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Lakers’ Lange, Henderson finish runner-up at districts

Indian Lake juniors grab state berths

IL-Henderson

FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Indian Lake’s Heath Lange ties up with Ross’ Cordell Byrd during their 138-pound championship match Saturday at the Division II district tournament at Goshen High School. ABOVE: Indian Lake’s L.J. Henderson takes down Miami Trace’s Travis Grooms during the 160-pound semifinal match Saturday. (EXAMINER PHOTO | AARON LaBATT)

GOSHEN — A mistake that lasted just a few seconds was enough to cost Heath Lange a district title here Saturday.

The Indian Lake junior 138-pounder was winning his championship match at the Division II district tournament with less than a minute to go when he was reversed and put to his back.

Lange would go on to lose and settle for a runner-up finish, while teammate junior L.J. Henderson (160) also came in second as both wrestlers qualified for the Division II state tournament.

The top four wrestlers at each weight class advanced to the state tournament this weekend in Columbus.

“I think this weekend went pretty well,” said Indian Lake head coach Scott Tressler. “If I had to pick a word to describe it, it would be bittersweet. We had some good things happen and we also had some things that didn’t go our way. We got two guys getting out and that is important, but we left some points out on the mat, too.”

Graham won the district title with 231.5 points and qualified eight wrestlers to the state meet. Ross was runner-up with 160 points and Sheridan took third with 103.5  points. Indian Lake finished ninth with 60 points.

Lange (138) has been a force for the past month. He pinned 10 of his last 12 opponents before the district title match. After recording two falls on Friday, Lange pinned Zach Johnson in 23 seconds in the semifinals on Saturday to easily secure a state berth.

In the finals, Lange faced returning state qualifier and defending district champion Cordell Byrd of Ross. The Laker was in complete control of the match until the end of the third period.

Lange was ahead 6-3 after scoring three takedowns. He went for a cradle to attempt to pin Byrd, but the Ross standout used his leverage to rock Lange over and reverse him for a five-point near fall. Lange fought off his back, but trailed 8-6 with 25.6 seconds left in the match.

“I’m just greedy and I wanted to go for the pin,” said Lange. “I felt like I was in control of that match. I could have just stalled out and not do a whole lot, but I wanted more. I had the lead and wanted to go for the pin. I guess that’s what I get for trying to do that.”

Byrd gave up a penalty point shortly after to make the score 8-7, but Lange couldn’t score again and suffered just his fourth loss of the season.

“Heath was in control of that match,” said Tressler. “You have to find some positives out of it. He gave up a five-point move and fought off his back and continued to battle. The most important thing, though, is getting ready for next week. This is not the finish we wanted, but we have to move on.”

Henderson (160) faced a much bigger obstacle in his district title match. He handled his first two opponents and then beat Travis Grooms of Miami Trace 7-2 in the semifinals to qualify to state.

In the finals, Henderson faced Graham star Bo Jordan, who is a three-time defending state champion and the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 160 pounds. Henderson was pinned by Jordan in 1:08.

“It’s really exciting going to state for the first time,” said Henderson. “With the injuries I had, I had to put in a lot of training. I felt confident going into this weekend, though.”

“This was a very good tournament for L.J.,” said Tressler. “He went from sixth at last year’s district meet to second and wrestled very well. We are really excited for him. He went through some bumps and bruises this year, but he is healthy at the right time of the year.”

Making Henderson’s state berth even more impressive was the fact he overcame two major injuries this year. He had knee surgery on a torn meniscus back in December and then suffered a high ankle sprain in January. He did not wrestle for three weeks until the sectional tournament began.

“It was tough along the way getting here with my injuries,” said Henderson. “There were a lot of good wrestlers here and I felt I had a good tournament.”

Those injuries caused several people to overlook Henderson. He beat the third-ranked wrestler in the state at 160 earlier this season, but was not projected by some to make it to state.

“L.J. is so low key,” said Tressler. “A lot of people underestimated him and how good he is. He had some big wins this year and some people just dismissed that. He was able to show how good of a wrestler he was today.”

There was also heartbreak for Indian Lake on Saturday, too. Senior Calvin Davis (145) lost in the semifinals to returning state qualifier and eventual district champion Joseph Jones of Ross 15-6 in the semifinals.

Davis then lost in overtime in his state qualifying bout to Tyler Sowards of Kenton Ridge by fall in 6:00. The match was tied 5-5 in the third period. Davis appeared to have a takedown with five seconds left, but the official did not award the points. Sowards then took down Davis and pinned him in sudden victory.

“It’s tough because you tell kids if they do things the right way good things will happen,” said Tressler. “It was a referee’s decision that we didn’t agree with. We felt Calvin had the takedown, but the referee saw it differently. Calvin has come a long way to be a district placer.”

Davis went on to place sixth after losing to Drew Stebelton of Sheridan by fall in 2:30.

Kurtis Gibbons (152) and Shane Asman (195) both went 1-2 for the Lakers at the district tournament. Gibbons won a first-round match, but lost his next two bouts. Asman won a consolation match.

The Central Buckeye Conference had a strong showing by several teams. Urbana crowned two district champions in Jack Harris (182) and Sam Harris (195), while Kenton Ridge qualified four kids to the state tournament.

Look for a Division II state preview on Lange and Henderson later this week in the Examiner.

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