GARY | It's customary at tournaments for each winner to take home the poster board with the printed brackets of his individual weight class. The Merrillville Pirates carried away a lot of poster boards at Saturday's individual Calumet Regional.
Merrillville walked away with nine individual champions and advanced 12 wrestlers semistate next week.
"This is probably one of our toughest teams we've had," Merrillville coach David Maldonado said. "We had 11 sectional champs, nine regional champs. I don't ever remember us having maybe three or four.
"The kids just wrestled real well."
The Pirates captured the first three weight classes on the day, starting with Mike Garza's pin of Morton's Rickie Rodriguez at 103. Adam Brodie (113) and Adam Garcia (120) followed with decisions before Alex Padilla turned back Hobart's Patrick Manning 6-4 at 132.
"He beat me last weekend so I had a little revenge today," Padilla said.
Padilla said the Pirates have put in a lot of hard work and preparation to get where they're at.
"We do all we can to be the best," he said.
Also picking up regional titles for the Pirates were Matthew Hollins (145), Zach Sandefur (152), Bobbie Stevenson (160), Darryl Peppers (170) and Kourtney Berry (195). Stevenson improved to 32-1, while Berry remains unbeaten at 25-0.
"They did their best, and I'm very proud of all of them," said Berry, who's still nursing a knee injury. "We've got to keep it up for next week."
Lake Central Kyle Ayersman remained unblemished at 44-0 with a 5-1 decision of Hobart's Aaron Ayala at 126. Ayersman is shooting for his third state title.
"That's my priority, but I've got to take it one match at a time," he said. "Now it's on to the first round of the semistate."
Other individual champs were Hobart's Tony Vasquez (138), Munster's Dominic Fimbianti (182), Lake Central's Gelen Robinson (220) and Morton's Fabian Durant (285). Robinson, just a sophomore, outlasted Merrillville's Micheal Nickson 6-4 to improve to 41-3.
"We've got a week now to prepare for the semistate, so we've got some things we need to make adjustments of," Maldonado said. "We had a close match with Robinson there at 220, so we've just got to keep working."