'Tired of getting second': Chesterton takes swing matches with Crown Point; claims semistate title
EAST CHICAGO -- History suggests that revenge is a dish best served cold.
The Chesterton wrestling team would differ, preferring it to be served on a mat.
The Trojans pulled a reversal, pun intended, at Saturday's East Chiacgo Central Semistate, where Hayden DeMarco (113 pounds), Aidan Torres (132) and Brock Ellis (152) all flipped regional losses in the championship round to Crown Point foes.
"I think we were just tired of getting second," Ellis said. "We put it together, we had game plans and stuck to 'em."
The result was seven individual titles and a team trophy as Chesterton bested the Bulldogs, 197.5-182, easily posting the highest point total of the four semistates.
"We didn't care about winning last week, all we cared about was winning today," Trojans coach Chris Joll said. "We wanted to put ourselves in position to do something (at state). We weren't worried about everybody else, we just worried about ourselves. You can't control what they're doing. I don't need them to know that we're not tough enough or we're not firing off our shots. We didn't take a break with conditioning last week. This week, most of them, took a little break. We always have a plan, it just happened to work, so it looked really good."
Freshman Hayden DeMarco (35-3) set it all in motion with a 4-3 win over CP's Anthony Bahl at 113, hitting the decisive takedown in the last minute to flip a 9-1 regional loss.
"I knew I needed to get the takedown in order to win and upper body was the way to go after I body locked him," DeMarco said. "I knew the ankle picks or trips were coming from regionals. I knew it was coming in neutral this time. I didn't wrestle as good. He killed me then."
The 113 standouts both attend Elite Athletic Club in Lake Station over the summer, but Bahl is always heavier, so they hadn't met in a match until the regional.
"I was like 95 pounds," DeMarco said. "I don't really cut (weight), but I don't eat much on Friday. Partners like Sergio (Lemley), Aidan and Josh Daniels help me, too."
The younger brother of Chesterton 195 Gage DeMarco, Hayden benefits from the sibling support despite the substantial size disparity.
"(Gage) doesn't really wrestle in the summer. He's really good at football," Hayden said. "I'm always cutting in the summer while he's getting the carbs in so he can be that fantastic linebacker. He talks to me sometimes at night. We go down in the basement, wrestle around a little bit. We help each other out when we do moves, to get better at it. I'm always striving to be better than he was a freshman just so I can have bragging rights."
Gage, who took third at 195, didn't get that chance as a freshman, breaking his arm in the sectional.
The DeMarcos aren't the only sibling story line at Chesterton. Diego Lemley was the 2017 state runner-up at 160. Sergio Lemley (33-1) topped Crown Point's Logan Frazier in a tight 120 final for the second week in a row, this time, 3-1.
"I just think it's common knowledge we both wanted me to win this year, which is really cool," Sergio said. "I started (wrestling) because of him. I was just a little kid running around at Chesterton High School, (I figured) I might as well head into the wrestling room. As the years went on, he showed me what hard work can get you. I like to incorporate that into my training every day. We've just got some unfinished things here in the finals. We're just trying to redeem that right now. (Bahl)'s a really good competitor. He separates himself from my other Indiana competitors. Every time I know there's going to be a match-up, I work extra hard that week. "
Lemley is four wins from having the distinction of winning state titles in two states. He took the 113 crown last season as a freshman at Mount Carmel, then transferred back to Chesterton, where he lives, when Illinois didn't have 2020-21 season due to COVID. "I've known these guys since I was pretty little," Lemley said. "It was a little weird at first, like, hey, I'm back. They were super welcoming. It was pretty nice. My practice partner, Aiden, we've been practice partners a long time now. Some things are different, some things don't change." Torres (31-2) ended a lengthy losing streak against the Bulldogs' Stephen Roberson, claiming the final 6-4. "Last week, I had a little game plan and it half worked basically," Torres said. "This week, we went over it, improved on it. Working with Brock, I tightened a few things up Thursday and Friday, O went out there and tried to hit