Hillsboro sophomore Lane Cluff will enter this weekend's 2017 Division II State Wrestling Tournament with a record of 35-9. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Hillsboro sophomore Lane Cluff will enter this weekend's 2017 Division II State Wrestling Tournament with a record of 35-9. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Being a sophomore with a total of just three years of wrestling experience on the mat, Hillsboro sophomore Lane Cluff has adapted well during his short tenure in the sport. In fact, after beginning wrestling to help him prepare for football, Cluff has excelled to a high level, landing him in the 2017 Division II State Wrestling Tournament this week.

The Division II tournament will begin on Thursday and last through Saturday, and for Cluff, who is 35-9 overall this season, he wrestled his way there after a successful second year at the varsity level for the Indians, including finishing as district runner-up last Saturday.

Saying it was a surprise for him to reach state so early in his career, he now knows he’s able to compete and battle with some of the top wrestlers not just in the surrounding area, but the state. He’s just one of 16 wrestlers to qualify for the 285-pound weight class, which isn’t an easy feat at all.

With the first round of the event on Thursday, March 9, Cluff’s first scheduled opponent is Westerville Indian Creek senior Sam Robinson (29-16).

At districts last Saturday, Cluff finished 3-1, as Cluff pinned Darius Miller of Mt. Healthy at the 2:44 mark in his first match of the two-day event. His second match came in the quarterfinals, where Cluff pinned Sam Homan of Alter at the 2:10 mark of the match.

Next for Cluff in the semifinals, he won via decision in OT at 6-4 by taking down Colin Wolffe of Miami Trace, securing his spot at the state tournament. In the championship match, Cluff lost to Trevor Hicks of Washington at the 43-second mark of the match.

“It was just kind of a roller coaster of emotions,” Cluff said of this past weekend’s district tournament. “I was excited to be where I was and nervous in case something went wrong, because I knew there was a chance I wasn’t going to make it out or anything. When I reached the finals, I was just excited to know I was going to state.”

 


Coach Greg Rhodes spoke highly of Cluff, qualifying for the 285-pound weight class as a sophomore with three years of wrestling experience.

“It’s pretty difficult, especially in an upper weight as an underclassman,” Rhodes said of qualifying at 285 pounds. “That section of the weight class is typically dominated by upperclassmen, so to do it as a sophomore, a young sophomore at that, is pretty incredible. He’s got some technique. He’s learning new things every day, so he’s putting it into action. We’re glad to see that out of him.”

Getting to this point took a good amount of work and practice, and Cluff spoke about how that occurred with the help from coaches and teammates.

“I first began wrestling in the eighth grade to help stay in shape for football, plus my uncle was the coach at the time,” Cluff said. “To improve this year, I just wrestled with Coach (Greg) Rhodes, Coach (Nathan) Hey, plus Jared Conn and RJ Swackhamer.

“Wrestling pushes you to be better, and it is all focused on you, instead of like a team sport where it depends on how everybody does. It just depends on how you do.”

There was a point during the regular season where Cluff said he felt things were going his way.

“Probably about midway through the season, at West Jefferson, everything started feeling right,” Cluff told The Highland County Press. “The West Jefferson Invitational, a two-day tournament, is where that feeling started.”

As for preparing during the season, Cluff said he does all the normal things to prepare for a tournament or meet.

“A normal week, I just come in and wrestle hard on Monday and Tuesday. When we have a meet on Thursday, we just have a light drill and get everybody on weight on Wednesdays and a light drill and get everybody on weight on Fridays, then we have tournaments on Saturdays,” Cluff said. “I wrestle Jared Conn, RJ Swackhamer, Coach Rhodes and Coach Hey. They’re all different types of wrestlers, and they give me a different look at what kids are going to do on a weekly basis, in the way they wrestle.”

Coach Rhodes spoke about the progression — as a wrestler and leader — Cluff has made since the start of the wrestling season.

“He’s definitely gotten quicker on his feet, a little more agile, a little bit more mature as far as ‘what do I need to do not to panic,’” Rhodes said. “He’s starting to pick it up in the room to be a leader, and that’s one of the big things we’re looking for out of the kids. When you’ve got a guy going to state and he’s the leader on the team, everybody sees that.

“He’s just a guy in there that likes to have fun and likes to work hard, and he likes to be in the weight room. We enjoy having him.”

Now it is time for the biggest wrestling event of Cluff’s career to begin, and he’s looking forward to the atmosphere of the entire state experience.

“I’m looking forward to getting up there and getting the experience of what it’s like to be up there,” Cluff said. “My goal is to get on the podium somewhere. I was just hoping to go to districts this year, just to prove my way up to state, I was hoping, in the next couple years.”

Cluff ended by saying thanks.

“I’d like to thank my family and coaches for doing everything that they do for me and helping every day,” he said.