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  1. #MondayMatness: Merrillville is more than about...



    Merrillville High School has enjoyed many championships in David Maldonado’s 15 years as head wrestling coach.

    Since that first season in 2002-03, the Pirates have appeared in the IHSAA Team State Finals three times (2006, 2007 and 2008) and won 12 sectionals, seven regionals and four semistates as a team.

    Merrillville has had three top-three places for the Coaches Cup (team score at individual state tournament) on Maldonado’s watch with a third in 2005, second in 2006 and third in 2007.

    There have been nine individual state title-takers — junior Wesley English at 145 in 2005, senior Javier Salas at 119 in 2006, senior Dexter Latimore at heavyweight in 2006, senior Jamal Lawrence at 145 in 2007, sophomore Bobby Stevenson at 170 in 2013, junior Jacob Covaciu at 145 in 2015, junior Shawn Streck at heavyweight in 2015, senior Jacob Covaciu at 160 in 2016 and senior Shawn Streck at heavyweight in 2016.

    Latimore (heavyweight) and Lawrence (145) were senior national champions in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

    Streck (Purdue) and Covaciu (Wisconsin) moved on the college wrestling.

    The number of state qualifiers during Maldonado’s time at Merrillville is 68.

    Including his time at Noll, Maldonado went into the 2016-17 season with a dual-meet record of 301-86, including 261-46 with the Pirates.

    But that’s not the only way to define success for Maldonado, himself a state champion at 130 as a junior in 1993 and state runner-up at 135 as a senior in 1994 at East Chicago Central.

    David Maldonado, a member of the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame as an individual (along with brother Billy) and as part of the famed Maldonado family (six of David’s uncles and several cousins, sons and nephews have been or are wrestlers), gets as much satisfaction for the relationships built and life lessons taught as the crisply-executed headlocks and underhooks.

    For the Merrillville coaching staff, which also features Gene Bierman, Bobby Joe Maldonado, Paul Maldonado, Tim Maldonado, Joe Atria and Tom Kelly, wrestling does not only build character, it reveals it.

    “We work every match to get better,” Maldonado said. “That’s all the matters. As long as we do that, everything else will take care of itself. The medals, awards stand, all that stuff takes care of itself.

    “For some kids, it happens sooner. For some kids, it happens later.”

    Years ago, Maldonado got into the habit of addressing each of his wrestlers immediately after their match.

    It could be a high-five, a word of encouragement or a constructive criticism. He wants the wrestler — and the wrestler’s parents — to know that he cares.

    A son to parents born in Mexico who teaches Spanish at Merrillville, Maldonado also builds these relationships in the classroom.

    “We’re all in this together,” Maldonado said. “Let’s communicate. Some coaches and teachers are afraid to call home and talk to parents. I’m not.”

    Maldonado, who was also a folkstyle senior nationals champion as a high schooler and then placed third twice and second once in the Big 12 Conference while grappling for Iowa State University and placing second at two more freestyle nationals, takes time every week to talk with parents.

    It’s a lesson he learned from his coach at Iowa State — Bobby Douglas, a former NCAA champion and Olympian.

    “Those little things that coaches do to help,” Maldonado said. “More than anything else, you need to build that relationship with kids. I always feel like we had a successful season because of those relationships and getting better.

    “It’s about being better at everything — a better athlete, a better wrestler, a better person.”

    Maldonado knows that teenagers can see right through you if you are not genuine. But show that genuine caring and by season’s end, they’ll be willing to run through a wall for you.

    But the relationships start long high school for many wrestlers. Maldonado is there at kids wrestling club practices and meets and knows them long before they put on a purple singlet for MHS.

    Maldonado also tries to enjoy the ride and wants those around him to do the same.

    He knows that wrestling season can be a grind and it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment.

    “We need to just be grateful for having the opportunity and cherish it no matter how it turns out,” Maldonado said. “At the end of the year, there’s only going to be one happy kid per weight class or one happy coach.

    “At the end of the day, you’ve still got to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.”

