Carter Lohr has discovered defending a state wrestling title, in contrast to winning that first one, comes with a new road map. The trick is to accept the new challenges with the same resolve and energy even if the route has changed.
The junior won the 138-pound state title last year for the Roosevelt Rough Riders and a season later, with a recent bout with mono now history, he’s 19-0 at 152 pounds as he progresses toward a shot at another championship.
“Dealing with mono was a rough two-and-a-half weeks,” Lohr said. “When I got back at it the fatigue factor was crazy. It was like I was starting all over. But I’m starting to get back in shape and Coach (Kyle) Svendsen has done a great job of helping me deal with it.”
As the No. 1 ranked wrestler at his weight class, the inconvenience of illness is relative. Most competitors would gladly take on the discomfort of mono if it meant they’d come out the other side with a 19-0 record.
On the other hand, staying on top comes with a set of standards that rise above a regular-season win-loss record. Self-satisfaction can lead to all sorts of problems.
“It helps that I have teammates and coaches who push me,” Lohr said. “You have to keep reminding yourself that you have to get better every day because if you don’t, you know there are others who are going to catch you.”
By nature, state champion wrestlers take on the disciplinary demands of their sport better than most. For Lohr, enthusiasm tinged with humility has been an effective fuel.
“His best attribute is his overall attitude,” said Svendsen, a former Augustana wrestler and Roosevelt assistant in his first year as head coach for the Rough Riders. “For wrestlers, it’s dark when you wake up, it’s dark when you come home – it’s easy to get bogged down a little bit with the day-in, day-out routine. But Carter comes in with a positive attitude ready to grind because he’s got his blinders on – he’s focused on what he wants to do this year.”
Lohr has been tested at his new weight class. A win over Flandreau’s Dylan Rice – the No. 1 ranked wrester in Class B – at the Dan Pansch Invitational in Brandon was an obvious highlight, especially given that the pair have competed against each other since they were children. He also posted a 1-0 win over Cullen Haar of Aberdeen Central.
In both instances Lohr was not satisfied with his fitness level. It remains a work in progress.
“(Against Rice) I was able to see where I’m at and what I need to improve on,” Lohr said. “What I learned is that I need to get in better shape. I pushed the pace and then I ran out of gas. I have to get more gas in the tank.”
Svendsen’s reference to Lohr’s focus comes with a twist because the junior has never been an all-wrestling, all-the-time kind of an athlete. Far from it. He was a starting defensive back for the Roosevelt football team last fall and has also developed a knack for pole vaulting.
Three-sport athletes at the varsity level at big high schools are increasingly rare. Couple that with tossing pole vaulting, an esoteric pursuit if there ever was one, in with football and wrestling and you have an unusual combination of physical demands.
“Sports are my life,” Lohr said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else. After school, you go to practice. That’s how it works. Summer is for lifting for football, fall is for playing football. Winter is for wrestling and spring is for track.”
As a freshman Lohr expected to be a sprinter on the track team but his coach told him he should try pole vaulting, an event with specific fundamental demands that involve mastering a process that goes well beyond learning how to get out of the starting blocks.
No mailing it in, in other words. If he was going to be in, he was going to have to be all in. Lohr proceeded clear 13-6 at the state meet last year to finish fifth despite being comparatively new to the sport.
“I love pole vaulting now,” he said. “Flying that high in the air and knowing while you’re coming down that you cleared the bar? That’s fun stuff.”
There’s no such learning curve involved in wrestling. He began competing when he was four and weekend tournaments, like the one he’ll be participating in at the Pentagon this weekend, have been part of his life for a long time.
You pick up lots of wins when you get an early start like he has, but you pick up perspective, too.
“As an eighth-grader I made it to the state and I was up 8-0 on a guy. Then I ended up getting pinned,” Lohr remembered. “I cried for three hours – I was just a mess. Then I went out and lost my next two matches, too. That experience made me work a lot harder and it made winning last year the best feeling ever.”
The fourth annual Sanford Pentagon Wrestling Invitational is set for Saturday, featuring 14 high school teams from South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. All four Sioux Falls schools will be competing.
Action on the Heritage Court begins with first-round competition at 9 a.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.