CALUMET TOWNSHIP | Merrillville left the wrestling mat Saturday at Calumet with its eighth-straight sectional title. That doesn't come as a big surprise since the Pirates were the favorites going in.
But Merrillville never gave the rest of the field much of a chance at the team title. There was a Pirate in 12 of the 14 final matches. In 11 of those 12, the wrestler in the purple singlet came out on top.
"I'm very happy with how many guys we've gotten to the finals," sophomore Mike Garza said. "That's a big thing. To be part of a team that's ready to wrestle and fights every day, it's special."
The Bucs scored 339 points as a team, 116 better than second-place Hobart.
Garza got things started, winning the 106-pound division with a pin of West Side's Dijon Smith at 1 minute, 6 seconds.
"He almost caught me on my back, and that's not what I really wanted," Garza said. "I was expecting to roll him, take him to his back, but instead he stayed on his feet, and I almost got caught."
Garza's goals are big.
"I want to make state. That's the No. 1 priority," he said.
Trevon Williams was the other bookend for the Pirates, winning the 285-pound weight class. Williams did just enough in a slow, lumbering 1-0 victory over Lake Station's David Guerra.
"He was big," Williams said. "I tried to shoot sometimes, but that was just too much weight."
Williams pinned Guerra at semistate last season in their only previous meeting. Guerra tried to pick up the intensity as the clock ran down in the third period this time but couldn't manage a takedown.
Aaron Ayala earned one of the Brickies' three first-place awards. Ayala won a 12-3 major decision over River Forest's Ryan Brown.
"The first period I was just wrestling defensive, trying to stay in the match," Ayala said. "I didn't really turn it up until the second period."
Late in that opening period, Ayala said Brown made a waving gesture as if to say, "C'mon." The Hobart senior was visibly upset and nearly pushed Brown into a throng of spectators.
"I'm not a big fan of wrestling like that," Ayala said. "That gets me heated. I kind of said, 'Alright, it's time to turn it up.'"
Rounding out the team scores were Griffith in third with 209, Lake Station with 162, host Calumet with 160, River Forest with 144, West Side with 81.5, Lew Wallace with 33 and Roosevelt with 16.