    • 01/23/2017
    • by Y2CJ41
  2. #WrestlingWednesday Feature: Merrillville's...

    Brought to you by EI Sports


    Merrillville heavyweight Shawn Streck wants the record set straight. He does not eat 106 pounders for breakfast.

    The undefeated big man, who pinned his way through the state tournament, has taken on almost a Chuck Norris type mystique among Merrillville fans.

    It is rumored Streck is the reason Waldo is hiding. Some think he can cut a knife with butter. Others claim that a bullet proof vest wears Shawn Streck for protection.

    “I hear a lot of them,” Streck joked. “I’m pretty sure none of them are true. Especially the one about eating 106 pounders. I hear that one a lot.”

    In reality, Streck is a dominating force in the heavyweight ranks. He combines an uncanny amount of athleticism for a big guy, with strength and solid wrestling technique. He finished the 2015 campaign with a perfect 50-0 record.

    Streck pinned Dax Hiestand in the Friday night round of state. On Saturday he pinned Franklin Community’s Quinn York and then Plainfield’s Bryce Biddle. That set the stage for a showdown with No. 3-ranked Nathan Trawick of Richmond. Trawick is a mammoth heavyweight who can bench press over 400 pounds. That didn’t matter to Streck who put the Richmond senior on his back in the third period and didn’t let him up until the referee slapped the mat for the final time in the 2015 season.

    “I knew how strong he was,” Streck said. “I knew I needed to go out there, push the pace and just wear him down. That’s what I did.”

    Streck, just a junior, was ranked No. 1 all season long. He said it did not bother him that everyone was gunning for him this season. He did not feel the pressure because he tries to block that out of his mind.

    The only real time he got nervous during the state finals was when his good friend and teammate Jacob Covaciu was wrestling for the 145 pound championship.

    “I was way more nervous for Jacob’s match than I was my own,” Streck said. “He is one of my best friends. When he won, I knew I had to win too.”

    Covaciu won his title by reversing a semistate loss to Portage’s Steven Lawrence.

    “It has been pretty much indescribable since I won,” Covaciu said. “My phone has been blowing up with people congratulating me. Everyone is so supportive. State was so exciting. I got to wrestle so many very tough guys and I was able to come out on top.”

    Covaciu remembers vividly a conversation he and Streck had in a middle school wrestling camp about winning state in high school.

    “We have always talked about one day winning a title together,” Covaciu said. “When we were at a wrestling camp in middle school and we sat up late talking about how we both wanted to win a title together. That was our dream. After I won it, then I got to sit there and watch Shawn win – that was crazy.”

    Like Streck, Covaciu was ranked No. 1 all season. He is also a junior.

    Streck is getting college offers from schools from around the country, for both football and wrestling.

    “I am not sure where I am going to go and what I’m going to do yet,” Streck said. “I really like Minnesota, Missouri and Purdue for wrestling. I like Michigan State, Notre Dame and Purdue for football. Right now it’s all up in the air.

    “It’s pretty sweet to be getting attention from all of these schools. But it’s also very stressful. It’s a big life decision and I don’t want to make the wrong choice.”

    Both wrestlers are hoping to return next year and be as dominant as they finished this season.

    As far as Streck’s legend status at Merrillville, Covaciu says some of the things he hears is a little extreme. But he has seen first-hand things that Streck can do that most can’t.

    “Some of the things he does, lifting-wise is insane,” Covaciu said. “He can lift anything. He’s always breaking stuff like a big giant. Don’t give him something valuable because he’ll probably break it. He’s also constantly chewing on things and ripping things apart. Everyone keeps things away from Shawn so he doesn’t accidentally damage it.”

    • 02/25/2015
    • by Y2CJ41
  3. 2015 Merrillville Semi-State Preview

    By Chad Hollenbaugh
    IndianaMat Senior Writer

    From Lake Station to Logansport, from Lowell to LaVille, the northwest quadrant of the state’s finest wrestlers will congregate in the gym at Merrillville High School to determine the fifty-six athletes that will qualify for the big show. The team race should be dominated by Penn, Portage and Merrillville. Crown Point could add some spice into the team race if they have an outstanding day.

