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2017 East Chicago Semi-State Preview

East Chicago Preview Hungus

Chad Hollenbaugh
IndianaMat Senior Writer

Deep in the heart of Lake County lies East Chicago Central High School and their spectacular gymnasium. The second largest gym in the world will play host after debuting last year and doing an outstanding job. Sightlines and room to stretch for the fans, a warm up location in the same area code for the wrestlers, and a hospitality room for the refs and coaches all make the new location an excellent venue.

In honor or our new President, I will be taking a political tact for this year’s preview. For each of the weight classes, I will choose:

1. Trump’s Tremendous Top Dog
2. Pence’s Second Fiddle
3. Sean Spicer to Show
4. Kelly Conway’s Yellow Ribbon Rastler

Where appropriate, I will also highlight:

1. Tight Primary Challenges – First round fights
2. 270 to Win – Ticket round tilts.
3. Steve Bannon Death Draw – A likely state qualifier with wrestlebacks.
4. Alternative Facts – A possible sleeper state finalist.

Without further ado, let’s start picking the matches and make Da Region Da Greatest Again.

106
As stated in the Google Hangout on Tuesday, the flyweight division is probably not as deep as it usual. However, as usual, it looks like the Region Regionals will dominate the placers.

Primary Challenges
1. The bitty Bobcat Giovanni Diaz from Wheeler has put together a fine 33-5 record in his rookie campaign. He has a great practice partner in his state qualifier brother but he will be tested by South Bend Riley sophomore Trevor Penrod. Penrod is a high risk wrestler and always fun to watch.
2. My other early bird special pits Ty Haskins from one of the state’s best programs (Portage) versus Jake Armstrong who hails from one of the most remote schools in the semi-state, Winamac. Haskins has wrestled a brutal schedule and lapse last week at regional put him in a tough quarterbracket.

270 to Win – Blood Round Battles
1. Undefeated Frontier Falcon Colin Reagan might have the entire town of Chalmers in section AA rooting on their favorite son in his attempt to become Frontier’s first state qualifier. He will battle the winner of Penrod and Gio Diaz. I think the winner of that tilt will end young Reagan’s dream season.
2. The very best ticket round match up is at the bottom of the bracket where I see Portage’s Ty Haskins matching up with Lowell’s Shawn Hollis. Hollis is ranked 15th in the state and Haskins is ranked 16th . This should be a tightly contested and heated battle.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
Ty Haskins or Shawn Hollis – Both of these guys deserve a shot at the state finals.

Alternative Facts
It would not be surprising at all if either Danny Tolin of Chesterton or Eli Hickman from Rennselaer Central would sneak through their quarter bracket and earned a spot in Indy.

Trumps Top Dog – Hollis (Lowell)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Martin Cruz (Merrillville)
Sean Spicer to Show – Evan Light (Penn)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Diaz (Wheeler)

113
This bracket features five state ranked grapplers and the grid appears to be evenly balanced. At least on top 12 wrestler will not be getting in free next week which means there should be some fireworks in the ticket round.

Primary Challenge
1. Brayden Ruiz of New Prairie and Garrett Stuckman of Wawasee have put up nearly 75 wins between them and both bring a great deal of athleticism to this round one war. The winner has to like their chances in the ticket round which will drive the intensity meter high early Saturday morning.

270 to Win – Ticket Round Tilts
1. Penn wrestles one of the toughest schedules in the state and their senior 113 pounder, 4th ranked Kory Cavanaugh, has lost to only one other grappler still in the state series (Hunter Watts). He has since avenged that loss. It would seem like he should cruise in the ticket round where he is matched with a freshman with double digit losses. Not so fast my friend. That frosh has the last name is of Maldonado and is the fast improving son of Merrillville head coach David. Expect the Maldonado brain trust to have a game plan ready for the Kingsman.
2. The second ticket round tussle pits the 11th and 12th ranked wrestlers in the state. Just like at 106, it will pit a Red Devil from Lowell, Andres Moreno (12th) against 11th ranked Portage Indian Brock Peele. Peele has had Moreno’s number this year but anything can happen when a trip to Indy is on the line.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
Jacob Maldonado and Andres “The Big Cat” Moreno both have big talent but might have to wait a year to be seen on the big stage.

