Waite’s Devon Wheeler closing on 100th career win

J. Patrick Eaken

This weekend at a tournament near Akron, Waite 138-pound senior wrestler Devon Wheeler will be going for his 100th career victory.
Wednesday at Grant Murray Field House, Wheeler had a shot at his 100th during a dual meet with Bowsher, but the Rebels’ Dylan Hershey had other plans.
Wheeler opened with a takedown to take a quick 2-0 lead, but Hershey wasn’t about to be denied, and he scored seven straight points and then pinned Wheeler in the third period.
What made it tough to bear was that the match began at 2 p.m. as part of a school assembly. As Waite Principal Todd Deem said, Wheeler was “wrestling in front of 375 of his peers.” Wheeler was undaunted by the loss and says he is ready and willing to get back at it.
“I really appreciate that the school is here for me and they are cheering me on. I didn’t get it done tonight but I’m for sure going to go back to work tomorrow and I’m for sure going to get that 100th win,” Wheeler said. “My classmates know how hard I work. They see me in the wrestling room, sweating, running hard, breathing hard. They know I put in the work for this because I really love this sport.”
Wheeler, who is 25-8 on the year, says wrestling has been good for him.
“I wrestle and I work hard in this sport because wrestling turns everybody into a man no matter what. I came in soft and now I really know how to wrestle my third year in and I’m more of a man, have more man-muscle, I have a better perspective on life and it makes you more of a man if you wrestle,” Wheeler said.
To be able to have a chance at 100 career wins, Wheeler had to overcome a football injury, and that was not easy.
“He’s outstanding. He got hurt in football and he was supposed to be out for months. He rehabbed so well. He’s such a hard-working kid in the classroom and on the field,” said Waite athletic director and alumnus Cris Lorton.
Waite coach Russell Jennings can testify to the kind of work ethic that Wheeler puts into the sport. Even during Wednesday’s match, he was wrestling even though feeling under the weather.
“It speaks for itself, anybody who is in our room knows that Devon is going to give it 110 percent every single day even when he is sick and doesn’t feel good, sore or injured. I mean we’re at the end of a long season right now and there are some bumps and bruises going on in the room, but he keeps everybody motivated,” Jennings said.
“He’s a leader in the room and he’ll bounce back from this. This isn’t the end of the world — this is just a dual against Bowsher so it’s not going to define his season.”
Wheeler may be good enough to wrestle collegiately, but Waite faculty members say his interest is in carpentry or becoming a firefighter. Wheeler, however, says to wait and see how the tournament goes, and then he’ll decide.
“Hey, the kid has goals. Whatever he chooses to do he’s going to be successful at it,” Jennings said.
As a result of Wheeler’s loss Wednesday, Bowsher defeated the defending Toledo City League champion Indians, 36-35, and Jennings was the first to credit the winners.
“Anytime you step your foot across that line anything can happen. That kid (Dylan Hershey), and the Hershey brothers, are real tough kids. I think our record against him was 12-0 lifetime but today he was the better man. Kudos to him. They are good boys — hard working kids,” Jennings said.
“Bowsher took care of business today. They gave us the old whooping today. Once in a while you are going to have to have that. I take my hat off to (Bowsher coach) Chad (Wojciechowski) and the rest of his boys in how they work hard. They are a tough group.”
The assembly idea is nothing new — Genoa did it last year in a dual match with Findlay, and Waite has done it before, too. Sometimes, the student body has no idea what kind of work goes into being an athlete, or maybe a student is watching and gets interested in the sport.
“We sold the tickets for $2 to anybody who had clean cards, so they couldn’t have any ‘lates’ or detentions,” Lorton said. “For volleyball we did it in the fall. We thought it would be a kind of in-school thing for Devon’s 100th win.
“I think it is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a great turnout. Unfortunately, they don’t get to go to a lot of the wrestling matches a lot of the time because they are away for the weekend, so they don’t get to actually see them wrestle.”
Jennings loved seeing the entire home side of the field house filled with students, and regular fans, cheering on the Indians.
“It was cool — something good to get the kids out of class and try to get some support behind the program. We don’t have a lot of kids who know a lot about wrestling, so we figure if we get them out of school a little bit early then they will get interested in the sport a little bit more.
“It was great. The atmosphere was surreal. It’s nice when the kids are standing up for your guys to go. They were behind us today. There is a lot of school pride over here at Waite High School and I’m glad I’m over here, and these kids get behind each other’s back over here. That’s really what it’s all about with all the programs.”
Jennings hopes they will have the same turnout at the City League tournament, and despite the loss to Bowsher, he still believes his team has a strong chance of defending last year’s title.
“They get to see other schools come in and our kids work hard every day, but today Bowsher was the better team. They worked hard. We moved a couple weight classes around today to get some more matches — I mean, this isn’t the lineup that we’ll have going into the City tournament,” Jennings said.


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