    The bracket gods started off by playing a cruel joke on regional champ Kory Cavanaugh of Penn. The 15th ranked 106 pounder in the state got put in the same quarter bracket with #13 Collin Poynter of Portage and #11 Alex Bautista from Hanover Central. Poynter and Baustista meet right off the bat in the second match of the morning. The winner will likely have Cavanaugh in the the ticket round. Cavanaugh has a narrow win over Poynter but was handled by Bautista 10-1 earlier in the season. A brutal group of four no matter how you slice it.
    The second set of four is also tough as nails. One loss Jon Anderson has piled up forty-four wins and a regional championship for Lafayette Jeff. He will be severely tested in the second round where he will likely face fourteenth ranked Ian Dembowski of Valparaiso.
    The bottom half of the bracket will be low on ticket round drama but high on talent. Number one ranked Colton Cummings of Lowell and fifth ranked Tylor Triana of Hobart should cruise through the first two rounds and set up a semi final slugfest.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Alex Bautista – Hanover Central (26-5) vs. Colin Poynter – Portage (32-6).

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Jon Anderson – Lafayette Jeff (44-1) vs. Ian Dembowki – Valpo (39-6).


    • Cummings – Lowell
    • Poynter – Portage
    • Triana – Hobart
    • Dembowski - Valpo
    The top half of the 113 bracket also appears to hold the greatest amount of early round drama while the bottom half seems to be more settled. Third ranked and undefeated Drew Hildebrandt from Penn should cruise to finals and be marginally tested in the semis by Rickie Rodriguez of Hammond Morton. The Kingman pinned the Governor earlier in the season. The top half features some interesting early round matches. Munster’s Cody Crary, Culver Academy’s Adam Davis and Lafayette Jeff’s Dustin Miller will battle it out in the top quarter while Crown Point’s John Moran and Merrillville’s Michael DeLaPena will likely reprise their Duneland Conference rivalry in the ticket round.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Cody Crary – Munster (38-7) vs. Adam Davis – Culver Academy (31-6). Two talented frosh meet for the right to battle Miller in the quarterfinals.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Austin Line – Valpo (32-8) vs. Rickie Rodriguez – Hammond Morton (31-2). Two seasoned veterans look for spot in state finals.

    • Hildebrandt – Penn
    • DeLaPena – Merrillville
    • Rodriguez – Morton
    • Miller – Lafayette Jeff
    This 120 class might be one of the most evenly matched and exciting to watch this Saturday. Great storylines, state ranked wrestlers and tough match ups are littered throughout this bracket. Returning state champ Jeremiah Reitz of Griffith finished second at his regional in one of this year’s best rivalries with Hobart’s Brendan Black. Reitz is the definition of a death draw to regional champ Jack Tolin of Chesterton. Returning state placer Kyle Hatch of Warsaw will have his hands full with Portage’s conference champion Miguel Prado. Hobart’s Brendan Black and South Bend Clay’s Jake Hartman will probably face off in the ticket round. The final ticket punched in this bracket is a real toss up with Rensselaer Central’s one loss regional champ Brady White squaring off with the winner of Mishawaka’s Ryan Hardesty and Crown Point’s Austin Torres.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Ryan Hardesty – Mishawaka (29-7) vs. Austin Torres – Crown Point (25-7). Studs from two tradition rich programs should provide early fireworks.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Brendan Black – Hobart (26-3) vs. Jake Hartman – South Bend Clay (43-1). Hartman suffered his first lost of the season at regionals and will be extra focused in his last attempt to wrestle in Indy.

