On Saturday, Feb. 1, the East Chicago gymnasium was bursting with the stench of hard work. The boys varsity wrestling team was competing in the 2014 IHSAA Sectionals.

This event resulted in nine Sectional finalists, three Sectional champions and 12 Regional qualifiers for the team. The champions included Kodie Christenson (11) in the 152 weight class, Jacob Kleimola (10) in the 160 weight class and Gelen Robinson (12) in the 220 weight class. Along with the three champions, Maxwell King (9), Kameron Konopasek (10), Branden Truver (11), Antonio Presta (11), Nicholas Taylor (11), Jacob Sebahar (12), Danny Vargas (12), Jacob Stewart (11) and Nicholas Minkema (12) also qualified for Regionals. The team finished second as a whole with 238 total points behind Merrillville’s 293.5 points.

“[Being a champion] feels really good. I remember last year, I didn’t even wrestle varsity, and so this was one of my goals: to come in and win Sectionals. [To prepare], I did some off-season [training]. I did club wrestling and a lot of lifting over the summer. I actually didn’t play football this year, just to get better for wrestling,” Jacob Kleimola (10) said.

Wrestling in a Sectional match can be nerve-wracking. The wrestlers do a lot of preparation mentally and physically throughout the season and before their matches.

“[Before a finals match], you think about all your moves and all the stuff you have practiced over the last few months. You can’t just be thinking about trying to do one thing, you have to be ready for whatever comes at you,” Kleimola said.

While some took home their first championship, Robinson took home his third. Beside his teammates, he hopes to continue past Regionals and repeat history, defending his state title.

“I am definitely going to be working a lot harder, because I know there is some competition down state that is going to get a lot more aggressive. [My competitors] are going to try to take my [state] title from me, and that is one thing that I have right now that I am looking forward to defending,” Robinson said.

The program will continue to work hard throughout the rest of the postseason, hoping to continue with their success.

“We are going to stick with the same plan of attack, but as the weeks progress and the tournament gets tougher and tougher, we are going to expect more out of our guys every day in practice. We are going to work hard and continue on this upward trend of getting guys to qualify each week,” head coach Ryan Alb said.

The Calumet Individual Regional will take place at Calumet High School on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 9 a.m.