Duneland Athletic Conference
Wrestlers to watch: Josh Fuqua, So., 120; Jason Tsirtsis, Sr., 145; Jake Fuqua, Sr., 152; Dustin Schrug, Jr., 160; Matt Langbehn, Jr., 195; Tyler Kral, Sr., 220.
Outlook: If Crown Point would end up winning its second state championship the same way college football champions are determined, coach Scott Vlink may not bother to accept the trophy. "I'm not into all those polls that have us ranked so high," Vlink said. "But we do have the potential to be very good." Tsirtsis will be going for his fourth straight state title -- a feat his older brother Alex achieved at Griffith. Josh Fuqua was state runner-up as a freshman 103-pounder, and Bulldog football star Kral placed third at 215. Going into the season ranked No. 2 by IndianaMat.com, Crown Point got off to a good start with a 5-0 showing at a tournament in Warsaw.
Quote: "We're looking to compete against anyone. You get tired of wrestling the same people (in practice)." — Vlink.
Wrestlers to watch: Matt Lechowicz, Jr., 120; Kyle Ayersman, Sr., 126; Brandon Lopez, Sr., 132; Gelen Robinson, So., 220.
Outlook: One of the annual team goals for the Indians is to win an elusive sectional title. "And I think we have a good chance of doing it this year," head coach Rod Wartman said. "And I believe we can move up a few places in the Duneland." Ayersman will be going for his third state title in a row. Lopez is a returning state qualifier, and Robinson — who emerged as a force on the football field — has shown big improvement.
Quote: "We have a good chance to get a lot of guys down to semistate." — Wartman.
Wrestlers to watch: Michael Garza, So., 106; Adam Brodie, So., 113; Adam Garcia, Jr., 120; Al Padilla, Sr., 132-138; Zach Sandufer, Sr., 152; Darryl Peppers, Sr., 170; Kourtney Berry, Sr., 195; Michael Nickson, Sr., 220.
Outlook: One advantage of having just one senior on your team is that you'll lose only one senior to graduation. The Pirates are reaping those awards this season. Merrillville has three state qualifiers in Berry, who placed fifth as a 189-pounder, and Garcia and Sandufer, and have five other semistate qualifiers. The problem coach David Maldonado often faces early in the year is getting the football-player wrestlers conditioned for the new season. "Both sports are tough, but wrestling is a different animal," Maldonado said. "It's just you and your opponent. You're teammates can't help you out."
Quote: "It's a matter of how far they want to go. We've got some key athletes." — Maldonado.
Greater South Shore Conference
Wrestlers to watch: Mark Feliciano, So., 152; Damian Gomez, Jr., 160; Marcus Quiroga, Sr., 220.
Outlook: The Warriors have Gomez, who was a regional qualifier at 171 for East Chicago Central before transfering to Noll and dropping to 160. Coach Brian Hrabovski may not be able to fill out a full lineup with just 13 wrestlers, but he's happy with the people he has. "These are the 13 guys willing to stick with it," he said. "I rather work with these 13 than 25 who just show up."
Wrestlers to watch: Jose Villarreal, Jr., 106; Alec Noworul, So., 113; Kalia Clark, Sr., 132; Noah Fowler, So., 170; J.J. Novosel, So., 195.
Outlook: The Warriors enter the season with nine letterwinners and look to attain their eighth-straight winning season — last year they were 16-7 and 8-0 in the GSSC. Noworul was a semistate qualifier last year at 103, and Villarreal and Fowler were regional qualifiers. Three-time letterwinner Clark, who is the first female wrestler in Calumet history, has been named team captain."We're working hard to be competitive by season's end with an extremely young team," said Jim Wadkins, who is entering his 22nd season as Calumet's head coach.
Quote: "We hope to defend our GSSC championship come January, but it will be quite a feat for us to make it five titles in a row." — Wadkins.
Wrestlers to watch: Samuel Kado, Sr., 126; Carlos Yanez, Sr., 132; Ryan Clark, Sr., 138; Alondo Salas, Sr., 195.