    • Reitz – Griffith
    • Hartman – South Bend Clay
    • Hatch – Warsaw
    • Torres – Crown Point
    The sale of Pepto Bismol reached an all time high last Saturday as upsets were occurring all over the place. This put the 126 bracket at Merrillville in jumbled mess. It is quite possible that no regional champs will move onto Bankers Life next week. Wawasee’s Tristan Ponsler got toppled at regional and now has a likely ticket round match with the red hot Branden Truver. In the second quarter bracket, Plymouth’s Cody Allmon is in a great situation to earn his second trip to state. On the bottom half of the slate, Rochester’s John Hunting got the death card dealt to him when Truver upset second ranked Gaige Torres of Portage. Munster’s talented Jason Crary is the clear favorite in final set of four and has a major decision win over regional champ and likely ticket round foe Tristan Dembowski.

    FIRST ROUND FISTCUFFS – Zac Wells – LaPorte (23-9) vs. Tristan Ponsler – Wawasee (40-2). Ponsler looks to rebound and Wells is wrestling very well right now.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Cody Allmon – Plymouth (30-8) vs. John Ragan – Delphi (31-9). Allmon looks to topple a fairly unheralded regional champ in Ragan.

    • Torres – Portage
    • Truver – Lake Central
    • Crary – Munster
    • Allmon – Plymouth
    The 132 weight class lacks wrestlers with many state-wide credentials and that makes it very difficult to handicap. Tippy Valley’s Devin Childers has state experience but must get through the top ranked kid in the bracket. Crown Point’s Zach Donaldson. Benton Central regional champ Blake Strawsma has a great chance to break through to the state level. Portage’s Tyler Joseph must deal with the funky Austen Laughlin early on Saturday and will likely run into Bremen’s Joey Bailey in the semi finals.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Tyler Joseph – Portage (25-6) vs. Austen Laughlin – South Bend Riley (42-6). The physical Joseph and the lanky Laughlin should present an interesting style match up.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Devin Childers – Tippy Valley (39-2) vs. Zach Donaldson – Crown Point (33-2). Two senior studs meet up in the ticket round.

    • Donaldson – Crown Point
    • Joseph – Portage
    • Strawsma – Benton Central
    • Bailey - Bremen
    Merrillville’s Clarence Johnson looks to be the front runner at 138 largely on strength of his major decision win over Riley Akers in the Duneland conference championship. Akers is the likely survivor of the second quarter bracket. Penn’s cagey Cameron Beam is the Jason Tsirtsis of this bracket. Three straight close wins put the Kingman in great shape to advance to Indy. The last quarter bracket has possibly the most compelling potential ticket round match where Logan champ Cole Lukaszka should square off with Culver Community’s Triston Rodriguez.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Tarvis Evans – South Bend Adams (29-8) vs. Diego Lemley – Chesterton (30-8). The long and athletic Evans faces talented frosh Lemley in this battle of third(Lemley) and fifth(Evans) placers at the Al Smith.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Cole Lukaszka – Benton Central (39-1) vs. Triston Rodriguez – Culver Community (35-2).

    • Johnson – Merrillville
    • Akers – Crown Point
    • Lukaszka – Benton Central
    • Beam - Penn
    After looking over this bracket, it appears that there are pretty strong favorites in each of the quarter brackets. The fact that the first and third ranked kids in the state are from the same regional means that someone got the death draw and Logansport senior Ryan Schrock drew the short straw and will likely face Steven “Bam” Lawrence in the ticket round. Lawrence will likely face South Bend Adams talented Tavonte Malone in the semis. The other side of the bracket is dominated by Merrillville junior and last years state runner up, Jacob Covaciu. Crown Point’s Daylan Schurg will probably face South Bend Riley’s Kassius Breathitt in an entertaining ticket round match.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Ryan Schrock – Logansport (37-3) vs. Dustin Hochstetler – Penn (25-13). Don’t let the thirteen losses by Hochstetler fool you, he will give regional champ Schrock all he wants.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Daylan Schurg – Crown Point (33-5) vs. Kassius Breathitt – South Bend Riley (40-9). The contrast in styles should make for an exciting match. If the match is boring look for Breathitt’s dad giving a loud play by play account of the action.

