Champions are made in the off-season.
Chances are the slogan has appeared on the back of a T-shirt at more than a few wrestling tournaments.
The words ring true for Tyson Nisley, a La Porte junior who spent the summer on the circuit.
“It’s all about wrestling really good matches,” Nisley said. “If you don’t wrestle hard guys, you’re not going to be able to wrestle the same way when you get in a tough match.”
That experience is a big reason for the big jump Nisley’s made in a season’s time. Sixth in the Duneland Athletic Conference tournament at 132 pounds last season, he returned to the meet with drastically different results Saturday at Michigan City, where a 9-6 win over Chesterton’s Cade Johnson earned him the 138-pound weight class championship.
“It really started with his off-season work,” Slicers coach Louie Kuzdas said. “He traveled all over to big tournaments. Those things prepare you for next-level stuff and it’s showing with Tyson. The amount of years I’ve been involved in this, the Duneland is one of those tournaments you have to prepare for. It’s a great accomplishment for a junior.”
While Nisley yielded the initial takedown, he promptly evened the match with a reversal and took a lead that he would not relinquish with a three-point near fall.
“It wasn’t necessarily one of my goals, but it was nice to come back from not doing well last year,” Nisley said. “It shows I’m on track for what I want to do. I hadn’t wrestled (Johnson) before, but he had beaten some pretty all right kids. He’s a little awkward to wrestle. He has one of those styles that’s hard to figure out, but I kind of did toward the end.”
It could be the first of several meetings between the 138s in the coming weeks. They’ll square off again in the teams’ duals this week as well as likely in the La Porte Sectional.
“A lot of people are in a situation where these are people they’re going to have to see again down the road,” Kuzdas said.
That was the case at 182, where Merrillville’s Khris Walton turned the tables on the Slicers’ Noah Perez in the semifinals with a 9-3 decision. A defending champ, Perez beat Walton twice this season, in a dual and at the Al Smith tournament.
“It’s one of those things where the more times you see somebody may not be the best thing,” Kuzdas said. ”(Walton) wrestled more conservatively. He wasn’t allowing the big moves that Noah’s excelled at. He’s slowed the match down. Obviously we’re looking forward to the next meeting, which would be in the semistate, and hopefully it will come out in our favor for a critical spot. The Duneland teams tend to beat up on each other, knock each other out in the postseason.”
Perez was one of four Slicers to finish third, joining Skyler Querry (152), Matt Neff (160) and Jaden Browder (195). Will Stone, who came in at just 5-7, was a surprise fourth at 220, reversing a pair of prior losses, according to Kuzdas.
“Our focus was more on duals early,” Kuzdas said. “At this point, we’re focusing more on individual, post-season stuff, just looking at some improvement across the board.”
La Porte finished sixth in the eight-team field with 130.5. Merrrillville topped Crown Point for the title, 210-202. Michigan City (44) was eighth. Its top finisher was 285 Royce Robinson (fourth). Previously-unbeaten John Wilcher was fifth at 220, as was Trae Anderson at 138.
Duneland Conference Tournament
La Porte finished sixth (130.5) and Michigan City eighth (44).