NAPPANEE – A commitment to excellence. That mantra personifies the physical specimen that is NorthWood senior Jake Lone.
Using the words of NorthWood football and wrestling coach Nate Andrews in December, “Jake is a dog. Jake is an animal…”
While he was partially a wounded dog coming into his senior season, Lone was a two-sport superstar for NorthWood, and has been his entire high school career. His fourth year in Nappanee was just the next step in what has been a stellar athletic career both on and off the athletic stage.
First off in football, Lone was a defensive machine for the Panthers. To use the word ‘disruptive’ would be close, but Lone was perhaps one of the top defenders in the entire Northern Lakes Conference. As a defensive end, Lone had 59 total tackles, eight of those for a loss, and six sacks for the Black Crunch.
Lone also had a forced fumble, and if that wasn’t enough, Lone would sometimes line up as a receiver. He caught two touchdowns in the first half of a win at Northridge, and also served as a decoy to set up NorthWood’s patented option running game.
“Jake was a problem for opposing offenses,” started Andrews. “Teams needed to come up with alternate blocking schemes each week. He has a real ability to use contort his body and use his leverages to his advantage. Jake has a reputation throughout our schedule and northern Indiana as someone who can really get into the backfield and be disruptive.”
While Lone continued to recover from offseason shoulder surgery after his junior year, he went under the knife to fix a bum ankle heading into wrestling season as a senior. It didn’t seem to slow him much.
“The thought of not being able to participate pushed me to recovery and become healthy so I could compete at that higher level,” Lone said. “I had to work harder to recover from my injuries and working that hard pushed myself so I felt like I was fully prepared when it was time to compete.”
To punctuate his football career, the All-NLC performer was named a North-South All-Star on the defensive line.
Lone went 41-3 overall on the mats, helping the Panthers to a breakout 5-2 finish in the NLC, and would stack up a pile of championships.
After a pair of December losses to state finalists Graham Calhoun of Plymouth and Joseph Walker of Mishawaka, Lone wouldn’t lose again until the final match of the season. As Lone got on track, he blew through the NLC, sectional, regional and semi-state tournaments without a loss in an impressive stretch.
In each of the championship matches of the NLC, Elkhart Memorial Sectional and Goshen Regional, he scored decisions against Northridge’s Andrew Lockwood to lay claim to 182-pound titles. Two falls and a major decision had Lone in the New Haven Semi-state championship against Mason Winner of Jay County. The match went to sudden death, which Lone worked into a takedown and a 3-1 victory.
Three second-round pins at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse over two days had Lone standing under the bright solo light for the 182-pound title match against an old familiar face in Walker. After a scoreless first period, Walker executed a pair of takedowns to counter two Lone escapes, then managed an escape to finish off a 5-2 win.
While not finishing the deal, Lone capped an outstanding career as a three-time NLC champion, three-time sectional champion, three-time regional champion, two-time semi-state runner-ups before winning semi-state this past year, and became the first NorthWood wrestler in its history to finish on the podium at state three times.
“I’ve never really thought about being the first three-time state medalist, I just wanted to place as high as I could every year and do my best,” Lone said. “I’ve been wrestling since I have been four years old. I have spent countless hours in the wrestling room, going to tournaments and camps to make myself better. There were many times where I would wrestle seven days a week. I’m glad to see all the time and effort that I have put into the sport pay off. You really get out what you put in.”
Among the accolades that flowed to Lone following his wrestling season included IHSWCA All-State, Academic All-State and a Rollie Hoover Memorial Scholarship, given to outstanding wrestlers in Elkhart County.
Lone would sign on to continue his wrestling career with the University of Indianapolis.
“It’s is a special feeling whether you’re the participant, coach, or fan in the stands,” Andrews said. “To realize that you went through the gauntlet of not only the state tournament bracket but the grind of the season and the process of wrestling dating back to a young child.”
Added Lone, “I have always wanted to wrestle in college ever since I was young. I was able to watch a lot of college wrestling growing up. There were a few times where the thought of playing football and wrestle crosses my mind, especially when I got injured at the end of my football career and had to sit the last couple of games out. I really enjoyed football but the challenge of wrestling is my passion.”