Michael Garza clenched his fists, flexed his arms and let out a primal scream as he walked back to the center of the mat to have his hand raised as the Calumet regional 113-pound champ.
He'd just beaten Munster's Jason Crary ranked No. 2 in the state, and the relief on the Merrillville senior's face was apparent. Garza is ranked No. 5, himself, but the victory gave him a new-found confidence.
"Mike knows what to do and he's starting to put it together mentally and that's kind of putting him over the edge," coach David Maldonado said. "A lot of times, that's all you need. You just need to figure it out."
Garza takes a 36-3 record into Saturday's Merrillville semistate, where he'll be seeded No. 3. He admits that he was in a mental slump early in the year but both Maldonado and Garza say his work on and off the mat over the last few weeks has been different. It's been better.
"It's like I got over that slump and I've been working my butt off every day," he said. "It's just working harder, a better attitude."
Maldonado has known Garza since he was 5-years-old, both as a wrestler and because their families go to the same church.
"Mike Garza's been wrestling most of his life, so he's a wrestler at heart," Maldonado said. "Sometimes he gets beat to position and sometimes he loses focus, but he's a wrestler at heart and when you stay close, any good wrestler can beat you."
Garza was a state qualifier both as a sophomore and as a junior. He's got a chance to make it a hat trick this weekend.
"He just needs to open up and enjoy the rest of this season, look for positions and just continue to wrestle," Maldonado said. "Whether he wins or loses, that's what he's going to remember."
"Right now, I'm on a natural high," Garza said. "It's going to be exciting. It's my senior year, wrestling for the last time at our semistate, our own building."
"It's my last hurrah, so I'm going to make the best out of it."