Lamphere senior returns to mat after state finals appearance

By: Brad D. Bates | Madison - Park News | Published January 18, 2011

 Madison Heights Lamphere senior 189-pounder Jackson Lewis works against teammate Cameron Velasquez Dec. 30.

Madison Heights Lamphere senior 189-pounder Jackson Lewis works against teammate Cameron Velasquez Dec. 30.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MADISON HEIGHTS — After coming within one match of a 2009-10 Division 2 state title, Madison Heights Lamphere senior 189-pounder Jackson Lewis returned to the wrestling practice room this year and was faced with a different environment.

“My practice partners have changed every year, but now I’m the best guy in the room,” Lewis said. “I’m used to looking for the best guy in the room to beat me up a little bit and help me get better.

“When I started, I used to go against (2008 D-3 state runner-up) Josh Swanson, and I even wrestled (2009 D-3 state runner-up) Shane Dutton a little. I always tried to push myself.”

Last year, that push came from senior 189-pounder Nick Gattes, who placed third at the 2009-10 state finals.

“I know I have to work harder,” Lewis said of how this year’s situation compares to last season’s. “I know what it takes to get to the last day at The Palace, but some of the people that helped me get there, like Nick Gattes, aren’t here. So I have to work that much harder now.”

Part of that work has been finding ways for the other Rams grapplers to push Lewis.

“A lot of times on the mat, you slow down when you get tired,” Lewis said. “But when I’m tired now, I’m trying to push myself even further.

“And when the guys that I’m practicing against are getting tired, coach (Russ McKenzie) has done a really good job working to make sure that there are fresh guys ready to step in and push me even harder.”

Another thing that is pushing Lewis is the fact that he’s at the top of the Rams’ lineup, and it’s his responsibility to uphold the legacy built by those grapplers who taught him the ropes.

“In our room, we have all the names of the guys that have led,” Lewis said. “I’ve always pushed myself to wrestle those guys, and those names really make you proud to be part of that legacy.”

Lewis has been able to focus on pushing himself and his technique to new levels in practice because of an increased focus he put on maintaining his weight in the offseason.

“I haven’t had to worry about making weight this year,” Lewis said. “Last year, I had to work a little bit to make weight, but this year I really managed it, and now I can just get into wrestling instead of working on that.”

The early returns from Lewis’ work had him in the finals at 189 at the Macomb County Championships Dec. 18 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Lewis scored wins with a technical fall, a pin and two major decisions before falling 5-3 to Port Huron Northern senior Austin Pickering in the championship match.

“I don’t ever like to come out of a match without learning something,” Lewis said. “And that defeat, I’ve broken down the match and (Pickering’s) style, so I can learn from it.

“(Pickering’s) a great wrestler, and I need to be ready to face him again and face that style. I also know I need to be ready and work to win close matches in the final minute of the third period.”

Lewis is hopeful that will make the end of the 2010-11 different from the end of 2009-10.

“Having been there on the last day at The Palace, I know what you have to do and the work I need to put in,” Lewis said.

“I remember the two weeks between regionals and the finals, and how hard I worked. I keep that as a reminder of what I need to do and even more, so I can take one more step up on the podium.