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No Chesterton means no problem for Crown Point at Duneland wrestling championship

CROWN POINT -- On a day when only the two of the 14 championship matches were close, maybe the most noticeable part of Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference championship was what was missing.

Chesterton, the only serious contender to Crown Point's team title, was unable to participate in the meet due to a COVID-19 quarantine that left glaring voids in many of the brackets.

"It is what it is with the COVID era, we just wrestle who's in front of us, do the best we can," said Crown Point assistant Bill Hawkins. "We know those guys well, coach (Keith) Davison, coach (Chris) Joll, all those guys. The competition is good for the area, good for our kids, good for the other kids. We missed out on that. We have a lot of studs, we feel we have a lot of studs, too. There were some really nice matchups there."

Without the Trojans in the mix, Crown Point piled up eight titles with Anthony Bahl (113), Logan Frazier (120), Jesse Mendez (138), Cody Goodwin (145), Javen Estrada (152), Orlando Cruz (160), Nick Tattini (170) and Will Clark (195).

"We're just stressing control the things you can control," CP assistant Vince Sessa said. "Don't put yourself in vulnerable spots and take care of yourself. That's what they have to do anyway."

The Bulldogs' 298 points outdistanced runner-up Merrillville by 85 to defend their title.



"That's definitely one we wanted to see," Mendez said of Chesterton. "They're a great team and we want to wrestle against the best every week. Due to COVID, we couldn't make it happen, but we'll see 'em at regionals, see 'em at semistate and state. We're excited for that. It's just postponing the inevitable."

A pandemic might be the only thing that could get in the way of Mendez (20-0) and another state title. He needed just 99 seconds to register one of the five Bulldogs' finals falls. Clark had the quickest, winning in 0:14.

"We've lost a couple duals we didn't think we lose. It happens to everybody," Mendez said. "We still have the same goal: to finish the season with a team full of blue rings. I feel like we've trained just as hard if not harder. Not everything's guaranteed, so we're going to work as hard as we can until it doesn't happen or does happen. We want to be prepared if it does happen. (Wrestling)'s what I love to. Any time I can get on the mats is always a blessing."

With Chesterton absent, the likely match of the day, the Trojans' Evan Bates and Merrillville's unbeaten Jason Streck, didn't happen. The two didn't meet at their dual as Bates bumped to 285, and can't possibly meet now until semistate.

"That was the goal," Streck said. "I want to wrestle the good guys, the top guys, to show where I am in the state right now. It's all right. I'm going to see him later on and hopefully show him what we're working with."

Streck's two matches went a combined 1:43.

"I knew I just had to get myself ready," he said. "I didn't wrestle a lot, so I knew I had to get my body going, run around more; just drilling more, moving my feet, doing sprints, getting my heart rate up."

Chesterton wasn't the only thing missing from the meet, which also had no fans, leaving an odd silence in C.P.'s 3,800-seat gym at moments when there should be roars.

"It's a little different now because of COVID," Mendez said. "We couldn't have any fans. It's just the teams here, so it was definitely a little quieter. The pressure's not as much, but I honestly feel I perform better under pressure. But it's still wrestling, still competing. I'm just going out there and doing what I do best. I try not to let the pressure get to me. It's just wrestling when you get down to it. I've been doing it since I was little, so it's kind of just an instinct at this point."

Streck wasn't too fazed by the solitude.

"At least my team's here to cheer me on that. That's always good, too," he said. "You've just got to cancel everything out. It's only you and your opponent out there; just focus on what's in front of you. I go into every match the same, warm up the same, have the same routine. I just know what I need to do. Every Saturday and Wednesday is the same."

Some of the wrestlers appreciated the meet being live streamed so their families could still see it.

"As I was walking off, my phone was blowing up from my family texting me," La Porte 106 champ Ashton Jackson said.

Teammate Jaden Browder, the 182 winner, sent the link to his folks so they could see him wrestle without being in person.

"My teammates are like family to me," Browder said. "They're going to cheer me on, no matter what happens, win or lose."

Other winners were Valpo's Stefan Vitello (126), Portage's Jack Coyle (132), who topped CP's Stephen Roberson 3-1 in a match-up of one-loss wrestlers, and Merrillville's Theodore Sparks, a 6-4 winner over Portage's Corey Hill with a takedown in the final 20 seconds.

CP wrestled without head coach Branden Lorek, who was away on a family commitment.

"My coaches are one of the main reasons I am where I am today," Mendez said. "They've helped me tremendously, whether it's off-season training or in-season training. I think a lot of the success we've had as a team comes from them. I think they're the best coaches around."

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