Luke Cramer: Ending journey to the podium

Bree Gannon

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With the start of a new year, the traditional saying of “New Year, New Me” has started to come with the list of New Year’s resolutions. For some, those resolutions include more exercise, eating better or saving money. For one AU athlete, his goal is much greater than those, his goal is to stand on top of the podium at the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Redshirt senior, Luke Cramer, plans on going out of his wrestling career with a big bang.

“There is a lot of things that can happen in the rest of the year,” Cramer said. “I mean for my last two months here the end goal is definitely to be on top of the podium in the next couple months.”

After attending the National Tournament with then teammate Michael Labry after the 2016-2017 season. Labry was named the National Champion in the 133 lb weight class and was the first champion since 1996. Cramer placed third at that tournament but learned a lot from his experiences and from watching his teammate.

“I had a lot of emotion being behind Labry wrestling,” Cramer said. “I think he was a good inspirational desire in leading the team and into this year, I think it is my step, as well as the other team leaders to drive the team to reach our goals.”

This season has brought nothing less than what Cramer had hoped for. Along with his third place finish last year, he finished with a 29-4 record and led the team in technical falls. This year, he is 10-0 and is No. 1 ranked in the 197 pound class. Cramer has been tweaking his technique and takes each match as a test in continuing down the road to the final podium.

“This season has been really relaxed so far so I took some time off to work on my technique,” Cramer said. “ The matches that I have wrestled have kind of progressed. National duals was a good test with some good opponents but I have to keep working on my offense and conditioning and those are big factors.”

Football player and coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort-that is what makes a team work.”
Despite every opportunity to help himself, Cramer is always focusing on helping his teammates as well. Whether that be in or out of the practice room, he is always wanting to better the team as a whole.

“Other than my personal goals, I like helping the team out,” Cramer said. “Doing technique sessions and helping in and out of the practice room with a few of the guys and no matter what, at the end of the year my goal is to be on top of the podium but also to have the whole team there. Our team goal is to win a national title.”

The want to help others and being a role model comes from Cramer’s family and watching his older brother wrestle. A passion that started when he was just four years old.

“My brother and I from a young age, would beat eachother up all the time,”Cramer said. “There were broken bones, bloody noses, and stitches. Over the time of growing up with my brother, I think that was the biggest driven factor and him also kind of being in front of me and doing well and watching him succeed has driven me to succeed as well.”

Cramer laughed as he remembered the amount of casts and stitches he had received. He said he went through about four sets of casts and five sets of stitches from the times his brother and him would wrestle around.

Cramer’s brother finished in fourth and sixth in the nation during his time at Tiffin University. Friendly sibling rivalry set in as Cramer’s mentality to always do better ran through his mind. During his time at Oak Harbor High School, Cramer finished with an overall record of 139-40 and was 42-5 as a senior.

In 2012, Cramer wrestled at the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Division II State Championship Tournament and placed fourth in the 138 class after being pinned by Millersburg native Max Rohskopf.

After a year of hard work, Cramer became Oak Harbor’s 22nd State Champion in 2014 after a 16-4 major decision against Clarksville Clinton-Massie’s Wyatt Running in the 170 lb class.

A fourth place finish turns into a first place finish and a state title. The only hope is that history will repeat itself and his third place finish at nationals last year will turn into yet another title behind his name for this year.

After a successful ending to his high school career, the focus was now on his college career. After deciding to not attend a Division I school and visiting other schools, the final decision came down to Cramer’s personal interests of the outdoors and the distance.

“I didn’t want to go Division I because the one thing of the school and wrestling is it is a lot to handle and they try to put wrestling before school,” Cramer said. “A lot of visits I went to like North Carolina, and other big schools did that. Ashland is close to home, I like being out in the country and outdoors, you can drive 5 minutes out of Ashland and be in Amish land so that is one factor that is really nice.”

Cramer also attributes his decision to come to Ashland, and major in nursing, based on the coaches. He said that he decided on Ashland because the coaches were nice and had a personal interest in him and his talents.

With only about two months left in his wrestling career, the stakes are high and so is Cramer’s focus. Each match is a new test that brings learning opportunities and new found motivation. What really does motivate an undefeated college wrestler? Easy, music.

“I am usually very relaxed [at meets], I don’t like to get emotional usually,” Cramer said. “If you watch me on the side, I have my headphones in and usually listening to country. It keeps me more relaxed then getting up, warming up and everything else. I feel like if you let your emotions get to you, you won’t wrestle the same.”

With the end of the season nearing in the next few months, Cramer will leave an unforgettable legacy behind in hopes that others can learn from it. His biggest piece of advice is it helps to have teammates behind you to help the drive.

“Over the time wrestling I think it is more a driven factor in having teammates beside you and to help you out,” Cramer said. “During the off season it helps out and keeps you in the mental capacity and keeps your routine together for wrestling. I think having a good team behind yourself is the biggest factor.”

Cramer started his incredible journey when he was at a young age and his advice for the younger kids that want to get into it is just stay with it.

“For younger kids growing up into wrestling, I don’t think overdoing a lot of things but staying with it and developing is probably the biggest key to becoming the best,” Cramer said.

Cramer and the rest of the wrestling team will hit the mats again on Jan. 17 at Lourdes starting at 7 p.m.

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