Alternative Facts
Josh Wade of Harrison has found 47 wrestlers to beat this year so he knows how to get his hand raised. A long shot worth keeping an eye on.

Trumps Top Dog – Cavanaugh (Penn)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Peele (Portage)
Sean Spicer to Show – Jose Diaz (Wheeler)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Garrett Stuckman (Wawasee)

120
This is hands down, the toughest weight class at East Chicago with multiple exciting first round and ticket round match ups. The top two kids, in terms of ranking, are on opposite sides and should make for a great match under the lights for the second week in a row.

Primary Challenges
1. The depth of this weight class has made for a couple of great first round matches. The first one that stands out is the battle between Logansport senior and returning state medalist, Donavon Johnson and Plymouth Rockie, Zane DeVault. Johnson is a veteran with a mean top game and DeVault will be physical and in your face for 6 minutes.
2. In another first round rumble, Penn’s Tanner DeMien will face off with Harrison’s Trey McCartney. DeMien already has two state final appearances as well as a state medal on his resume. McCartney, like most of his Raider teammates, has piled up a slew of wins.

270 to Win – Ticket Round Toughies
All four of the potential ticket round matches are nasty and several state worthy grapplers will be sent home unhappy.




1. Leading off in the top quarter bracket is Jeff’s Jon Anderson and his likely opponent Colin Poynter of Portage. Anderson is ranked 9th and Poynter is 5th in the state.

2. Wawasee’s Braxton Alexander is unranked but not unnoticed. He should give Crown Point’s 16th ranked Kaelin Kelly everything he wants.

3. In the bottom half, Tylor Triana of Hobart is ranked 2nd in the state but might have interesting style match up with Donavan “I Choose Top” Johnson.

4. Finally, in the last quarter bracket is the fourth great ticket round match up. Penn’s 10th ranked DeMien has the more impressive resume but Hanover Cental’s Alex Bautista will not be intimidated as he has wrestled Triana as tough as anyone this year.


Steve Bannon Death Draw
One could make a case for about five guys having a death draw but Jeff’s Jon Anderson is the winner based on his poor fortune at last year’s semi state.
Alternative Facts
There are no real strong sleeper candidates in this bracket. There are just too many studs for any sleepers to emerge.

Trumps Top Dog – Triana (Hobart)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Poynter (Portage)
Sean Spicer to Show – Bautista (Hanover Central)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Braxton Alexander (Wawasee)

126
The 126 class is not quite as deep as the 120 class but it is close and there should be many tough matches and potential state champion in this bracket.

Primary Challenge
My top first rounder in the 126 class involves a pair of unheralded seniors who will be battling for a place in the ticket round. West Lafayette’s Aaron Casillas has put together a fine 25-4 record for the improving Red Devil program. He will match up with Triton’s Malachi Greene (30-6). Greene has been the cornerstone of the Trojan program that has appeared in two straight team state finals.

270 to Win
The most intriguing ticket round battle looks to be located in the bottom quarter bracket where Harrison’s regional champ ,Cody Betourne will try to punch his ticket versus the vicious Viking from Valpo, Ian Dembowski. Betourne has nearly 50 wins and is ranked 19th where Dembowski is ranked 11th and has given Michael Delapena some great matches this season.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
The dubious honor goes to Harrison’s Cody Betourne. Bringing a 49-2 record and a regional championship to semi-state would seem like a good road to Indy. However, when you draw into the same quarter bracket with Ian Dembowski your chances go down immediately. Many would argue that Dembowski is a top 8 guy at state.

Alternative Facts
Digging deep into this bracket, I see a potential sleeper in Wawasee’s Geremia Brooks. The transfer from Whiteland has would have to pull of a big upset over Merrillville’s Michael Delapena but crazier things have happened.

