#WrestlingWednesday Feature: Merrillville's Purple Hulk
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By JEREMY HINES
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.
â€œI hear a lot of them,â€ Streck joked. â€œIâ€™m pretty sure none of them are true. Especially the one about eating 106 pounders. I hear that one a lot.â€
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 Communityâ€™s Quinn York and then Plainfieldâ€™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 didnâ€™t matter to Streck who put the Richmond senior on his back in the third period and didnâ€™t let him up until the referee slapped the mat for the final time in the 2015 season.
â€œI knew how strong he was,â€ Streck said. â€œI knew I needed to go out there, push the pace and just wear him down. Thatâ€™s what I did.â€
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.
â€œI was way more nervous for Jacobâ€™s match than I was my own,â€ Streck said. â€œHe is one of my best friends. When he won, I knew I had to win too.â€
Covaciu won his title by reversing a semistate loss to Portageâ€™s Steven Lawrence.
â€œIt has been pretty much indescribable since I won,â€ Covaciu said. â€œMy 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.â€
Covaciu remembers vividly a conversation he and Streck had in a middle school wrestling camp about winning state in high school.
â€œWe have always talked about one day winning a title together,â€ Covaciu said. â€œWhen 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 â€“ that was crazy.â€
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.
â€œI am not sure where I am going to go and what Iâ€™m going to do yet,â€ Streck said. â€œI really like Minnesota, Missouri and Purdue for wrestling. I like Michigan State, Notre Dame and Purdue for football. Right now itâ€™s all up in the air.
â€œItâ€™s pretty sweet to be getting attention from all of these schools. But itâ€™s also very stressful. Itâ€™s a big life decision and I donâ€™t want to make the wrong choice.â€
Both wrestlers are hoping to return next year and be as dominant as they finished this season.
As far as Streckâ€™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 canâ€™t.
â€œSome of the things he does, lifting-wise is insane,â€ Covaciu said. â€œHe can lift anything. Heâ€™s always breaking stuff like a big giant. Donâ€™t give him something valuable because heâ€™ll probably break it. Heâ€™s also constantly chewing on things and ripping things apart. Everyone keeps things away from Shawn so he doesnâ€™t accidentally damage it.â€