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Laker duo makes splash on first day at state

Lange, Henderson win opening-round matches


ABOVE: Indian Lake’s L.J. Henderson holds on to London’s Owen Shoemaker during the third period of their 160-pound opening-round match Thursday at the Division II state tournament in Columbus. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Indian Lake’s Heath Lange picks up Tiffin Columbian’s Mason Correll before pinning him during their 138-pound first-round match in Columbus. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | AARON LaBATT)

COLUMBUS — Through two different styles, Heath Lange and L.J. Henderson found their own ways to make statements here Thursday at the Division II state wrestling tournament.

The Indian Lake juniors each came away with wins in opening-round matches at the Jerome Schottenstein Center and advanced to today’s championship quarterfinals.

“That is what we wanted to see,” said Indian Lake head coach Scott Tressler. “We wanted to get in the building, get a win and get out. Heath and L.J. wrestled aggressively and wrestled smart. If they continue to do that, then they are going to have success down here.”

One more win will guarantee Lange (138) and Henderson (160) a top six finish and a spot in the state semifinals.

Lange has been on a mission this postseason and he wrestled like it Thursday. He dominated Mason Correll of Tiffin Columbian with a pin in 53 seconds.

Henderson, who has battled back from two major injuries this season, earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Owen Shoemaker of London. Despite the score, the Laker was in control throughout the match and showed he is going to be a factor in Columbus.

Lange came in motivated after losing his placement bout at last year’s tournament. The junior standout erased that memory the best way he knew how, with a dominating first-period victory.

The 138-pounder came out like a ball of fire in his opening-round match. He shot in on Correll and picked him up over his shoulder in the first 20 seconds of the match. Lange then brought Correll down to the mat with force and put him directly on his back. That gave Lange a 5-0 lead with 1:30 left in the first period. The Laker wasted little time after that as he was able to finish off Correll with a fall in 53 seconds.

“Before the match all I could think was that I just wanted to get it over with,” said Lange. “I wanted to go fast pace and take the attack to him. I knew I would be able to pin him when I got him in that lift. A win like that only builds my confidence and keeps my momentum going.”

“Heath started out the right way,” said Tressler. “Getting that first win out of the way was important, but it was also important that he wrestled aggressively and how he got it done. By winning that first match here it makes things seem routine here, like it’s just another tournament.”

Now Lange gets the match he has been waiting a year for, a rematch with returning state placer Ryan Skonieczny of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (44-8) in the quarterfinals. Skonieczny prevented Lange from placing at last year’s state meet. He defeated Lange 6-4 in sudden victory overtime and went on to finish seventh.

“I’m ready for this,” said Lange. “It’s been a match that has been a year in the making. I usually don’t care who I wrestle, but this is personal. I want to wrestle him more than anyone right now. I’m going to take my offense to him and keep it a high-paced match.”

“We can’t allow Skonieczny to control the match,” said Tressler. “We have to make him wrestle for six minutes. We’ve wrestled him before, but Heath still has to go strong and finish his moves. If he does that and wrestles like he has been, then he will be fine.”

Henderson (160) provided a nail-biting win during his opening-round match inside the Schottenstein Center.

He fended off a quick takedown attempt by Shoemaker in the opening seconds of the match. Henderson later got in deep on a double-leg takedown with 33 seconds to go, but was unable to finish and the first period ended scoreless.

“I felt we were evenly matched from the neutral position,” said Henderson. “He was a strong kid and sprawled well. He had good hips so it made it difficult for me to finish some of those shots. I just kept battling through it.”

The Indian Lake junior standout chose down in the second period and would escape with around 1:15 left to wrestle. Neither wrestler was able to score a takedown after that as Henderson held a 1-0 advantage.

Henderson gave a clutch performance in the third period. Shoemaker chose down and the Laker showcased excellent riding skills as he was able to hold down Shoemaker for the entire third period.

“The first couple seconds of the third period I was able to get control of him,” said Henderson. “That gave me confidence and I felt I would be able to ride him out the entire period.”

“Shoemaker did a good job of controlling our hands,” said Tressler. “He balled up on the bottom and so it was hard to turn him. We want to be more physical between (Thursday and today). L.J. can force his physicality on people. If he does that, then people like Shoemaker won’t be able to close down on him.”

Henderson now faces Alec Schenk of Perry (44-5), who won the Alliance district.

“It felt good to get a win here,” said Henderson. “I’ve got that first win out of the way and I can move on. It set the tone and I’m ready to keep going. I'm going to have to take it one match at a time and keep battling.”

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