Created on Monday, 04 March 2013 Written by THE BELLEFONTAINE EXAMINER STAFF
COLUMBUS — If it was not certain before, Indian Lake juniors Heath Lange and L.J. Henderson have cemented themselves as some of the state’s best wrestlers.
ABOVE: Indian Lake’s Heath Lange holds on to Crestwood’s Dylan Kager during their 138-pound third-place match Saturday at the Division II state wrestling tournament in Columbus. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Indian Lake’s L.J. Henderson fights to pull down Columbus DeSale’s Ian Ferguson during their 160-pound consolation semifinal match. (EXAMINER PHOTO | AARON LaBATT)
The Laker duo came away with fourth-place finishes here Saturday at the Division II state tournament in the Jerome Schottenstein Center. They become some of the highest state placers in Indian Lake wrestling history.
“I’m proud of both of them,” said Indian Lake head coach Scott Tressler. “They both had their own obstacles to go through this year, but the important thing was they were able to turn it on at the right time and focus. By doing that they were able to have success here.”
The 138-pound Lange bounced Cordell Byrd of Ross 10-5 in the consolation semifinals and then lost to Dylan Kager of Crestwood by an 8-2 score to finish in fourth.
Henderson, the Lakers’ 160-pound standout, grabbed a thrilling 5-4 victory over Ian Ferguson of Columbus DeSales in the consolation semifinals. He then fell to Alec Schenk of Perry 7-3 to place fourth.
“I would have liked to have been in the finals, but fourth is pretty good,” said Lange. “If you told me I would have done this well a few years ago, I don’t know if I would have believed it. I’m still letting it sink in and it feels both good and bad.
“It’s a good feeling and not that many wrestlers have placed that high at Indian Lake. I’m just glad that L.J. and I both got to do it. We work out together and go the hardest at practice. It was good the way it worked out that we got to experience this together.”
Both wrestlers won their opening-round match on Thursday, but lost in the quarterfinals on Friday. They came back to win three matches in the consolation rounds to finish fourth.
With their senior season left, both Lange and Henderson are more than motivated to come back to Columbus and try to win a state championship.
“Both of them wouldn’t be satisfied unless they won it,” said Tressler. “Dean Jenkins is the only state champion Indian Lake has ever had and these guys want to be at that level. They want to be as close to the top as possible and win a state title. Having that fire provides fuel for everyone else in our room. They see what these guys did and it helps build momentum for next year.”
Lange lost to this year’s state runner-up 8-6 in the quarterfinals and Henderson’s only losses came to the same wrestler who placed third.
“I think how I did shows how close I really am to a state title and how much I’ve improved,” said Lange. “If I can keep it up and push myself harder then we’ll see how well I can do. I only have one last chance to do it.”
“I guess I’m satisfied with this finish,” said Henderson. “I wasn’t even supposed to place here, so I suppose that’s an accomplishment that I proved some people wrong. This finish motivates me to put in more work for next year. With what I did this weekend makes me hungrier for next year and go after a state championship.”
Lange started Saturday off by facing a familiar opponent in his consolation semifinal match. The Laker battled Byrd, who had beaten Lange for a district championship the week before. Lange was winning that match, but Byrd reversed Lange to his back in the last 30 seconds of the match and won 8-7.
It was a different outcome in Columbus as Lange dominated Byrd. The match was tied 2-2 after the first period, but after that Lange took over with his takedown skills. He took Byrd down three times and let him escape and eventually earned near fall points for a 10-4 lead.
Byrd chose down in the third period, but was unable to escape or score. Lange gave up a stalling point from the bottom position as the match came to a close.
“I was excited for that match,” said Lange. “I think he might have overlooked me since he beat me at the district meet. It was good to get that win after the way things went down at the district.”
“We felt confident in Heath,” said Tressler. “At the district he was in complete control of that match and just got greedy. He handled Byrd this time and did it on his feet. He didn’t let Byrd breathe. Except for one reversal, Heath controlled the whole match.”
Lange started off strong against Kager as the first period ended scoreless. Kager chose down in the second period, though, and was able to reverse Lange and gain two near fall points for a 4-0 lead. Lange was battling to reverse Kager, but got caught on his back again for two more near fall points and now trailed 6-0.
The third period saw Lange choose neutral, but he gave up a takedown to Kager for an 8-0 score. Lange would escape and soon after earn a stalling point as the match concluded.
“Kager slowed it down and kept looking for that dump to score,” said Tressler. “By the time Heath knew what he needed to do to win, it was too late. He got caught for near fall points and Heath was just frustrated.”
Henderson provided a thrilling start for the Lakers in the consolation semifinals against Ferguson as he pulled out a win in the final second of the match.
Neither wrestler was able to score in the first period. Ferguson deferred his choice in the second period and Henderson chose down. He reversed Ferguson at the 1:18 mark to take a 2-0 lead. Ferguson escaped with three seconds left to make it a 2-1 score.
Ferguson chose down in the third period and escaped after a minute to tie the match 2-2. Both wrestlers battled for position until Ferguson countered a shot by Henderson and scored a takedown with 28 seconds left in the match. That gave him a 4-3 lead.
Ferguson was hit for stalling as Henderson scrambled to try and escape. The Laker fought furiously and ended up reversing Ferguson with one second left to win the match.
“L.J. does everything right, and he is usually in control of his match,” said Tressler. “He never really needed to have something like he did against Ferguson at the end of the match. L.J. didn’t get nervous or panic, though. He went out there and he got it. It was pretty impressive because Ferguson knew what was coming and he still couldn’t stop it.”
That win earned Henderson a rematch with Schenk, who he had wrestled and lost to 8-4 in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
The outcome didn’t change in the second meeting as Schenk was able to control the match and led 4-2 after the second period. Schenk escaped from the bottom position in the third period to lead 5-2. Henderson got in deep on a single leg, but Schenk was able to counter and work his way around for a takedown. Henderson escaped with less than 20 seconds left and Schenk held on for the win.
“I tried being more aggressive with Schenk in the second match,” said Henderson. “He was pretty strong from the neutral position last time, so I thought I’d mix it up and go on my feet with him instead of being on the mat. It just didn’t work out.”
Making Henderson’s finish even more impressive is the fact he overcame a knee surgery and a high ankle sprain this season.
“I think it shows that you can’t let anything hold you back,” said Henderson. “You have to fight through those obstacles if you really want to achieve your goals.”