Feb. 18 to win the 145 pound final.
As a freshman he won at 125. As a sophomore it was 130. And as a junior it was 140.
Add a team state championship his freshman year to his 176-2 career record and Vlink's words are simply cemented.
Tsirtsis is 2012 Tim Bishop Memorial Times Athlete of the Year.
His brother Alex won the same honor in 2004 at Griffith.
"He lost two matches (3-2) his freshman year," Vlink said. "He didn't lose another match. He was unscored upon his last three years. Not one person scored an offensive point against him.
"That's unbelievable. That doesn't happen."
On Tuesday Tsirtsis had surgery on his labrum, the cartilage found in the shoulder joint where the ball and socket joint brings the arm and body together. The procedure was done at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Tsirtsis, who will attend Northwestern University, will red-shirt his freshman year.
He has three or four months where he can't be on a mat. He started wrestling at the age of 4. He's never taken this much time off without training.
"It's going to be hard," Tsirtsis said. "I'm going to break down wrestling differently, more mental. I want to figure it out in a different way now."
As a kid in Griffith, Tsirtsis was a very good baseball and football player. At elementary school, those were the sports he played during break time.
"It's not like you can wrestle during recess," he joked.
But if you're a Tsirtsis a few things are sure. First, you wrestle. Second, you are extremely competitive.
"We got a badminton net and me and my friends were playing it, I think I got pretty good," Jason said. "Alex came home and wanted to play. I hadn't beaten him at much so we did. I won like 21-17.
"I saw his racket go flying like three or four houses down."
And third, you wrestle.
Alex went to Iowa and finished seventh at 141 the 2006 NCAA Championships.
Jason won a Junior National Championship last summer in the freestyle tournament. He wrestled in the Olympic Qualifier this year.
"Not bad for a 17-year-old high schooler," Vlink said.
The most amazing thing about Tsirtsis isn't just his athletic dominance on the mat. It is who he is when he's not the star wrestler walking around town.
It's about who he will be when he wrestles his last match.
And again, Vlink was ready to offer commentary.
"As great of an athlete as he is, his strongest attribute is he's a great student and a great kid," Vlink said. "Often when someone has this much success, others secretly wish they fail. But that hasn't been the case with Jason.
"I've never heard one student, one teacher, one anybody say one bad thing about him."
Much of that is the way he was raised. Also, he is not plugged tightly in the "jock" sub-group.
Tsirtsis is an honor-roll student. He plays the guitar, which gives him a connection with C.P. students with musical ability.
And beyond all that, he is humble. He is nice.
"My parents taught me to be the best person I can be in everything," Tsirtsis said. "In all aspects. Student. Friend. Son."
The last four years have been remarkable. With the surgery, things are now in neutral. This is new territory.
"I love playing disc golf," he said. "The surgery is going to keep me from playing disc golf or my guitar for a few months. Three or four months and I start my rehab."
The ultimate goal is to make the U.S. Olympic team. In wrestling that is a difficult assignment.
But the work-ethic that brought Tsirtsis this far will resume once his shoulder is fully healed.
"I want to be an Olympic champion," Tsirtsis said. "That's the goal. I believe in myself as a wrestler. I will work for that.
"I will keep trying until I'm not dealt any more cards."