By Dan Gilles
The last time Lutheran West had a state placer, which was in 2008, the school had two wrestlers accomplish the feat together.
Josh Malave took third and Collin Dennis placed eighth that year for the Longhorns.
This year, senior 152-pounder Jake DeLorge (50-8) and junior 126-pounder Tim Mecklenburg (26-8) made the trek to the Division III State Wrestling Tournament after both placed third at the Garfield Heights District. And, like Malave and Dennis did six years ago, the Longhorn duo both wound up on the podium when it was all said and done.
Both DeLorge and Mecklenburg overcame losing their opening matches to earn spots on the podium through the consolation bracket, with DeLorge placing sixth and Mecklenburg placing fourth.
“The goal was to get two more guys on the podium, and we were able to accomplish that,” Lutheran West coach Dave Ressler said. “They both did a great job in the second round. We thought it was going to go the other way – that Jake was going to handle it good and Tim was going to have a really tough match. It turned out the opposite way. But I’m very proud of them both.”
In Division II, both Rocky River sophomore 126-pounder Aaron Kelly (44-7) and Bay sophomore 113-pounder Vince Zitiello (32-11) failed to place.
Mecklenburg, making his second state tournament appearance after going 0-2 as a freshman, was a bit disheartened when he lost to Delta’s Noah Mattin, 8-5, in his first match to fall to 0-3. But Mecklenburg responded with a 9-1 major decision Dayton Christian’s Josh Clary to get the monkey off his back, and it seemed to light a fire under him.
Mecklenburg reeled off four consecutive wins to not only place, but also wrestle for third place in his weight class. He defeated Newcomerstown’s Alan Hayhurst, 7-4, Versailles’ Matt Mangen, 2-0, which clinched his podium spot, and Newark Catholic’s Caleb Ohl with a pinfall in 4:31.
“Once I got my first win, I knew it was going to be a good run from there,” Mecklenburg said. “The last time I did that was districts my freshman year, and I just came all the way back. So it feels good to come back again, especially to do it at state.
“It was frustrating to lose that first-round match. I came off the mat knowing I could have done better. I didn’t wrestle the way I should have. If I did, I probably could have won that match. But I knew I had to come back through later that night, and I did.”
However, his run came to an end in the match for third, dropping a tough 4-2 decision to Northwood’s Devon Dunbar.
“I did not know anything about him, so I just wrestled him like I know how,” Mecklenburg said. “I kept trying to get shots on him, but sadly, I wasn’t able to finish. I beat him on bottom to get out. It was a good, hard-fought match, and I thought I did pretty well.
“It’s empowering to win four straight matches at state. Now, I feel like I can accomplish anything. I just feel really good about it. It feels amazing to place in the top four. I’ve worked hard for this all summer, and everything I learned over the summer, I used to my advantage here and I was able to be pretty good.”
Taking the long road is nothing new for Mecklenburg. He won four straight at districts as a freshman after dropping his opener to qualify for the state tournament, and overcame a second-round loss at this year’s districts to place third.
“He likes to run the table through the consolations, so it was great that he did that again,” Ressler said. “It kills me that we can’t get the first win, but that (consolation) win was big for him. In his second time down here and going 0-2 as a freshman and just missing getting out last year, getting a win at state was huge for him.
“I’m very proud of him for winning four matches and fourth place is well deserved.”
DeLorge dropped his state debut to Springfield Catholic Central’s Anthony DeCarlo, 15-8. But, like Mecklenburg, he reeled off three straight wins to earn his spot in the top six. He defeated Archbold’s Lincoln Parsley, 7-5, Norwalk St. Paul’s Jesse Gross, 5-3, and Cincinnati Deer Park’s Austin Siemon, 5-4.
However, he dropped a tough 2-0 overtime decision to Nelsonville-York’s Dakota Mays in the consolation semifinals, and followed that with a 6-2 loss to Apple Creek Waynedale’s Dakota Stanley in the fifth-place match.
“I kept saying, after lost in the first round and we won every match after that, I kept telling him that we’re in synch,” Mecklenburg said. “We both got firsts at sectionals. We both got third at districts, and we both rebounded with three straight wins after losing our openers at state.
“I wish he would have been wrestling for third place with me, I really do, but he did really well to get onto that podium and I’m very happy for him.”
DeLorge, in his first season at Lutheran West after three years at Avon, was thrilled to make his long-awaited state debut even more memorable.
“I truthfully didn’t expect it,” DeLorge said. “My goal was simply to make it. But once I made it, I wanted to see how well I could do. Looking at rankings and projections, I saw that I was ranked 10th and I wanted to prove that wrong.
“To place my first time here is great. Usually, when it’s your first time here, it’s hectic and you don’t know what to expect. After my first match, I forgot that this was the state tournament and I wrestled to place. I just can’t believe it’s over.”
DeLorge’s college plans are up in the air, so he may have wrestled his final match ever.
“It was so much fun to make this run with Tim,” DeLorge said. “I’ll never forget it. Especially to do with Tim – I thought he wrestled very well and I hope does better next year.
“This was such a fun season. Especially to come in as a senior transfer, I didn’t know what to expect. But this was, by far, my favorite year. I would love to go back and do it all over again. I had my fun at Avon, but this was a great season with Lutheran West. I loved it.”
Ressler was equally proud of DeLorge’s performance.
“He fit right in with this team coming in as a new senior,” he said. “He’s been a blessing to have on this team and I’m so excited he had the success that he had with Lutheran West. We’re very proud of him.”
Kelly went 0-2, dropping a 14-5 major decision to Steubenville’s Tariq Wilson in the first round and a 2-1 overtime loss to Miami Trace’s Trent Duffy in the consolation.
Zitiello dropped his opening match on Thursday to University School’s Walker Chieffe, 8-3. However, he rebounded to beat Byesville Meadowbrook’s Tyler Jenkins, 7-3. On Friday, his state debut came to a close with a 16-4 major decision loss to Gallipolis Gallia Valley’s Cole Tawney in the consolation second round.