By STEVE KRAH
Jake Lone has developed an edge in his junior season as a NorthWood High School wrestler.
Lone was second at the Elkhart Sectional, third at the Goshen Regional and a qualifier for the Fort Wayne Semistate as a 160-pound freshman. As a 170-pounder junior, Lone won sectional and regional titles, placed second at semistate and then eighth at the IHSAA State Finals. As a 182-pound junior, he is 30-3 after winning another sectional title. The 2019 Goshen Regional is Feb. 2.
Lone, who first competed in Indiana State Wrestling Association events at age 4, is gaining confidence.
“As the season has progressed, I think I’ve developed a little bit of an attitude out on the mat,” says Lone. “There’s a little more aggression.”
Shoulder surgery after the 2018 State Finals meant that Lone was away from competition for the spring and summer.
He was only cleared to play football for NorthWood during the week of the season opener. Switched from linebacker to defensive end, he had a sensational season while helping the 2018 Panthers aka “Black Crunch” go 11-1 under head coach Nate Andrews.
Lone was selected for Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors by the Associated Press.
Then it was back to the mat.
“I think I’ve gotten tremendously better,” says Lone of his progress since the beginning of the 2018-19 wrestling season. “I’ve been getting back in the swing of things after surgery last spring, getting my conditioning up and knocking all the rust off.”
“Having Coach Andrews is the room to push me has been great.” Andrews, who won a 171-pound IHSAA state title as a NorthWood senior in 1996, took over as wrestling head coach this winter.
He has watched Lone get better and better.
“It certainly opens up his offense when he’s lighter on his feet and when his motion is vertical and horizontal at the same time with 1-2 and 3-4 combinations,” says Andrews. “When he opens that up and puts pressure on people, he can be dangerous.
“A lot of he team aspects and leadership qualities that he learns in football he brings to the wrestling mat.”
Lone has fed off Andrews’ enthusiasm and intensity.
“What I get from him is always pushing the pace, staying aggressive, never stop,” says Lone. “It’s that never-quit attitude.”
Lone knows that there are differences and similarities in his two sports. “Football shape is short bursts,” says Lone. “Wrestling shape you have to go the full six minutes without stopping.”
While he played some wide receiver or tight end on offense, Lone really enjoyed playing on the other wide of the ball.
The hand and body fighting and one-on-one battles that a defensive linemen encounters translate to the wrestling circle.
“I love defense,” says Lone. “I was able to use by wrestling technique for tackling.”
Andrews, who counts Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dennis Lewis plus Jim Matz and Elisio Roa as assistants, says beefing up the NorthWood schedule was helpful for Lone. “He was able to see a little tougher competition,” says Andrews. The Panthers took on LaPorte, Merrillville and Knox at the LaPorte Super Duals, Churubusco, Eastside, Garrett and Jay County at the Fort Wayne Carroll Super Duals. NorthWood also faced Wawasee, Goshen and Jimtown in duals at home and took part in the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka.
Inclement weather Jan. 19 caused cancellation of the Northern Lakes Conference varsity and junior varsity tournaments.
“For our program and where we are now, we were devastated,” says Andrews. “A week ago we were really in good shape to do our best and climb another rung on the ladder as we try to build our program.” That meet was to be the last for JV grapplers.
“The kids who come out and go through this grinder of a season, they didn’t get rewarded,” says Andrews. “They didn’t get to play in their Super Bowl. It’s very, very unfortunate.”
Andrews said the focus turns to individuals still alive in the state tournament series, but he is still trying to “rally the troops” for those who saw their season come to an end.
The Panthers are young with just two seniors on the squad.
“I’m looking forward to the future,” says Andrews.
Jake has been in wrestling practice rooms since age 3. His father, Rod Lone, was head coach at NorthWood for seven seasons. After two years as a volunteer assistant at Jimtown, he has returned to NorthWood as head middle school coach. He is also a volunteer with the high school and helps the NorthWood Wrestling Club.
A former wrestler at Clinton Prairie High School and then for Tom Jarman at Manchester College (now Manchester University), Rod Lone has witnessed a rise in his eldest son’s confidence level.
“With that confidence he’s gotten more aggressive and that’s shown in his matches,” says Rod Lone. “He’s never been that fast-twitch, go-get-em kind of kid. This year, he’s finally starting to get there.”
“He’s trying to control the match instead of letting the match come to him.” Says Andrews, “He should be a pretty confident kid the way it is. He’s been on the mat a long time. He had a good sophomore campaign.”
Getting down to Indianapolis and competing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has helped fuel the self-assurance.
“After going to State last year and having all that experience, I feel I know what it’s like,” says Jake Lone.
Rod and Denise Lone’s second son — eighth grader Kaden — just won an ISWA Middle School State title at 132 pounds. He has a chance to be the first NorthWood wrestler to go unbeaten through their middle school career (sixth, seventh and eighth grade) with three Big 11 Conference championships.
Jake and Kaden work out together and use the wrestling room in the family basement.
“We go down there and roll around a lot,” says Jake Lone. “It’s fun.”
Given the size differential, Kaden has to use his quickness against his big brother.
“He can’t muscle things and just rely on strength,” says Jake Lone.
“That’s been great bond at home,” says Rod Lone. “They push each other in a very positive way.”