#WrestlingWednesday: Jacob Gray focusing on the basics to get to the top
By JEREMY HINES
There is an episode of â€˜Malcom In the Middleâ€™ where a few teenagers pick on an elderly man and then run away from him. As they run, they taunt the man â€“ knowing they are much younger and faster than he is. The old man is persistent though. He never stops moving forward. Eventually, much to the surprise of the teens, he catches up to them and beats the tar out of them.
Deltaâ€™s Jacob Gray is a lot like that old man. Heâ€™s not slow, by any means, but he is relentless. Heâ€™s always pressing forward. Every time an opponent looks up, Grayâ€™s massive 182 pound frame is right in front of them.
â€œJacob is a meat and potatoes kind of wrestler,â€ Delta coach Gary Schleissman said. â€œHeâ€™s not fancy. He doesnâ€™t do funk. Heâ€™s straight forward and relentless. He sticks to the basics, and he does them very well. He wrestles smart and doesnâ€™t waste any movement. Heâ€™s always been that way.â€
Gray has 141 varsity victories and only 11 losses. As a freshman he lost in the ticket round at semistate. His sophomore year he lost just twice, both in the state finals. He ended up placing sixth that year. Last year Gray went 37-3 and lost Friday night at state.
This season Gray is 28-2. Both of his losses came at the hands of the stateâ€™s No. 1-ranked 182 pounder, Nathan Walton. The first time the two wrestled Walton won 5-2. Gray narrowed the gap the next time they squared off â€“ losing by just one point, 1-0.
â€œThose losses have made me want to work harder,â€ Gray said. â€œYou just think of how close the matches have been, and how a takedown, a reversal or something could have changed the outcome.â€
Gray, who has never been pinned in high school, has made it a point this season to attack more.
â€œI am pressing the action a lot more,â€ Gray said. â€œI started noticing how in harder matches I was getting a little fatigued. Now that Iâ€™m trying to put up more points, Iâ€™m not getting as tired. I feel like it has helped me get in better shape.â€
One of Grayâ€™s physical attributes that has helped him on the mat is his ridiculous hand strength.
â€œHis hand strength is absolutely crazy,â€ Schleissman said. â€œWhen I wrestle around with him in the room, it really hit me how strong his hands were last season. Heâ€™d grab a hold of my wrist and â€“ holy crapâ€
Gray is fueled by competing at a school with a rich wrestling history. Delta is fourth on Indianaâ€™s all-time team state championships list with five. The school, located on the outskirts of Muncie, has had 13 individual champions. The list of individual champs include: Tim Klingensmith (1970), Chris Campbell (1981), Don Heintzelman (1981), Greg Gadbury (1981), David Palmer (1981, 1982), John Ginther (1983, 1984), Ron Riggin (1984), David Locke (1984), Craig Campbell (1985), Trent McCormick (1986), Jeff Tuttle (1987), Craig Locke (1990) and Eric Kerkhof (1994, 1996).
â€œI want to be one of those guys you think about when you think of Delta wrestling,â€ Gray said. â€œOur coaches, teachers and a lot of people in our community talk about how good we were. All of my friendsâ€™ dads talk about the glory days. I see the pictures on the wall every day of all of our state champions, and I know I can be our next one.â€
Gray got his wrestling start at the Muncie Pal Club. According to coach Schleissman, the Pal Club was a place where â€œa bunch of rough neck kids would go in and beat the crap out of each other every day.â€
Bryce Baumgartner, Sage Coy, Luke Schleissman and Gray were a few of the wrestlers that emerged from the Pal Club.
Despite his success on the mat, Gray isnâ€™t one to brag on himself.
â€œJacob is just a great kid,â€ Schleissman said. â€œHeâ€™s very humble and very quiet. Heâ€™s polite and everyone respects him. I have watched him wrestle since he was very young. Heâ€™s my go to kid in practice. After this year, Iâ€™m really going to miss him.â€
After high school he plans to wrestle in college, but has not decided where he wants to go or what he wants to study. Right now heâ€™s focusing on getting to the top rung of the podium at Bankerâ€™s Life in February. Jacob wants to go out on top â€“ like all senior wrestlers.