Trumps Top Dog – Colton Cummings (Lowell)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Ian Dembowski (Valparaiso)
Sean Spicer to Show – Delapena (Merrillville)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Adam Davis (Culver Military)

132
Two division one wrestling recruits and a third that will likely join them at the D-1 level highlight the 132 class at East Chicago. A balanced bracket should set up for excellent semifinal matches.

Primary Challenge
The best first round battle might have some effect on the team race as two grapplers from powerhouse programs go at it. Penn’s Preston Risner will face off against Merrillville’s Ahzsur Ursery. This should be an evenly matched tilt where Risner will be looking to avenge a 4-2 loss at the Al Smith.

270 to Win

1. I like the potential in top half of the bracket as it could produce two outstanding ticket round slugfests. At the top, Jack Tolin, ranked 13th and from Chesterton might meet up with the unranked Ursery of Merrillville. Tolin has the D-1 offer from Northwestern and an early season win over his Pirate rival but Ursery might just conjure up some Maldonado magic when a trip to Indy is on the line.

2. The second quarter bracket potentially pits 12th ranked Portage Indian, Miguel Prado against Delphi junior and regional champ Ty Watson. Delphi is the one school from the Logansport regional that has consistently been able to qualify wrestlers to Indy over the past 10 year. Watson will be ready.


Steve Bannon Death Draw
I have to go with Watson drawing the short straw. Prado is tough as nails and would be a regional champ in many regionals but he happens to be in the same regional with an absolute hammer in Jeremiah Reitz. If Watson doesn’t pull the upset, at least he has next year.

Alternative Facts
Merrillville’s Ahzsur Ursery has little statewide street cred but the boys in the region know he is right there with some of the best 132 pounders in the north.

Trumps Top Dog – Jeremiah Reitz (Griffith)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Miguel Prado (Portage)
Sean Spicer to Show – Manzona Bryant (Culver Military)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Jack Tolin (Chesterton)

138
This bracket has excitement written all over with two of the best kids in the state renewing their rivalry as well as two of the best freshmen in the state. Several state worthy grapplers will be paying for their ticket at Banker’s Life next week.
Primary Challenges

1. A Duneland Conference rivalry match will take place in the first round between Merrillville’s Aaron Griggs and Crown Point’s Jacob Burford. Both are tough customers but Griggs got the best of Burford at the conference meet and I like him here on Saturday morning

2. A second opening round tilt that promises some fireworks is the match between South Bend St. Joseph’s Jared Kazmierczak and North White’s regional champ, Jake Quasebarth. Kaz placed forth in a loaded Rochester regional and should give the one loss Quasebarth a great match.


270 to Win
1. Three tough as nails ticket round tilts highlight the 138 pound bracket. Starting right at the top, Kris Rumph of Portage will have to defeat a game senior from Penn, Trace Manspeaker. Rumph is ranked 3rd and Manspeaker is ranked 7th in the state.
2. The second quarter bracket will pit the winner of Griggs/Burford match against one of the toughest freshmen in the state, Jacob LaPlace of Mishawaka. Don’t expect the young Caveman to be intimidated as he has been around and has plenty of coaches that have been there and done that.
3. The best ticket round match might just be at the bottom of the bracket where Munster veteran, Cody Crary will try to topple Plymouth Rockie rookie, Graham Calhoun for a second time this season. This is a match up between the 15th and 16 ranked kids in the state. Indiana Mudflap gives this match up 4 Golden Eagles!!!

Steve Bannon Death Draw
7th ranked Trace Manspeaker most definitely got the toughest draw in bracket. Expect this Kingsman to battle his tail off in an effort to secure that elusive state berth. Kris Rumph is a tough draw. Honorable mention goes to the loser of Calhoun/Crary battle.

Alternative Facts
The winner of the Griggs/Burford match is probably the best candidate to be a sleeper that advances to Indy.

Trumps Top Dog – Brendan Black (Hobart)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Kris Rumph (Portage)
Sean Spicer to Show – Graham Calhoun (Plymouth)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Aaron Griggs (Merrillville)

145
The studs in the 145 pound bracket at East Chicago looks to be evenly distributed across the quarter brackets. Four wrestler are ranked and one ranked kid is in each of the quarter brackets.

