GREENWOOD | Chicken and beef were part of the menu for Sunday's Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association hall of fame banquet at Jonathan Byrd's Cafteria, and the induction ceremony had a distinctive region flavor.
Former Northwest Indiana wrestlers Leroy Vega (Portage), Billy Maldonado (E.C. Central) and Eric Douglas (Valparaiso) were among the six newcomers to the hall who were honored at Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria.
"You're lucky to have him in your state," J Robinson, Vega's coach at the University of Minnesota, said in an email read at the banquet. "As a competitor, there's no equal. Once he was on the mat, he was there to win, and win he did. I doubt that there is another quite like him. My life is better for him going to the University of Minnesota for five years. You can't think of all that (we) accomplished without Leroy Vega's name being at the top of the list."
After winning two state titles at Portage, Vega went on to be a Big Ten champion and a three-time All-American at Minnesota under Robinson, which captured a pair of NCAA crowns during his time there.
"Leroy's one of those people who come along in your life who make a lasting impression," Robinson said. "I'm not speaking of him as a wrestler but as a person. I don't believe there's anything I could ask him to do that he wouldn't do."
A 1997 Portage graduate, Vega is in his second year as head coach there and recently founded VOR (Vega Oil Reclamation).
Douglas, a 1993 Valpo grad, was a two-time state runner-up and is among those considered to be the best Indiana prep wrestlers to never win a state title.
"From the time he was an elementary school wrestler to when he was an all-American at Purdue, two qualities marked Eric as a wrestler," former Vikings coach John Cook said in a statement read by presenter Tom Miller, "hard work and confidence."
In addition to being a 1998 All-American at Purdue, Douglas was a three-time captain and two-time MVP. After several years in coaching, he became assistant principal and athletic director at Daleville High School this school year.
"He's a great representative of what wrestling is all about," Miller said.
Maldonado graduated in 1997 from E.C. Central, where he claimed three state medals, including a pair of firsts. The four-time NCAA qualifier was a 2002 All-American and a part of two national runner-up teams at Iowa State.
After a stint as A.D. at his prep alma mater, Maldonado became wrestling coach at Lovett (Ga.) High School, which placed third in the state duals tournament this season.