Many of in the area know about the long standing tradition of the Oak Harbor wrestling program.
A program with a storied history that dates back to late 1970s, the Rockets have been on a tear in the last eight years, finishing second twice, third twice, fifth and seventh in Division II while winning the Sandusky Bay Conference five times. Individually, seven wrestlers have won state titles and seven more have finished in second place.
Beyond that, the program has consistently sent its wrestlers to compete at the collegiate level. You’re probably familiar with Ohio State alum J.D. Bergman, a three-time All-American who won the U.S. Open last year and remains an Olympic hopeful, but there are other former Oak Harbor wrestlers still carrying on impressive collegiate careers.
|Kent State grappler Ian Miller (Oak Harbor) takes
down an Iowa State wrestler. (Photo by David
Currently, there are seven former Rockets wrestling collegiately, all at the NCAA Division I or D-II level, which provides scholarships — Drew Stone (Ohio State), Konnor Witt (Air Force), Jake Cramer (Tiffin), Ian Miller (Kent State), Alex Bergman (Navy), Jared Chambers (Tiffin) and Luke Cramer (Ashland). Miller and Witt sport records of 22-4 and 21-9, respectively, this season.
“J.D. is the one to blame for that,” Coach Bergman said. “He started it by wrestling at Ohio State and having a good career there. Wrestling in college is tough — some of the kids used to look at it like its the NFL. But you need someone to start (the trend) and J.D. got it going.
“If you want to compete in college, you’ve got to go in with both feet; you’ve got to be committed. The training is difficult, too. It’s grueling, but it’s very rewarding and it’s about the relationships you build.”
It’s certainly difficult making the adjustment, as Chambers and Luke Cramer, both freshmen, can attest.
“The first couple meets were tough,” said Chambers, who notes that he is getting along well with his studies but was experiencing some difficulties in the beginning. “The stuff I did in high school and got away with most of the time doesn’t work against most guys in college. So I just worked more on my own or one-on-one with Coach (Joey) Simcoe and he’s helped me a lot and is still pointing out stuff that needs fixing. The work never ends.”
Cramer said, “Wrestling is brutal in college. I’ve got some bumps and bruises, but nothing that’s going to keep me from wrestling. It’s been hard being thrown in the lineup as a freshman. Everybody is good — it’s a whole different thing. I’ve got to work on some things.”
As Chambers stressed, it’s also difficult balancing wrestling and academics. Alex Bergman, a freshman at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has plenty of other demands.
“School is definitely more challenging than it was in high school,” Alex Bergman said. “(The whole situation) is pretty demanding. There isn’t ever a time where I can really sit around and do nothing. I’m always busy whether it’s homework, wrestling or some military obligation.”
Cramer, who is currently 13-10 win one pin, is finding that corresponding with his fellow students help to get a better grasp of things.
“In all my classes,” he said, “I’ve made friends with people and we’ll try to figure things out. That helps a lot.”
Cramer credits the Oak Harbor wrestling program for helping to prepare him for competition at the collegiate level in a number of ways, most specifically conditioning.
“It made a difference,” he said. “I tried to be in the best shape possible. We were always well-conditioned at Oak Harbor. And the drill techniques we did were very helpful.”
For Bergman, who is 5-4 on the season, going up against other great wrestlers was a great way for him to prepare.
“It helped a lot anytime you have partners as good as Ian Miller, Konner Witt and Jake and Luke Cramer,” he said. “Then you’ll be prepared to wrestle in college.
Coach Bergman has also found that his program benefits when his old wrestlers return and can relay teaching tips to their former teammates.
“When the guys come back during Christmas break, we’ll have them show us what they’re working on,” he said. “The latest trends, techniques, stuff like that. It means a heck of a lot for our wrestlers hearing about (new techniques) from guys they looked up to. If it’s good enough for Ohio State and Kent State, it’s good enough for Oak Harbor.”