Portage wrestling coach Leroy Vega stepped down from his position, he confirmed Monday. He hopes to remain with the team in a diminished capacity, he said.
“It’s been about a year or so that I kind of knew I was going to step down, “ Vega said. “I’m a family guy. My kid’s 8 years old now. He’s getting to (wrestling) tournaments and missing certain things with my kids is something I don’t want to do.”
Vega and his wife Sarah have three children.
“I want to just be able to be a dad,” he said. “That’s a huge part of this. That’s why I was successful in wrestling. I would look in the stands and my mom and dad were always there, to this day, watching. It’s not fair to my kids, if they’re at a tournament, that they don’t get to see their dad.”
Vega became head coach at Portage in 2011. He coached three individual state champions, including senior Jacob Moran each of the last two seasons and Kris Rumph in 2018. He helped 13 wrestlers find sports on college rosters and coached two dozen state medalists.
“It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. This was supposed to be a down year and we qualified (seventh) in the state tournament,” Vega said. “There’s a lot of programs in the state that if they qualified (seventh) in the state tournament, they’d love it. So, I’m happy with what I’ve done and I think I’m leaving it at a great time.”
The Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association named Vega its coach of the year in 2015. The Indians won the Duneland Athletic Conference title that season and finished eighth in the state as a team. Gaige Torres, Kasper McIntosh and Steven Lawrence each medaled, individually.
Portage finished fourth in the team scores at the 2018 state meet.
“Wrestling is my whole life. I’ve been wrestling since I was 4 years old. But I tell my wrestlers, ‘Your goals change throughout your life,’” Vega said. “My goals now are a little different.”
He won’t rule out another head coaching job at some point in the future.
Vega won two state championships as a Portage wrestler in 1996 and 1997 and a junior national championship in both freestyle and Greco Roman in 1997. He was a three-time All-American at the University of Minnesota, where he was part of the 2001 and 2002 national championship teams.
In 2013, he was inducted into the IHSWCA Hall of Fame.
“I think it’s time for someone else to put their stamp on Portage wrestling and I just want to be a small part of that,“ Vega said. “I need to thank my wife and kids and all the Portage fans who supported us over the years, even the people who doubted us because they make you get up in the morning. They make you work hard.”