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Top 'Dogs: Crown Point edges Chesterton as Duneland elite dominate regional

CROWN POINT -- In a regional dominated by the host Bulldogs and Chesterton, who secured 11 of the 14 weight class titles Saturday, Aiden Sneed wanted to remind folks that this was a little more than just a two-team showcase.

"Everyone kind of overlooks us," the Kankakee Valley senior said. "I want to go out there and put in the same work as they do and come out with the results. We all put the singlet on the same way. We all drink water. We're all the same kind of people."

Sneed disrupted a string of eight matches won by C.P. or Trojans, pinning Crown Point's Nick Tattini in 1:59 for his second regional title at 170 pounds. It was a rematch of the sectional final won by Sneed 9-4 over his youth wrestling foe from years ago.

"When we were 5 or 6, we wrestled all the time. We were always in the same weight," Sneed said. "The last match (at sectionals), he reversed me a little too much, so I cut him and got another takedown. I ran a wing, I started to push the wing over, caught the arm, switched it to a half and with about two seconds left on the clock, I stuck him."

The regional champ as a sophomore, Sneed was third at 170 last season, losing in the semifinals to La Porte's Matt Neff. He lost a 10-9 heart-breaker in the semistate ticket round to Merrillville's Jason Streck two years ago, then was ousted by technical fall in the quarterfinals by Plymouth's Graham Calhoun, the eventual semistate titlist, a year ago.

"I want to make it to state," Sneed said. "It's been my long-term goal. I've wanted to do it ever since I started. My brother Randy never made it. He made it to the ticket round. He's kind of vicariously going through me, helping me out, making a big difference in me."

Sneed even gave up football this season to aid himself in that pursuit by exclusively training for wrestling.

"It was a hard decision for me," he said. "I thought about it a few months. I can put in the work myself and get the results. If I'm having a great day, it's because I'm having a great day. In football, it's more of a team aspect to it. I can be having a great game, but I have to have 10 other guys to do it as well in order to win. If I want to put in the work and somebody else doesn't, you're only as strong as your weakest link."

The most entertaining match of the finals came two rounds early when C.P.'s Javen Estrada overcame a 4-3 deficit in the final 20 seconds to pin Chesterton's Brock Ellis at 5:47, capping a wild sequences of scrambling.

"I don't mind. I think it's fun and exciting," Estrada said. "My dad gets nervous sometimes. Wrestling's wrestling. You've got to do what you've got to do. I knew I had to get one. I was just thinking I need to score to take it to overtime, to get another shot on my feet. Consistently pushing the pace, our coaches really want to focus on wrestling six minutes. That's what I tried to do and I came out on top."

Estrada won in a similar manner when the teams met in a dual early in the season.

"He's always in good position," he said of Ellis. "You have to try a couple new things every once in a while. You can't wrestle him straight on. He's just really aggressive, really strong. It's hard to wrestle him."

The outcome proved to critical to the team outcome as the 'Dogs edged the Trojans 211.5-210 for the trophy, capturing six titles to Chesterton's five. Anthony Bahl (113), Stephen Roberson (132) and Jesse Mendez (138) all won head-to-headers with Chesterton, Roberson holding off Aidan Torres 7-5

"It's probably the tenth time I've wrestled him and, knock on wood, he hasn't beaten me yet," Roberson said. "We would've wrestled more this year but some tournaments and stuff got cancelled. It's always good to have him around. He's a very good opponent. He has my respect. 9-5 in dual. There have been times it's been close, even overtime. You can never predict."

Like everyone else, Roberson was glad to have a crowd back in the gym, the sound of 'two!' piercing through the building on big takedowns.

"I enjoyed it a lot," he said. "When the started season off, there were no fans allowed. It was a blessing to have fans here, parents watching their kids. It makes the environment a lot better. Some wrestlers feed off the crowd. With me, it's not that big of a deal, but it's so cool to see people coming out."

Chesterton's head-to-head wins over Crown Point came at 120 (Sergio Lemley) and 195 (Gage DeMarco). Lemley edged Logan Frazier 3-2 in a match-up of one-loss 120s.

"It was my first time making weight at that dual and for some reason, he bumped up," Lemley said. "No matter what, I was still looking forward to the match. I was basically just wrestling my match. I was trying to separate the match, really try to be dominant, like I try to do with all my matches. He was doing a good job slowing me down, so that'll be even better to work on in practice. It was really fun. I knew some of his strengths, but ultimately I'm going to be the better wrestler at the end of the day, and that's the way it turned out."

Mendez, Gavin Lemley (182) and Evan Bates (220) of Chesterton, and New Prairie's Hunter Whitenack remained undefeated. Bates needed just 55 seconds and Whitenack did him 12 ticks of the clock faster against Wheeler's Jonathan Mollencup.

"I knew exactly what he was going to try to do from the beginning," Whitenack said. "I was baiting it for him. I wasn't really using all my strength right away. He was trying to get double underhooks, so I was staying far away, then I like shot up. He tried to pick me up. As soon as he got where he wanted, I just squeezed really hard, I could hear him like, ow, ow, so I just took him right to his back. I just wrestled my match and had a fast outcome. One more week before I reach my goal of going to state. I'm definitely motivated. I feel like it's finally my turn to prove I've got what it takes.

Other winners were C.P.'s Sam Goin (126) and Orlando Cruz (160), Chesterton's Ethan Kaiser (145) and La Porte's Ashton

Hunter Whitenack

Jackson (106). Kaiser's path opened up when Crown Point's Cody Goodwin (20-1) failed to make weight. Jackson held off Lake Central's Johnny Cortez 5-3, reversing a loss in last year's regional semfinals.

"I wrestled a lot better at DACs, but Johnny's a tough wrestler," Jackson said. "He adapts really quickly. Kudos to him for that. He kept it a really close game and kept me on the edge of my seat, forced me to wrestle pretty tough. He had really good movement. He really worked on hand fighting. Coach is always preaching patience, teaching us to keep our composure. I didn't freak out; calm, cool and collected. I got out of it and went into the next series. All my coaches preach it's all about advancement. It's all about setting your up for next weekend. This puts me in a pretty good spot at semistate."

Ashton Jackson

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