Primary Challenge
One match stands above all the rest in this weight class and that is the Mario Traficanti/Malik Hoover battle. This is another in the long line of rivalry matches between Crown Point and Merrillville. Traficanti looks to have a small edge at this point.

270 to Win
The best ticket round match looks like it might be a battle between Hobart’s 12th ranked Dante Colza and small school regional champ, Leevin Ball of North White. I would love to see a Devildog product at state but can’t bet against Colza.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
A balanced bracket does not set up for bad draws and this line up looks like it will hold chalk with the four ranked kids punching their ticket.

Alternative Facts
It’s tough to label a Penn kid as a sleeper, only because they are one of the most high profile programs in the state. However, Penn’s Haden Hensley is largely unknown but brings an outstanding 20-3 record into East Chicago. A ticket round match up versus Munster’s Jason Crary is not insurmountable.

Trumps Top Dog – Kasper McIntosh (Portage)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Jason Crary (Munster)
Sean Spicer to Show – Mario Traficanti (Crown Point)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Dante Colza (Hobart)

152
The middleweights at 152 promise to put on a great show for the fans as 5 ranked kids will battle the rest of the field. A lot of high energy, explosive and just plain fun kids to watch dot this bracket.

Primary Challenge
The Crown Point regional was loaded this year so it’s third place finisher, Vince Liggin of Hanover Central is no slouch. He has a first round match with Kassius Breathitt of South Bend Riley that could be a good one. Riley wrestles a good schedule and Breathitt is 30-3 this year.

270 to Win
1. With 5 ranked wrestlers and a couple of other tough cookies from strong programs thrown in the mix there promises to be some great blood round battles. 10th ranked Clay Jones of Jeff is a returning state qualifier with only one blemish on his record. I love his funky style but his probable opponent in the round to go will probably want to brawl with Jones. Valparaiso’s 14th ranked Greg Lichtenberger has navigated the Duneland wars with an outstanding 35-5 record.
2. A second great match in the ticket round pits 8th ranked Kassius Breathitt against Portage’s unranked Zach Nugent. Portage will be gunning for a semi state title and a win here would be huge for the Indians.
3. At the bottom of the bracket, Crown Points 12th ranked Noah Lamore looks to be the strong favorite but Hobart senior Matt Burns will not go down without a fight.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
Valparaiso’s Greg Lichtenberger earns the death draw label at 152. He is certainly capable of beating Jones. It will probably come down to who imposes their will when it comes to the style of the match. I just feel Jones has too many tools in his bag of tricks.

Alternative Facts
Hanover Central’s Vince Liggin looks like an interesting sleeper pick. Beating Breathitt in the first round is a tall order but not impossible. He then would likely match up with an eleven loss Zach Nugent of Portage.

Trumps Top Dog – Kyle Hatch (Warsaw)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Kassius Breathitt (South Bend Riley)
Sean Spicer to Show – Clay Jones (Lafayette Jeff)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Noah Lamore (Crown Point)

160
160 is another bracket where the four ranked wrestlers are spread across the four quarter brackets. Although it is certainly possible for upsets to happen, I feel the first two rounds will hold chalk.

Primary Challengers
1. Two first round matches stand out in the 160 pound bracket that need to be highlighted. The first involves two underclassmen with high ceilings. Brandon Lucero is a sophomore from Merrillville and he will take on the talented Jacob Adkins of South Bend Riley. Looks like a true toss up.
2. Two juniors will face off in another evenly matched first round tilt. Portage will send 27 match winner Drake Guerro out to face Culver Military’s Michael Boland. Guerro has plenty of experience but Boland is strong and tough to score on. Should be a good one.

270 to Win

1. The top ticket round bout looks like a Highway 30 battle between Plymouth’s once beaten senior Micah Calhoun and Valpo’s Mike Lichtenberger. Calhoun comes in with a #17 state ranking and has been able to cruise through the sectional and regional. Lichtenberger, on the other hand, has given top ten wrestlers in the region fits all year.


