By Dan Gilles
Lutheran West was hoping for more. But the Longhorns will certainly take five Division III district wrestling qualifiers and two individual champions at last weekend’s Division III Sectional Wrestling Tournament at Independence High School.
Lutheran West edge Patriot Athletic Conference rival Wellington for fifth place by one point, 103-102, going 2-for-3 in championship matches and coming within an eyelash of topping all 13 schools with three sectional champs.
Senior Jake DeLorge (152) and junior Tim Mecklenburg (126) were the Longhorns’ sectional champions, while freshman James Handwerk (160) finished second. Other district qualifiers included Kristian Bremer (fourth, 285) and Jacob Ressler (third, 113), while Kevin Naim (fifth, 132) was a district alternate.
“I’m happy we had five district qualifiers, but I was hoping everyone on the team would make it out,” DeLorge said. “We got more than half our team to Garfield Heights, and we’re hopeful all of us can advance to Columbus.”
Mecklenburg repeated as sectional champion and gained a measure of revenge in the process, defeating Black River freshman Ian Maund, 2-0.
Maund defeated Mecklenburg in the semifinals of the PAC Tournament three weeks ago, en route to a runner-up finish. This time, Mecklenburg got a second-period takedown and was able to keep from getting turned over from the down position in the third period.
“It feels a little bit better because you’re coming as the defending champion and you know everyone’s gunning for you,” Mecklenburg said. “To keep a hold of that when everyone’s gunning for you feels pretty good.
“In the regular season, I beat him 14-2, but he brought it to me at the tournament and I wasn’t ready for him. I was also a little under the weather at the time. I knew he was coming at me today and I knew what to expect, so I definitely wrestled him better this time.”
DeLorge, an Avon transfer, accomplished the unique feat of becoming a district qualifier in all three divisions during his high school career – Division II as a freshman and Division I as a junior. His pinfall in 2:37 over Wellington’s Alex Imhoff – a defending Brooklyn Sectional champion – was DeLorge’s first-ever sectional championship.
“It’s a pretty cool feat, although I wish I was a state qualifier in all three divisions,” DeLorge said. “This is my first sectional championship, and I’m glad to finally win one after coming up short the last couple times.
Handwerk and Elyria Catholic senior Jerot Schill had a thrilling match in the 160-pound championship, but Schill held on by the skin of his teeth to a 5-4 victory.
Schill and Handwerk were tied at 4 through two periods. Schill got an escape for what turned out to be the winning points, but Handwerk – who battled through two injury stoppages – kept coming.
With time running out, Handwerk charged Schill and was able to take him down with one second left. However, the officials ruled that the takedown occurred out of bounds and waved it off, giving Schill the dramatic victory.
Mecklenburg didn’t wrestle in Friday’s portion, getting two byes right into the semifinals due to only five wrestlers competing in his weight class. Mecklenburg pinned Akron Manchester’s Josh Wenhold in 32 seconds on Saturday morning before defeating Maund.
“At the first submission of the weights, there were 11 kids in my weight class,” Mecklenburg said. “Then, it dropped down to seven and when we weighed in (Friday), two of them didn’t make weight or didn’t show up. It makes me want to focus more because I know everyone’s going to come out (today) with blood in their eyes. I’ve got to take it to them, not the other way around.”
DeLorge had the opposite path in front of him, being one of the few wrestlers to actually wrestle twice on Friday. He pinned Trinity’s Nick Reese in 43 seconds and Columbia’s Shane Garrow in 1:42 on Friday to advance to the semifinals. He then pinned Manchester’s Paul Dies in 5:20 to advance to the championship.
“My dad told me that the rattail match would loosen me up and get me ready for the rest of the day,” DeLorge said. “Plus, it helps me get more bonus points for my team and it’s another win to my record. I was not surprised to see that I had the rattail because I’ve gotten it all year.
“I’m an unknown here, so I kind of like it. It doesn’t matter to me. While I don’t know my opponents that well, they don’t know much about me.”
Handwerk pinned Keisean Johnson of Warrensville Heights in 23 seconds on Friday, then pinned Wellington’s Josh Kitko in 4:56 in the semifinals.
Ressler lost to Columbia freshman Josh Newman, 7-4, in the semifinals. However, the junior got a bye into third-place match and then defeated Manchester’s Jimmy Bowen, 4-0.
Bremer had defeated Trinity sophomore Charlie Draucker, 7-2, on Friday. When the two met again in Saturday’s third-place match, Draucker got the last laugh, beating Bremer 4-2.
Bremer punched his ticket to districts by pinning Black River’s Cody McKean in 1:32 in the consolation semifinals.
The pairings for the Garfield Heights district were revealed. In the first round, Ressler (19-10) will meet Jackson-Milton’s Mitch Tikkanen (21-4), Mecklenburg (17-5) will meet Wickliffe’s Dominic Billie (23-22), DeLorge (43-4) will meet Loudonville’s Drew Lowery (22-18), Handwerk (17-4) will meet Liberty’s Daryl McLendon (11-17), while Bremer (23-14) will meet Pymatuning Valley’s Shawn Shreves (26-11).