After finishing fourth at 138 pounds at the Division II state meet last season, Oak Harbor senior wrestler Luke Cramer is hoping for something bigger this year.
A state championship.
So far, Cramer is on track during a 2012-13 season highlighted by his recent second place finish at The Medina Invitational Tournament, a first-place finish at The Oak Harbor Invite and an eighth-place finish at The IronMan Competition, one of the nation's premier wrestling tournaments.
Oak Harbor wrestler Luke Cramer in control at last year's state meet.
Cramer and his coaches say there is still work to be done. The Rockets still have the Perrysburg Invite, the Sandusky Bay Conference Duals and the SBC Tournament before competing in sectionals and districts later in February.
The thing that sets Cramer apart is his leadership traits.
“Luke has been our main leader and everybody looks up to him because he placed at Columbus,” Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said. “He's stepped up this year and has done an outstanding job leading our guys. And 18 of our 24 guys are freshman or sophomores. He leads by example and he's not afraid to verbalize it. But he does it in a good manner. He's not abrasive. A lot of times, your best wrestler might be abrasive because (wrestling) is a very intense sport. Those guys can rub you the wrong way sometimes, but Luke's a great kid.”
Cramer tried to have a positive influence on the younger wrestlers.
“I'll always talk to the younger kids after practice,” he said. “I'll try to get them to come to one or two night workouts per week. In practice, I'll tell them what they're doing wrong, not to make them mad but to make them work harder. I'm always talking to them, always being a good team leader, showing them what they can (accomplish) if they work for it. We have a giant sophomore class and they go to the JV tournaments and almost every other kid is taking top-3 (in his weight class) and we're encouraging them and it helps them. We try to get them to come to a few night workouts each week.”
Cramer suffered a serious setback in May when he broke the growth plate in his shoulder and had to sit out for three months. The injury forced him to undergo therapy, and, thus far, he hasn't experienced any problems.
“I'm keeping my fingers crossed,” Cramer said.
Cramer benefits from wrestling being his only sport, allowing him to maintain his focus on the sport 12 months a year. He stays in shape by lifting weights, working out, and competing in tournaments.
“He's very serious and he trains for it year-round,” Bergman said. “He entered the Super 32 National Tournament in North Carolina and placed at The IronMan Competition, the toughest tournament in the country. That's a credit to him, a feather in his cap and it helps his confidence. All of his losses have been to real good competitors. He's lost to some real quality opponents. He's worked extremely hard, he's committed, he does all of the lifting, and goes to all of the workouts. He doesn't leave a stone unturned.”
From 2007-11, Bergman oversaw an unprecedented run of success within his program. The Rockets won five straight Sandusky Bay Conference titles, finished in the top-five in D-II each year, including runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2010, and had five state champions. Last season, Oak Harbor finished 19th in D-II, fourth in the SBC, and had two wrestlers, Cramer and Alex Bergman (152), finish fourth at state.
Cramer and four fellow seniors, Jared Chambers, Josh Chambers, Hunter Gresh and Alec Bowlick, are looking to reclaim the SBC crown and make their mark in Columbus.
Over the past four years, Cramer has moved up sin the weight classes going from 112 to 130 to 138 and he’s now at 170. At the SBC tournament, he finished in the top three each time, placing third at 112 and 138 as a freshman and junior, respectively, and coming in second as a sophomore at 130. This season, Cramer is hoping to win at 170.
Cramer started wrestling when he was 5-years-old and credits his brother, Jake, and his father, Jim, with helping him to become acclimated with the sport. One of his best friends is Alex Bergman, a former Rocket great who currently wrestles as a freshman at the U.S. Naval Prep School in Newport, R.I. Cramer credits Alex with helping him improve as a wrestler over the years.
“One big thing is my dad always keeps (the pressure) on me,” Cramer said, “and drove me to do the workouts with my brother.”
The brother he's referring to is Jake Cramer, who is currently wrestling at Tiffin University.
“Jake, he was part of the class that was runners up at Division II and he had Ian and Tyler Hackworth right beside him. He would go to the night workouts and after the junior high workouts, I'd go over and workout with the high school guys. That always drove me. And not making it as far as I wanted to in my freshman and sophomore year motivated me, too.”
Cramer speaks highly of the Rocket’s coaching staff, which, in addition to Bergman, includes Aaron Bomer, Bill Scherf and Paul Bergman, all of whom wrestled in college. He said they helped instill confidence in he and his teammates.
“They're always positive,” Cramer said. “They tell us what we can do (better) and how to be a leader. He (Bergman) tells me I'm doing a good job through the week, talking to the kids, Coach Bomer, Scherf, they always work with me and help me with wrestling to keep me going.”