Steve Bannon Death Draw
Hobart’s Angelo Guarnero earned the wrath of the bracket gods this week by drawing into the same quarter bracket as Penn’s grinder Rockne Hurley and Crown Point’s top ten stud Oszkar Kasch. No rewards for Angelo after winning the Calumet Regional.

Alternative Facts
A potential long shot sleeper pick is Freshman Jacob Adkins of South Bend Riley. After watching him frustrate veteran wrestlers last week with his take down defense, I have a hunch that he might just make a run this Saturday. If not, this youngster is one to keep an eye on in the future.

Trumps Top Dog – Diego Lemley (Chesterton)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Micah Calhoun (Plymouth)
Sean Spicer to Show – Oszkar Kasch (Crown Point)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Myles Krintz (Harrison)

170
A Division One recruit, an Al Smith finalist and a wide open quarter bracket high light the 170 class at East Chicago. There might not be a state champ in this group but it still should be an exciting and competitive day.

Primary Challenges
1. At the top of the bracket one of the top first round matches of the day will take place between 30-5 Plymouth Rockie Colton Schuler and Cade Girgenti of Chesterton. Girgenti is a Duneland Conference runner-up and Schuler had a monster regional to get through.
2. The bottom quarter bracket has two interesting first round matches just because there is no clear favorite in the quartet. Lafayette Jeff’s Garrett Fair and River Forest Ingot Bradley Groover have similar records and both are juniors. This looks like a toss up. The other first rounder pits South Bend Clay’s Amere Dozier versus LaPorte’s young Noah Perez. Perez is improving fast but is a tier below his Duneland rivals while Dozier has only wrestled half a season. Another toss up?

270 to Win
1. Zach Fattore (Hobart) vs. Tavonte Malone (South Bend Adams) – Both of these studs are ranked top 10 in the state and one will be going home with out a ticket to Indy.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
See above. It’s a shame that there are no wrestle backs.

Alternative Facts
My sleeper pick for this weight class is none other than Hammond Gavit Gladiator Jamari Washington. Washington has put together a great regular and post season. Inside sources say he will have something ready for Saturday’s ticket round match.

Trumps Top Dog – Jarod Swank (Penn)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Zach Fattore (Hobart)
Sean Spicer to Show – Ishmael Cornejo (Portage)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Amere Dozier (South Bend Clay)

182
The 182 bracket introduces us to the first of the two Davison brothers. I expect both brothers to make their presence felt with authority both this weekend and next.

Primary Challenge
Seth Jones of Lafayette Jeff has regional crown on his resume but the last time he ventured to the region he was beaten by his first round opponent, Jacob Bohling of LaPorte. Jones is riding a wave of momentum but will it be enough to avenge his early season loss.

270 to Win

1. The aforementioned Bohling from Laporte should be matched up with conference rival Tyjohn Lockett of Merrillville. Bohling got the Pirate by a point during their conference 3rd place match a couple of weeks ago.

2. Another quality ticket round battle should be between Mishawaka’s Austin Faulkner and Kankakee Valley’s Logan Nowak. Two solidly built athletes with excellent records should make for an excellent match when a trip to Indy is on the line.


Steve Bannon Death Draw
Logan Nowak only lost one match in the regular season but his loss to Lucas Davison of Chesterton at regional put him at risk of drawing into Austin Faulkner and that is exactly what happened. Faulkner is wrestling awesome right now and it will take a monster effort out of Nowak to topple the Caveman.

Alternative Facts
If you like playing the long odds when picking your state qualifiers, I give you Tyjohn Lockett of Merrillville. Sure he has double digit losses, but he made a run to the semi finals at the Al Smith, he is in the most winnable quarter bracket, and he has the Merrillville staff in his corner. Longshot Lockett might make some magic.

