By Dan Gilles
Of the five wrestlers Lutheran West brought down to Garfield Heights High School this past weekend for the Division III District Wrestling Tournament, senior Jake DeLorge (152) and junior Tim Mecklenburg (126) seemed to be the best bets to survive and qualify for this week’s state tournament.
While Mecklenburg had to take the long road to survive, both wrestlers emerged in third place in their respective weight classes at Garfield Heights and are the lone Longhorns that will be competing at state.
“I’m excited that we’ll have multiple guys go to state,” Lutheran West coach Dave Ressler said. “It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had multiple guys go and been able to take more than one. So we’re excited and looking forward to that state tournament.”
DeLorge (47-5), in his first year at Lutheran West after a successful wrestling career at Avon, finally realized his first berth to the state tournament in his first year as a Division III wrestler. He was denied a berth in the district finals by the projected third-place finisher in the state, Waynedale’s Dakota Stanley. Stanley defeated DeLorge, 7-1, en route to the district championship.
However, DeLorge rebounded with two victories to clinch third-place in his weight class. He defeated Kirtland’s Clayton Davidson, 3-2, in the consolation finals with a late takedown.
“It played out kind of how we thought it would,” Ressler said. “Jake’s a great kid and he has fit in so well at Lutheran West. He’s a great leader for the team. He came in and worked his way up through his actions and his hard work.
“He’s just a fun kid to be around and he gets along with all of his classmates. He’s a great fit and he’s so well deserving of this state berth. He’s such a hard worker.”
Mecklenburg (22-6), who qualified for state as a freshman but missed out on a return trip by one match last season, took the long road back to Columbus on Saturday. He won three consolation bouts, including a 2-1 decision over Grand Valley’s Cody Rhoads in the semifinals, to punch his second ticket to state.
Mecklenburg, ranked 10th in his weight class by Intermat’s Josh Lowe, knocked off the No. 6 wrestler in Burton Berkshire’s T.J. Malkus, 4-2, in the consolation final for his highest district placement in his three years.
“We were hoping to get both (Jake and Tim) to the semis, but Tim made a mistake Friday and had to take the long road back,” Ressler said. “But he did it as a freshman – wrestling from even farther back to qualify for state. So we had confidence in him that he would do it again, and he did.
“One of the things that’s really developed for Tim is patience. He’s not panicking anymore, especially if he gets down. We were down 1-0 in that (semifinal) match and he stayed calm, and things tend to work out when you don’t freak out over everything.”
DeLorge had never advanced to the district semifinals in either of his two stints while at Avon. However, he got there this season with a first-round pinfall in 1:05 and a 13-1 major decision over Beachwood’s Trevor Sanshuck in the quarterfinals.
“I’m very thrilled about finally reaching this point,” DeLorge said. “I always take one match at a time and I don’t worry about anything else. I only worry about that match at that time. As long as I get mentally ready and fuel up, I’m confident that I’ll do what I have to do.”
Mecklenburg pinned his first-round opponent in 1:30, but was caught and was pinned by Loudonville’s Colton Ullman in the quarterfinals in 2:29. Ullman wound up finishing as the runner-up in that weight class.
But Mecklenburg pinned Cardinal’s Dakota Ward in 4:06 and Tuslaw’s Jarret Logan in 2:43 to reach the semifinal match against Rhoads.
“We lost to Malkus, 3-2, in the state duals a few weeks ago, and so we were right in that match,” Ressler said. “If T.J. showed patience and wrestled his style, we expected a victory.
“With Jake, we were expecting this one for a long time. Davidson finished second at Perry and he finished third and we didn’t meet. They both lost by the same margin to the kid who wound up winning the championship. We were expecting a great match and we felt confident both could take third and get a better draw down at state.”
Lutheran West 160-pound freshman James Handwerk had to withdraw from the event due to a broken rib. Ressler said Handwerk may have suffered the injury during his sectional championship loss last weekend at Independence, and he aggravated the injury during practice Thursday.
DeLorge will meet Springfield Catholic Central senior Anthony DeCarlo, (33-4) on Thursday in the first round, while Mecklenburg will meet Delta freshman Noah Mattin (40-5) in his first-round match. DeCarlo placed eighth at 138 in last year’s state tournament.
“With Tim’s second time, we’re expecting that he’ll be more used to it,” Ressler said. “The last time, he was a freshman and it was a little overwhelming out there and he wound up getting hammered. This year, coming out of this district, which is such a tough district, his goal and Jake’s goal should be placement.
“If you make it through here, the goal is to place at state. I know it’s Jake’s first time down there, but he’s a senior. We will have placement (in the top eight) as goals for both of our guys.”
The state tournament for all three divisions begins Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Ohio State University’s Value City Arena. It will conclude Saturday evening with the championship matches for all three divisions.