my offense. Watching the film, I was only taking two shots a match. I had to get more leg attacks. I was basically just wrestling scared. My thought was, this is probably the last time I'll see him, he's a senior. We could meet up at state. We met up last year in the finals in every big thing. I had nothing to lose basically. We were close on team score and seeing Hayden and Sergio win gets me going. The season came fast, but we prepared well. I was confident." Ellis made it a sweep of Chesterton-Crown Point duels with a 9-6 win at 152 over Javen Estrada, who took the regional match on a late pin. "Once I saw Hayden go out there and wrestle exactly like he should have in the regional finals and saw Aiden go out there and wrestle exactly like he should every single time he's wrestled Roberson, everything clicked," Ellis said. "I can't let the team down. Seeing those guys do it made me want to do it even more. It's a weight lifted off my shoulders. It's been the back of my mind. I've been training for this one guy almost the entire season basically. I just got it done this time. I was pretty happy. I didn't like that feeling last weekend so I didn't want to happen again." Seconds after the win, Ellis (30-4) did a celebratory bicep flex in the direction of Chesterton's fans. "I made a couple mistakes last week and it was the difference between winning and losing," he said. "I cut out those mistakes in the room and worked on the things that worked last match. I just wrestled my match. It's easier for me to train to get better when I have those matches in the back of my mind. I had something to work toward. It's harder to work toward something if you're undefeated. You don't have to work toward beating anybody. I wanted to go undefeated this year. I'm thinking about every single one of those losses. Having those losses on my record, every day in the room, I'm pushing myself, trying to get better. That's all I can think about. (Estrada)'s good. I hope to see him Saturday night (at state). I've still got another one to give to him. I've got to tie it up." Ethan Kaiser (145, 27-4) and unbeatens 182 Gavin Layman (37-0) posted first-period falls, and Evan Bates (220, 34-0) capped off the Trojans' finals run with a 6-4 decision over Merrillville's Jason Streck in a match-up of undefeateds. Crown Point's day was far from a total loss. Sam Goin (126, 14-1), Jesse Mendez (138, 30-0) and Orlando Cruz (160) won titles. "There's really good competition here, I'm happy I could put some points on the board," Cruz said. "It was kind of hard to keep my head in it, seeing all our guys lose matches maybe they shouldn't have against guys they got earlier in the year. I had to be like, you know, my team needs me, I'm going to do as much as I can for them." Cruz (28-2), who won 11-2, was the runner-up to Ellis last year at 145. "Last year, I had like freshman mat wrestling issues," Cruz said. "I struggled getting out from bottom. I went to Midwest RTC with Chris Fleeger over the summer. He helped out a lot. I wrestled with our team, our guys, coach (Vince) Sessa, coach (Bill) Hawkins. They really showed me what I need to work on if I wanted to make bigger strides. It really showed the holes in my game. That's all I worked on non-stop. That's what the off-season's all about, so you can come back in the season and see the progress. I'm one step up the ladder from last year. I'm excited (about state). I know I've got pretty good offense. I can't wait to display it against other guys from across the state. Second, third, fourth (place), I probably wrestled them all multiple times. It'll be nice to get a feel for guys from down south."
La Porte's Ashton Jackson (31-2) took the 106 crown, knocking off top-ranked Jeffrey Bailey of River Forest, 8-2.
"I felt I was a little overlooked, but it's OK," Jackson said. "I love him. He's my practice partner in the offseason (at Elite Athletic Club), but when it's time to work, it's time to work. It was pretty exciting to be able to show myself, to have the opportunity to take him down, and here we are. I was expecting a barn burner. He's a tough competitor. To go from not getting out of the first round (last year) to being able to win it, it feels good." The state finals will be Friday and Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The opening round will be split into sessions with the first seven weights starting at 10 a.m. and the upper seven starting at 6 p.m. Spectators will be limited.
Chesterton won Saturday's East Chicago Central Semistate, taking seven weight class titles.