EAST CHICAGO | Merrillville's David Maldonado admits that his job as a coach is hard.
He recognizes his job is to help wrestlers get better with their flaws, which could make it seem like he isn't supporting them.
But on Saturday at the E.C. Central wrestling sectional, nine wrestlers from Times No. 1 Merrillville captured individual titles en route to the Pirates' second consecutive title with 293.5 points, which bested second-place Lake Central at 238 total points.
"It seems like I'm not their fan because I'm their biggest critic, but they all know I'm proud of them," said Maldonado. "I have to pick them apart to make them better."
One of the Pirate champs included sophomore heavyweight Shawn Streck (34-1), who pinned Lake Central's Nick Minkema in 2:59 on his way to a second straight title at 285 pounds.
"It's been a lot of conditioning from the coaches," said Streck, who moved his career mark to 75-7.
"I still have to work harder in the rooms and couldn't improve unless coach helped me work out the bad things."
The rest of the individual champs for Merrillville were freshman Michael DeLaPena (106), senior Michael Garza (113), junior Clarence Johnson (126), junior Derrick Scott (132), sophomore Jacob Covaciu (138), senior Isaac Rentas (145), senior Deven Lee (170), and senior Matthew Hollins (182).
The train keeps rolling for Lake Central 220-pounder and defending state champ senior Gelen Robinson (41-0), who won his third sectional title with a pin of Bishop Noll junior Jesus Loe in 1:02.
"This has been a great experience for myself because I've had a lot of help from my teammates," said Robinson, who moved his career mark to 141-13. "The downstate competition is impressive, but because I have more experience now, I have become more focused."
In perhaps the wackiest match of the day, EC Central junior and No. 3 seed Robert Rivera first defeated No. 2 seed Clark junior Rene Zamora in the 195-pound semifinal 15-14 in four overtimes.
But then he beat Morton's No. 1 seed Adrian Palacios via pinfall at the 5:27 mark in the final to grab EC Central's first individual wrestling sectional title since 2010.
Other champions included Morton senior Ruben Rodriguez (120), Lake Central junior Kody Christenson (152), and Lake Central sophomore Jake Kleimola (160).