CALUMET TWP. | On paper, the move of Portage to the Calumet Regional looked like a threat to Merrillville's supremacy.
Then again, they don't wrestle on paper.
The Pirates earned 254.5 points, besting second-place Portage by almost 70 points Saturday at Calumet Fieldhouse. Merrillville had nine wrestlers reach the finals, seven of whom won their respective weight classes.
"Our team just showed up. They showed up to wrestle and they performed today," coach David Maldonado said. "We don't worry about the team score. If everybody does their job, then the team score takes care of itself."
Michael Garza, a 106-pound junior, started things off for the Pirates by pinning Portage's Tyler Joseph at 1:01 to repeat as regional champ. Garza wasn't pleased with his effort in his first two matches of the day.
"I'm trying to get ready for semistate and eventually state, so I decided that if I'm going to wrestle (Joseph) I'm going to wrestle aggressive," Garza said. "So, I just kept attacking, attacking, attacking."
Bobby Steveson won a 10-3 decision over Hobart's Scottie Sopko in one of the most anticipated finals of the day. The Merrillville sophomore said Sopko's style made the match difficult.
"It wasn't my best stuff," Steveson said. "It's hard to wrestle when somebody backing up on you all the time. It wasn't my best stuff. I've got better."
Lake Central's Gelen Robinson skated through the competition at 220 pounds while his former NBA All-Star father Glenn drew attention in the stands. The Indians junior won a technical fall over River Forest junior Roberto Yanez.
"Anybody can get caught in anything, so you've still got to wrestle hard," Robinson said. "That's exactly what I needed (from Yanez). I needed somebody to push me hard."
Highland senior Mark Maldonado just barely inched by Bishop Noll's Damien Gomez at 160 pounds. It came down to a 3-2 double-overtime decision that left both grapplers gasping for air.
The pair have a history of scrappy, down-to-the-wire dogfights.
"I was looking to get a takedown," Maldonado said. "He came with a different gameplan and it made it a lot harder."
Portage finished second as a team with 187 points, followed by Lake Central with 156.