Outlook: For the Eagles' returning seniors, "It's time to shine," said coach Dan Mora. They will get a chance to do so today at the Harvest Classic at Lake Central. "There's going to be some state champion wrestlers there. We've got to step it up," Mora said. So far the Eagles can fill all the weight classes. Mora hopes that will remain the case as the season grinds down. "I see a lot of dedication in this group," Mora said. "But in the past we've have guys quit late in the season. When you have wrestlers who've come up in a club, they know what to expect later in the season and they've already set their goals to stay with it no matter what, like that (Andrew) Howe kid from Hanover Central trying to make the Olympics."
Quote: "If we can keep our team together, we have a chance at a conference title." — Mora.
Wrestlers to watch: Jake Koselke, Jr., 113; Juan Romo, Sr., 132; Adam Davis, Jr., 145; Casey Sonaty, Jr., 160; Alex Cooper, Sr., 170; Rex Deal, Jr., 195.
Outlook: The Spartans started the season by winning all five of their matches in a tournament at Lake Station, then went 2-2 in a tournament they hosted. "Going 7-2 to begin the season ... I'm happy with that," coach Bruce Cunningham said. North Newton has two returning regional qualifiers, Sonaty and Deal, and Cunningham believes Sonaty has a great shot at the state finals. "We have a good chance at winning conference," Cunningham said. "Sectional? No. Not with someone like Crown Point in there. But for conference, I think we can finally get one this year."
Quote: "Since I've been here, this is by far the hardest working group I've had." — Cunningham.
Wrestlers to watch: Anthony Gonzalez, Sr., 126; Isaac Rentas, So., 132; Robert Yanez, So., 220; Austin Ayers, So., 160; BJ Montez, Sr., 285.
Outlook: The Ingots lost talent and experience from the conference runner-up last year but may have an upcoming star in Yanez, who was 15-3 as a 215-pound freshman. Rentas also had a solid freshman season with 21 wins.
Quote: "We are going to be a young team, but we are looking to stay competitive and continue to improve." — coach Brian Wesley.
Wrestlers to watch: Frankie Rossdivito, So., 113; Dominik Pagan, So., 132.
Outlook: Whiting's numbers are up this year, but the Oilers are young and several of their wrestlers had never stepped on a mat until this season. "They are learning and being aggressive, which is all I could ask for," coach Aaron Morando said. Whiting also has a big turnout of middle school wrestlers, "and (middle school coach) Zach Dumezich is doing a fantastic job with them," Morando said.
Quote: "We will be competitive this year, which will be a huge turnaround for us from past years when we only had six to eight kids." — Morando.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Wrestlers to watch: Chris Diaz, Fr., 106; Ismael Quineilla, So., 126; Eric Nelson, Sr., 220.
Outlook: The Pioneers have a lot new faces in their varsity lineup. "But I believe there is potential for growth," said Sean Casillas, who has taken over as Clark's head coach this season. Casillas formerly coached Clark's middle school team, where Diaz and Quineilla were Hammond School City champions.
Wrestlers to watch: Robert Chicvara, Jr., 113; Tommy Tolle, Sr., 120; Rudy Magana, So., 120; Zach Lacy, Jr., 126; Joey Guevara, Sr., 138; Romero Cazares, Jr., 170; Ezell Dennis, Sr., 170; Mike Pajdzik, Jr., 185.
Outlook: Though the Gladiators lost four-time conference champion Chris Pajdzik to graduation, younger brother Mike Pajdzik is out to make a name for himself. Last year as a sophomore heavyweight, Mike was 16-9. Chicvara was 20-11 last season.
Quote: "Our program has really come a long way in five years. We have more experienced wrestlers in the room now than Gavit has seen in well over 10 years. There is an excitement in the air and we are waiting to see if these young men can step up and answer it." — coach Devin Sanders.
Wrestlers to watch: Daniel Flores, Fr., 106; Dijon Underwood, Sr., 145; Jesse Woods-Curtis, Jr., 182; Romeral Harris, Sr., 195.
