The Lake Erie Wrestling Club, you might say, had a Who's Who of local wrestlers when it won the gold medal July 27 through Aug. 1 at the AAU Junior Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Tournament in Novi, Mich.
The LEWC sent four teams to the dual-match tournament, with its first team capturing the title at the Rock Financial Showplace.
"There were teams from all over the country and you wrestled dual meets in two pools," LEWC coach Troy McLaughlin said.
"We took four teams and in one pool our first team went 11-0, which propelled us into the championship eight-man bracket. There were two pools of 22-24 teams and the top four teams in each pool go into an eight-team bracket.
"We wrestled two matches in our championship pool, which propelled us into the championship final against Michigan Fire and Ice. All of the media in Michigan were calling them the unstoppable, unbeatable team. Some of our parents got hold of our seniors and showed some of the stories to our seniors, and they took those around and rallied our team. It was kind of our battle cry and really fired us up."
The LEWC contingent went on to defeat Fire and Ice 38-27, "which, in a freestyle dual meet, is quite a margin," McLaughlin said.
The LEWC's top group included an incredible collection of 2008 graduating seniors, including Cody Magrum, Keith Witt and Kirk Tank from Oak Harbor, Eric Cubberly of Eastwood and John Hiles of Columbus DeSales.
All but Tank, who finished 13-1, won their 14 matches at the Junior Olympics. Magrum and Hiles will both wrestle at Ohio State this year, while Witt will wrestle at Kent State, Cubberly at Central Michigan and Tank at Michigan State.
Tank dislocated his elbow in the first period against his Fire and Ice opponent in the finals and soon trailed 2-0.
"He could have chose to not continue and forfeit and the other team would have gotten five points," McLaughlin said. "He chose to keep wrestling. He scored a point on the guy, and in dual meets in freestyle if you score a quality point, you will score a team point at the end of the match.
"The Fire and Ice kid ended up winning the match, but Kirk was in extreme pain. Fire and Ice scored three team points and we scored one, so that's a big swing in points. Kirk's heart and determination to do it for the team was incredible. I couldn't say enough about Kirk Tank."
The LEWC took 53 wrestlers from schools such as Oak Harbor, Clay, Waite, Central Catholic, Cardinal Stritch, Eastwood, Archbold, Anthony Wayne, Gibsonburg, Elmwood and Maumee. Every LEWC wrestler won at least one match.
"Between the four teams, we wrestled 673 matches and won 401," McLaughin said. "We had kind of a young team. Other than our first team - we try to stack our best freestylers on our first team - I was kind of hoping we would be at least .500 but they kind of exceeded all of our coaches' expectations."
Participating LEWC coaches included McLaughlin, George Bergman of Oak Harbor, Ralph Cubberly of Eastwood, Steve Funk of Gibsonburg, Robin Rayfield of Delta, Justin Schutte of Maumee, Marti Nauful and James Schuller of Clay, Carmen Amenta and Kyle Holliday of Waite and Mike Mezinger from Fremont Ross.
"They realize the value of this club in the offseason," McLaughlin said. "We're all out there to help these kids. It was definitely a group effort. The whole idea behind this club is to get these kids extra matches in the summer, in different disciplines of wrestling. The kids really enjoy it."
The LEWC, which has about 200 wrestlers, runs summer sites at Clay, Ross, Maumee and Delta high schools.
"All of the members have access to all four sites," McLaughlin said. "Potentially, these kids could be wrestling four days a week. They can go Monday and Wednesday at Clay and can go to Maumee on Tuesday and Thursday. We average about 30-50 kids per night, which is really good."
This year marked the LEWC's 13th appearance at the Junior Olympics. The club also won a gold medal in 2003.
In addition to the leadership provided by this year's seniors, McLaughlin had high praise for the LEWC's younger wrestlers.
"The young guys gave us a shot to win the gold at the end," he said. "They got the ball rolling. We had several kids who wrestled their hearts out to keep it close until the end."