MERRILLVILLE | Merrillville coach David Maldonado huddled his team around him for a pep talk a few minutes before the final match against Harrison in Saturday’s Tom Cameron Duals Invitational.
The match between the host Pirates and the Raiders would determine the team dual champion, and what Maldonado said worked, as the Pirates won the first two weight classes by pin to set the tone.
The Pirates proved to be too quick and too strong for the Raiders, as they finished 5-0 on the day with a convincing 54-15 victory.
“Coach does a good job of motivating and speaking,” said Jake Covaciu, who opened the final dual with a pin at 138. “He gets us all pretty fired up some times.”
Maldonado said he told his charges it was going to come down to who’s got a little more guts for the last match of the day when you’re tired and exhausted.
“Overall, our kids wrestled well throughout the day,” he said. “I think we got stronger throughout the day.”
In all, 10 Pirates finished unbeaten, including Covaciu, Michael DeLaPena (106), Michael Garza (113), Justin Johnson (120), Clarence Johnson (126), Derek Scott (132), Isaac Rentas (145), Willie Armstrong (152), Deven Lee (170) and Shawn Streck (285).
“There are a lot of things we’ve got to work on, and a lot of things we’ve got to improve,” Maldonado said.
Merrillville logged some impressive wins, including a 71-0 blanking of Morton, a 59-16 victory over K.V. and a 55-15 thrashing of defending champ Penn.
“This is all practice until the end of the season,” Maldonado said. “This is where we want to have our tough matches, and this is where we want to have those overtime matches.
“… We just want to keep improving.”
K.V. went 2-3 on the day and finished fifth. Tim Schoonveld (182) and Al Berdine (220) both finished 5-0 for the Kougars, who were without some varsity wrestlers due to injury.
“We’re looking forward to week-to-week to getting better and improving,” coach Brad Burvan said. “That’s our main goal. Dual-meet wise we’re 10-4.”
Morton also went 2-3 on the day and finished sixth. Rickie Rodriguez (113), Ruben Rodriguez (120) and Adrian Palacious (195) all went 4-1.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish,” coach Kevin Persley said. “We were hoping to go 2-1 (in the first three rounds), so we would get to wrestle the good schools.
“We wanted to wrestle Merrillville because we’re going to see them in sectionals. … That’s how you get better.”