Outlook: The Wildcats have a full lineup, but as usual they have a lot of new faces. "That's been an ongoing problem we've had here," coach Adam Johnston said. "We always get a good group of freshman, but then they drop out, move or just lose interest." Among those who didn't lose interest is Harris, who was a regional qualifier last season. But when last winter's blizzard knocked out power in Harris' apartment complex, his family had to relocate with relatives in Chicago. "And he was unable to make it back for regionals," Johnston said. Among new wrestlers who have impressed Johnston is Flores, who won his first four varsity matches. Another is Woods-Curtis. "He's just a natural," Johnston said. "He's very explosive and tough."
Quote: "I have to credit my assistant coaches (Sam Perez and Juan Perez) for helping me keep this team together." — Johnston.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Wrestlers to watch: Mike Flores, Jr., 125; Kyle Lesch, Sr., 182.
Outlook: First-year coach Mike Bauswell "pounded the hallways" and was able to attract 35 kids. "But we still have a lot of underclassmen," Bauswell said of a varsity lineup with three sophomores and six freshmen. Yet they do have the leadership of regional qualifiers Flores and Lesch, and Lesch was 8-0 through November.
Quote: "We want to compete year-round. We want to get better." — Bauswell.
Wrestlers to watch: Nathan Reitz, So., 103-113; Zach Moore, Sr., 126; Louie Martinez, So., 132; Jose Perez, So., 138; Preston Nelson, Jr., 145/152; Josh Herrera, Sr., 145; Nick Stassin, Sr., 160; Tyler Yost, Sr., 195.
Outlook: "When you have 40 kids in a wrestling room, it's a breath of fresh air," Griffith coach Travis Walls said. "I mean now I can fill a whole lineup. I don't have to worry if someone gets sick." The Panthers return four semistate qualifiers in Reitz, Nelson, Perez and Yost.
Quote: "I'm very excited this year. Do we have enough to win our sectional? I don't know about that, but I believe we have a good chance at winning conference." — Walls.
Wrestlers to watch: Cody Kinley, Jr., 126; Cody Hucko, Jr., 132; Mark Maldonado, Jr., 152; Matt Holl, So., 160.
Outlook: Coach Frank Marciano lost some wrestlers due to his demanding style. But those who remained have shown promise. Maldonado was undefeated through November. The Trojans began the year defeating Clark in a dual. At a subsequent super dual at South Bend Clay, Highland lost all five of its matches. "But we gave up three weight classes and we should have been at second or third place."
Quote: "This is not a sport for everyone. This is a lifestyle." — Marciano.
Wrestlers to watch: Camden Vizena, Fr., 113; Aaron Ayala, Sr., 126; Patrick Manning, Sr., 132; Tony Vasquez, Jr., 138; Justin Leon, Jr., 145; Tony Morales, Sr., 152; Scottie Sopko, Fr., 160; Tony Rodriguez, Jr., 170; Julian Collazo, Jr., 182; Jon Ramirez, So., 220; Gerald Valenzuela, Sr., 285.
Outlook: The Brickies return a state qualifier in Ayala, who won 25 matches last season, and a two-time semistate qualifier in Rodriguez, who won 30 matches last season. Other semistate qualifiers include Manning, Vasquez and Morales.
Quote: "We do not have a full lineup but can be a good tournament team." — coach Steve Balash.
Wrestlers to watch: Josh Bottos, So., 120; Mitch Roadruck, Jr., 138-145; Alex Mavros, So., 132; Zach Mroczkowski, Jr., 132-138; Kenny Hughes, So., 152; Jeremy Crocker, Sr., 170-182; Ryan Patterson, Jr., 195; Scott Pitrowski, Sr., 285.
Outlook: Former Red Devils state champion Bobby Howard has taken over as head coach after serving as an assistant for four years. "This is probably the hardest working group of kids that I have been around while coaching here," he said. "We are looking for one or two freshmen to step up and fill an immediate role." Though Lowell returns Crocker, a state qualifier from last year, it lost one when Charlie Mavros transferred to Hanover Central.
Quote: "With a little maturity from the underclassmen, we should be in good shape come conference and sectional time." — Howard.
Wrestlers to watch: Zach Slosser, So., 132; Darius Flores, Sr., 145; Jon Nauracy, Jr., 160; Dominic Fimbianti, Sr., 182.