Trumps Top Dog – Lucas Davison (Chesterton)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Austin Faulkner (Mishawaka)
Sean Spicer to Show – Jeremy Torres (Portage)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Tyjohn Lockett (Merrillville)

195
Michigan recruit Andrew Davison highlights this bracket. He should not be challenged and the race will be for second place. This bracket is loaded with four ranked wrestlers in the bottom half of the bracket which means some talented kids will not qualify for state.
Primary Challenges
1. Walker Brummett (Lake Central) vs. Bryson Ford (Benton Central) – This could be a four over a one. Brummett is battle tested and has some nice wins on the season
2. Nick Schoonveld (Kankakee Valley) vs. Nate LaFree – Two physical in your face wrestlers will face off here. Not for the faint of heart.

270 to Win
1. Tyler Moser (Bremen) vs. AJ Fowler (Calumet) – Two ranked studs should battle for a free trip to Indy. Moser beat Fowler earlier in the year but it was a closely contested battle.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
Aron Corralez of Merrillville definitely drew the short straw and will have the tall task of defeating Andrew Davison to punch his state ticket. Not likely.

Alternative Facts
The previously mentioned Walker Brummett of Lake Central has the talent, coaching and draw to make a run to the semi finals despite his double digit losses.

Trumps Top Dog – Andrew Davison (Chesterton)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Anthony Maceo (Portage)
Sean Spicer to Show – Tyler Moser (Bremen)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Bryson Ford (Benton Central)

220
Another example of where the ranked wrestlers are split up and spread across the bracket. Three top ten grapplers highlight this group which should make for some nice semi finals and final matches.
Primary Challenges

1. The best looking first round match up is down at the bottom of the bracket where Merrillville’s 20th ranked Andrew Vander Woude will face off against Plymouth fireplug Sam Stayton. Vander Woude is the favorite but Stayton brings a physical style that will be tough to deal with.


270 to Win
1. The top ticket round bout will likely occur between Merrillville’s Vander Woude and big Donnie Crider of Harrison. Crider is ranked 6th in the state and is a match up nightmare as he stands about 6 ‘8”.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
Munster’s Caleb Thomas was the regional champ at Calumet and he got rewarded by drawing the 5th ranked wrestler in the state for a berth to the state finals. It will be a tall order to topple the Al Smith champion, Eli Pokorney.

Alternative Facts
Chester Swopes of Portage is my sleeper pick for this weight class based on his excellent practice partners and excellent coaching. He would have to upset 18th ranked Will Vakalahi in order to make that magical run to state.

Trumps Top Dog – Eli Pokorney (Chesterton)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Donnie Crider (Harrison)
Sean Spicer to Show – Jeremy Akers (Crown Point)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Will Vakalahi (Penn)

285
Two wrestlers appear to have separated themselves from the field and seem like strong candidates to meet in the finals. The real story is who will be in the third and fourth place slots.

Primary Challenges
1. Alex Faulkner (Mishawaka) vs Alex Cartwright (LaVille) – The Alex War should will pit the Caveman’s savvy versus the Lancer’s brute strength.
2. Michael Foster (Crown Point) vs Dan “Truck” Clark (Rochester) – The Truck is tough to score on and frustrates his opponents. He has been outstanding this post season.

270 to Win
1. Clark vs. Keion Williams (Lafayette Jeff) – This bout would be a rematch from earlier in the season where Williams squeaked by the big Zebra.
2. Aron Ceglarek (Kankakee Valley) vs. Gio Murillo (Portage) – Murillo is a returning state qualifier who can keep it close with just about anyone. Geglarek is a big thick kid who moves well.

Steve Bannon Death Draw
Ceglarek, the regional champ, drew into the one ticket round foe he probably would least like to see in Gio Murillo. The Portage warpath will going strong and that momentum might be difficult to deal with.

Alternative Facts
The big man with the best chance of shocking the semi state is Michael Foster of Crown Point. Both his first round and potential ticket round matches are very winnable for this unheralded Bulldog.

Trumps Top Dog – Isiah “Bus” McWilliams (South Bend Washington)
Pence’s Second Fiddle – Brendan Streck (Merrillville)
Sean Spicer to Show – Gio Murillo (Portage)
Yellow Ribbon Rastler – Dan “Truck” Clark (Rochester)