MERRILLVILLE | There weren't any freshmen as impressive as Lowell's Drew Hughes at Saturday's Merrillville Semistate -- at least until the final match anyway.
Hughes pinned his way through the 120-pound class, capping his day with a fall against Warsaw's Luis Munoz at 5:00 of the finals.
He was the only ninth-grader to capture a title until 285, when Merrillville's Shawn Streck stuck South Bend Clay's Shakir Carr in 5:07.
"That was kind of my goal coming in," Hughes said of his four-pin day. "I don't know if I've wrestled a freshman all year, so I'm used to (older opponents). I feel like, if you think you can't win, you're not going to win. The one loss I have, before the match, I was worried, 'What if I don't win?'"
Streck, competing in a weight largely populated by upperclassmen, pinned three seniors after an opening-round decision. His match with the 6-foot-5 Carr ended abruptly when he tossed the Central Michigan football recruit to his back.
"I know I work harder than those kids. I'm not going to let age intimidate me," said Streck, who had split two matches with Carr. "I was watching him wrestle. I knew when it got to the third period he would break. I just had to take it."
Streck capped a monster day for Lake County wrestlers, who claimed eight firsts.
Hanover Central's Stevan Micic (46-0), the 2012 state champ at 106 pounds, dispatched Penn's Zach Davis by technical fall in 4:24 to win the 113 crown.
"There were some tough kids in my weight. I was just trying to keep the tempo up the whole time," Micic said. "Obviously, (state) is what I'm working for, but you can't really overlook anyone. You just have to stay in the moment."
Crown Point's Trevor Burlison outlasted Clay's Mitch Hartman 8-6 at 132, wearing down the predicted favorite.
"It felt great to break him," Burlison said. "I knew he was going to. I've seen him take many an injury timeout to get his inhaler. It was my goal to make him quit. It's definitely the highlight of my career. I was predicted to take third. I took it as a slap in the face. I came in trying to make it a point to get on top of the podium."
At 152, C.P.'s Dusty Schurg took down S.B. Adams' Sam Fertig early in the third period and hung on to win 2-1. Fertig took Schurg to his back just after the buzzer and the officials upheld the call after consultation.
"I was confident with my riding," Schurg said. "When we're drilling live in practice, we have sessions where you have to ride a guy out for 30 seconds to win. That really came into play."
Highland's Mark Maldonado lost 1-0 in the ticket round last year, watching Bishop Noll's Damian Gomez and Lowell's Kenny Hughes advance. This time, Maldonado ran the region gauntlet at 160, downing Gomez 3-1 in the finals after getting past Hughes 1-0 in the semis.
"It shows how much I've improved this year," Maldonado said. "Conditioning was a huge thing. I was a lot more tired (at regionals). I did harder workouts this week and it paid off big dividends."
Merrillville's Bobby Steveson remained undefeated at 170, handling Hobart's Scottie Sopko 9-4.
"I started to move my feet a lot more," Steveson said. "I was wrestling fast, working my shots and getting them. It's four wins. I'm hoping for another four to come (at state)."
Lake Central's Gelen Robinson also stayed perfect at 220, needing just 47 seconds to take care of Harrison's Seth Mayer. Robinson had three first-period pins on the day.
"It's pretty exciting to win my first semistate," Robinson said. "It means a lot. There was a lot of good competition here that I hadn't seen before. Basically, everybody's goal is to make it to state. I'm pretty satisfied with my performance."
On the strength of seven semifinalists, Merrillville secured team honors with 115 points, 17 more than Penn. Crown Point (85.5) was third.
"The way I look at it, if everybody does the job they're supposed to do, the score will take care of itself," Merrillville coach David Maldonado said. "I'm glad for all the kids. It's a group effort. It's really a community effort. You can't have the success we have without having such a great wrestling community."