Outlook: The Mustangs have a string of two conference titles and four sectional titles — and advanced to the team regional finals last year before being knocked off by Crown Point short of the team state finals. Is it going to be more of the same? "I don't know ... but I mean, we're not dead," coach Dan Gelarden said of his team, which graduated nine seniors. Those back include semistate qualifiers Fimbianti, Flores and Nauracy. As for other slots, "right now, we're trying to find the right combination," Gelarden said.
Quote: "We're not where we want to be right now, but if we stay patient and keep on working, we should be wrestling at our best by the time sectionals come around." — Gelarden.
Wrestlers to watch: Richard Span, So., 113; JaJuan Gills, So., 120; Jamal Kelly, So., 126; Demitrius Warmack, So., 132; Carl Vaughn, Sr., 138; Larry Lee, So., 160; David Thomas, Sr., 195.
Outlook: The Hornets will be led by four-year letterwinner Thomas, who was among the eight regional qualifiers for Lew Wallace last season. Other returning regional qualifiers include Vaughn and Lee. Also, nine varsity freshmen from last year are back as seasoned sophomores. Last season, the Hornets were 13-4 in dual meets.
Quote: "We want to be competitive, so therefore we must wrestle a lot. That we will do in our program." — coach David Walton.
Wrestlers to watch: Shawn Hardy, Jr., 120; Jerry Ruiz, So., 152; Reginald Wright, Jr., 285.
Outlook: Normally cheerleaders don't perform at wrestling matches. But the Panthers have two girls from cheerleading squad on the wrestling team, at least so far. "They've stuck with it, I've got to give them that," coach Sydney Davis said. "We treat them just like the guys." Hardy may give Roosevelt something to cheer about as a returning regional qualifier. "I'm also looking for big things from Ruiz," Davis said. "This is his first year wrestling, but he has shown me a lot."
Quote: "Right now we're working on getting enough matches in to qualify for sectionals." — Davis.
Wrestler to watch: Jerimiah Orange, Jr., 138-145.
Outlook: "This is definitely a building year," Cougars coach Gene Johnson said. "Right now we're trying to put people in the right places. It's a slow process because a lot of our newer guys have never wrestled before." Johnson has been coaching wrestling at West Side for "I don't even know, it's been so long." So what keeps him going at a school known for basketball prowess? "It's a great sport. It builds confidence and self-discipline. It teaches you how to deal with predicaments we face in life."
Porter County Conference
Wrestlers to watch: Kyle Brewster, So., 113; Stevan Micic, So., 106; Paul Petrov, Sr., 120; Sean Orzel, Sr., 126; Charlie Mavros, Sr., 145; Tyler Scott, So., 170; AJ Goeders, So., 138; Lucas Lager, Sr., 132; Josh Bartoszek, Jr., 285.
Outlook: In addition to returning state runner-ups Micic and Petrov (second at 103 in 2010, fourth last year at 112), the Wildcats have added Mavros, who placed seventh in the state at 135 before transferring from Lowell. Scott is a returning semistate qualifier, and Goeders, Lager and Bartoszek are all returning regional qualifiers.
Quote: "The fact that we are a small school with limited numbers makes that a challenge, but Hanover Central's wrestling tradition is strong and out kids are excited about wrestling. This team has a lot of mat experience. Depending on how hard they work will determine if they will reach their team and individual goals." — coach Nick Petrov.
Wrestlers to watch: Hunter Hickman, Jr., 132; Jeffrey Martin, Jr., 138; Skyler Ringen, Sr., 145; Michael Rowe, Sr., 152; Thomas Potts, Sr., 170.
Outlook: The Bombers return semistate qualifiers Martin and Ringen — Hickman was a semistate qualifier from two years ago. Last year they came close to winning the Twin Lakes Sectional despite filling only 10 weight classes. "I think we're a better tournament team," said coach Brad Burvan, who hopes to advance seven or eight kids to semistate. "And this being the last year of the (team) state tournament, we would like to be a part of it by winning our sectional."
Quote: "I'm thankful for the 17 kids I have. They've been a joy to work for." — Burvan.