MERRILLVILLE | Adam Garcia knows where he gets his fighting spirit from.
The Merrillville wrestler's grandfather, Toribio Garza, defined the word "fighter."
Garza had bone cancer at 18 and lost a leg. At different points during his life, he struggled through open-heart surgery and a collapsed lung, but always made it through.
Garza died recently but Garcia carries his grandfather's will with him each time he's on the mat.
"I'm a physical wrestler, always attacking," the 120-pound senior said. "I just grew up that way. It's been my style since I was a little kid."
It's been effective, for sure.
Garcia is No. 1 in the state in his weight class in the Panko Strength and Speed rankings. The Pirates are No. 2, as a team, in the Indianamat.com power rankings.
"It feels good (to be recognized), but I don't change anything up. I still have to go out and work hard," Garcia said. "I know I have a target on my back."
Nobody's hit that target this season as Garcia stands 16-0 with 11 pins.
"He's naturally a fighter," coach David Maldonado said. "He may not be the best wrestler in the wrestling room, but he figures out ways to make it work for him."
Maldonado said Garcia sometimes puts himself in bad situations, but always seems to push his way through. It's a trait that can really benefit a wrestler.
That constant aggression requires Garcia to be better conditioned than his opponents. So, even on weekends and off days, he finds time to run. He's been doing it since he was a freshman.
"That's something you can't really teach a kid. It's an internal thing," Maldonado said. "He has his own way of doing things."
With success comes high expectations.
Garcia is the odds-on favorite to win a state title at 120. Maldonado, once a state champ himself, tries to remind his team that nothing is written in stone and they need to work hard every time they step in the circle.
"You get one shot that you work your whole life for," he said. "It's about the whole journey and becoming a better person, a better man."
That's a lesson that Garcia has taken to heart.
"My goal is to win a state championship. I'll wrestle how I wrestle," Garcia said. "If I make the finals and lose, I'll be upset, but I'll get over it."