MERRILLVILLE | Never be satisfied.
Moments after winning the 138-pound weight class at Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference tournament, Merrillville sophomore Jake Covaciu hurried over the fieldhouse track, where he promptly ran several sprints and did pushups.
"The season's never over," Covaciu said following his 1-0 decision over Crown Point's Josh Fuqua. "You have to keep working hard."
Covaciu scored the sole point on a second-period escape and rode Fuqua for the final two minutes to hang on.
"Coach (David) Maldonado always tells us, keep your mind clear, focus on your match," Covaciu said. "Use blinders. First point, first takedown. It was a high-pressure match. I love getting after it, competing with good guys."
The head-to-head win helped the Pirates pull away from the Bulldogs for the team title, 217-204.
"We matched up pretty well. The kids wrestled tough," Maldonado said. "We pride ourselves on wrestling on the mat, holding a lead when we have to. It's hard to judge this team. We're probably not as good, on paper, this year, but we're much better as a group. We've got a lot better chemistry. They push for each other."
Merrillville won five of its seven championship matches with Mike Garza (113), Clarence Johnson (126), Isaac Rentas (145) and Shawn Streck (285). Streck pinned LaPorte's Landon Blackburn in 3:10. Of Blackburn's four losses, three have been to Streck.
"He's a little hard to score on, but I end up picking on a couple of his mistakes," Streck said. "He gives me a tough time every time. I just try to stay physical with him."
All the unbeaten wrestlers in the field remained that way -- CP's Zach Donaldson (132) and Tyler Kral (195), LaPorte's Mike Eldridge and Lake Central's Gelen Robinson (220).
Kral (29-0) topped Derrick Suttles of Valpo 5-3.
"I like tough matches. It keeps me motivated," Kral said. "He's real strong. A lot of guys I wrestle are a lot stronger than me, but no one's my height (6-foot-6). I have lot more leverage than most guys."
Robinson (36-0) fit another DAC title amidst his official recruiting visit to Purdue. He spent Friday night there and returned to West Lafayette after the meet, where he pinned Portage's Travis Williams at 5:56.
"He put up a great fight," Robinson said. "It's always good to have great competition locally."
Eldridge improved to 36-0 but not without some anxiety. Prior to pinning Merrillville's Matt Hollins at 4:27, he found himself on his back in the second period.
"I wrestled him earlier in the year and it was actually somewhat similar," Eldridge said. "I was on my back and I ended up pinning. You're never really comfortable when you're on your back. Both of us are aggressive competitors, so it's going to be a good match."
Jack Tolin was the only freshman champ. The Chesterton 106 pinned Portage's Tyler Joseph in 3:09.
"January and February are the most important months," said Tolin, who edged Joseph 12-11 previously. "It's the time that matter, so you really have to push yourself to your limits in practice. I just try to stay in good position on meet. That stops a guy from doing what he wants to do."