MERRILLVILLE | Merrillville wrestling coach David Maldonado says when the heavyweights wrestle, it looks like a couple of bears dancing.
Merrillville's Shawn Streck may still be a cub, but the freshman state-qualifier has quite a bite.
"He's about 250, 245 and about (6-foot-1) and he already does a lot of things naturally that a heavyweight should do," Maldonado said. "He's very aware of his body position and he's able to shift his body weight very well. That makes things easier."
Streck joins Lowell's Drew Hughes, Portage's Gaige Torres and teammate Jacob Covaciu as freshmen state qualifiers from the area, but it's a rarity to find a heavyweight who's this good, this young.
"As a freshman, not too many people get to (wrestle in the state finals)," Streck said. "It's kind of special and it feels pretty good."
The gridiron was Streck's first love. He started on the Merrillville defensive line every game this season. That's not easy to do in Demarree Stadium.
"He's a very good athlete," Maldonado said. "Typically, we get football players who are big guys in as freshmen but they have to learn to wrestle. He's a wrestler that plays football."
Streck's been wrestling since the sixth grade and has a middle school state championship and freestyle state championship to his credit. That experience allowed him to enter the Pirates' wrestling room for the first time as an already fundamentally sound wrestler who just needed some polish.
"Sometimes you just get a kid who gets it," Maldonado said. "If you get it and you understand it and you're able to apply it and put it into practice, anything can happen."
Streck won last week's Merrillville semistate where the other three 285-pound state qualifiers were all seniors.
"(A state title) was one of my goals coming into the season and I knew that if I worked hard I could reach it," he said. "I'd be disappointed (if I didn't win a state championship). That's my main goal and what I try to focus on."
As for how things will go this weekend, Maldonado's not ready to venture a guess.
"There's a reason why Vegas does not bet on high school athletics," he said. "This is probably the most unpredictable sport and at the heavyweight division, for a freshman to be in the state tournament, is unique. You don't see it too often."