INDIANAPOLIS | Given a choice, Brendan Black would've rather wrestled, even with the prospect of facing a semistate champion who placed at the state finals last year.
As it was, the Hobart freshman, who made the tournament as a fill-in when South Bend Clay's Jake Hartman was unable to compete, wasn't going to turn down the forfeit.
Black advanced to the state quarterfinals when Danville's Brock Hudkins was unable to take the mat for Friday's 120-pound first-round match at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"I wasn't really too happy. I wish I would've earned it," Black said. "I'll come out (Saturday) and try to show people I deserved to be there."
Black was in the warm-up room when he said the Danville coach came up to him and told him Hudkins (41-1) was sick and had been taken to the hospital. In the end, Black wound up being the only 120-pounder from the Merrillville Semistate to advance.
Portage's Gaige Torres, disqualified for an illegal slam on Hartman last week, was on hand to support teammate Steven Lawrence, who wrestled without Indians coach Leroy Vega in his corner. Ejected for arguing the Torres call, Vega couldn't even be in the building. He was at an Indianapolis hotel watching on live stream as Lawrence pinned Warren Central's Trent Pruitt.
"(Vega) and coach (Eric) Keith have been in my corner ever since I started wrestling," Lawrence said. "My main motivation was to do what I had to do for my boy Gaige. That was in the back of my mind. He's my drilling partner. He's more than a wrestling friend. He's like a brother."
With assistants Eric Keith and Pat Wilkins in the coaching chairs, Lawrence finished off Pruitt with a cradle at 1:46.
"I saw film on him and I knew I'd be able to break him," Lawrence said. "The low single was open the whole match. I knew something would end up popping up. Even though (Vega) couldn't be here watching, he told me if I just go out and wrestle, I'll win the match."
Jake Covaciu was part of a perfect first round for Merrillville, which advanced all six of its qualifiers. The Pirates sophomore pinned Lawrenceburg's Jake Ruberg (44-2) in 3:52 at 138.
"I've worked too hard, put too much in," Covaciu said. "It's paying off. I was here my freshman year, facing the No. 1 guy in the state. I didn't wrestle too good. I let the nerves, the building, get to me. Coach (David) Maldonado says to use blinders, just keep my head right and stay focused on my match. I've got the jitters out now. I'm feeling good."
Lake Central's Jake Sebahar (145) joined defending 220-pound champion Gelen Robinson in the quarterfinals with a 12-6 decision over Carroll (Fort Wayne)'s Alexander Arney.
"It felt awesome just qualifying and to get even further is that much better," Sebahar said. "It's my senior year. I made it this far. This could be the last time I wrestle. I want to keep going as far as I can."
Hanover Central's Stevan Micic began his quest for a third title with a forfeit.
The region advanced 18 of its 25 qualifiers.