    • Covaciu – Merrillville
    • Lawrence – Portage
    • Schurg – Crown Point
    • Malone – South Bend Adams
    One young man clearly stands above the rest of the field at 152. Mishawaka’s Tommy Forte should cruise to a semi state crown on Saturday. The University of Buffalo bound senior is looking healthy and ready to win a second state title. The rest of the field contains four serious contenders for the remaining three tickets to Indy. Mike Krzyston will like make his second trip to Indy for the 59ers. Lake Central’s Kodie Christenson has wins over higher ranked kids in this bracket and a relatively easy quarter bracket to navigate. That leaves one spot left and it will likely be battled for by Lafayette Harrison’s Connor Armuth and Penn’s Jarrod Swank. Swank is ranked forth and has a slim overtime win over the ninth ranked Armuth five weeks ago on his ledger. It is the only loss on an otherwise spotless record for Armuth.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Brendan Makowski – South Bend St. Joseph (20-14) vs. Oszkar Kasch – Crown Point (18-7).

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Jarod Swank – Penn (29-4) vs. Connor Armuth – Lafayette Harrison (50-1). The margin is razor thin for these two titans. This will be one of the very best ticket round battles.

    • Forte – Mishawaka
    • Swank – Penn
    • Christenson – Lake Central
    • Krzyton – Andrean
    Scary. Anyone looking at the bottom half of the 160 bracket at Merrillville has to cringe at prospect of trying to survive and advance this group of eight. Five of the state’s top ten are in this bracket and four of them are located in the bottom half. In the top half of the bracket, Lowell’s Drew Hughes should make short work of his opponents on his way to his third semi state crown. The second set of four is wide open. Regional champ Parker Fritz of West Central must defeat dangerous foes if he wishes to return to the state finals. Now the bottom half has returning state runner up and third ranked Darden Schurg of Crown Point in a probable match up with Hobart hammer Scottie Sopko who is ranked fifth. The other quarter bracket is not much easier as seventh ranked Adam Dodson of John Glenn will go to war with ninth ranked Denzyl Prentice of Penn. Scary depth at this class.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Evan Larsen – Hanover Central (35-6) vs. Parker Fritz – West Central (32-3). Larsen is a pinner and Fritz is an outstanding athlete. Look for lots of points scored in this one.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Take your pick between the Schurg/Sopko or Prentice/Dodson matchups.

    • Hughes – Lowell
    • Prentice – Penn
    • Schurg – Crown Point
    • Goering – South Bend Riley
    Three of the four quarter brackets look to have fairly strong frontrunners. Penn’s Joey Mammolenti is the top dog here. He is undefeated at this weight and has wins over many of the other contenders. Undefeated Hunter Mote will attempt to keep the streak of Delphi state qualifiers alive while Lowell’s third regional champ, Isaac James will look to qualify for the first time. Hammond Morton upstart Andrew Key won the Calumet regional but he will likely be tested by LaVille’s gritty Ben Norton.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Ben Norton – LaVille (29-5) vs. Nate Spangle – Triton (35-4). Two small school studs will face off for the right to get to the ticket round.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Isaac James – Lowell (31-4) vs. Ismael Cornejo – Portage (26-6). Expect a physical brawl in this matchup. This might be a preview of the championship next year.

    • Mammolenti – Penn
    • Mote – Delphi
    • James – Lowell
    • Norton – LaVille
    Penn’s Chase Osborn has gone wire to wire so far as the state’s top ranked 182 wrestler. He has been tested a couple of time by fellow regional champs Andrew Davison of Chesterton and Jake Kleimola of Lake Central. A finals match between Osborn and Davison would be one of the highlights of day. The final spot in Indy will like come down to a ticket round match up between Winamac’s Gage Garpow and Portage’s Alex Guerrero. Garpow has a fine record but Guerrero wrestles one of the state’s toughest schedules.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Jeremy Splix – Plymouth (31-6) vs. Daniel Wright – Lafayette Harrison (48-3). Wright is a returning state qualifier who was upset in the regional finals. Splix is a fast improving junior for Bob Read’s Rockies.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Gage Garpow – Winamac (34-2) vs. Alex Guerrero – Portage (30-6). Will it be the Warrior or the Indian that comes out on top? Expect a tight low scoring six minuts.

