MERRILLVILLE | They may look like freshmen, but Griffith's Jeremiah Reitz and Munster's Jason Crary sure don't wrestle like them.
Youth was served at Saturday's Merrillville Semistate as the Northwest Crossroads Conference ninth-graders each pocketed titles.
"It's OK to be a freshman. You just have to wrestle like a senior," Reitz said.
Reitz (41-1) reversed his only loss of the season with a 4-2 decision over Penn's Drew Hildebrandt.
"I just made sure I wrestled all six minutes," Reitz said. "I had to make sure I didn't let him rest, to wear him out."
That was a big factor for Crary, who scored a third-period takedown and another in overtime to down Merrillvlle's Michael Garza 4-2. Garza edged Crary in the regional.
"I've been working really hard on my conditioning in practice and it paid off at the end," he said. "That really helped, especially in overtime."
Hanover Central's Stevan Micic (126), Lowell's Drew Hughes (138), Lake Central's Gelen Robinson (220) and Merrillville's Shawn Streck (285) all repeated as champions.
Hanover's Tyler Scott (195) was the local first-timer, downing Penn's Kobe Woods 9-6 to earn his trip to Indianapolis.
"It's a great feeling -- I went from the bottom to the top -- but it's not even close to being over yet," Scott said. "I'm closer to my goal of finishing high on the (state awards) podium, but I'm not there yet."
Hughes survived the closest of close calls, holding off Merrillville's Jake Covaciu 6-5. Hughes led 5-0 but was taken to his back in the third period, barely eluding a pin. Covaciu let him up on the re-start and wasn't able to hit the winning takedown.
"It was pretty scary," Hughes said. "It came off my shot, which kind of sucked. I was right on the edge. I couldn't tell where the line was. I was just trying to not get pinned. I thought he'd let me go, but I was pretty confident with my defense at the end."
Streck handed West Lafayette's John Duvall his first loss, 15-6, and was still feeling just as spry afterward.
"I could've wrestled another whole match," Streck said. "I should've put him away. I was a little tentative on my shot. The big thing at heavyweight is conditioning. Nobody's in the shape I am. The training we do, nobody can match it. They push us hard. This is the easy part."
Robinson (48-0) and Micic have been there and done that. The two chatted in the hall and took pictures together after Robinson's pin in 1:14.
"It's a great time of the season," Robinson said. "You can't look past anybody. It's the best feeling to have, knowing my body's primed and I'm mentally ready to go. It's been a hectic year, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
Micic (38-0) was his usual technical fall machine, ending all three of his matches by points, racking up 55 points in less than 11 minutes on the mat.
"I was just trying to keep the pace going, make sure I'm still focused. That's the biggest thing," Micic said. "There may be an underdog coming up, so I can't let that happen. It's good to have (more) matches. My lungs were working good. I wrestle my best when I get my lungs flowing."
Merrillville finished second to Penn (125) as a team with 102 points. The Pirates qualified six wrestlers, tops among area schools.
"This is a tough tournament, wrestling four matches," Merrillville coach David Maldonado said. "At this point in the game, you just try to get through every match and at the end, when the dust settles, figure out where you're at.
"The most important thing is getting in position to succeed (at state)."