ST. JOHN — On a team with few weaknesses, the 152 to 160-pound range was considered a soft spot in Portage's loaded lineup coming into the season.
Then D.J. Washington walked into the room.
"The day before, we were saying we were missing a guy at that weight and we were going to have to bump around," 145-pounder Kasper McIntosh said. "Then he shows up and it's like, hey, that's exactly what we needed."
Washington, a junior, was a Class 2A Illinois state runner-up as a freshman at Marian Catholic before an injury sidelined him last year. The family moved to Portage from Hazelcrest and his addition will only enhance the Indians' state title aspirations.
"It was kind of hard, but being in sports helps with the change in schools," Washington said. "The wrestlers really helped. There's a wrestling mentality the coaches always bring with them. Portage works a lot harder than Marian. It's a lot of fun and it's not just all wrestling."
The athletic Washington brings some flash to a team known more for its grind, as he showed in a 20-8 major decision for the 152 championship at Saturday's Lake Central Harvest Classic.
"I like to score points," he said.
McIntosh, a 17-7 winner at 145, couldn't be happier about his new drill partner.
"I'm a defensive wrestler," he said. "He scores on me. I don't expect it coming. I love drilling. It's a completely different room. There a whole new look. He's talented, long. It's a blessing to the team. They say it's OK to lose in practice. My mentality is, I don't like to lose, period. The practice we had Thursday makes this look like child's play."
Minus Kris Rumph and Anthony Maceo, Portage won five weight classes, but settled for second behind Perry Meridian, 308-283.5.
"It was a tough tournament team-wise and it took a toll on me," McIntosh said. "I let it affect me more than I should. I have very high expectations and I feel like I push them on the team. I expect them to have the same goals. We had a freshman and sophomore in their first tournament. I can't push them too much. It was a learning experience for everyone, for me as a leader."
Jacob Moran won his debut tournament as Portage wrestler, winning the 113 final, 17-5.
"It's something special, the team, the coaches," he said. "We work hard every days, five, six days a week, and it's awesome to come out here and show what we're doing. I just came in looking to dominate, to try to get 15 takedowns if I could. I wrestled well, but I'm not satisfied. I could've gotten a few more takedowns to get the tech fall. (Assistant) coach (Eric) Keith's always preaching high pace. I have to do it all six minutes, not just four."
Colin Poynter followed up with a 15-7 victory at 126, a one-sided match until Penn's Tanner DeMein put him on his back briefly in the final minute.
"I was a little rusty," Poynter said. "I have to clean up a lot of the scrambling stuff. You've got to keep scoring points until the match is over. We just came out here to dominate, the whole team. All we were looking for is to win and get big points. Me, Jake and Kasper, we just worked (in the offseason) on the little things to fix, basically to be perfect, to get to the top level."
Chester Swopes capped Portage's day with a 6-3 win over Highland's Sam Perez at 220.
"It's my senior year, I'm trying to go hard in the room, push myself every match," said Swopes, seventh at LC last season. "I've had great improvement honestly. Last year, I was really gassed at the end. My attacks are so much better attacks. It's a great way to start off."
Highland's Raul Mendoza (132) and Calumet's A.J. Fowler (195) also claimed top honors.
Mendoza, two and out as a sophomore and 1-2 last year in the meet, hit a takedown at 5:34 for a 3-1 win.
"I don't know how to describe it," he said. "I've been working hard every year, trying to get better, off season, practicing after practice, doing everything I can. It's my senior year, I knew I had to step up. It's effort, persistence. The coaches are expecting big things and I'm expecting big stuff, too."
Fowler pinned Hobart's Tyler Hunter at 3:13, one of four finals falls.
"I'm really working on how to do my moves, how to set them up instead of finishing," Fowler said. "Last year, I had a problem setting up my shots, using my length. I'm working on staying tight, keeping to the body, not being sloppy."
In addition to Rumph and Maceo, Hobart was minus standouts Tylor Triana, Dante Colza and Zack Fattore.