    • Davison – Chesterton
    • Osborn – Penn
    • Kleimola – Lake Central
    • Guerrero – Portage
    Upsets at regionals make the 195 class another one that is tough to predict. It also makes for many very interesting match ups in the first two rounds. The bracket gods continue to be nice Coach Vega and the Portage squad. Fourth place at regional has put senior Indian Matt Hedrick in a quarter bracket with a regional champ that he majored earlier in the year. Hedrick did injury default at regional so hopefully he gets healthy by Saturday. Calumet’s burly Nick Fowler has taken on all comers in the region and is still undefeated. One point separated Merrillville’s Jarius Perry and Mishawaka’s Tanner Bradley at the Al Smith so their ticket round battle is likely to be tight.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – John Bigbie – Lowell (31-7) vs. Matt Hedrick – Portage (23-6).

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Tanner Bradley – Mishawaka (23-3) vs. Jarius Perry – Merrillville (32-3). Bradley is wrestling with a lot of confidence after is first period pin of Wes Beck at regional.

    • Fowler – Calumet
    • Perry – Merrillville
    • Hedrick – Portage
    • Kidwell – West Lafayette
    Gelen Robinson has graduated so this class is an open shot for new blood to rise to the top. The new king of hill will likely be either Penn’s Kobe Woods or Crown Point’s Morgan Kral. Woods has remain unscathed on the season and is the state’s top ranked grappler in this class. Kral is the fourth ranked wrestler and has a lone loss on his record. Duneland rivals Alex Kukurugya of Valpo and Brandon Majewski of Portage will be likely opponents in the top quarter bracket. Lafayette Harrison’s Seth Meyer looks to make his third trip to the big dance in the final quarter bracket.

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Jesus Lowe – Bishop Noll (35-4) vs. Andrew Brock – Warsaw (33-9). While either is unlikely to knock of Kral, this should be a nice battle.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Alex Kukurugya – Valpo (38-9) vs. Brandon Majewski – Portage (28-6). Can Kukurugya solve the Majewski puzzle?

    • Woods – Penn
    • Kral – Crown Point
    • Majewski – Portage
    • Meyer – Lafayette Harrison
    Merrillville’s top ranked Shawn Streck is head and shoulders above the rest of the heavyweight crowd. Nothing less than a state title will satisfy Big Purple. I expect the rest of the bracket to hold chalk with regional champs winning and punching their ticket to state. Valpo’s Ian Suttles is a little undersized but is a superior athlete. Mammoth Cody Christman from Penn will finalize the strong Kingmen crowd at state. The final slot should be manned by Lafayette Harrison strongman

    FIRST ROUND FISTICUFFS – Andrew Hansen – John Glenn (28-6) vs. Brian Shaw – South Bend Riley (26-10). Riley wrestlers are always entertaining to watch and Shaw will work relentlessly to jack up big man Hansen and try to throw him.

    TOP TICKET ROUND TILT – Michael Kern – Lafayette Harrison (47-4) vs. Jordan Shafer – Rochester (36-5). Will the athletic Shafer be able to withstand the pressure of the burly Kern.

    • Streck – Merrillville
    • Christman – Penn
    • Suttles – Valpo
    • Kern – Harrison
    Penn – 8
    Portage – 7
    Crown Point - 6
    Merrillville – 5
    Lowell – 3
    Lake Central - 3
    Benton Central – 2
    Lafayette Harrison - 2
    Valparaiso – 2
    Bremen - 1
    Calumet – 1
    Chesterton - 1
    Griffith – 1
    Warsaw – 1
    West Lafayette – 1
    Hammond Morton – 1
    South Bend Clay – 1
    Hobart – 1
    Lafayette Jeff – 1
    Munster – 1
    Plymouth – 1
    South Bend Adams – 1
    Andrean – 1
    Delphi – 1
    South Bend Riley – 1
    LaVille – 1
    Mishawaka - 1

    • 02/13/2015
    • by Y2CJ41