When it comes to high school district wrestling tournaments, Lutheran West senior Jake DeLorge will always have a special place in Ohio’s history books.
DeLorge has qualified to three district tournaments during his high school career — one in each of the state’s three divisions.
DeLorge wrestled his way to the Division II district tournament as a freshman at Avon High, earned a spot in the Division I district tournament last year with the Eagles and will compete in the Division III district tournament this weekend with the Longhorns. Avon moved from Division II to Division I before his sophomore season.
“Anytime you get to make history, it’s always a cool feeling,” said DeLorge, who captured the 152-pound sectional title last weekend at Independence High. “Obviously, I’d rather be at state, but I’m happy to be a district qualifier.”
Area wrestlers will compete tonight and Saturday for a chance at a coveted state tournament berth. The Division I district tournament will take place at Cleveland State, the Division II teams will compete at Bowling Green State University and DeLorge and the Division III field will battle at Garfield Heights High.
The switch from Division I to Division III was made when DeLorge decided to put his family first.
“It was not an easy choice,” DeLorge said of transferring from Avon to Lutheran West. “It was a (medical) issue with my grandma … she needed help. It was the choice to move in with her or stay back (in Avon) for my senior year. I chose my family, and I have no regrets.”
DeLorge moved to Fairview Park and set up a visit to the Rocky River parochial school.
“When I first shadowed during my junior year, I knew it was the perfect school,” he said. “I loved it, I was hooked the first day. Going to a new school, I knew it was going to be hard. But I feel like I fit in well and people welcomed me with open arms.”
Part of the welcoming committee was Longhorns coach Dave Ressler, who knew he was getting a solid wrestler in DeLorge, but was happily surprised the school added such a solid student.
“It’s been fantastic,” Ressler said. “I hear from the teachers all the time about what a good student he is. He just gets along with everybody in the school. I had the pleasure of having him in class this semester, I have him in sociology … good student, he does real well.”
Ressler oversees DeLorge’s development on the mats as well, although the biggest tips of the hat this season have gone to assistant coach D.J. Vondruska and main training partner James Handwerk, the Longhorns’ freshman 145-pounder.
“D.J. Vondruska kind of took him under his wing and worked with him a lot,” Ressler said. “(DeLorge) had all the tools, he just needed some fine-tuning.
“We got really excited when he went out to Vegas (last summer) and we got to watch it on Flo (wrestling.com) and he won the Vegas tournament. We got to see him … for the first time in matches. We knew right then he was going to have a very, very good year.”
Handwerk is ranked No. 10 in the state at 145 by Intermat’s Josh Lowe, while DeLorge is ranked No. 11 in his weight class. The two provided elite sparring sessions in the practice room.
“He was a great drill partner. Every practice, he pushes me and I push him,” DeLorge said. “We just try to make each other better … that’s one of the biggest bonuses. He’s made such a difference on my season, and I hope that I’ve made a difference for him.”
Both wrestlers made it to the district tournament. DeLorge will open with Loudonville junior Drew Lowery (22-18), then should face the winner of Beachwood’s Trevor Sanshuck (23-12) and Waterloo’s Duncan Hysell (26-15) in the quarterfinals.
“I think we got a good draw,” Ressler said. “The first two matches I’m expecting wins, and then we’ll have (Dakota) Stanley (ranked No. 3 in the state) from Waynedale in the semifinal probably, and hopefully we can surprise him and get to the final.”
Lowe has DeLorge pegged to make it to the state tournament.
“It’s always big getting recognition, especially from someone like that who the whole state looks at to see who are the top kids,” DeLorge said. “One of my things is that I don’t want to let anyone down. I’m going to try and make his prediction true. I want to go to state, and I want to fulfill what he said … actually I want to do better than that. I want to place.”
While DeLorge enjoys talking about his senior season — he’s racked up a 43-4 record and has pushed his career victories to 145 — he also spends plenty of time praising his career mentors.
** His wrestling career began at the West Shore biddy program — which ran its training out of the St. Edward wrestling room in Lakewood.
“Guy Sako and John Ramsey were the biggest helps, I can’t thank them enough,” DeLorge said. “The West Shore program was great, it was such a big help in my early days.”
** He said his run to the state tournament in the eighth grade helped him get serious about the sport, and he upgraded his status from good to great during his time at Avon.
“I miss everyone in Avon,” he said. “Coach Mark Porter and Mr. (Colin) Henderson, I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me the past three years. They are role models, and I miss them.”
** He even had plenty of thanks for his current training crew.
“I don’t think I’d get as far as I could if it wasn’t for my coach, D.J. Vondruska,” DeLorge said. “I also have such great teammates and drill partners — Handwerk, (Tim) Mecklenburg, (Adler) Vasiloff … all of them. They know what they are doing.”
But DeLorge saved his greatest praise for an older sibling who starred for the Eagles just a few years before Jake.
“I really owe my career success to my brother Brandon,” he said. “He’s helped me out so much … I don’t think I’d be where I’m at if it weren’t for him.”