When freshman Gaige Torres arrived at Portage, he came with impressive credentials.
The 14-year old's resume already included seven state and two national titles in youth wrestling.
"He probably has the most experience on the mat in the room," Indians coach Leroy Vega said. "He's got mat awareness. He knows what to do and not to do. It's hard for me to put it in perspective because he's still a kid. He's not your typical freshman and we don't treat him like a freshman."
Torres' dad, Rafael, wrestled at Hobart and got his son into the sport when he was just 3. Before he was even in school, Gaige was already a state champion, finishing first in the Bantam 45-pound division at the age of 4. Last January, he topped the podium in the Schoolboy 113 bracket at the ASICS folkstyle nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
"It's just fun to break a guy, to see who's standing at the end," Torres said. "All the wrestling I've done my whole life has prepared me for this. I don't look at age. I know a lot. I feel like I train harder than them. I've watched (high school) the last (few) years. I've been going to state. I wanted to see how I would do against a lot of them and I've done pretty good so far. I feel like I'm getting stronger every day."
The adjustment to the high school level has been a smooth one for Torres, who is already 13-1 and ranked ninth in the state.
"I thought it would be hard, but once it started, it's been kind of easy," he said. "In high school, you have to go physical all the time. I'm never impatient. If it's somebody good, I like to feel them out, keep moving, to set up my shots. I never stay in the same spot."
Torres' first loss came in Friday's North Montgomery Duals, where he dropped 5-4 to Perry Meridian's third-ranked Jacob Cottey, a match Torres believed he should have won.
"He came off the mat (mad), ready to get back to work," Vega said. "He wanted to know what he had to do to beat him. The big thing right now is he's not strong. Most of the top guys are juniors and seniors. He's a boy wrestling against young men, but he's growing now. He's going to put on a lot of muscle."
Vega first met Torres several years ago when he was he running his wrestling school in Portage. Torres has trained with some of the area's best at the Region Wrestling Academy since about sixth grade.
"It's been really good knowing Leroy. He's like a father to me," Torres said. "He pushes me because he cares about me. He wants to see me do big things."
A two-time state champion at Portage, Vega didn't even wrestle varsity as a freshman.
"He's so far advanced than I was," Vega said. "I try to make them realize the opportunities they have, how far they can go. That's why I'm hard on them. I believe Gaige will be a state champion. He can go Division I. We're losing some great senior leadership, so it's nice to have a freshman like him coming in. He's going to be the future of Portage wrestling, the face of Portage wrestling."
Up to this point, Torres has juggled wrestling year-round while also playing football and baseball. He'll give up football going forward, but plans to stay with baseball, a sport where he has also excelled, at least for now.
"I want to win state this year. I want to win state all four years," Torres said. "They're going to put up pictures on the (practice room) wall of all the (Portage) state champions. I want to be up there with Leroy and all of them."